On Wednesday night the Golden Knights players were forced to protect themselves from questionable hits and after whistle scrums. It was a scene Vegas fans saw play out a half-dozen times in the Stanley Cup Finals against the Florida Panthers. Sure, the Los Angeles’ Hayden Hodgson isn’t Matthew Tkachuk, but he hit like a Tkachuk on Wednesday.
Hayden Hodgson absolutely runs over Mark Stone and the #GoldenKnights take exception
— Missin Curfew (@MissinCurfew) September 28, 2023
The Kings ended up tying the game late in the 3rd period and went on to win in overtime. However, that wasn’t their only self-victory that evening. After a questionably late hit on Mark Stone, the Golden Knights appropriately erupted and jumped the career AHL’er. At first look, it’s a desperate player trying to crack an NHL roster and his open check on Stone naturally drew the attention of Kings coaches and others.
You need moments like that and plays like that too. We just looked at it. It was a very clean, good hit. Solid hit. And they didn’t like it and we scored right after and then it’s just one goal and I know they scored too, but I think scoring a goal in this building that kind of shows ‘okay, we can score too’. So definitely that helped and in the 3rd period we just wanted to slow things down and kind of stay calm and just focus on our game, that’s all. And that’s exactly what we did. –Marco Sturm, Ontario Reign head coach
— ALL THE KINGS MEN | LA KINGS PODCAST (@KingsMenPodcast) September 28, 2023
It’s unlikely that Stone or any other impact Golden Knight are targeted through the remainder of the preseason, however they will be beginning on October 10th. When any team travels into T-Mobile Arena or hosts the reigning champion, the game will mean a little more. It’s still worth two points, but it allows an opponent to measure themselves against the champs. So, it’s possible the Golden Knights will get the best out of each team. And yes, that’ll likely include loud hits, salty scrums and VGK players being targeted by the opposition. Golden Knights fans witnessed it on Wednesday night. To be fair, it was effective for the Kings. I highly doubt the Arizona Coyotes will play with as much purpose tonight.
When you see their lineup and what we were facing I think everyone knew that every shift counted and we had to be focused out there and try to keep things simple. That was the biggest thing and try to keep it short, having short shifts and not trying to force the play because they’re a talented team, they won the Stanley Cup and they know how to score goals. I think we did a really good job just getting our feet moving and keeping shifts short and making sure we’re on top of it. –Sturm
Being the hunted will not only apply to the Pacific Division or the Western Conference. We already know Edmonton and LA will be circling their dates with Vegas on the calender but so will Carolina, Colorado, Dallas, Florida, New Jersey and Toronto. Those clubs are planning on snatching up VGK’s Stanley Cup for themselves in 2023-24. Cup contenders across the league see the Golden Knights as the enemy. Vegas has what they want and defeating or matching up well against them will boost confidence heading into the postseason. Fortunately for Vegas, they’re still blessed with a championship roster.
On a personal note, I despise preseason hockey. As a natural worrywart, I am constantly concerned about a devastating injury occurring any time Jack Eichel, Alex Pietrangelo or Mark Stone hit exhibition ice. Despite the NHL preseason rules, it’s in everyone’s best interest if the stars of the game are kept healthy before the regular season begins. You know, when actual real hockey is played. As witnessed months ago, Stone’s leadership and production is needed in April not September.