Playing meaningful games in March sharpens Golden Knights’ focus

Updated March 2, 2019 - 7:56 pm

It goes without saying that Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant would rather be atop the Pacific Division standings with 16 games remaining than battling for a playoff spot.

But the Knights’ current position could have an unintended benefit.

After coasting through the past six weeks, the Knights have been forced to take off the emergency break and clean up their game in order to hold off upstart Arizona for third place.

They’ll carry a three-game win streak into Sunday’s matinee against the Vancouver Canucks at T-Mobile Arena.

“Last year we were in an awesome spot. We were fighting for first place at this time of the year last year,” Gallant said. “I wish I was in first place again, but we’re battling for a playoff spot and it’s all about getting into the playoffs because the teams are so close nowadays.

“I like where we’re at. I like the way we played the last three games. Just keep going and keep building points.”

To Gallant’s point, there are several recent examples of teams that were primed for a postseason run by playing meaningful games in March.

In 2012, Los Angeles battled down to the wire for the Pacific Division title before finishing two points behind first-place Arizona. But the Kings went 12-4-3 in their final 19 games and won the Stanley Cup despite garnering the eighth and final seed in the playoffs.

Chicago took a standing eight count at the end of a Central Division battle royal in 2015 and finished with the third seed, two points out of second and two ahead of the first wild card.

The Blackhawks, who were 9-3-1 that March, won their third Stanley Cup in six years.

San Jose in 2016 might be the closest situation to what the Knights face. The Sharks finished 20 points ahead of fourth place and were unable to overtake Anaheim or Los Angeles for the top two spots in the division despite winning five of their final seven.

But they caught fire in the playoffs and reached the Stanley Cup Final before losing to Pittsburgh in six games.

All this goes to show that iron sharpens iron.

“I think it’s just more important for us to have gone through a little bit of perseverance this year and had to come out of the hole and dig ourselves out and battle a little bit,” defenseman Jon Merrill said. “You get to know each other better. You test the character of the group, and we’re a strong group, so it just helps us out that way.”

The Coyotes temporarily moved within four points of the Knights on two occasions last week, and the Knights lead Arizona by six points after the Coyotes’ 3-1 victory over Detroit on Saturday.

Vancouver, meanwhile, has faded in its past 10 games (3-5-2) after threatening to challenge for a playoff berth at one point.

“You want to be in that playoff atmosphere, you want to be playing these teams that are either pushing for a spot or pushing to get up the standings, because that gets you ready for the playoffs,” right wing Ryan Reaves said. “Those are better than teams that are just kind of trying to get to the golf season.”

One sign the Knights are no longer in cruise control is their recent play in the third period.

After being outscored 19-9 during the third in their first 11 games after the All-Star break, the Knights have a 5-1 advantage in the final period in the past three games.

“Before that, we had bad habits. But right now we’re closing games,” left wing Jonathan Marchessault said. “We’re up 2-0 going into the third period (against Anaheim on Friday) and playing the right way. We’re winning games that are 1-1 going into the third. We’re a pretty confident group. We know we can get the job done. We’ve been doing it the past three games, we just need to keep doing it.”

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

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.

Golden Knights Videos
Golden Knights Say an "Awful Call" Cost Them the Series - Video
Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant and Golden Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault believe that an "awful call" by the officials cost them game 7.
Golden Knights Fans Watch Game 7 at T-Mobile - VIDEO
Golden Knights went through a roller coaster in game 7 which lead to the Knights loss 5-4 in overtime.
Sharks & Golden Knights fans fired up for Game 7
Ahead of Game 7 in San Jose, Sharks and Golden Knights fans get hyped for the game in the fan zone at SAP Center.
Golden Knights prepare for Game 7 in San Jose - VIDEO
Vegas Golden Knigths players and the head coach talk about their mindset ahead of facing the San Jose Sharks in Game 7 on the road at the SAP Center.
Knights' Gallant Calls DeBoer a "clown" - VIDEO
Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant calls Sharks coach Pete DeBoer a "clown" and says his comments are a little "unclassy" for him in response to being called the master chirper for the Knights.
Golden Knights fans father outside T-Mobile Arena waiting for game 6 against the Sharks
Golden Knights gather outside the T-Mobile Arena ready to watch game 6 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the San Jose Sharks.
Knights aim to close out Sharks series at home - VIDEO
The Vegas Golden Knights players and head coach Gerard Gallant spoke about what needs to be done ahead of Game 6 at the T-Mobile Arena to clinch the series. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gerard Gallant talks ahead of Game 6
The Golden Knights coach talked about his team’s upcoming game with the San Jose Sharks after Saturday’s practice.
Coach Gallant Speaks to media about game 5 against the Sharks - VIDEO
Golden Knight's coach Gerard Gallant speaks at City National Arena following thursday's game 5 against the San Jose Sharks.
Golden Knights Fans Watch Game 5 At Henderson Pavilion - Video
Golden Knights fans gather at the Henderson Pavilion to watch game 5 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the San Jose Sharks. (Nathan Asselin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Fans prepare for Game 5 of the Golden Knights-Sharks series
Golden Knights and Sharks fans took part in pregame festivities at the SAP Center in San Jose ahead of Game 5 of the playoff series.
Golden Knights Fans Land in San Jose - VIDEO
Four Golden Knights fans who traveled from Las Vegas talk about the experiences they've had in San Jose with fans and the police ahead of Game 5 and give their predictions for the final score of the game.
Shea Theodore says he's trying to be a threat in all phases - VIDEO
Vegas Golden Knights Defenseman Shea Theodore says he's trying to elevate his game in all phases and his teammate Alex Tuch talks about Theodore's growth as a player.
Knights preparing to play a "desperate" Sharks team on the road
The Vegas Golden Knights could close out their first playoff series on the road against the San Jose Sharks when Game 5 takes place at the SAP Center. The team says they're going to have to play their best to defeat a "desperate" opponent.
Coach Gallant speaks after practice, as the Golden Knights prep for Game 5
Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant speaks to media after the team's open skate.
Sharks Coach: I think our emotions got away from us a little bit
Sharks head coach Pete DeBoer and center Joe Pavelski say the team needs to hold their emotions in check going forward. Pavelski talks about the Ryan Reaves effect.
2019 NHL Awards set for Mandalay Bay Events Center on June 19
During the 2018 NHL Awards in Las Vegas, tribute was paid to first responders and survivors of the Oct. 1 shooting by a handful of Vegas Golden Knights. NHL Chief Content Officer Steve Mayer said that's why the league is moving the show to the site of the tragedy. The Mandalay Bay Events Center will host the ceremony on June 19th.
Ryan Reaves says Joe Thornton's Hit was "Gutless" - Video
Golden Knights forward Ryan Reaves says Sharks' forward Joe Thornton's hit on Tomas Nosek was "gutless." Thornton has been suspended for one game (game four on Tues., April 16) as a result of the hit.
Ryan Reaves Finally Throws Down with San Jose's Evander Kane - Video
Golden Knights forward Ryan Reaves says the fight between him and Sharks' forward Evander Kane was nine years in the making. Spectators finally saw the two battle it out in game three of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Ryan Reaves Finally Throws Down with San Jose's Evander Kane - Video
Golden Knights forward Ryan Reaves says the fight between him and Sharks' forward Evander Kane was nine years in the making. Spectators finally saw the two battle it out in game three of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Golden Knights rookie team coach Rocky Thompson on Rookie Faceoff
Golden Knights rookie team coach Rocky Thompson discusses team's 7-6 win over Colorado in the Vegas Rookie Faceoff
Fleury's newborn son attends Game 3 - VIDEO
Marc-Andre Fleury's newborn son and his wife Veronique were in attendance at the T-Mobile Arena during game 3. Fleury talks about having his family there to support him.
Sharks and Knights players get physical during game 3 - VIDEO
Several fights broke out during game 3 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs between the Golden Knights and Sharks. Capping off the skirmishes was an intense showdown between Ryan Reaves and Evander Kane.
Golden Knights Fans Gather At T-mobile To Watch Game 3 Of The Playoffs - Video
Golden Knights fans gather outside of the T-Mobile arena to watch game three of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Knights GM says it was important for the team to sign Nikita Gusev
Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee says it was important for the team to sign Russian standout Nikita Gusev. The Knights announced they had signed the forward to a one-year, entry level contract on Sunday. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Marc-André Fleury on flamingo
Marc-André Fleury on flamingo
Golden Knights Watch Party For Game 2 Of Sharks Series - Video
Golden Knights fans gather at Top Golf to watch the second game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the San Jose Sharks.
Gallant addresses the media after practice following a 5-2 loss
Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant addresses the media after practice following a 5-2 loss to San Jose in Game 1 of the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. (Ben Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gallant on lineup
Golden Knights Fans Gather Downtown For First Round of Playoffs - Video
Golden Knights fans gather downtown to watch the first game of the playoff series against the San Jose Sharks.
Golden Edge Mailbag - April 10, 2019 - VIDEO
Golden Knights reporters Ben Gotz and Adam Hill answer your burning questions.
Gallant on Golden Knights lineup against Sharks
Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant on lineup against the San Jose Sharks for Game 1 of the first round in the Stanley Cup playoffs. (David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Golden Knights Prepare for Playoffs - Video
Golden Knights players Shea Theodore and Jonathan Marchessault feel that the team is both mentally and physically prepared to take on the Sharks in round one of the NHL Playoffs.
Golden Knights sign defenseman Jimmy Schuldt to a one-year contract
The Golden Knights have signed free agent defenseman Jimmy Schuldt to a one-year, entry level contract. Schuldt comes to the Golden Knights after graduating from St. Cloud State University, where he lead the Huskies to a regular-season conference title and the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Golden Knights letting playoff mentality set in - VIDEO
As the Vegas Golden Knights finish out their season, the team and head coach Gerard Gallant talk about where their mindset is, how they are preparing for the playoffs and their win over the Edmonton Oilers.
Golden Knights Lose to Wild, Clinch Playoff Berth - VIDEO
Despite losing 3-2 to the Minnesota Wild, the Vegas Golden Knights are locked in to a playoff spot. Head coach Gerard Gallant and players discuss their performance against the Wild and what it means to go back to the playoffs.
Gallant on losing to the Avalanche
Gerard Gallant talks about the loss to Colorado. (David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gallant on Colorado loss
Gerard Gallant talks about the loss to Colorado. (David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Golden Edge Mailbag- March 27, 2019 - VIDEO
Golden Knights reporters Ben Gotz and Adam Hill answer your burning questions.
Gerard Gallant on Paul Stastny
Vegas Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant talks about Paul Stastny's role on the team. (David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gallant on St. Louis goal
Gerard Gallant talks about St. Louis's third goal on March 25, 2019. (David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gerard Gallant on St. Louis Blues
Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant talks about the team's loss to St. Louis on March 25, 2019. (David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Golden Knights Host First Charity Night At T-Mobile Arena - VIDEO
The Vegas Golden Knights host their first annual charity night during the Red Wings game at T-Mobile arena. Fans were able to buy from two choices of backpacks full of VGK memorabilia. 1,500 Golden Knights Charity backpacks were filled and fans lined up to buy the backpacks. The charity gives it proceeds to various causes around Las Vegas in order to give back to the community.
William Karlsson talks before Ducks game
The Golden Knights center talked about Paul Stastny’s line, Reilly Smith’s between-the-legs goal and more.
Mark Stone Locker Room - Full Video
Mark Stone, who was traded Monday to the Vegas Golden Knights from Ottawa, speaks to the press about the move. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Golden Knights coach talks Mark Stone trade
The Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant discusses the team’s newest player, forward Mark Stone, acquired from the Ottawa Senators. (Ben Gotz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Rain doesn't deter hockey fans
Golden Knights and Bruins fans waited in long lines in the rain to get in to the T-Mobile Arena for the hockey game on Wednesday night.
Rain doesn't deter hockey fans at the T-Mobile Arena
A solid amount of Golden Knights and Bruins fans showed up at the T-Mobile for the hockey game despite inclement weather descending upon Las Vegas.
Mike Kelly talks about Golden Knights injuries
The Golden Knights assistant coach discussed injuries and the “dog days” of the season, on Feb. 19
Golden Knights ready to celebrate Valentine's Day
Even though they have a game on Feb. 14, Marc-Andre Fleury and Ryan Reaves are ready to spoil the ones they love this Valentine's Day.
Gallant talks about losing streak
Gerard Gallant talks about breaking a four-game losing streak. (David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gallant on finishing road trip
Gerard Gallant talks about finishing the road trip on a high note. (David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gerard Gallant talks about the win over Detroit
Knights coach Gerard Gallant talks about the 4-3 win over Detroit on Feb. 7, 2019. (David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gallant on Karlsson
Knights coach Gerard Gallant talks about William Karlsson. (David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gallant on breaking the losing streak
Gerard Gallant talks about breaking a four-game losing streak agains one the NHL's best teams. (David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gallant on Valentin Zykov's goal
Gerard Gallant talks about Valentin Zykov's goal against Tampa Bay on Feb. 5, 2019. (David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-journal)
Gallant on penalty killing
Gerard Gallant talks about the Golden Knights' penalty killing against Tampa Bay on Feb. 5, 2019. (Davis Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gerard Gallant on facing Tampa Bay
Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant on facing the Tampa Bay Lightning. (David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gerard Gallant on Valentin Zykov
Golden Knight coach Gerard Gallant talks about Valentin Zykov. (David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gallant on next game after loss to Panthers
Coach Gerard Gallant talks to reporters after Knights loss to Panthers. (David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TOP NEWS
Home Front Page Footer Listing