Last week on the Knightly Recap, the Vegas Golden Knights played through their first two games last week against the Anaheim Ducks. They defeated the Ducks both times but will face them six more times this season.
This week, the Golden Knights will face a new opponent in the Arizona Coyotes. They will play them four times in a row: three times this week and once next week. This is the first time in NHL history two teams will have faced off each other four straight times in one season. These four games should be interesting as they will face each other five more times later in the season.
With that being said, welcome to week two of the Knightly Recap.
Game 1: Jan. 18 vs. Arizona Coyotes
Not the Start They Were Looking For… Again
Just like last game, the Golden Knights weren’t able to get their offense going early in the game. This was mostly due to the heavy defense the Coyotes put on the Golden Knights in the neutral zone. And this leads into one of the big takeaways from this game: containing the Golden Knights’ speed is key to winning against them.
If Vegas doesn’t build its speed and dictate the pace of the game, then they’re more than likely to have a slow start. And that was evident in this game just like it was during Game 2 against the Ducks. Also, the Coyotes were able to force turnovers which led to one of their two goals this game. Coyotes’ forwards Tyler Pitlick and Nick Schmaltz scored goals while being short handed and on the power play respectively.
Not Enough Power on the Power Play
Another takeaway from this game was the amount of power plays Vegas had in this game. Before coming into this game, the Golden Knights only had two power plays; one from each of their first two games. Golden Knights’ head coach Pete DeBoer said this team was “Abe Lincoln honest” when it comes to not embellishing any penalties. But they had their chances on the power play this game.
However, they weren’t able to convert on the one wish they asked to get more of. Granted it’s still early in the season. But it’s kind of expected that this team would have at least a solid chance of getting at least one power play goal in a game. Fans shouldn’t have anything to worry about at this moment since it’s still early in the season. And their power play should be getting better as they play more games.
The Turning Point
However, the Golden Knights were able to bounce back like they’re always known to have done in past games. Thus, another takeaway from this game: don’t doubt this team when they’re losing. Golden Knights forward Max Pacioretty would start the goal scoring during the latter half of the second period.
From there, the Golden Knights would carry that momentum from Pacioretty’s goal into the third period. Vegas scored three more goals; two from forward Reilly Smith and forward Chandler Stephenson. Fun fact: Stephenson didn’t have to use his stick to put the puck into the net. He deflected the puck with his back from a shot from Golden Knights defenseman Zach Whitecloud.
When They Needed “Panda” the Most
Golden Knights goaltender, Robin Lehner, also had a great game especially in the final minutes of the game. Vegas forward Jonathon Marchessault was assessed a cross checking minor penalty in the final two minutes of the game. Prior to the call, the Coyotes had already pulled their goaltender, Darcy Kuemper, out of his net to bring in an extra skater.
So Vegas was outmanned defensively from a 6-on-5 disadvantage to a scarier 6-on-4 disadvantage and they had to kill the penalty for the rest of the game. But Lehner would come in clutch when he made two crucial saves that would lead to Smith’s second goal of the game scoring an empty netter.
💻 Smith & Hague 💻
Hague: It was great to be back in the lineup. It’s been about a year since my last game in the NHL and about 10 months since my last hockey game before tonight. I just tried to get back into the rhythm of things. pic.twitter.com/tIeNTgwCdi
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) January 19, 2021
Game 2: vs. Arizona Coyotes Jan 20.
It’s a Goalie’s Game Too
The game was fairly close from the jump with both teams having a strong defensive mindset. Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury looked great making a flurry of saves especially in the final five minutes of the third period. The way Fleury is playing right now, at this stage of his career, is unbelievable. If or when Vegas wins the Stanley Cup this year, Fleury should be a reason why they reached the top. Fleury has been in trade talks before the season started and even till this day. But if he keeps playing like this, there’s no reason for Vegas to trade him.
Another takeaway from this game was that this was probably Vegas’ best game this season. They were the more dominant team on both ends of the ice to the point where Arizona didn’t really have any real momentum during the game. Just to add to this team’s dominance, not only are they the only unbeaten team in the league. But their 4-0-0 start is the best start in franchise history breaking their 3-0-0 best back in their inaugural season in 2017.
Penalty Trouble? Maybe but It’s Still Too Early to Say.
Though Vegas looks like an unstoppable team right now, they’ve been having recent penalty troubles these last two games.
The Golden Knights have a combined nine penalties in their last two games. But with DeBoer at the helm of this team, their penalty kill is nearly perfect. Though this isn’t what the Golden Knights intend to do every game this year. Vegas was able to kill off all five
Keep the Goals Coming
The Golden Knights scored five times this game with two coming in the third. This was the first game the Golden Knights scored at least one goal in all three periods this season. It shouldn’t be a surprise if this trend keeps going upwards for the VGK during their season this year. Also, Vegas finally scored on a power play this season. The PPG came from Golden Knights forward Alex Tuch who shot through the five hole on Kuemper.
One of the big stories from this game is Golden Knights defensemen Shea Theodore and Alex Pietrangelo score their first goals of the season. And they’re also the first two defensemen to score for the Golden Knights this season. But the big story here is Pietrangelo’s goal as his goal is his first as a Golden Knights player. Pietrangelo scored during the first period minutes after Theodore’s first goal of the season.
💻 Pietrangelo & Stone 💻
Pietrangelo: It was the first game for my kids here and I told them I was going to score. It’s funny how things work out. pic.twitter.com/I1QQyTsHk0
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) January 21, 2021
Game 3: at Arizona Coyotes Jan. 22
What Stays In Vegas, Stays In Vegas
It seemed like the Golden Knights weren’t in game shape from the start. Their game never came to fruition really for the entire game. Vegas found themselves trailing throughout the game for the first time this season. Also, they never had a lead in this game.
The Golden Knights’ first four games were obviously their best games so far this season. And their 4-0-0 start is a franchise best for a start record in franchise history. Also, every game they played in those four games they got better and better despite finding themselves trailing in two of those games. But the constant mistakes the Golden Knights made so far this season bit them back during this game.
Went on the Road But Their Game Didn’t Come With Them
This was the first road game for the Golden Knights this season but they seemed to have left their game back at Las Vegas. As mentioned earlier, they couldn’t seem to find their game at the start and really throughout the game. Vegas committed too many turnovers on both ends of the ice. Arizona read mostly every play that the Golden Knights were planning to do. Yes, it could be the fact that these two teams played three times so far but it could also be that the Golden Knights weren’t in this game at all.
Third Times a Charm
The Coyotes knew that they couldn’t lose three games in a row to a dominant team in Vegas and they came out pushing early. Arizona looked faster and quicker from the first two meetings. They were able to do to the Golden Knights what the Golden Knights did to the Coyotes in their second game: constant pressure on both ends of the ice. Not only did they successfully outplay Vegas but they were able to capitalize on Vegas’ offensive miscues.
The Coyote’s offense kept the Golden Knights’ defense on the back of their heels with quicker puck movement to open up shooting and passing lanes. The one big adjustment Arizona made in this game was being more patient with the puck and not putting too much pressure defensively.
Welcome to the Kuemper Show
It wasn’t just the play of the Coyotes that got their first win in this four game series. But Kuemper was outstanding, only allowing two goals. Just like Fleury last game, Kuemper made crucial saves at times when the game could’ve been tied or gave Vegas the lead or momentum. It was only a matter of time for Kuemper not just coming up big in close moments but to also come away with a win in this four game series against Vegas.
The Penalty Box is Starting to Look Gold
Penalties still haunt the Golden Knights as they committed six penalties in this game. They were able to kill off five of those penalties but this may start to be a concern for the team if this trend continues into the next game.
Golden Spots Amidst the Darkness
Even though the Golden Knights suffered their first loss this season, there were some bright spots in this game. One good thing going for the VGK is that they scored their second consecutive power play goal courtesy of forward Cody Glass. Also, Theodore scored his third straight goal in two games. Both of these are good signs for the Golden Knights because if they can keep this up on a consistent basis, then this team could still win games even if they make mistakes.
Also, they were near perfect on their penalty kill this game which is probably the most consistent part of their game so far.
Stone was one of seven players tied at first for point leaders in the league and has continued his point streak to eight points in five games. He was credited with an assist to Glass’ PPG.
HEY WE KNOW THAT GUY!!!!!!! 🗿 pic.twitter.com/byZbxbiHPC
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) January 21, 2021
Lastly, the third period still continues to be a strong hold for the Golden Knights this season. They outshot the Coyotes 11-5 which also included Glass’ goal.
🎥 Lehner: They’re a good team over there, they played well today. But we need a strong effort next game to bounce back. pic.twitter.com/sIOCj6Ut4d
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) January 23, 2021
Up Next on the Knightly Recap
The Golden Knights have one more matchup against the Coyotes this Sunday at 1 pm PST. After the Coyotes, the Golden Knights next set of opponents will be Pietrangelo’s former team, the St. Louis Blues. They are going to play them twice at home this coming Tuesday and Thursday.
This should be an interesting matchup especially for Pietrangelo. Maybe he’ll have a chip on his shoulder considering how contract negotiations reportedly went down between him and Blues management. Stay tuned for the next Knightly Recap.