On January 25th the clock struck 00:00 and the Golden Knights had dropped just their fifth home game of the season, again to a team in blue and orange. No one seemed particularly concerned, but just around the corner was a road trip that had all the makings of derailing what’s been a storybook season.
First the Golden Knights would get four days off for the All Star break. Then they were set to hit the road for a trip that was to span more than 7,000 miles, across three different time zones, over the course of just 10 days. To make matters worse, the six game trip featured six teams in playoff position and five teams either in first or second in their respective divisions. (You can make the argument it’s all six because technically both Calgary and San Jose were in second when the games took place).
This is a trip that is supposed to suck the life out of even the best teams. There was a back-to-back early. There was a game with a 9:30 AM Pacific start time. There was the highly emotional return of Marc-Andre Fleury to Pittsburgh. There was snow, ice, rain, and outside temps ranging from -10 to 82. Oh, and did I mention more than 7,000 miles of travel. Seven effing thousand, in a week and a half.
It was without question the most challenging portion of the Golden Knights schedule both on the ice and off it.
Yet what did the Golden Knights do with it? They went out and won four of the six games, beat three of the four teams in the Western Conference, and took eight points from a trip in which four wouldn’t have even been considered a letdown.
They used a magical comeback to kick off the trip in Calgary, followed it up with an OT win in a game between the two top teams in the Western Conference, once again knocked off the reigning President’s Trophy winners, and then put a stamp on the trip by winning their 13th division game out of 15 and maintaining a perfect record in the state of California.
Now, it’s over and the schedule looks like an absolute dream. Nine of the next 10, and 17 of the final 28 will be played at T-Mobile Arena. 10 of the last 28 feature teams with fewer points than games played (there are only seven teams that fall into that category). 17 are against teams outside of the playoffs, and finally, no team in the NHL has more home games or fewer road games left on their schedule than the Golden Knights.
And it’s all because they not only survived but thrived on one of the toughest trips any team in the NHL will take all season.
This team has been doing unprecedented things for an expansion team since they played their first game, but if the final 28 resemble the first 54, we’re going to be talking real records and real banners, not just inaugural season ones.