Instead of starting to peak with the Stanley Cup playoffs about six weeks away, the Golden Knights are playing some of their worst hockey, going 1-5-1 in their past seven games.
And they need a better effort from everyone, but especially their top players, to break out of the slump before the playoffs start April 10.
“There are no excuses, there are no excuses to not working,” forward Jonathan Marchessault said. “Everybody has control on how you’re going to work in a game. The only guy that worked hard since the beginning of the year is Cody Eakin, and he’s playing great. Maybe we should learn a little bit more from him.”
The Knights raced to the Stanley Cup Final last season with great team chemistry, but they also had players near the top of the NHL leaderboards. Center William Karlsson scored the third-most goals in the league (43) and ranked first in plus-minus (plus-49).
Marchessault (0.97) and forwards David Perron (0.94) and Reilly Smith (0.90) also were nearly point-per-game players, but Perron left in free agency and the others aren’t performing as well.
Karlsson has 18 goals, 39 points and a minus-8 rating. Marchessault is minus-7 and leads the team in goals with 20, tied for 67th in the league. Smith has one goal in 2019.
“There is no work, we don’t work,” Marchessault said. “We’re a hard-working team, and we don’t work, so that’s why we lose.”
Forward Alex Tuch leads the Knights in points with 43, tied for 86th in the league. Twenty-eight teams have a player with more points.
That needs to change if the Knights want to go on another playoff run.
“I hope as a hockey player you find it and you look in the mirror and say, ‘I have to do better than I have done,’ ” coach Gerard Gallant said. “I don’t like what I’m seeing, and I don’t like our game. We play good here and there, then we find a way to lose.”
Special teams woes
The Knights’ special teams are slumping along with the rest of the team.
The power play is 2-for-23 in the past 10 games (8.7 percent), and the penalty kill is 26-for-34 (76.5 percent). The Knights have allowed a power-play goal in six of their past 10 games.
“Special teams can be hard, but we just have to stick with it and do the right things,” Marchessault said. “Obviously, our power play is not working.”
The Knights have allowed the first goal in nine of their past 10 games. They are 14-16-2 when their opponent scores first.
“We definitely have to be more desperate from the start,” said winger Max Pacioretty, who is last on the team with a minus-14 rating.
Knights leaders falling behind
NHL rank entering Saturday’s games
— Points: Alex Tuch, 43 (T-86th)
— Goals: Jonathan Marchessault, 20 (T-67th)
— Assists: Tuch, 27 (T-86th)
— Plus-minus: Nate Schmidt and Cody Eakin, plus-12 (T-70th)
— Goals-against average: Marc-Andre Fleury, 2.64 (21st) *
* Minimum 10 starts