So, let’s talk about this game, shall we?
Through the first 40 minutes, the Golden Knights had 13 shots on net. This is a team that prides itself on an effective forecheck, focusing primarily on outshooting the competition. That’s not what happened in this game, and it showed. This team looked tired, and for all intents and purposes, looked lost.
Only four players did not have a 5-on-5 giveaway in this game — Brayden McNabb, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Ryan Reaves and Tomas Nosek. Seven players finished with a Corsi above 50 percent (Nosek and Oscar Lindberg, neither of whom played much, were the only two above 50 at the 50-minute mark). Five players had a positive shot share (including the entire second line).
This game represented what’s not good enough about the Golden Knights this season.
The power play was lackluster. The bounces continued to go against Vegas until the third period. And most importantly, the defense allowed this to happen:
The Golden Knights’ penalty kill was bad, although with bad discipline throughout the game and with the Flames’ excellent top-heavy roster, it was a mismatch to begin with.
The defense wasn’t good enough in this game. It’s very hard to blame Malcolm Subban for each goal against, and he made a great effort, despite the score. The Golden Knights just got beat at their own game and are in the midst of one of the most inconsistent seasons of any team in recent memory.
Maybe this defeat is enough to inspire some sort of change. Whether it’s effort level, focusing on staying in the same frame of mind from game to game or lineup changes. Something besides shifting Shea Theodore to forward, which is a nonsensical phrase I’d never thought I’d have to utter.
For now, things are bad. There’s no other way to put it. The Golden Knights look like a completely different team than the one that won the Western Conference title last season, and frankly, it’s a bit shocking.
The bright spot of this game, at least for me: Max Pacioretty scored. That’s two games in a row, and if he’s beginning to heat up, that’s positive news for the Golden Knights, who could use some optimism.
GOAL. The comeback is on, folks! pic.twitter.com/XVJySUaMKv— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) November 20, 2018
Speaking of optimism (and things that weren’t part of this game), the Chicago Wolves have gotten to a high point this season because of four players: Jake Bischoff, Brandon Pirri, Brooks Macek and TJ Tynan. Yes, Bischoff was a late addition, having only played 11 games in the AHL this season (and he hasn’t scored a goal yet, which fits with his tradition of having slow starts in the AHL and then becoming the singular best defenseman on the team in the spring).
But Bischoff is someone who can eat tough minutes, play top-pairing minutes in the AHL and looks good in both ends. After the expansion draft, George McPhee was high on Bischoff as a potential player to build around. He hasn’t gotten extended time in the NHL so far, but with a struggling blue line, he cannot possibly be worse than some of the guys who have.
For a long time, Macek was a goal-per-game player. Through 13 games he had 13 goals. As it stands now, he has 14 in 16, which is still insane. He has not been deemed good enough to be above Ryan Carpenter, Lindberg or Nosek (who has not been nearly good enough away from Bellemare this season) on the depth chart.
Pirri has 20 points in 16 games, including seven goals and 13 assists. He’s also been the best player on the Wolves roster in terms of shot generation, with 69 this season. Last season, he was proven worthy of multiple looks by the Golden Knights and earned another contract; this year, the Knights have yet to turn to him for offensive assistance.
Tynan has long been a special-teams warrior who plays on every unit and plays well. Think of him as a smaller Cody Eakin, which could be useful to the Knights right now. He could be an effective asset to a team in need of more center depth with both Erik Haula and Paul Stastny injured long-term.
So on a night of sheer disaster, maybe it’s better to look at the positive. Chicago is playing well, but that’s a well the Golden Knights have yet to tap. After tonight’s loss, maybe they will.