We’re roughly halfway through the season, and the Vegas Golden Knights are sitting pretty. They’re a point up on second place St. Louis with four games in hand and earned a split so far in the season series with Colorado, the pre-season favorite to win the Cup. Here is the Golden Knights report card, and where they’re going from here.

Offense: C+

This grade may seem a bit harsh, but hear me out. When their top two lines are rolling, they turn anticipated matchups into lopsided affairs quick. The problem is, the offense as a whole hasn’t ever really clicked in unison. Yes, they’re in first place and third in the league in points percentage, but they’re tied with Arizona for sixth in the division in goals scored.

This team has firepower. Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty are a handful for any team. The Marchessault/Karlsson/Smith line powered the team to the Cup Final in the inaugural season and still has great chemistry. Because of those two lines, Alex Tuch is absolutely feasting on weaker matchups this season. The numbers, however, don’t lie. Defense can win championships, but you can’t win if you don’t put the puck in the net with some regularity.

Defense: A

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – JANUARY 16: Alex Pietrangelo #7 of the Vegas Golden Knights skates during the second period against the Anaheim Ducks at T-Mobile Arena on January 16, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by David Becker/NHLI via Getty Images)

Much was made of the decision to trade both Paul Stastny and Nate Schmidt to make room for Alex Pietrangelo’s contract. It turned out to be a pretty great decision. Petro was a little shaky early on, clearly trying to find chemistry with his defensive partners. Now? This Vegas defense is a cohesive unit, allowing the fifth-fewest expected goals against and sixth-fewest scoring chances against (per Natural Stat Trick).

With the offense being somewhat inconsistent to this point, it definitely helps that the defense is so stingy. It will pay even bigger dividends come playoff time.

Goaltending: A+

After last season, things in the Vegas crease looked dicey. Marc-Andre Fleury had a season he’d rather forget, Robin Lehner was signed to an extension, and after Tweetgate, no one knew what to expect moving forward.

As it stands now, goaltending is probably the most consistent aspect of this team. Fleury is leading the league in goals-against (1.60/game) and is second in save percentage (.942). Once Lehner returns from injury, Vegas will once again have the league’s best goalie tandem, and Fleury should be fresh come playoff time.

This team is arguably the most complete in the league. If the offense is rolling, they can play in high-tempo games and outscore you. If not, the defense and goaltending can shut the door, as evidenced by the two shutouts against Colorado. Having those kinds of options is scary, and it is going to make them a very tough out in the playoffs.

About Author

Jim Balint

Michigan born and raised. The first hockey game I recall watching was Mario Lemieux scoring five goals five different ways. Much to the chagrin of my friends and family, that was all it took, and I've been a Penguins fan ever since.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *