Golden Knights need to find remedy for Thanksgiving hangover

Back-to-back losses at T-Mobile Arena over the weekend was not in Bruce Cassidy's script. Now he has to flip the scenario with his team headed on the road.

LAS VEGAS — Thanksgiving hangovers are not uncommon. In fact, they’re usually expected and come in varying degrees of lethargy.

For the Vegas Golden Knights, the weekend was indeed dark. Not even the debut of the team’s Reverse Retro jerseys which glow in the dark could guide them into the light.

Losses to Seattle (4-2) Friday and Vancouver (5-1) Saturday have the team in a bit of a perplexed state. Suddenly, the goaltending’s not as sharp. The breakouts are not as crisp. The offense is stagnating. The penalty kill has struggled.

It all adds up to a bit of a rut in the ice. Now it’s up to Bruce Cassidy to figure out a way to get things back on track and for the players to execute whatever tweaks to the scheme he comes up with.

I wouldn’t expect major changes in how the Knights play when they return to the ice Monday in Columbus against the Blue Jackets, which starts a four-game road trip culminating with Cassidy’s return to Boston on Dec. 5 after coaching the Bruins for six seasons.

But I would expect a better effort in implementing Cassidy’s defensive system. I don’t think he wants to see his team getting into track meets playing firewagon hockey, particularly on the road, in an attempt to perk up the offense, which had just three goals in two games at T-Mobile Arena in losing to the Kraken and the Canucks. More important, the Knights need to reduce the number of goals allowed. In their last nine games, they’ve allowed four or more goals six times. That’s not a formula for success in the NHL.

Saturday’s loss to Vancouver was arguably Vegas’ worst performance of the season. The Knights allowed the Canucks’ power play to dominate, scoring the three of the first four times they had the man advantage. The team’s penalty kill, which had been something of a strength due in part to Reilly Smith’s three shorthanded goals, has suddenly become a bit of a liability.

And that’s impacting the goaltending. It was a tough night in net for Logan Thompson, who has been steady if not sensational the first part of the season. But he shouldn’t be expected to stop everything and the opposition are getting more high danger chances at both he and Adin Hill, who has also played well overall when he gets the call.

Part of this team’s problem at the moment is getting out of its own end. The breakouts are not as clean as when the Knights were rolling with a nine-game winning streak earlier this month. They’re getting bottled up in their own end, due in part to the other team’s forecheck but more to their own sloppiness and indecisiveness. They’re just not as crisp in exiting the defensive zone.

Fatigue, both physical and mental, may be a contributing factor. Vegas just completed a six-games-in-10-nights run and went 3-2-1. They were without Nic Roy for a couple games and Brett Howden for a couple which impacted the bottom six forwards. 

Yet despite the recent struggles, the Knights remain the top team in the Western Conference with 33 points, five ahead of Dallas. At 16-6-1, the overall picture is rosy. And while holding serve on home ice is always nice, competing and having success on the road is the true mark of a championship team. The Knights are 9-1-1 away from T-Mobile Arena and with this upcoming trip to Columbus, Pittsburgh, Detroit and Boston, it’s a chance to get it together, close ranks, tighten things up and get back on track. 

With all the veterans and high-skilled players in their room, I expect a good week from Cassidy’s team. The NHL season is just past the quarter pole and the Knights are in really good shape despite the Thanksgiving weekend tryptophan funk. So for now, hands off the panic button.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x