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Late Knight: These aren’t your uncle’s Ducks

Vegas learned that Anaheim is here to stay.

Vegas Golden Knights v Anaheim Ducks Photo by Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images

Just to gauge where he feels this month is headed, I asked Pete DeBoer on Monday the importance of this quick two-game road trip before what lies ahead.

“You’re putting me in a must-win in early December, eh?” DeBoer responded with a laugh. It was, in fact, funny in hindsight. We’re only in December and I’m asking about trying to keep things level before what’s going to be a very rough month in terms of competition, especially at home.

This isn’t saying the Golden Knights were in a must-win situation against the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday but it did signify that the Ducks are nowhere near the standings cellar where they were last season. Anaheim, without captain Ryan Getzlaf or starting goalie John Gibson, lost 6-5 at Honda Center for their third loss in four games and, more importantly, second straight to a division opponent.

Overall, not the best game from the Golden Knights and they fell too far behind before making a late third-period rally that almost worked. Let’s get to the thoughts:

  • The rebuild in Anaheim is well ahead of schedule. Between the emergence of young talent like Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale, to the MVP-caliber play the Ducks are getting out of Troy Terry, they’re going to stay competitive in a Pacific Division that’s proven to be more difficult than we thought. The Ducks’ weakness over the past few years had been not getting reliable help behind Gibson and finding ways to score. They’ve got that, at least through the quarter mark of the season. Anthony Stolarz was terrific for 2.5 periods before Vegas began its rally. I was certainly in the majority of wondering why the Ducks started Gibson on Tuesday night in a shootout victory against the Los Angeles Kings, but it proved that Anaheim does have reliable goaltending in the second spot. A lot of talk has been about where teams stack at the Thanksgiving mark. For young teams trying to establish themselves, I’m a believer in it being a springboard heading into winter. The Ducks are in that category.
  • Back to the talk about the weak Pacific: The Golden Knights should be commended for staying above water as long as they did and not falling out of favor. But as it stands right now, the Golden Knights are 4-4 against division opponents through 22 games and two of them were against the Seattle Kraken. The 4-point games are more paramount than they’ve been before. I remain of the mindset that the Golden Knights are going to need time to gel as they return back to full health. It’s been a few games since Max Pacioretty returned, same with Jonathan Marchessault among others. If anything, this two-game road trip is to iron out the kinks. Friday against the Arizona Coyotes is going to tell a great deal. If the stars align, Alec Martinez will be eligible to come off IR this weekend unless this head injury he also sustained along with that cut changed the timeline drastically.
  • Scary moment in the third when Mark Stone went hard into the boards, favoring his right shoulder and staying on the ice for at least a minute. If you opened a window and listened closely, you could hear a collective “here we go again” echo throughout Las Vegas. Stone came back a few minutes later and likely didn’t miss a shift. Truly incredible. I’ve seen too many times Stone get hurt only to come back sooner.
  • Robin Lehner started his seventh game out of the last eight and it would shock me if he doesn’t get a rest on Friday. One of the glaring omissions from this season is only four starts from Laurent Brossoit. He needs more reps before he falls back into a Connor Hellebuyck situation.
  • Two shorthanded goals tonight from Vegas, further showing that special teams is a commodity that has no means and nothing makes sense in this world. The Golden Knights have as many shorthanded goals as they do power-play tallies. It’s really the weirdest timeline we’re all in.
  • The third line of Keegan Kolesar, Mattias Janmark and Evgenii Dadonov felt like a black hole that couldn’t get anything going. Then you look at the numbers and see that trio generated six attempts and only allowed five. Adam Brooks got the night off for the return of Michael Amadio, who picked up his first point with Vegas on an assist with William Carrier’s goal in the second period. I’m not seeing any difference maker on that line to make it feel dangerous. Maybe another game or two to get going, but it was that SpongeBob meme of “I’mma head out” feeling watching that line go.
  • It’s been a couple of days, but I want to again express the horrible loss of Frank Harnish. “Ballpark” was a kind man and wonderful human being who was taken from us too soon via his battle with Cancer. Every interaction with him was always a pleasant one and he really took the time to see how you were. The number of tributes and outpouring of love for Frank over the past 48 hours shows just how much of an impact he had on all of us in the Vegas media. We’ll miss you, Frank.