The Golden Knights have been on a nice run since the All Star break, losing just one game in regulation and cementing their place in the Western Conference playoff picture.
Along the way, there have been a few big-time performers stepping up consistently helping lead VGK to goals and eventually wins. Despite all the winning though, there have been a few disappointments as well, players that will need to step up their game if the Golden Knights want to achieve the ultimate goal by season’s end. And then, there’s been William Karlsson.
We’ll start with the good.
8 goals, 6 assists, 14 points, +10 rating
There’s really no point in doing this list without starting with #9. Eichel has been on his best run as a Golden Knight since the calendar flipped to February and there are no signs of him slowing down. He’s scored goals in seven of the 12 games since the break, and has been on the score sheet with at least a point in nine.
Plus, the goals have been big ones. Eichel gave the Golden Knights a 3rd period lead against both New Jersey and Dallas, he scored twice in the 2nd period to put VGK ahead against Carolina, and his power play goal against the Flames sparked the Golden Knights’ comeback.
And on top of all of it, he just flat-out looks like the best player on the ice most nights. His powerful skating stride is breathtaking and his shotmaking ability at full speed is spectacular.
3 goals, 9 assists, 12 points, +8 rating
Theodore returned from his nasty knee injury a few days before the break. He didn’t quite look himself in those games and the results showed. Since, he’s been every bit of the dynamic puck-moving defenseman the Golden Knights knew they had when they signed him to a long-term deal four years ago.
He’s driving offense from all three zones again and putting teams on their heels with his ridiculous puck-handling ability. In the last nine games, Theodore has recorded at least four shots in five of them and he’s averaging nearly 22 minutes of ice time a night, lightening the load on Alex Pietrangelo.
Scoring from the blue line is not exactly the main focal point of the Bruce Cassidy offensive system, but when Shea is going like he is, the offense looks so much more potent.
0 goals, 2 assists, 2 points, +9 rating
Unsurprisingly, McNabb’s offensive numbers don’t jump off the page, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been one of VGK’s most impactful players of late. Playing about 21 minutes per game, McNabb has been an absolute beast in the defensive zone, blocking a team-high 37 shots, laying 38 hits, and single-handedly saving three goals (that I can remember) in the last six games.
McNabb is also a huge reason why Theodore is on the hot list. That partnership has been strong ever since they were first put together back in November of 2017. They’ve been separated for various reasons over the last six years, but there’s no doubt the best hockey we’ve seen out of each of them has been when they’ve played together.
1 goal, 5 assists, 6 points, +4 rating
Six points in 12 games isn’t terrible for a 3rd line center, but Stephenson’s impact on games just hasn’t been the same since he was invited to South Beach for the All Star game. His 18 shots in 12 games are the lowest of any 12-game stretch this season, he’s not making an impact at all on the power play since Mark Stone exited the lineup (0 power play points since 1/5/23), and before the injury, his line with William Carrier and Phil Kessel really slowed down.
Stephenson has just the one goal in his last 22 games and he’s had just one game score higher than 1.0 in his last nine outings. For comparison, Stephenson posted a stretch of nine consecutive games over 1.0 in October, according to HockeyStatCards.com.
If the Golden Knights are going to score enough to win in the playoffs, they are going to need more from Stephenson.
0 goals, 2 assists, 2 points, +3 rating
It might be unfair to single out just Hague without including Whitecloud, but the eye test has been a bit kinder on Zach than Nic in the recent run of games. The biggest concern with Hague is his dip in shots on goal. When Hague is at his most dangerous, he’s either standing at the point ripping shots or he’s activating and joining the play in the offensive zone. We’ve seen less and less of that as of late, indicated by nine games in the last 12 in which he’s record one or zero shots.
Cassidy has returned to a bit more balance with his six defensemen over the past two games, but the previous seven saw a dip in ice time for Hague. He averaged just 16:26 over that stretch, nearly two minutes less than his season average.
0 goals, 6 assists, 6 points, +1 rating
It’s been quite a weird run of games for the original Misfit which has him in a category of his own. He hasn’t scored goal since January 24th, a span of 14 games, but he’s consistently been one of the best players on the ice in many of those games.
With the schedule being jam packed with high-end teams including Colorado, Tampa Bay, New Jersey, Carolina, and Dallas, Karlsson has been thrust into a defensive role and he, with Reilly Smith and Michael Amadio, have succeeded. Their ability to eat up some of the most difficult minutes is a huge reason why Eichel has been freed up to score as much as he has.
What’s crazy about Karlsson’s recent run of form though is that he’s had incredible chances and they just aren’t finding the net. He’s hit the post multiple times, he had a shorthanded penalty shot stopped, and he’s had many odd-man rushes that he’s set up teammates for goals.
As the Golden Knights have shifted to become a bit more of a defense-first team, Karlsson’s role as a shut-down center will only grow more and more important. He’s filling it, and then some. But… it would be nice if the puck would go in the net for him a little more often than once every 15 games.
Watching the MTL game at T-Mobile I saw a lot of O Zone cycling back to the D’s and found myself yearning for the VGK of old shooting from the point. The only real problem with shots from there is giving up defensive rebounds but you get offensive rebounds and tip-ins too.
Ken – fortunately you didn’t identify individuals as the good, bad and ugly which I was pleased to see. The issues aren’t individual players, hot or cold the issue is 60 minutes of effort across the board. They did everything they could to let the Canadians back in the game and that has to stop. They are at their best, all of them, when they have their foot on the gas and don’t do well standing around waiting to see what’s happening. Watching them at times when they have the puck in the D zone and can’t get it out past the blue line is just nuts. Why they don’t carry it at least to the blue line is beyond understanding. They have a tuff trip in store and it will be interesting to see how they do – fortunately the road has been kind to them earlier let’s hope it continues.
There is though certain times in the D Zone where the opposition is juiced and all over you making it hard to gain possession to pass or carry the puck to execute a breakout. I saw that happen in the MTL game (I was there with a bird’s eye view). I’m not making excuses for lack D Zone execution because sometimes puck management is lacking but there definitely is a cold and hot ebb and flow to every game in both zones. The good news for Vegas is when the roster has bought in Cassidy’s defensive structure produces good results over time. In any case I do agree discipline and focus play a role and there can be correctable lapses. When the D Zone is clicking for Vegas it’s tough to score against them and it’s reassuring to see Eichel buying into the importance of defending the way Stone has.
Ken, by your pick and choose list of who’s doing good and who is ‘falling short’ of your expectations you are insulting the whole team. Apparently by your standards, there should be 18 goals scored per game. (One per player?) There is no I in T-E-A-M ! Cheer for the VGK
I definitely do not expect every player to score every game. I do expect the team to be able to score 3 goals per game.
That’s a good way of looking at it.
At a minimum, Ken. 3 at least. Other teams have come back against us, after complacency opens up opponents’ scoring. Then we end up scrambling to stay ahead.
I know you didn’t mean for every player to score every game. I was just making the point that I don’t understand why any single player (by name) has to be called out by you for not meeting your standards. I can’t think of any team sport where some players get all of the reward for scoring and the other ‘ worker bees’ get called out by name like they aren’t helping. You want to callout Karlsson for not scoring without mentioning all of the other things he does so good. My heart hurts every game for players that are struggling to score. They know it without being called out. Lighten up
Barb, I don’t think Ken was calling out Wild Bill for not scoring. You’ll note he began by citing him as one of the best players on the ice on many of those games he did not score. Consider, defending is crucial as Ken points out and Karlsson is one the best at playing the 200 ft. game.
“It’s been quite a weird run of games for the original Misfit which has him in a category of his own. He hasn’t scored goal since January 24th, a span of 14 games, but he’s consistently been one of the best players on the ice in many of those games.”
Bárbara es una loca. Ella dijo algunas cosas realmente estúpidas. Loca loca loca mujer.
THE hockey GOD
no, senior frog jose es loca en la cabeza, muchos tacos.
THE hockey GOD, te voy a joder. Te romperé la jodida columna vertebral y te cortaré las piernas y los brazos para que todo lo que quede sea un torso inútil.
Or fellow PAC teams keep winning. I am hoping for 6 out of 10 points on this road trip? Hill is going to have to keep playing well for us to have a chance of at least that!
That is exactly what I am thinking too. 5 games, there are 2 games we NEED to win against non-playoff teams, and then I am hopeful for at least 1 win against FLA, TB, or CAR. 5-6 points would be a good trip and under 4 points a failed trip.
Ken your words – I definitely do not expect every player to score every game. I do expect the team to be able to score 3 goals per game. AND don’t allow more than two goals. Just filling in the blanks for you.
Barb is absolutely correct it takes the TEAM to win. Look at Edmonton two of the best players in hockey and they continue to struggle in one way or another.
Vete a la mierda HD Biker! no le faltes al respeto a Ken, o te mato. Escoria pedazo de basura.
Jose – really – have you forgot this is an English-speaking country whether you like it or not.