It’s still crazy to me that the Vegas Golden Knights are in their third season in the NHL. It seems like it was just yesterday that we were trashing the expansion team’s chances at doing anything in Season 1. All they did was make it to within a few games of winning the Stanley Cup. Of course, they lost to the Washington Capitals in that series, but the team has managed to stay competitive. In fact, they’ve actually gotten better than that roster and are positioned well for another deep postseason run in 2019-20. The coronavirus outbreak has other plans, but there’s still hope the season can be played out. Let’s take a look at where the Golden Knights stand right now and their future outlook.
Where do the Vegas Golden Knights stand during the break?
Points: 86 (preseason over/under: 97.5)
Place: 1st in Pacific (No. 2 overall seed in conference)
Stanley Cup odds (March 10): +1000
The Golden Knights entered the break with a narrow lead over the Edmonton Oilers (83 points) for first place in the Pacific Division. That’s a bit surprising considering the type of hockey Vegas was playing before hockey stopped. The Golden Knights had won 11 of 13 games before the coronavirus pandemic forced the NHL to suspend play. The Knights were arguably the hottest team in hockey, right up there with the Philadephia Flyers. Now, the momentum is gone and the Knights will have to try and recapture it if/when the NHL is back.
If we take a look at the roster, things are in pretty good shape. That’s thanks to a lot of depth, not because the Knights have been able to avoid the injury bug. Left wing Max Pacioretty and right wing Mark Stone were both week-to-week back in March due to lower-body injuries. Forward Alex Tuch suffered a setback in his recovery from a lower-body injury back in early March as well. With all this time off, you’d expect all three of them to be OK to return if the regular season comes back in the Summer. Youngster Cody Glass was ruled out for the season on March 7 due to knee surgery. It’s unlikely he comes back in time to finish the season.
Assuming Vegas is healthy for a potential postseason, they’re primed to make a run, as I alluded to above. Their goaltender has never been stronger. Marc-Andre Fleury has been fine in net, the veteran goalie sporting a 27-16-5 record with a .905 SV% and 5 shutouts. They aren’t the best numbers, but the Knights brought in Robin Lehner in a trade with the Blackhawks to stabilize the goalie position. Lehner is undefeated as a Knight, 3-0-0 with a .940 SV%. His start in Vegas couldn’t have gone better.
So if the roster is healthy and the goaltending is on par, what would be the issue for Vegas in the postseason? Well, special teams need improvements big time. The power play has been fine, but not great. Injuries have hurt that unit and the mid-season coaching change from Gerard Gallant to Pete DeBoer also plays a factor. The power play has improved slightly under DeBoer, but the PK has gotten worse. Vegas is 29th on the PK in the 22 games under DeBoer. Stone being healthy would help the PK tremendously. I still don’t know if one person can lift a unit from almost last to respectable, but Stone is one of the best two-way forwards in the NHL.