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Getting to know the Western Conference Playoff Teams: The Vegas Golden Knights

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Photo credit:Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports.
Ryley Delaney
25 days ago
Last season, the Edmonton Oilers’ Stanley Cup chances ended at the hands of the Vegas Golden Knights, as the eventual champions defeated the Oilers 4-2 in the second round of the playoffs.
The 2023 Stanley Cup winners have a team capable of going back-to-back despite trading Reilly Smith before the beginning of the season. This is because they made some major moves at the 2024 trade deadline, which we’ll look at in both the offence and defence sections of this article.
As it stands, the Golden Knights currently occupy the final Wild Card position with 92 points, just one behind the Los Angeles Kings for third in the division. They have a five point lead over the St. Louis Blues, who have just four games remaining to Vegas’ five games.
With all that being said, let’s take a look at the Golden Knights’ offence, defence, and goaltending situation.

The Vegas Golden Knights have a well-balanced offence

You know how the Edmonton Oilers have “Free Agency Foegele”, as Warren Foegele has a career-high 17 goals and 37 points? Well, Jonathan Marchessault (first-line right wing)  is like Foegele dialled up times 100, as he leads the team with 41 goals and 67 points in the final season of his contract. He is the team’s main scorer and will get paid this season, even if he just turned 33.
Jack Eichel (first-line centre) is having a good season, too, albeit with some injuries – a common theme with the Golden Knight). With 29 goals and 63 points in 58 games, he is the only Golden Knight to be over point per game this season. William Karlsson (third-line centre) has also spent some time on the injured reserve and has 27 goals and 55 points.
It’s been said often that the Golden Knights roll all four lines, which means that they have some important secondary scorers. Chandler Stephenson, their second-line centre, has 16 goals and 47 points. Ivan Barbashev, who plays alongside Eichel and Marchessault on the first line, has 18 goals and 44 points.
Nicholas Roy is day-to-day, but has 11 goals and 39 points, while Michael Amadio is on the second line and has 13 goals and 26 points. Their fourth-line left wing, Paul Cotter, has seven goals and 24 points, while Pavel Dorofeyev, Vegas’ third-line left wing, has 12 goals and 20 points.
In fact, most of their regular forwards have about 20 points, with only Brett Howden (eight goals, 17 points) and Keegan Kolesar (six goals, 15 points) under the 20-point plateau. Both those players round out their fourth line.
One player I intentionally omitted is their captain, Mark Stone. This season, the right-winger has 16 goals and 53 points in 56 games played but is currently on the long-term injured reserve due to a lacerated spleen, which doesn’t sound fun. If, by some miracle, he returns for the playoffs, Vegas suddenly becomes a very scary eighth seed.
Of course, they brought in two notable forwards at the trade deadline. They moved a first and some other assets for Tomáš Hertl, who recently played his first game as a Knight and picked up an assist. Moreover, they moved a second and a third for Anthony Mantha, who has three goals and nine points in 15 games with the Knights.
Another player on the day-to-day list is William Carrier, who has six goals and eight points in 39 games this season, but is an impressive +16. He had 16 goals and 25 points last season, both being a Carrier-high (sorry).
All in all, while the Golden Knights don’t have a true superstar, with Eichel being the closest, they have a ton of depth with a ton of playoff experience.

Mar 9, 2024; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Noah Hanifin (15) is named Third Star of the Game after the Golden Knights defeated the Detroit Red Wings 5-3 at T-Mobile Arena.

The addition of Noah Hanifin improved a solid blueline

Another notable deadline acquisition the Knights made is Noah Hanifin. He has two goals and eight points in 15 games so far this season and is playing on the first pairing alongside Nicolas Hague, who has two goals and 12 points so far this year.
On their second pairing, the Knights deploy Brayden McNabb on the left side and Shea Theodore on the right side. The former has three goals and 25 points in 77 games, while the latter leads all Knights’ defencemen in points with 39 and five goals.
Their third pairing is also quite good, as the team deploys Alec Martinez on the left and Zach Whitecloud on the right. Despite Martinez being on the wrong side of 30, he has four goals and 17 points, along with three Stanley Cups in his career. Whitecloud has two goals and 12 points.
Of course, we can’t forget about the axe man, Alex Pietrangelo, who is out of the lineup due to battling an illness. He has four goals and 33 points, as well as two Stanley Cups on his résumé. Ben Hutton is another defender who went unmentioned. He has two goals and 10 points in 38 games this season. He is evidently their seventh defenceman.

Adin Hill and Logan Thompson have struggled as of late

While the Oilers had issues matching Vegas’ ability to roll out four lines, Adin Hill was a big reason why they won the series last season. It also earned him a two-year, $9.8 million deal.
It looked as if Hill would be an early candidate for the Vezina Trophy, as he had a .933 save percentage in his first 15 games and a 10-2-2 record. Upon returning, his save percentage actually jumped to .937 in four straight games, but then his play started to tail off.
Since February 12, Hill has had a .881 save percentage, dragging his season save percentage down to .914 with a 2.62 goals-against average in 32 games played. He has an 18-10-2 record for the season.
While he was meant to be their starter, Logan Thompson has started the majority of their games and has a .907 save percentage and a 2.76 goals-against average in 44 games played this season. With that comes a 23-14-5 record.
Thompson’s play has been pretty erratic as of late. Since the start of March, he owns a .908 save percentage with a blend of good and bad starts. Among the 10 games he’s played in that span, Thompson posted a .900 save percentage or lower in five of them.

Wrapping up…

There are four pathways for the Golden Knights regarding the playoffs. The ideal case for the Oilers and all fans around the league is if they miss the playoffs. However, the Blues have just four games remaining with five points to make up, so this would need to be an epic collapse along with the St. Louis Blues also making a miraculous comeback.
The second and most ideal pathway if they make the playoffs is if they are stuck in the central division pathway. If the playoffs were to start right now, this would actually be the situation, as the Dallas Stars’ 109 points are first in the West compared to the Vancouver Canucks’ 104 points.
If they happened to play the Oilers in the first round, a very real possibility, Edmonton would need home ice, which looks like it’ll happen as they have seven points on the Golden Knights with a game in hand.
The worst-case scenario is that Vegas moves into second place in the division while the Oilers drop to third. Either way, hopefully, the Golden Knights end up in the Central and are beaten by the Stars or something.

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