Going into this season, I am sure that both the Vegas Golden Knights and the rest of the NHL figured that the team would come crashing down to earth this season.
Really, could you blame them? As an expansion club last season, they won their division, were one of the top teams in the league, and went all the way to the Stanley Cup Final before losing to the Washington Capitals in five games.
At the beginning of this season, it appeared that this prediction was going to be right. They struggled out of the gate and did not look anything like the team they were last season.
Fast forward to now and the Golden Knights are back to playing the way they did last season. They are getting great goaltending, playing solid team defense, and getting timely goal-scoring.
As a result, this team is now more than back in the playoff picture. As of this writing, the team is third in the Pacific Division, just one point out of second and three points out of first.
Not only are they doing well in their division and the Western Conference, but they are currently the tenth best team in the NHL. Based on the way the season started, no one probably thought that the club would be back in this kind of position.
One of the main reasons why this team is playing well again is because their star player, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, is back to providing the consistent and great goaltending that helped this team win a ton of games last season. Fleury, 34, is currently 21-10-4 with a 2.60 goals-against average, a .908 save percentage, and five shutouts.
When Fleury is on his game, he is one of the best in the league. He makes the big save when his team needs one, he cuts down the angles, he controls his rebounds, and more importantly, he helps his team pick up two points consistently.
Because Fleury is back to providing steady goaltending, the team’s defense as a whole has improved. As of this writing, the team is 17th in the league in goals allowed (112 goals allowed in 40 games) and while that does not look great, it is much better than what it was at the beginning of the year.
This is a team that knows how to play well in their own zone. They are good at keeping their opponents to the outside, they break-up a lot of plays, they block shots, and they do a great job of helping and protecting their goaltenders.
Lastly, this team is back to scoring a lot of goals, something they did with frequency last season. The team is currently 12th in the league in goals scored as they have scored 118 goals in 40 games.
Guys like William Karlsson (14 goals), Jonathan Marchessault (13 goals), Alex Tuch (12 goals), Cody Eakin (11 goals), and Max Pacioretty (10 goals) have all helped contribute in the goal scoring department. Considering they still have half a season left, it’s expected that these numbers will improve even further and that other members of the club will start scoring on a more regular basis.
There is still a lot of hockey left to be played, but if the Golden Knights continue to play the way they are playing right now, they will find themselves back in the playoffs with another shot at getting back to the Cup Final.
Photo: Las Vegas Review-Journal