Whatever has been ailing the Golden Knights isn’t going to be fixed in the film room.
“It’s definitely not a systems thing right now,” forward Max Pacioretty said.
The longtime Montreal Canadiens captain, who is in his first year with the Knights after an offseason trade, believes the team just needs to get back to fighting for every loose puck and every inch of ice.
“I think we’ve gotten a bit complacent and a bit casual in our game, and that leads to losing some battles and obviously being on the wrong end of the score sheet,” he said of the team dropping four straight home games and six of eight overall entering Thursday night’s game. “We’re not far off, but I think where we are lacking is in the hard-nosed areas in the paint and along the boards. If we can win those battles in those areas, I think it will result in a lot more goals and a lot more wins.”
Identifying the issues is the first step. Now the Knights need to fix it and Pacioretty thinks they will be able to do it in short order.
“It has to be a full team mentality,” he said. “To get through it, it’s just going to be through sticking together and making sure if one guy doesn’t come up with a puck, he’s getting backed up by the next one. That’s the way we’ve had success is as a unit of five on the ice. It’s not always going to be perfect, but if you know your linemates are going to be there to get back for you or help you out in that battle, it will give us a lot more opportunities to create offense.”
The Knights find themselves firmly in third place in the top-heavy Pacific Division, well back of front-running San Jose and Calgary yet comfortably ahead of Vancouver and Arizona for the third and final automatic playoff spot.
Pacioretty doesn’t believe that cushion in the standings is a factor in their lackluster play the last couple weeks.
“We want to catch whoever we can,” he said. “It’s so important for us to play in our building. If we want to get the opportunity to do so, we know how valuable these points are. We’ve definitely been letting the points slide away as of late, but the most important thing is we want to build team confidence and make sure every line feels confidence at the right time. Now is the time to get that.We want to make sure everyone is firing on all cylinders here before the real competition starts.”
Pacioretty entered Thursday’s game with no goals and just one assist over the past four games.
The Knights didn’t hold their typical morning skate Thursday before their game against the Maple Leafs, and coach Gerard Gallant said it’s something the team might do more often.
Only healthy scratches Valentin Zykov, Tomas Nosek and Jake Bischoff, plus backup goaltender Malcolm Subban, practiced at City National Arena.
“Some guys feel they always want to skate in the morning but, like I said, this time of year it’s a minor thing,” Gallant said.
The smaller skate came after Gallant scheduled a competitive practice Wednesday following the Knights’ fourth straight home loss.
“It was a good one yesterday,” defenseman Jon Merrill said. “I think it’s good after a few losses to get out there and battle a little bit with your teammates and work some of that out.”
Defenseman Deryk Engelland appeared in his 600th NHL game Thursday. The only Knights with more appearances than the 10-year veteran are center Paul Stastny (853), goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (788) and left wing Pacioretty (672).