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The Vegas Golden Knights’ Record-Setting Start

Courtesy of Ethan Miller/Getty Images

After winning the Stanley Cup at the end of the 2022/23 season, the Knights were quick to get back to work for their defending season. Playoff teams' breaks are up to two months shorter than that of the 16 non-playoff teams, and the two teams that play in the Stanley Cup final have the shortest break of all. This lack of a break was evident when the Golden Knights started their preseason games.

The Preseason

The Golden Knights went 4-3 in their preseason games, with two losses to the San Jose Sharks and losses to the Colorado Avalanche and the Los Angeles Kings. They won their last two games of the preseason against the Kings and Avalanche as well.

Even though they had the same length of training camp as the other 31 teams, the Knights didn’t have the same length of time to rest and get off-season training in. There was a lot of speculation about whether or not the team would come out as well-conditioned as the other teams with this drastic difference in off-season training and rest time. Zach Whitecloud, for example, has yet to return to play a game with the Knights as he is still recovering from an injury from the playoffs, and a few of the other players are getting hurt more easily as they are having playoff injuries return.

Even though the team struggled in the beginning of the preseason, they eventually found their footing by ending their preseason with two consecutive wins. This success has since continued into their regular season games.

The Record-Setting Start

Courtesy of Ethan Miller/Getty Images

No Stanley Cup defending team has ever started its regular season 7-0, but the Golden Knights started its defending season by setting a new record with seven wins and zero losses. Their first loss came in overtime against the Chicago Blackhawks, but they have yet to lose in regulation and are currently 9-0-1. They are one of two teams in the league to not have a loss in regulation, the only other team being the Boston Bruins who won the Presidents’ Trophy in the 2022-23 season for best regular season team.

Not only are they leading in that category, but they lead the league with the most unique goal scorers with 18 different skaters recording a goal. This underscores the depth of the Golden Knights’ roster. This depth is what made Vegas such a juggernaut in the Stanley Cup playoffs, as they didn’t just have one or two lines that could produce scoring chances. Having depth in a roster forces the other team to always be on top of their game regardless of who is on the ice, and in a long playoff season, being able to rotate who is on the ice is a great asset when it comes to letting players rest. Vegas is looking to extend that depth into the 2023-24 season, and so far, it seems to be working in their favor.

Another reason why the Knights seem to be so successful is their ability to still win when they are off of their game. Their most recent wins against the LA Kings and the Montreal Canadiens were both in shootouts, and most people would say that they were essentially not the better team on the ice. Despite struggling to exit their zone and not getting the lucky bounces they are so used to getting, they still ended up winning these games. They are a very resilient team and are able to come back and find things that work when their usual game isn’t working. A lot of teams struggle to win games when things aren’t going their way, but for the Knights, they are no stranger to figuring out a new plan and adapting to their opponent’s playing style to find a way to get points. The team scores 3.67 goals per game on average, while only allowing 2.22 goals per game for their opponents. If these stats continue the trend that they are currently on, this team will be another dominant team in the playoffs for another year.

The Players

Courtesy of Ethan Miller/Getty Images

William Karlsson is back on his hot streak, and has tied his record he set in his first season with a seven-game point streak. He has eleven points in ten games with the Knights so far this season, with eight assists and three goals. This has him on track for a 91-point season, which is far more than the 53-point season he had last year. The next closest on the team in terms of point production is Shea Theodore with ten points in ten games, which is currently the second-most for any defenseman in the league just behind Adam Fox of the New York Rangers.

The Golden Knights wouldn’t be where they are now without the elite goaltending tandem that is Adin Hill and Logan Thompson. Adin Hill carried the team throughout the playoffs, and he proved to the entire league just how talented he really is. Hill has a .915 save percentage throughout five games, and Thompson has a .930 save percentage throughout four games. Having two amazing goaltenders such as these two is rare to find in the league; the only other teams with two elite players between the pipes are the Boston Bruins with Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman, the Dallas Stars with Scott Wedgewood and Jake Oettinger, and the Nashville Predators with Juuse Saros and Kevin Lankinen. It has become clear that elite goaltending can really lead a team far, and with the talent that this team has up front and in the net, they have the ability to repeat as Stanley Cup champions.

The Coaching

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Head Coach Bruce Cassidy finished his first season as head coach with the Golden Knights with a Stanley Cup, so naturally the team wanted him to stick around for another year. Cassidy was formerly the head coach of the Boston Bruins, but was fired after losing to the Carolina Hurricanes in game seven in the 2021-22 Stanley Cup Playoffs. He carried the Knights to their first Stanley Cup, and players and coaching staff have nothing but good things to say about Cassidy and his coaching style.

The Knights also added depth to their bench by hiring Dominique Ducharme and Joel Ward as assistant coaches. Ducharme was a coach in Montreal for two seasons, and actually led the Canadiens past the Knights in the 2021 semifinals before losing in the Cup final to Tampa Bay. Ward was an assistant coach for Vegas’ AHL team, the Henderson Silver Knights for the past three seasons, and really showed how helpful his coaching can be to leading a team through adversity.

Overall, even though it is very early in the season and a lot can change very quickly, the Vegas Golden Knights have proven they are ready to “defend the fortress,” as they like to say, for another year, and have the depth and talent to do so.

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