**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2021 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**
Sometimes, good things emerge out of adversity.
In the case of the Golden Knights, they might have more depth on the blue line than they originally thought.
With Alex Pietrangelo in COVID protocol and Brayden McNabb on Long Term IR with a lower-body injury, coach Pete DeBoer was forced to shuffle his defensive deck over the weekend against Los Angeles.
He knew what he had in veteran Nick Holden, so putting him back on the ice was easy. DeBoer wasn’t quite sure what he’d get from Dylan Coghlan, and, to a lesser extent, Nicolas Hague.
What he got was pleasantly surprising.
Hague looks extremely comfortable playing alongside another youngster — Zach Whitecloud. He put Coghlan with Holden and the two seemed to click. The other D-pair — Shea Theodore and Alec Martinez — moved up to the No. 1 unit.
Understand that in this weird, bizarre year, things are going to crop up periodically. How your team responds is what likely determines whether you’ll be playing in mid-May and make a run at the Stanley Cup. In the Knights’ case, there has to be a rise in the overall comfort level knowing the young guys can step in and contribute, that they don’t need to be skating up the street at the Orleans Arena with the Henderson Silver Knights.
It’s safe to say Whitecloud isn’t leaving the lineup anytime soon. He continues to display the kind of poise usually reserved for someone with far more NHL experience. He may be the most pleasant surprise of this young season so far.
He’s running DeBoer’s system perfectly, supporting the attack and getting involved offensively. Such was the case with his first goal of the season Sunday. He cruised into the open space, unnoticed by the Kings, then got the puck and ripped one past Calvin Petersen.
Defensively, he’s growing more steady and confident. The turnovers don’t come as frequently and he’s settling in and not having to worry that if he makes a mistake or two he’ll find himself a member of the taxi squad, or worse, wearing a Silver Knights uniform.
Hague is also proving to be worthy of DeBoer’s trust. He is using his size effectively and like Whitecloud, is integrating himself in the attack. The fact his skating has improved so much the past four years is a credit to Hague’s hard work as well as listening to the organization’s coaches.
Coghlan was the wild card. He made his NHL debut Friday against the Kings and paired with the experienced Holden, who could cover his back, Coghlan did a good job overall in the Knights’ 5-2 win. Playing with Marc-Andre Fleury in net didn’t hurt his cause either.
We all know Pietrangelo is important to the team’s Cup hopes. He will likely be back Tuesday against Anaheim at T-Mobile Arena. And that’s a good thing. Yes, Pietrangelo may not be off to a scorching start. But for him, this is like preseason, trying to learn a new system, playing with new teammates, and adjusting his family’s day-to-day life in a new city.
He will get better as he gets more comfortable. He has shown glimpses of that. So I’m not worried about him.
But the fact the young guys performed as well as they did is so encouraging. Yeah, you can say it’s the Kings and they’re not very good. But it’s also a team with Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter, and some good young forwards. They’re not easy to defend. Yet, they got the job done against the Kings and because of that, the Knights are back in first place.
It was a great weekend on several levels. The team showed no rust from the 10 days between games. They chased Jonathan Quick from the L.A. net Friday. Fleury continues to play at an extremely high level. The top three lines are all contributing offensively and the defense is doing its job.
The one concern? The health and comfort level of Robin Lehner. He took one off the shoulder Sunday in the 4-3 win and he needed time to settle in after giving up two goals in the first two shots he faced.
It could be any number of things so it wouldn’t be fair to speculate. But he is 3-1-1 and I’m sure he’ll be the first to admit he can perform better. I expect that to be the case in the coming games, assuming his shoulder, which underwent surgery in the offseason, is not an issue.
In the meantime, enjoy the kids on the blue line. They are fun to watch.
Silver Knights’ start a good one
A few thoughts on the debut of the Silver Knights Saturday.
I expected it to be a tad sloppy and tentative at times. And it was. I was also impressed with the cohesiveness the team displayed in coming back from a deficit to take the lead, then close it out in the 5-2 win over Ontario at a spectator-less Orleans Arena.
There was good energy from the four lines, lots of hustle from the defensive pairs, some fine goaltending from Logan Thompson and I thought coach Manny Viveiros had a good handle on his team.
It was good. So happy for the guys. It’s been a long time coming for the players. A lot of good things we saw and a lot of teaching things as well. -Manny Viveiros
You can see this team has skill. It also has some grit to it. Over time, you can expect the overall play to be crisper and the Silver Knights will be rewarded for it.
My favorite takeaway from Saturday? Herald the Town Crier.
In case you missed it, one of the in-game spots the Silver Knights use is to have someone come down the stairs to a stand-up microphone in a “village square,” roll out a piece of paper and “announce” the team’s goal scorer in a British accent.
Marc Roberts is Herald and he is excellent. I hope the bit continues. It’s funny as hell.
— Ben Gotz (@BenSGotz) February 7, 2021
**Steve Carp is the author of “Vegas Born — The remarkable story of the Golden Knights.” Follow him on Twitter @stevecarp56. All of Steve Carp’s work here on SinBin.vegas is presented to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm. For over twenty-five years, the Jimmerson Law Firm has been widely recognized as one of Las Vegas’s preeminent full-service law firms. Specializing in high stakes business, civil and family litigation, the Jimmerson Law Firm has an unparalleled track record of winning when it matters most. To reach the Jimmerson Law Firm, call (702) 388-7171 and tell them SinBin.vegas sent you.**