On Tuesday evening, the Vegas Golden Knights traveled to Massachusetts to face off against the always dangerous Boston Bruins. The Bruins are fueled by solid goaltending and one of the best forward trios in hockey. They are an Atlantic Division powerhouse and even on their worst days, are never an easy out.
Meanwhile, the Golden Knights are at a crossroads. Are they doomed? Are they elite? The ever-fleeting answer to those questions feel like a revolving door. A captivating coaching change has been made and Peter DeBoer is slowly, but surely making his mark on the team. Mired in a season-long road trip, the Golden Knights are literally transitioning "on the fly".
Boston got out to a quick start in this one, but first blood was drawn by the Golden Knights. Mark Stone buried a seemingly harmless backhand, on Vegas' first shot of the game. Jaroslav Halak had the post hugged, but Stone was able to find the net in tight, while fighting Zdeno Chara for position, just 1:24 into the game. Defenseman Nate Schmidt had the lone assist on a beautiful, patient stretch pass.
Jeremy Lauzon would go on to tie it up for the Bs, at 11:40 of the first. His point shot found daylight, through traffic, beating Marc-Andre Fleury. The Golden Knights scored the lone goal of the second period, when Nic Hague got his first of the season, on the Power Play.
Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci tallied goals in the final frame, giving Boston the 3-2 victory. It was a back-and-forth affair with some interesting storylines. Below you'll find the three biggest stories from Tuesday's loss in Boston.
Nic Hague Finally Scored!
When Hague was making his way through Junior/minor hockey, he was known as an offensive threat. His 35-goal 2017-18 season in the OHL is a testament to that.
He has displayed some of that playmaking at the NHL level this season, but has been admittedly focused on being a better defender.
The 21-year-old Ontario native has been an asset to the team out of camp and is being rewarded with more ice time and special teams work. He made that work worthwhile, scoring his first-ever NHL goal while working with the man-advantage. Hague unleashed his mighty slapshot, burying the one-timer from Schmidt. He was the only Golden Knight without a goal and finally got off the schnide, in his 38th game.
The Penalty Kill Worked:
Before the game, many Golden Knight players expressed the importance of staying out of the penalty box. Following the game, DeBoer reiterated that notion when he said that would be the part of the game he'd like to change. Despite their all-too-frequent usage, the penalty-killers held up.
Vegas took two quick penalties in the first and second periods, but the killers held Boston's vaunted PP unit off the scoreboard. The penalties in the second were especially bad. First, William Carrier played a puck before being fully established on the ice and then a Too Many Men penalty followed just :25 after the first kill. A Chandler Stephenson boarding call was killed late in the second giving the Bruins PP a rare 0-for-5 night.
DeBoer may be implementing system changes, as the defensive pressure when down a man, has been consistently tighter over the past two games. Alex Tuch has also been used on the PK, possibly in an attempt to jump-start the young power-forward.
Perfect Time for a Break:
With the loss, the Golden Knights have now dropped six of their last seven games. Their sole win came in Ottawa over the lowly Senators. Things don't get easier for a while, with four more road games. Three of those games come against teams in a playoff position. Luckily for the Golden Knights, the All-Star bye week is here.
Vegas will be back in action on Jan. 31 in Raleigh, NC, for the first half of a back-to-back with the Hurricanes and Nashville Predators. They now have plenty of time to gear up for those two tests and DeBoer has time to strategize and prepare to put more of his touch on the team. Despite their struggles, the Golden Knights possess enough talent to make a strong playoff push and run. They simply need to get it going.
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