**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.**
As everyone goes about their business this Sunday, you do so knowing your favorite team is 2-0-0 and in first place.
On the surface, that’s great. And pragmatically speaking, the Golden Knights’ start is what everyone was hoping for. You’re at home, playing a team that is offensively challenged and is in rebuild mode and you’re supposedly stronger than you finished last season in terms of your own roster.
So why did Saturday’s 2-1 overtime win over Anaheim feel so uncomfortable?
There’s a number of factors, not the least of which we’re seeing early in this weird NHL season that there’s going to be a lot of pushback from the team which loses the first of these back-to-back games on the schedule. Look around the league and that was the case virtually everywhere. Only the Knights, Washington, Minnesota, Tampa Bay, Nashville, and Philadelphia swept their opponent in the B2B scenario. And for good portions of Saturday, it looked like a split was going to happen at the Fortress, which definitely feels weird without 18,000 fans inside it. The Ducks had survived a 1st period onslaught by the Knights, who were debuting their snazzy gold jerseys, to keep the game 0-0 and went ahead off a 3-on-1 to take a 1-0 lead in the second stanza.
Then they clamped down defensively, clogging the neutral zone and not allowing the Knights to freewheel out of their own end. And had it not been for some great goaltending from Marc-Andre Fleury, the outcome could have been far different. But the veteran and future Hall of Famer looked sharp and kept his team in it until William Karlsson could tie it with 1:22 remaining after the Knights pulled the goalie, and Max Pacioretty would win it seven seconds into overtime.
It was far from a stellar team effort. Yet in his postgame Zoom conference with reporters, Peter DeBoer said he thought his team’s overall performance exceeded Thursday’s, which was a 5-2 win.
Yes, the Ducks had rallied in the opener from a 2-0 deficit to square things at 2-2 heading into the third period before Mark Stone broke the tie and the Knights would go on to prevail. But I’m not buying DeBoer’s observation. There are a lot of things that I saw that need addressing, not the least of which is the defense and the odd-man rushes the forwards are allowing to occur with regularity.
Both were on full display Saturday. It may be admirable the Knights want to be more aggressive offensively. I like that they’re getting to the front of the net more and trying to get those dirty, greasy goals. However, there’s the responsibility of playing at the other end and getting back when you lose possession.
And that’s what the defense, especially a certain guy making $8.8 million, needs to do better.
It’s only two games so I’m not going to bash Alex Pietrangelo. He, more than any other player on this roster, is being hamstrung by not having a preseason schedule to get comfortable with DeBoer’s system and finding a synchronization with his new teammates. Frankly, he doesn’t look real comfortable so I think it’s fair we give him time to adjust his game.
Unfortunately, time isn’t a luxury the Knights have. They’re playing every other day and rest and recovery is going to be an important part of the process this season, especially when you’re playing just five defensemen. So Pietrangelo’s learning curve will have to accelerate, which I’m confident it will. He has shown in his brief time with the team he has elite skills. It’s just a matter of smoothing out the rough edges.
I’m also impressed with Zach Whitecloud’s progress. He is finally comfortable playing on the blue line in the NHL and he not only continues to make the smart and simple play, he’s also integrating himself into the attack and has a far better feel for the game at this level. He has been the swing defenseman so far and finds himself playing shifts with Pietrangelo, Brayden McNabb, Shea Theodore, and Alec Martinez. That’s not easy for a young player but Whitecloud has handled it admirably so far.
When the defense is moving the puck out of its own end quickly and directly with short passes, the attack is much stouter. The top six forwards are doing their job. Pacioretty and the Captain have come out of the gate fast, it can only help Karlsson’s confidence to have lit the lamp early on and Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith, and Chandler Stevenson are all doing their jobs.
Of the bottom six, I’m liking what I see from Tomas Nosek, who centers the fourth line. He remains a penalty killer extraordinaire and he’s got his mojo working. Alex Tuch is also working hard on the third line and whatever was ailing him during training camp does not appear to be an issue. I love that he’s getting to the front of the net and he’s using his speed to create chances.
Cody Glass looked much better Saturday than he did Thursday and had DeBoer singled him out specifically rather than make a blanket statement about his team playing better than they did Thursday, I would wholeheartedly have agreed with him.
Ryan Reaves has done some good things too. He’s looking to make plays in front of the net and get involved offensively. His line was on the ice for the 3-on-1 that led to the Max Comtois goal for Anaheim as that turned out to be a train wreck of a shift.
Incidentally, how is Comtois the only Duck who can score? He has all three of Anaheim’s goals so far. Ducks fans must be going insane wondering what the hell is going on.
The penalty kill remains excellent, the power play not so much. DeBoer is using Pietrangelo and Theodore with different power play units in order to maximize their talents. So far, it hasn’t worked, albeit in just two attempts.
Two other things regarding the start of the season for the Golden Knights:
First, if DeBoer is true to his word and will give a 50/50 start to his goaltenders, we could see something interesting emerging. Possibly a controversy. Fleury looked like his old self Saturday and obviously is going to push Robin Lehner, who did not play badly in the opener, for the starting job. It’s obviously something worth keeping an eye on the next couple of weeks, starting Monday when Arizona comes to town for what is a four-game home-and-home series.
The other thing to watch is this 13 forwards five defensemen lineup. So far, the Knights got away with it as nobody on the blue line got hurt. But I don’t like it long-term and management’s inability to manage the salary cap properly in the off-season has forced DeBoer into playing this lineup.
Nothing against Keegan Kolesar. He’s a good guy and a hard worker. But he’s a Henderson Silver Knight playing for the Vegas Golden Knights. I want to see Nicolas Hague skating with Whitecloud and have three pairs of D. Waiting for someone to go on LTIR to clear a roster spot is not the answer. And they’re not going to use Glass’ waiver exemption to clear a spot for Hague. So we may be stuck with this for a while.
Still, the Knights got the fast start they wanted and there’s a chance this coming week to build on that against the Coyotes, who played San Jose tough and got a split of their season-opening series with the Sharks.
To be 2-0 should put a smile on your face, though it may not be an ear-to-ear grin.
**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.**
DOC (Go Knights Go)
Fairly accurate recap of the first two games Steve. One issue I have is an attempt to plant the seed of a goalie controversy, again, already! Just one game by each, both playing well. We need them both to play well! The 1A, 1B, #1, #2 will sort it’s self out, on it’s own, thru play the first 20 games or so. Any fabricated goalie controversy is not good for the team or fans. IF they both would play well, you just might see coach D go with a rotation long-term. THEIR play will determine that. We need them both.
Doc totally agree with you. Two great goalie’s will be a pleasure to watch. I think Flower is fine sharing the net and if Lehner is OK with it they’ll be no controversy and it will benefit the team. What scares me is Flower will play so good someone desperate for a goalie may come knocking and you know management they’d trade him in a heartbeat and Ken will be in his glory.
Four straight VGK vs. Coyotes games coming up. No VGK sweep? Whats your forecast? Two and Two?
Not sure if you are asking me or Steve, but I’ll chime in anyway. My guess is both teams get 5 points of the 8. Thus, both teams go 2-1-1.
DOC (Go Knights Go)
Could happen Tim ….. I never thought they would be able to retain Flurey, after they signed Panda to the new contract. They have been able to, so far. But having to play cap games because of it.
Tim – just for kicks and in the interest of competition what if Flower shines brighter than the elite walrus – what makes you believe management might not just let the walrus go. They have proven there are no sacard cows period. You know they are blinded by the light.
HDbiker with this management team desperate to win a cup anything is possible. Personally I’d like to keep both goalies it’s a condensed season and anything could happen. To answer your Panda question can you imagine with Flower’s agent wputting the sword of DeBoer through Flower and then they trade Panda that would seem unbelievable. Here’s a question for you if Glass is a semi bust and Kolesar isn’t up to the task I can see Payton Krebs coming up to the Knights. He can’t be on the taxi squad and he can’t play for the Silver Knights and I doubt if they want to send him back to Canada.
Tim – unbelieveable but not improbable. Like l said with mgt and l recall everyone saying it’s a business and loyalty means nothing there are no sacard cows. Can you imagine Flower’s agent just rolling around in glee?
Mgt has boxed themselves into an interesting development. Glass proved last season to be a little injury prone which l hope for his sake is over but history in those cases has a way of repeating itself. I would not be surprised to see Krebes come as he was with them in Edmonton whi h suggests they have plans for him. Not sure about Kolesar being up to the task and mgt being what they are who knows. Interesting times that would be be a interesting question for DOC or the Hockey god
DOC (Go Knights Go)
I’m not sure what’s up with Glass. Injury? Salary cap roulette? Haven’t seen much from Kolesar. I think most would like to see Krebes get a chance. As far as trading a goalie. I think they are showing they’re trying to do what’s needed to keep both with this shortened schedule. But, IF, they trade one I would expect it to be Flurey.
HD, maybe you can help me understand how SinBin can post all those articles trying and praying for Fleury to leave somehow someway, and then promote their site with a puck autographed by Fleury in a Jan 14 tweet? Seems a bit jacked up.
The front office made the decision to bring in another goalie. They are now holding the roster, and VGK’s Cup chances, hostage by keeping $12 million in goalie salary.
We love Marc-Andre Fleury and will always love Marc-Andre Fleury. We also want the Golden Knights to win the Stanley Cup, and the best chance they have for that to happen is for them to trade Marc-Andre Fleury.
Doesn’t really answer my question. No problem posting many articles – including getting a child to draw a picture of Fleury crying in the playoffs – adverse to Fleury while using him to bolster your site. That wasn’t the front office’s decision, that was yours.
Certainly, SinBin is entitled to its opinions, but trying to blame the front office for actions taken on SinBin is incredulous. Now, I am clear on the characters who run the site.
I still don’t understand what you are accusing me of.
What exactly do you believe we are doing wrong?
It seems to me the negatives by SinBin regarding Fleury picked up intensity when Lehner arrived on the scene. It is clear by the articles that SinBin made their decision about Fleury before Lehner was even signed. So, the excuse about the cap may be a secondary reason, but it’s not the first reason SinBin wants Fleury gone. I recall an answer to someone’s post about why SinBin was pushing Lehner so hard and SinBin’s answer was because Lehner had been nominated for the Vezina trophy. And by SinBin’s logic, that was the sure thing to get the Stanley Cup. Perhaps SinBin decided Fleury was done because he had a rough season prior even though he was the work horse goalie-wise last year before Lehner’s arrival. I don’t know, but I know that SinBin can’t let go of the thought of Fleury leaving to the point it mocks Fleury and continuously looks for ways for him to go. I just find it twisted that for all that negative stuff SinBin says about Fleury, SinBin still uses Fleury to its benefit. To answer your question, that’s what I think is being done wrong.
If you want to stick with your proposed path to get the SC, why not get a signed puck from Lehner? That’s who you want us to embrace anyway, correct, as the only goalie who can win the SC for VGK? Why promote a goalie you want gone?
HD is right, it’s about what sells. Fleury sells.
Ken we’ve had many discussions on the goalie topic and we just have different views. I believe the two headed monster on the most important position in hockey is worth 12 million. You would be content with Lehner and Oskar Dance, or Aaron Dell or whatever cheap scrub they can pickup and ride Lehner to the cup. I’m a defensive guy and two outstanding goalies will win us a lot of games. Good example last year Colorado had 2 goalie go down and the party was over. Look at John Gibson he kept the Ducks in it why because he’s a good goalie when he doesn’t play there in deep shit. Ask the Oilers about there goaltending they have some great players but are going nowhere because they can’t stop the puck. I can give you more examples but you already know what teams are sucking wind for a goalie.
DOC (Go Knights Go)
Ken, I agree with you in this regard: Although I am on record saying I am glad we have two very good goalies for this shortened season … I also believe this probably can’t last . The salary cap “dance” is going to HAVE to be solved sometime during the season. Better sooner than later. We are going to have to lose someone of significant salary to bring them back in line on cap. Flurey is the most likely player to go to get this done.
Julie – whatever sellsl papers l believe answers your question. Hope your doing ok – these are crazy times.. l smile about the box mgt has put themselves in. They have 20 plus million tied up in 3 players which is insane about 25% of the cap. They put themselves in that position thinking they can buy the Cup and it doesn’t work that way ..