It was a tough start to their four-game road trip. Travel, time zone change and adding insult to several injuries, the Golden Knights were forced to cover Austin Matthews and Mitch Marner without another impact player. The Maple Leafs’ high-end talent took advantage of a beaten up Golden Knights lineup and eventually cruised to a 4-0 victory.
Their best players were on tonight. It was one of those nights, and with the lineup we’ve got right now, we’re going to have to red line every night in all areas in order to compete, especially against good teams, and that’s a real good team. -Pete DeBoer
Sure, the odds were stacked against Vegas but it was all but over after the second goal of the game. The Leafs are an excellent 35-2-3 when Marner and Matthews score in the same game, so it would have been nearly impossible for even a healthy Golden Knights roster to win under those conditions.
The focus now shifts to how the road trip finishes.
Big ask tonight when you look at what we’re dealing with. I think our effort actually wasn’t an issue. I thought we didn’t execute against a team that puts a lot of heat on you, and they put a lot of pressure on us in tough areas. -DeBoer
This season the Golden Knights are 2-2-0 on the road with three upcoming games to improve their record. Stealing 4-6 points over the next three games would send Vegas back home with their heads held high.
A couple of weeks back Pacific rival San Jose Sharks swept their trip to Eastern Canadian. Unlike Vegas, San Jose’s first matchup began in Montreal and ended in Toronto. Against the Canadiens, the Sharks scored two in the first four minutes to ignite a 5-0 victory. Montreal was/is reeling and San Jose pounced on them in several different ways. The Golden Knights have enough weapons in their current lineup to win in a similar fashion.
The Sharks received two goals from rookie Jonathan Dahlen, one from defenseman Erik Karlsson and two on the power play. Between Alex Pietrangelo, Shea Theodore, Alec Martinez and Nic Hague, the Golden Knights have plenty of options from the blue line. Without piling on, Vegas can’t rely on their power play but they may have enough offense to win a low-scoring affair. Now would be the time for 20-year-old Peyton Krebs to start contributing and registering points. The 2019 1st rounder is young and learning on the fly but he’s pointless through nine games this season and has just 10 shots. Vegas could really use his offensive skill as one goal could change their road trip. No matter who’s in the lineup, there should be plenty of motivation to squash the Canadiens after last season’s six-game semifinal defeat.
After picking up a win in Montreal, San Jose shuttled to Ottawa for their second matchup. The Senators took the initial lead but the Sharks scored twice in the 2nd period to eke out a 2-1 victory. The Golden Knights have enough defense and experience to find a way to win like the Sharks did. No matter which team is ahead the game is expected to be tight. The Senators have played in five one-goal decisions in their first nine games. It may come down to a late timely goal for the Golden Knights and even in defeat a close game could result in an overtime point. With all of their injuries, earning one point could make the difference in the final standings.
This road trip comes at the right time. Vegas’ next two opponents are vulnerable and can be beaten with or without $29M in additional offense. For various reasons San Jose and Vegas’ rosters are currently less talented, and both are trying to win with less. The Sharks proved they could by sweeping Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto all while dealing with injuries and Covid protocols. If they follow San Jose’s script, Vegas has the chance to take two of three on the road in Canada with a very thin lineup. Then the confidence would be high for the back-to-back in Detroit, another team even a beaten up Golden Knights roster should be able to handle.