Send NHL writer Ben Gotz all your Golden Knights questions and hot takes. Tweet him @BenSGotz or email him firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Golden Knights are back to .500 after their first three-game winning streak of the season but the questions keep coming. Let’s get to it:
“Do you think they need more speed on defense? Big loss with Nate (Schmidt) out, but they could use a better skater on the back end, IMHO.” — Kevin (Facebook)
The Knights have shown they have enough skating to get by, they just have to eliminate the mental mistakes they were making at the beginning of the season.
Their recent defensive improvement (two goals allowed in their past three games) didn’t come from adding a bunch of speed to the lineup. Brad Hunt has come in the past two games for an injured Deryk Engelland, yes, but the key has been allowing fewer odd-man rushes that leave goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury in a bad spot.
Pittsburgh Penguins forward Phil Kessel didn’t have two breakaways against the Knights on Oct. 11 because he was faster; it was because no one noticed he slipped behind the defense until it was too late. Cleaning up mistakes like that has allowed the team to start 2-0 on its current homestand.
Getting Schmidt’s speed back at the end of his 20-game suspension will help, but the Knights have shown they can survive without it if they play smart.
“Ryan Reaves is awesome like that. A player with true grit.” — @TheJonFish
Reaves would probably make a good Rooster Cogburn, the U.S. marshal played famously by John Wayne and Jeff Bridges in the “True Grit” movies, because of his tough and fearless approach.
The bruising fourth-line winger hasn’t been all brawn, though, and appears to be making strides with his game at 31 years old. Reaves is putting 1.75 shots on goal per game, more than double his previous career high (0.725).
His aggressiveness is getting him rewarded too because he’s averaging a career-best 10:49 of ice time per game. Maybe coach Gerard Gallant is a John Wayne fan.
“When can we expect Las Vegas to host a Winter Classic?” — Bethany (Twitter)
Referencing a Review-Journal story from May 30, 2017: Probably not soon. There’s no ideal venue for an outdoor hockey game at the moment because the new Raiders stadium has a roof and Sam Boyd Stadium is far from the Strip.
The Knights best chance to be in the NHL’s Winter Classic, or a Stadium Series game, is likely as an opposing team. But they’ll have to get in line because just 11 teams have participated in the Winter Classic and only 14 have played in a Stadium Series contest.