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Above, Below, or Meeting Expectations: Far Too Many Golden Knights Fall Into The Wrong Category

Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke,

The Golden Knights are defending Stanley Cup champions.

For the last 11 months here at we’ve used that sentence to start just about every article, literally every podcast, and everywhere else possible. Tonight might be the last time we get to use it.

That is unless the Golden Knights get improved performances from a bunch of players in Game 6 and 7.

Being the reigning champions, and bringing back a roster that is similar, if not improved on paper, means Vegas doesn’t need anyone to exceed expectations. Instead, they simply need everyone to play to their ability and they should once again be the best team in the NHL.

Through 5 games in this first round series against the Stars, that is not happening. More than half of the roster is falling short of their expectations, while just a few are exceeding them.

To illustrate this, I’ve broken the team down into those three categories, exceeding expectations, meeting expectations, or below expectations. For the Golden Knights to retain their title as defending Stanley Cup champions for even one more day, a bunch of players are going to have to take a step up from the category they’ve resided in currently in this series to at least one step higher.

**These are listed in order. For “exceeding,” first is the player most exceeding their expectation. For “meeting,” first is the player closest to exceeding, last is the player closest to below. For “below,” first is the player closest to meeting, last is the player below by the most.

Exceeding Expectations
Brayden McNabb, Logan Thompson, William Carrier

There’s a legitimate argument that Brayden McNabb has been VGK’s best player in this series. If you told me that was going to be the case coming in, I’d be certain the Golden Knights are behind in the series, and that’s exactly where they are. He’s been offensively involved and even better than his already high level defensively.

Thompson and Carrier are in a similar spot as both have been very good but their best moments have come in losing efforts so they get lost a bit. Thompson was out of control good in Game 3, but the team was so bad it didn’t end up making a difference. Carrier scored a wraparound goal on a wonderful individual effort, but the game-tying 1st period goal was the last Vegas scored.

Meeting Expectations
Noah Hanifin, Jack Eichel, Alec Martinez, Keegan Kolesar, Adin Hill, Brett Howden, Ben Hutton, Nic Roy

Hanifin and Eichel are in a class above the rest here because they’ve both been excellent in this series. The challenge for each of them is that the bar to exceed expectations is so high it would take something Herculean to reach it (Eichel did it last year). By no means are either Hanifin nor Eichel to blame for anything that has gone on in this series.

Alec Martinez is in a class of his own as he’s found a way to return to the player that helped form VGK’s top-pair last season. He’s been solid despite taking on a ton of defensive responsibility. After the regular season he had, there’s an argument he could even be a category up too.

The remaining group, Kolesar, Hill, Howden, Hutton, and Roy have all done pretty much exactly what we’ve expected of them. All of them, including Hill because he’s played in just one game, are minor cogs in the overall machine that is a well-oiled Golden Knights team though. None of them are to blame, but it would be awfully nice if two or three could take the step forward and start outperforming what they have in their past.

Below Expectations
Jonathan Marchessault, Chandler Stephenson, Ivan Barbashev, Pavel Dorofeyev, William Karlsson, Michael Amadio, Anthony Mantha, Zach Whitecloud, Shea Theodore, Mark Stone, Tomas Hertl, Alex Pietrangelo

In the bad category, we’ll start with the worst, and that’s Pietrangelo. Not only has he not been the normal defensive stalwart we’ve grown used to, he’s been nearly invisible offensively (0 points in the series) and he’s taken multiple brutal penalties that have cost games. If he doesn’t get better, and a lot better, in Game 6, not much else may matter.

Hertl and Stone are similar in that they both simply don’t look up to the speed of the games. It’s completely understandable based on the injury situations each entered the playoffs with, but their names on the paper look much more significant than they’ve actually been so far. The challenge for both is that the bar to get back to “meeting expectations” is quite a ways up.

None of Barbashev, Karlsson, Whitecloud, or Theodore have been so bad that it would be a problem if isolated, but as a group, they might be the biggest reason Vegas haven’t found their footing since Game 2. Without excellent performances from at least a pair of those four, the Golden Knights aren’t a deep team. Karlsson gets a slight pass for the injury that’s keeping him out of the faceoff circle, but if you are in the lineup, the team needs something close to your best.

Dorofeyev, Amadio, and Mantha are all grouped together as potential options to really help the team by scoring, and none have. All of them are jockeying for the same place in the lineup and no one can grab it.

Finally, there’s Marchessault and Stephenson. Both are really close to meeting expectations, it’s just that the expectations are so great that unless Marchessault is scoring clutch 3rd period goals and Stephenson is constantly on the rush finishing chances, they appear to be coming up short. In the list of problems that have plagued VGK in this series, neither would be anywhere near the top of the list.

So, there you have it. 23 players and just three are exceeding expectations. 12 of 23, or 52% of the roster is falling below what is needed for the Golden Knights to repeat as Stanley Cup champions. That must change tonight.


It’s Time For Vegas’ Best Game


“More Effective O-Zone Time” The Key To Turning Around VGK’s 5-on-5 Troubles


  1. Stan Kovaleski

    GREAT article! Pietrangelo and Theodore have been horrible. Coughing up pucks in our zone, passing to people who already have a guy on them and rarely getting a decent shot from the point. In my opinion, Hanifin, McNabb and Martinez are the only reason we aren’t getting blown out in most of this series. Dallas looks hungry and we look old. Things can change in a hurry but time is running out.

    • Jim Limperis

      Nail on the head Jake!!! There is 1 who has an early family vacation planned… Piece of $#!! Tangelo …Just retire after your bonus payments end… Please… It is obvious you don’t want to play anymore and are in cas grab mode

  2. Barb

    As much as I hate to say this, unless VGK play a great game and win tonight I would rather they lose than have to watch the ‘train wreck’ they’ve been for one more round. I love the Knights but it pains me (as much as it probably pains them) to watch the team struggle like they are. I could point some fingers but not going to do that.

  3. Bob K

    This article hits the nail on its head. This team has shown a tendency to lack focus and quite frankly be lazy throughout the season. These characteristics have reappeared in the last 3 games. I agree with Ken with the only exception of Barbashev who in my opinion has stepped up his game. I attend most games and the fans adore their team. It is time to give them a reason to be proud of its team.

  4. Wingenter

    Zip it Barb

  5. stats

    tonight’s lineup——-from Danny Webster lv review journal tweet



    goalie ?

  6. D

    Good article. I usually think your articles are garbage, but this is spot on.

  7. Disappointed

    Something is still up with Mark Stone, he looks like a beer leaguer trying to play in an NHL game. Physically, maybe he’s just not ready to return. They looked decent in the final weeks of the season, not sure why we continue to try to fix something that’s not broken.

  8. Jake

    Vegas has been complete dogshit.

    Sad to watch and not worth watching.

    Pietrangelo is the biggest piece of dogshit and seems to not care and seems like a candidate who is “throwing” the series, not that such things could happen in Vegas.


    • ThG

      i think this whole article falls into this category

      • I know why he wants Hill in,but he continues to perform at less than .900 save percentage. Thompson has been better. Hope I’m wrong but he always gives up 3 or more goals so must score 4 or more to win. He was much better last year!

  9. Rashaad

    Vegas Golden Knights 4
    Dallas Stats 1

  10. Emmanuel

    You could say they’re due……..

    Would you be shocked if they went 14 -5 the rest of the way?

    • Rashaad

      I’ll be surprised quite honestly if they get out of the series, but if they win the series, then I would not be shocked if they went all the way. This first hurdle is very tough. Yes, this hertl is very tough.

  11. Jim

    Only one correction… Amadio did score on this first game entered in the series. It is clear that both Hertyl and Stone are not at playoff speed and we can only hope they improve enough to get through this tough series. Karlson is always solid and will improve with Amadio and Howden instead of ‘stand around Mantha’… And of he is fighting thru end injury that makes it tougher… He scores 30 without playing with too linemates and less power play time thank other top scorers. He always plays 200 feet and is our best overall player ALWAYS!
    The addition of Hanifan shows you just how ever rated both Pietrangelo and Theodore are… Look at almost every odd man rush or breakaway opportunity and your will find either of those 2 at fault. It is times to unload Mr stick defender Theodore who tries not to hit or get hit for 60 minutes… And convince Pietrangelo to retire since he seems to be looking for an early vacation with this dumbass play and a clear loss of interest to play hockey anymore… There are a lot of expensive years left for him to milk thru :/
    Worst contract ever… Please get thru your bonus years and then retire!!! Hutton does a better job than both of the previous 2 slackers at lees than20% than either of them on the payscale… With a great attitude, great EFFORT, without an ego or talking instead of producing.

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