28 games in 50 days.
That was what the Golden Knights were staring at back on March 21st, ahead of their first back-to-back with travel of the season. That 50-day span includes six back-to-backs, multiple four-game road trips, and the current stretch of 14 days in which they are scheduled to play an absurd nine games.
When the Golden Knights had to pause their season in the final week of January and into February due to COVID, they knew they were going to have to pay the piper at some point. That point is here and so far, they’re holding up, but not exactly dominating like they were earlier in the year.
The first game in that 28 in 50 stretch was on February 21st against the Kings. The Golden Knights lost that one and have proceeded to lose five more of the 13 they’ve played so far. They’re 7-5-1 to this point, 24 days into the grind. That leaves 15 games in the next 26 days with the Golden Knights sitting comfortably in a playoff spot, still very much in the chase for 1st place, while also trying to stave off a challenger for 2nd.
Sitting 15 points clear of the playoff cut line with just 15 games to go the Golden Knights could take their foot off the pedal and coast to the finish line by working in off games for players. No one would fault them for it, especially with the fact that the Avalanche have lost just one game in regulation since March 8th.
Pete DeBoer, though, has other plans.
I’m not a big believer in managing anything other than trying to win to give yourself the easiest path possible come playoff time. Obviously home-ice advantage against the lowest seed as you move through, it doesn’t always mean success but we want to pursue that as hard as we can. I think we’ll manage energy by not practicing, by giving them as much time off between games as we can in this condensed schedule, by making sure our travel is well planned and well thought out. -DeBoer
The Golden Knights and Colorado will play two games on April 26th and 28th at T-Mobile Arena. If one team wins both of those games, they’ll probably win the division. Otherwise, it’ll come down to which team plays better against the likes of the rest of the relatively soft West Division.
For Vegas, the focus is simple.
There will be no pacing ourselves down the stretch for the playoffs. Our goal is to finish first. -DeBoer
It’ll be fairly significant if they pull it off. If they don’t though, second-guessing is inevitable.