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Golden Knights focus on offseason after early exit in playoffs

Updated May 4, 2019 - 1:58 pm

The Golden Knights’ first season ended in the Stanley Cup Final. Their second ended with a controversial first-round exit.

Without another deep run to occupy their time, the Knights will focus on using their longer offseason to recharge and regroup heading into training camp.

“That’s the one good thing,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “Everybody hates to lose, but now we’re going to have a real good offseason. Guys are going to get in real good shape. They’re going to have a long summer to work out and get their bodies (ready).

“Last year was tough. I mean, I was tired coming back in September or in August, to be honest with you. When you go that deep in the Final, it’s not easy.”

The Knights played 13 more games, 799 more minutes and 43 more days of hockey in 2018 compared with 2019. They wish those numbers were more even, but all they can do now is make the best of it.

“You get a little extra time,” defenseman Nate Schmidt said. “The only benefit of being out is that you have more time to train, you have more time to get yourself prepared to have a better year next year. I think that our group has a bitter taste in our mouth about how we went out, and it’s just going to make this group that much more hungry next year.”

Holden motivated

Defenseman Nick Holden was on the ice for three San Jose Sharks’ goals in Game 1 of the first-round series. He didn’t play again the rest of the series.

The 31-year-old, who signed a two-year, $4.4 million contract with the Knights in July, was passed over in favor of Jon Merrill and Colin Miller.

”Whenever you’re sitting out, it’s added motivation to try to bring your level up,” Holden said. “It’s good for a team to have that healthy competition, because that pushes all of us to be better. As a friend for Jon, I was so happy to see how well he played.

“Obviously, it meant I was out, but at the same time, it’s going to push me to be better, and he pushed himself to be better.”

Room for improvement

The Knights’ power play struggled most of the season and finished 25th (16.8 percent) among 31 teams. Mark Stone’s move to the second power-play unit — which features his regular linemates Paul Stastny and Max Pacioretty — in the fifth-to-last game of the regular season inspired optimism, however.

The Knights scored 27.9 percent of the time on the power play in the playoffs, the third-best mark of the postseason.

“All of a sudden, you have two 1A, 1B units,” Stastny said. “That’s what happened in the playoffs. We were hot early on, and then all of a sudden (center William Karlsson’s) line got a better matchup and they started playing better. When you have a combination like that, you kind of have an internal competition within each other and it brings out the best in everyone.”

More Golden Knights: Follow at reviewjournal.com/GoldenKnights and @HockeyinVegas on Twitter.

Ben Gotz can be reached at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.

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