It’s so nice to be looking at a real schedule again. Teams outside of the awful division, real road trips, tricky back-to-backs, bye-weeks, you name it, this schedule has it. In fact, this year’s schedule is even more jam-packed than the previous 82-game schedules the Golden Knights have had due to the late start and the Olympic break in the middle.
Looking over it, there are six spots that jump out as the easiest and toughest spots over the seven-month season. We’ll start with the positive, a group of three stretches where the Golden Knights should be able to really make headway towards winning the Pacific Division for the third time in four years (we’re throwing out last year because that was technically the “West” division).
December 29th – January 13th
vs ANA, vs WPG, vs NSH, vs NYR, vs CHI, vs TOR
This is one of two six-game homestands on the VGK schedule this year, but it’s also against a group of middling to bottom-feeding teams. Vegas has historically dominated Anaheim no matter where the games are and Winnipeg has won just twice at T-Mobile Arena in six tries. The return of Gerard Gallant will likely bring an emotional game, but home games against Nashville, Chicago, and Toronto should all be winnable too. 12 points are at stake over these two weeks, the Golden Knights should be able to grab at least eight or nine of them.
March 30th – April 10th
at SEA, at SEA, at VAN, vs VAN, vs ARI, at SJS
A road trip I’m planning on attending, the Golden Knights will be reminded of last year’s schedule with this group of games against division teams and the same team in consecutive games twice. By late March it’s likely at least two of the teams on this list are already dead in the water while the Golden Knights should be looking to amass points to win the division. It’s also post-deadline which means Vegas will probably have a new piece or two on the roster while Seattle, Arizona, and San Jose could all be sending assets out.
November 9th – November 20th
vs SEA, vs MIN, vs VAN, vs CAR, vs DET, vs CBJ
This is the other six-gamer on the schedule but it includes a few trickier teams including the unknown Kraken. Vancouver is likely to be improved, Minnesota always gives Vegas troubles, and Carolina is a legit Cup-contender. But, overall, this is a spread-out group of six games with a two-day break before the toughest one (Carolina). This one also comes on the heels of a four-game trip to Eastern Canada, which makes this homestand a bit trickier than the other one. Nonetheless, seven to nine points should be expected and 10+ isn’t out of the question.
Now on to the tougher parts of the schedule, and unlike last year, these actually exist. Vegas has historically been a pretty good road team, but they’re susceptible to being tripped up by a tough road trip just like any other team in the league.
December 14th – December 28th
at BOS, at NJD, at NYR, at NYI, vs TBL, vs LAK, vs COL, at LAK
Though the travel is minimal in this group of eight games, the opponents are going to make this a tricky couple of weeks for the Golden Knights to navigate. It starts off with a trip to Boston, where Vegas has never won, to take on a Bruins team that is riding a five-game win streak against the Golden Knights. Then, VGK will head up to New York where they’ll stay in the same hotel for the three NY area games. The Islanders will likely be a Cup-contender again, the Rangers should be a playoff team and New Jersey can’t possibly be as bad as last year. Then, the Golden Knights come home to play the two-time defending Cup champs before a trap game against LA. This truly is a gauntlet that really couldn’t be set up much worse. Exiting this eight-game stretch with eight points should be considered a success.
January 24th – February 1st
at WSH, at CAR, at FLA, at TBL, vs BUF
Yikes. Four-game road trips to the East coast are always going to be tough but in this one, they have to play what should be four of the eight playoff teams from the Eastern Conference. Luckily, the Golden Knights have had success in each of these buildings and the trip starts with a three-day break before Washington. However, the first two are back-to-back and then they fly to Florida for a pair of very challenging games. Heck, even the last game, a home game against what should be the NHL’s worst game, is in a terrible spot as it’s a clear letdown opportunity before Las Vegas hosts the All Star Game a few days later.
March 3rd – March 15th
vs BOS, at ANA, vs OTT, at PHI, at BUF, at PIT, at CBJ, at WPG
Eight games in 13 days late into the dog days of the season with two back-to-backs with travel. Gross. The competition is fairly light throughout, save for the Bruins off the top, but post deadline is usually a time for the Golden Knights to go on a run, this one looks like it could be a real challenge. This a lot of hockey and a lot of travel in a short period of time. If Vegas is at the top of their game, they’ll roll through all of this making it look easy, but if they are banged up or if they are struggling to find their game a bit, this stretch could be a real tough one heading into the final games of the season.