The Vegas Golden Knights — and all teams in the National Hockey League — are about to enter a two-month stretch littered with hockey games.
For the Knights, that means 16 games in 30 days in March — with the trade deadline set for March 21 — followed by 13 games in 29 days in April. That comes out to a total of 29 games in 60 days. In other words, it’s the make-or-break portion of the 2021-22 regular season.
The Golden Knights find themselves in unfamiliar territory; in fact, there’s a chance Vegas may not experience playoff hockey this year after making the playoffs in each of the franchise’s first four seasons, doing so with authority on most occasions.
The 2017-18 season, Vegas’ inaugural campaign, was a marvel. The Knights went 51-24-7 and won the Pacific Division with 109 points. That was good for fifth overall in the NHL, trailing only Nashville, Winnipeg, Tampa Bay and Boston. The Knights went on an unprecedented run, resulting in a trip to the Stanley Cup Final, where they lost in five games to the Washington Capitals.
The Knights didn’t hold quite as much control over their own fate in Year 2 but still finished as the third seed in the Pacific with a 42-32-7 record and 93 points. Though the wildcard teams — Dallas and Colorado — had 93 and 90 points, respectively, the Knights finished the season with a seven-point cushion over the fourth-place team in the Pacific (Arizona). That was the year of the game-that-must-not-be-named, a frustrating result for a team with momentum headed into the playoffs.
Year 3 was the bubble, where the Knights won the round-robin tournament to earn the first seed in the Western Conference. They made it to the third round after misplacing their offense for the second half of the second-round series against Vancouver but were no match for the Stars, who eliminated Vegas in five games.
Last season, which featured only intra-division play with modified divisions, saw the Knights finish second overall in the NHL with 82 points in 56 games; Colorado also had 82 points but won the tiebreaker, making the Avalanche the Presidents’ Trophy winners by the slimmest of margins. After exorcising their demons with a first-round win against Minnesota, the Knights went on to defeat Colorado in the second round, winning four straight games after falling behind 2-0.
However, the Knights were unable to make the necessary adjustments in the third round against Montreal, the winner of the weaker Canadian division. It marked the team’s second straight trip to the third round but was another disappointing finish; once again, the offense disappeared, and captain Mark Stone failed to record a single point in the six-game series against the Canadiens.
This year, however, things are different.
The Knights have won just three of their last eight games, and the untimely slump has cost them their hold on the Pacific Division. As of today, the Knights sit in third place with 62 points in 53 games, trailing the Kings by three and the Flames (who have two games in hand) by six.
Nashville and Dallas currently occupy the two wildcard seeds with 64 and 61 points, respectively; the Predators, like the Kings, Golden Knights and Oilers, have played 53 games, while Dallas has played 52. Edmonton trails Vegas by just one point.
There is plenty of hockey left, but the Knights’ inconsistency continues to plague them; the 3-1 loss to Arizona last week was particularly glaring, and the Knights have struggled to hold leads and close out tight games.
Vegas has won one of six games since Stone was placed on long-term injured reserve. It’s possible he will remain on LTIR for the remainder of the regular season so the Knights can accommodate Jack Eichel’s $10 million cap hit, though the team could elect to make some moves ahead of the trade deadline.
There were rumors about Vegas searching for a goaltender before the trade deadline, but Robin Lehner has been removed from injured reserve. That being said, Laurent Brossoit has played very well in his absence.
The Knights have failed to capitalize on opportunities throughout the season, but the room for error is shrinking by the day. They have 29 games to control their destiny; all they have to do is get in, but it’s easier said than done, especially since the majority of the division is currently outplaying Vegas.
The standings could be tight until the very end, but that’s why every game and every point matters so much.
Here’s a rundown of the final 29 games in the Golden Knights’ 2021-22 regular season.
Overview by month
- March: The Knights kick off the month with a home game against the Sharks, whom Vegas defeated 4-1 on Feb. 20. The Knights then have a back-to-back against Boston (home) and Anaheim (road) followed by a home game against the Senators. Vegas will hit the road for a five-game road trip against four Eastern Conference teams (Philadelphia, Buffalo, Pittsburgh and Columbus) and Winnipeg. The Knights will then host the Predators and Blackhawks before playing their first game in Seattle on March 30.
- April: Vegas will face the Kraken in Seattle again on April 1 before a four-game stretch featuring three games against Vancouver (one home, two on the road) and a home game against the league-worst Coyotes, who handed the Knights a 3-1 loss on Feb. 25. After wrapping up the season series against the Canucks in Vancouver, the Knights will head to Alberta for games against Calgary and Edmonton on April 14 and 16, respectively. The second half of the month will start out with home games against New Jersey and Washington followed by San Jose after a three-day break; the Knights will finish the season with three road games: a back-to-back against Dallas and Chicago followed by a meeting in St. Louis on April 29. That will be the final day of the regular season for all teams; 30 of 32 teams will be in action that day, with the Kings and Hurricanes wrapping up their respective campaigns the night before.
- The Knights have 12 home games and 17 road contests; March features a split of seven home games and nine road games, while the April schedule consists of five games at T-Mobile Arena and eight on the road, including the final three games of the season against Dallas, Chicago and St. Louis.
- The Knights’ longest homestand is a three-game stretch in late April (April 18-24), which includes a three-day break; Vegas will have four two-game homestands, with three set for March and the other coming in the second week of April.
- The Knights have four back-to-back sets, all of which will be on the road. This includes back-to-back road games in Buffalo and Pittsburgh (March 10-11), back-to-back road games in Minnesota and Winnipeg (March 21-22) and back-to-back road games in Dallas and Chicago (April 26-27).
- The Knights have 11 games against Pacific Division teams, four of which will be played in March; of the remaining seven, six will be in the first half of April (April 1-16), while just one of Vegas’ final six games of the regular season will be against a Pacific Division club (San Jose on April 24).
- The Knights will play the Ducks, Flames, Oilers, Kings and Sharks one more time, will face San Jose and Seattle twice and will have three games in the span of 10 days against the Canucks (April 3-12).
- Vegas has nine games against Eastern Conference teams, with four against Atlantic Division teams (Boston, Buffalo, Florida, Ottawa) and five against Metropolitan Division teams (Columbus, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington).
- Through 53 games, the Knights are 13-8-2 against Eastern teams, with 7-4-1 and 6-4-1 records against the Atlantic and Metropolitan divisions, respectively.
- Twenty games will feature Western Conference opponents, nine of which will be against Central Division teams, including Winnipeg (twice), Minnesota, Nashville, Chicago (twice), Arizona, Dallas and St. Louis.
- The Knights are 16-12-2 against teams in the West so far this season; Vegas is 7-7-1 against the Central Division and 9-5-1 against the Pacific.
- The Knights hold a combined record of 21-13-2 against teams they will meet in the final two months of the regular season; the Knights have already finished their season series against Carolina, Colorado, Detroit, Montreal, both New York teams, Tampa Bay and Toronto.
- Vegas will go head to head against nine teams they currently trail in the standings: Florida, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Calgary, Boston, Minnesota, Los Angeles, Washington and Nashville.
- The Knights will take on Pacific Division teams as well as the current wildcard teams (Nashville and Dallas) a total of 13 times. Below is a list of those games along with Vegas’ 2021-22 head-to-head record against each team:
-Anaheim (2-1-0) — March 4 (road)
-Calgary (1-1-0) — April 14 (road)
-Edmonton (1-2-0) — April 16 (road)
-Los Angeles (1-1-1) — March 19 (home)
-San Jose (1-0-0) — March 1 (home), April 24 (home)
-Seattle (2-0-0) — March 30, April 1 (road, road)
-Vancouver (1-0-0) — April 3 (road), April 6 (home), April 12 (road)
-Nashville (1-1-0) — March 24 (home)
-Dallas (2-0-0) — April 26 (road)
- Jack Eichel will return to Buffalo on March 10; he was not in the lineup when the Knights played Alex Tuch and the Sabres on Feb. 1 (a 5-2 win at home).
- Games of particular consequence against opponents currently threatening Vegas’ playoff standing include March 19 against Los Angeles, March 24 against Nashville, April 14 against Calgary, April 16 against Edmonton and April 26 against Dallas.
- Other games against teams that may challenge Vegas for the wildcard seeds include Anaheim (March 4), Winnipeg (March 15 and March 22), Minnesota (March 21) and Vancouver (April 3, April 6, April 12).
- The Knights will face Marc-Andre Fleury and the Blackhawks on March 26 and April 27 (if he is still with the Blackhawks after the trade deadline).
- March 3 vs. Boston — ESPN
- March 10 at Buffalo — ESPN+/Hulu
- March 11 at Pittsburgh — NHL Network for out-of-market fans (AT&T SportsNet in Vegas)
- March 26 vs. Chicago — ESPN+ and ABC
- March 30 at Seattle — TNT
- April 6 vs. Vancouver — TNT