This season has been a bit of a bumpy ride so far, as the Golden Knights sit one point out of a playoff spot on Thanksgiving Day with a 10-12-1 record. Sportsnet’s John Shannon pointed out an unfortunate tidbit of news last night, saying that in the last five seasons 62 of 80 teams that were in playoff spots on Thanksgiving eventually made the playoffs. This means that with the Golden Knights out of the playoff picture today, their chances are starting to dwindle. Nonetheless, anything can happen and they’re only one point out with a game in hand on the Canucks.
While we all stuff our faces with turkey and enjoy watching football today, let’s remind ourselves who to be thankful for on this 2018-19 Golden Knights team.
1. Cody Eakin
Cody Eakin has been a treat to watch so far, scoring eight times and adding four assists in the 20 games he’s appeared in. When Paul Stastny went out with a long-term injury early in the year, there was a big question mark about who would fill in the gap as second line center. Eakin was called upon and has done a great job, and after last night’s overtime win against the Coyotes it looks like he is really starting to click nicely with linemates Alex Tuch and Max Pacioretty. Considering he scored just 11 goals for the Knights all of last year, his scoring early on in the year is a great indicator that he may be on pace for a career season. Thank you, Cody.
2. Alex Tuch
Oh, Alex. What a wonderful young lad he is. General manager George McPhee surprised the world of hockey when he announced that he signed Tuch to a seven-year extension worth $33.25 million earlier this season, considering Tuch had just one 37-point season under his belt. Well it looks like this contract may turn into one of the league’s better ones, as Tuch has shown flashes of brilliance so far, and last night’s game may have been his best in a Golden Knights uniform. In case you missed it, check these out:
Alex Tuch is so good, man. Stayed with Chychrun like it was nothing. Got his stick in there and forced the puck back into the neutral zone. This cannot be taught. pic.twitter.com/Ik4WQHLF7l— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) November 22, 2018
GOAL. Cody Eakin scores his ninth of the year, but look at the magnificent work by Alex Tuch to get set up the goal. He just had his way with Oliver Ekman-Larsson. pic.twitter.com/trFRDJe3zq— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) November 22, 2018
Tuch is sitting with 13 points in 15 games this year and is on pace to shatter his 37-point total from last season. Thank you, Alex.
3. Marc-Andre Fleury
I’d just like to point out than I am thankful for Flower each and every day, not just on Thanksgiving. Let’s be honest, his stats this year aren’t the prettiest they’ve ever been, but if you’ve been watching the Golden Knights play you’d understand why they are what they are. He has a 10-8-1 record alongside a .901 save percentage and 2.58 goals against average. There are only so many tic-tac-toe, backdoor tap-ins that Fleury can stop. He’s stood on his head in games where the defence in front of him has been disastrous, making huge stops to keep the Knights alive in games that they had no business being alive in. Those highlight-reel, game-saving stops aren’t reflected in his advanced stats and I just want Fleury to know that he’s appreciated. Thank you, Flower.
4. Nate Schmidt
The 20 games without Nate Schmidt were some of the hardest games to watch in Knights history. He’s such a game changer when he’s in the lineup. When he’s on the ice he creates chances in the offensive zone and shuts down the defensive zone, and when he’s off the ice he allows the rest of the Knights’ defensive pairings to flourish. His presence allows Shea Theodore and Colin Miller to play their style of hockey more, which is a good thing. Nate’s not afraid to jump in on the rush, and this was seen last night when he helped the Golden Knights convert a transition goal by jumping in on the rush. Thank you, Nate.
5. Max Pacioretty
Yeah, yeah. He had a pretty brutal start to the season. But the Max Pacioretty we’ve seen in the last week is looking a whole lot different from the Pacioretty we saw for the first quarter of the season. He’s starting to look like his old goal scoring self, positioning himself greatly and converting on chances when the puck is on his stick. He’s scored four goals in his last three games, including two last night ( one of which being the overtime winner). He’s clicking with linemates Tuch and Eakin. This little goal scoring surge may have been what Max needed to get things going, as he’s finally settling in with his new team. People were quick to write him off after his slow start, but today we should all be thankful for him and hope that he continues to score those goals. Thank you, Max.