By the time the Stanley Cup was handed over to Vegas captain Mark Stone, coaches and players league wide were scheming up ways to copy the Golden Knights championship formula. From defensive alignments, to deeper benches and undoubtedly goaltending efficiency. Some NHL teams have the right goaltender and not enough quality players. Whereas, others have the players but are unsure if they’re good enough in net.
“Look at Vegas. They used four goalies. Depth is an important part of success in this league. But depth in that position might be the most important for teams.”
— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) September 23, 2023
This week Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan referenced the World Champion Golden Knights in his training camp opening press conference. It’s no surprise the two-time Cup winning coach mentioned Vegas because years back he had back-to-back Stanley Cup winning rosters. Like Vegas, the Penguins won using multiple capable goaltenders.
Vegas’ finals winning goalie Adin Hill went 11-4 in the postseason after injured starter Laurent Brossoit recorded five wins and two losses. The same smooth transition occurred with the back-to-back Stanley Cup winning Penguins. Old friend Marc-Andre Fleury picked up his second and third championship rings playing his role in a duel goalie tandem. Which clearly caught the attention of Sullivan and other coaches.
In 2017, the @penguins went BACK-2-BACK! 🏆🏆
— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) December 27, 2019
The 2016 & 2017 championship Penguins were led by star centers, deep benches and capable goaltenders. Sullivan hasn’t had a roster like that in years, but he watched Vegas win with the same balanced fashion as he once coached. It’s possible he’s suggesting the Golden Knights roster are a threat to repeat.
Stanley Cup Core Comparison
- VGK – Adin Hill, Logan Thompson
- PIT – Matt Murray, Marc-Andre Fleury
- VGK – Jack Eichel, Mark Stone, Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson
- PIT – Sidney Crosby, Evgenii Malkin, Phil Kessel, Connor Sheary
- VGK – Alex Pietrangelo, Shea Theodore, Brayden McNabb
- PIT – Kris Letang, Justin Schultz, Olli Maatta
- VGK – Chandler Stephenson, Ivan Barbashev, Nic Roy, Zach Whitecloud, Nic Hague
- PIT – Patric Hornqvist, Chris Kunitz, Jake Guentzel, Ian Cole
Of course, in order to repeat the Golden Knights will rely on the consistency of their superb team defense. It greatly helped when Vegas was shuffling goaltenders last season. The Penguins are blessed with high-end blueliners, but they’re older and are far more likely to create offense than shut down an offense. The Golden Knights blueliners played both. Bruce Cassidy’s defensive lineup was balanced throughout the regular season and it carried over into the playoffs. Unlike other past contenders, the Golden Knights’ championship pairings were fully persevered and are preparing for a repeat season.
Mimicking the Golden Knights season for Pittsburgh or any other club will be incredibly challenging. Sure, Vegas had balance but they were healthy, adjusted quickly to Cassidy’s demands and received highly unexpected championship goaltending. To Sullivan and the others, I wouldn’t anticipate that smooth of a path.