Pacific Preview: Vegas Golden Knights off to strong start in pursuit of defending Stanley Cup championship
Photo credit:Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
1 month ago
The Vegas Golden Knights have suffered no Stanley Cup hangover.
They’re 3-0 through the first few days of the season following wins over the Seattle Kraken, San Jose Sharks, and Anaheim Ducks and have won each game by a score of 4-1.
Will Vegas be able to defend their crown this year? Let’s take a look at the Golden Knights’ 2022-23 season, what they did in the off-season, and what their outlook for 2023-24 looks like.
Record: 51-22-9 (111 points)
Goals for: 272 (14 of 32)
Goals against: 229 (11 of 32)
After defeating the Oilers in the second round, the Knights beat the Dallas Stars in six games in the Western Conference Finals before winning it all by taking down the Cinderella Florida Panthers in five games.
Jack Eichel, who was picked after McDavid in the 2015 draft, finished with a fine season, scoring 27 goals and 66 points in 67 games, his point total is the most on the Knights. In his first-ever appearance in the playoffs, Eichel scored six goals and 26 points in 22 games to help the Knights lift the cup. Chandler Stephenson built off his career year in 2021-22, scoring 16 goals and 65 points (a career-high) in 81 games, also scoring 10 goals and 20 points in 22 playoff games.
Jonathan Marchessault won the Conn Smyth trophy with 13 goals and 25 points in 22 playoff games but also scored 28 goals and 57 points in 76 regular season games. Alex Pietrangelo, who should have been suspended for more than one game, finished fifth in team scoring, as he had 11 goals and 54 points (tied a career-high) in 73 games.
The netminding situation was a revolving door for the Knights, as they saw five goaltenders. Logan Thompson was their early season starter, posting a 2.65 goals against average and a .915 save percentage in 37 games. Adin Hill had a solid season between the sticks, playing 27 games and posting a .915 save percentage and a 2.45 goals-against average. His strong play in the playoffs (a .932 save percentage) earned him a new contract. Vegas also saw former Oiler Laurent Brossoit in the net, as well as veteran Jonathan Quick and emergency option Jiri Patera.
Additions: Mason Geertsen
Subtractions: Rielly Smith, Laurent Brossoit, Jonathan Quick, Phil Kessel, Teddy Blueger
Vegas had a fairly quiet off-season, with their only significant loss being Rielly Smith, who had been with the team since the start. In the 2022-23 season, the 32-year-old had his best year with the Knights, posting 26 goals and 56 points in 78 games. However, he had a “meh” playoffs”, scoring just four goals in 22 games, and adding 10 assists..The Golden Knights traded him to Pittsburgh in return for a 2024 third-round pick.
This trade was to remove his cap hit, as it freed the Knights to re-sign playoff hero Adin Hill, as well as Ivan Barbashev, who had six goals and 16 points in 23 games in the regular season, and seven goals and 18 points in 22 playoff games.
Interestingly, Vegas originally traded that third-round pick to Pittsburgh for Teddy Blueger, who eventually signed with Vancouver. Laurent Brossoit signed with Winnipeg, while Jonathan Quick signed with the New York Rangers of all teams. Back in the 2014 playoffs, Quick led the Los Angeles Kings to a Stanley Cup over the Rangers.
A quiet off-season usually means that a team remains the same. Losing Smith could hurt the Knights, but having Barbashev for a full season (he had 60 points in 81 games as recently as 2021-22) could easily replace that production. Realistically, Blueger’s 16 points in 2022-23 can be replaced with a prospect such as Brendan Brisson from their AHL affiliate.
The Golden Knights’ goaltending situation looks precarious, although Adin Hill had a great 2023 playoff, he has a career .911 save percentage in just 102 games. Logan Thompson has played even fewer games but has a .915 save percentage in 58 games. Both have played well but that isn’t much experience to bank on.
Will the Knights repeat? It’s possible as they have essentially the same team as last season, but it’ll be tough in a heavily competitive Pacific Division.
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