The Vegas Golden Knights are now just two wins away from scaling the mountain and claiming the Stanley Cup. After throttling the Florida Panthers in Game 2 of the Final, the complete picture of this version of this team is coming into clear view to the entire hockey world.
That picture is of a team without weakness.
For every obstacle in their way, they have a method to clear it, and for every question asked, they have an answer.
I just feel that we have the best team, from player 1 through 20. Our depth has been a strength all year. I think it is the biggest reason why we are still here and why we beat Winnipeg, Edmonton, and Dallas and we’re ahead against Florida. -Bruce Cassidy
The depth of the Golden Knights begins at the top.
Vegas is a city filled with superstars and the Golden Knights are no different. Jack Eichel, Mark Stone, Alex Pietrangelo, Shea Theodore, Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson, and the list goes on. Like the amazing array of performers on the Strip, it’s the collection of all of them that makes it special. If one takes a night off, there are plenty of others to pick up the slack.
Eichel hasn’t scored a goal in the last nine playoff games. Marchessault didn’t tally one until midway through the Edmonton series. Pietrangelo was suspended for a game. Stone took a while to get back up to speed after returning from the injury.
None of it has mattered.
That’s because of the depth at the top of the lineup. Whether it’s speed, scoring, defending, penalty killing, or anything else that’s needed to win the hockey game, the Golden Knights don’t need each and every one of their top players to contribute all of it every night.
(Of course, when they do, they’re capable of scoring a touchdown in the Stanley Cup Final.)
The group behind the biggest names are in many ways the same way, just with different roles. When the playoffs began and Stone found his way back into the lineup, Cassidy opted for a balanced lineup including a trio of Ivan Barbashev, Michael Amadio, and Brett Howden all playing top-nine roles. Those three together probably wouldn’t make the strongest third line, but with each of them complementing the pair of other forwards on their line, they make as deep, dangerous, and versatile a top-nine in the NHL.
Bolstered by William Carrier and Keegan Kolesar, the fourth line has succeeded at the job every coach in the league hopes his final line can do. They bring energy on the forecheck, they force opposing lines to spend tons of time in their own end, and no matchup is too big for them.
Finally, the defense. Pietrangelo’s ability as the workhorse of the group cannot be understated, but the rest of the group offers a flexibility that allows all six to be consistently deployed to their strengths. The third pair of Nic Hague and Zach Whitecloud are not only good enough to steal minutes against the likes of Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Jason Robertson, but they’re also capable of frustrating a player like Matthew Tkachuk, completely throwing him off his game.
It truly is a team. A group that is stronger as a whole than as a sum of each individual part.
And that’s why they’ve been able to handle all that’s been thrown at them so far in this playoff run. They can play any way, against any style, and in any building.
They may have some better players or a better penalty killer or a power play guy. I just believe (depth has) been a big strength of ours. Whether it’s overwhelming, that’s a strong word, I just think it’s been really good for us. -Cassidy
That strength is why the 2022-23 Vegas Golden Knights are on the verge of immortality.