Vegas Golden Knights hockey is officially back.
The Golden Knights (1-0-0) are coming off an exciting and promising 4-3 road win against the Kings and will look for similar results when they host the Chicago Blackhawks (0-1-0) in the 2022-23 home opener tonight at T-Mobile Arena.
Vegas holds an all-time record of 9-2-1 against Chicago but went 1-1-1 in the season series last year.
The Golden Knights are 4-1-0 all-time in home openers, with the lone loss coming in a 5-2 decision against Philadelphia at the start of Year 2.
Tuesday night’s see-saw matchup in Los Angeles appeared destined for overtime, but Mark Stone scored the game-winning goal with just 24.9 seconds remaining in regulation.
MARK STONE‼️— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 12, 2022
The captain nets it with 24.9 seconds left to win the game pic.twitter.com/g3aWe6MwsN
Jonathan Marchessault, Jack Eichel and William Karlsson also scored for the Golden Knights. Logan Thompson made 27 saves on 30 shots for a .900 save percentage.
Vegas went 1-for-5 on the power play and 3-for-3 on the penalty kill and will look to come out on top in the special teams battle once again tonight.
The Blackhawks, who suffered a 5-2 loss to the Avalanche last night in Colorado, will be in the second half of a back-to-back.
Of the seven goals scored last night in Denver, six came on the man-advantage. Chicago finished the game 2-for-3 on the power play but just 2-for-6 on the penalty kill.
That’s something the Golden Knights will look to exploit.
The Blackhawks ranked 21st on the power play last season, converting at a 19.2 percent efficacy rate. Vegas’ man-advantage operated at 18.4 percent, good for 25th overall. The two clubs finished 24th and 21st on the penalty kill, respectively, with Vegas’ 77.4 percent rate edging out Chicago’s 76.2 percent.
But last year’s numbers only mean so much, especially at the start of a new season.
Vegas may have lost its most consistent power-play threat in Max Pacioretty, but having a healthy Stone and a healthy Eichel is a game-changer. So is Bruce Cassidy’s system, which has the Vegas power play looking better than it has in several years.
It’s way too early to make any judgments through one game, but the Golden Knights looked comfortable generating chances and maintaining pressure on the power play in that game. That’s something that wasn’t the case throughout Pete DeBoer’s tenure.
It’s a tiny sample size, and Vegas only scored once, but the puck that did find the net on the power play was a shot-pass deflection goal, a play Alex Pietrangelo and Karlsson reportedly had been working on in practice. That’s an encouraging sign, as is the fact that Vegas scored two goals immediately after a power play had expired.
The Blackhawks are in the midst of a total rebuild. Chicago lost its second most dynamic offensive player in Alex DeBrincat, who was traded to the Senators over the summer. The Blackhawks also lost Dylan Strome, Kirby Dach and Dominik Kubalik, among others. Plus, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews will be unrestricted free agents at the end of this season and could be moved at the deadline.
It may be just the second game of the season, but tonight’s game is an important one for the Golden Knights, who will look to continue to develop a team identity. That was lost in 2021-22, and it’s something Vegas must rediscover as it looks to turn the page on last season.
Last year was a season of firsts for the Golden Knights.
Most notably, it was the first time Vegas did not advance to the postseason.
But it also marked the first time the Golden Knights did not win at least twice as many regulation games as it lost on home ice.
Playing exceptionally well on home ice was an integral component of Vegas’ identity prior to last season. Winning at home and reestablishing an identity are not only keys to tonight’s game but also to the 2022-23 season as a whole.
Keys to the game
- Reclaim home-ice advantage: The Golden Knights used to thrive on home ice in the electric T-Mobile Arena atmosphere. They weren’t able to feed off that energy as reliably last year. That needs to change for Vegas to get things back on track this season.
- Power up the power play: The Blackhawks took six penalties last night in Colorado and gave up four goals on the penalty kill. The Golden Knights need to capitalize on opportunities and ensure that the power play continues to get better rather than stall.
- Build an identity: The Golden Knights battled in Los Angeles, displaying a resilience and swagger the team hasn’t seen in some time. Vegas showed a lot of heart, recorded a whopping 51 shots on goal and stayed aggressive until the very end. It paid off.
William Carrier and Nicolas Hague participated in yesterday’s practice and could make their season debuts tonight, though Carrier is the more likely candidate.