Sun Tzu once wrote “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.”
Well, they only play 82 regular-season games in the NHL, but the point still applies to hockey.
Teams look to improve from within every game but they also scout opponents for tendencies, weaknesses and strengths. And when visitors to T-Mobile Arena have studied the Knights this season the same things come up: Depth, goaltending and a killer top six.
“No. 1, the depth of their team (is challenging). They have a real deep forward group,” Colorado Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “They come at you in waves.”
The Knights’ depth — and how they use it — make them an interesting team to prepare for.
Coach Gerard Gallant feels the team is at its best when its forechecking hard and playing all four lines.
That means the Knights top-end talent gets more of a breather and its bottom six is free to take the wind out of the opponents’ sails.
Fourth-liners Ryan Reaves and William Carrier take pride in that. Reaves led the NHL with 60 hits entering Tuesday, 11 more than second-place Brandon Tanev of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Carrier was tied for fifth with 44.
“This is a heavy team,” Boston Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said.
Bednar also mentioned goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury when discussing what makes the Knights difficult to play against, which is no surprise. Fleury was an All Star each of his first two seasons in Las Vegas and appears to be on pace for a third straight selection.
The 34-year-old has a 2.30 goals-against average and a .928 save percentage. He also ranks third in the NHL in goals saved above average with 7.12.
“Fleury gives them a chance every night in net,” Bednar said.
Fleury isn’t the Knights only star.
The team boasts an impressive top two forward lines after remaking their second group in the last year-plus.
Right wing Mark Stone (16 points), left wing Max Pacioretty (11 points) and center Paul Stastny (nine points) are now three of the team’s top producers. They’ve complimented the first line of center William Karlsson, left wing Jonathan Marchessault and right wing Reilly Smith well.
Stone — who finished second in the Selke Trophy (best defensive forward) voting last season — has given the Knights the kind of two-way force they just didn’t have before after arriving in a Feb. 25 trade with the Ottawa Senators.
“You’ve got to account for him,” Cassidy said. “You saw that in Ottawa. He’s always a guy that was a thorn in our side. He’s a real good defensive player. He probably doesn’t get enough credit for his play away from the puck.”
With Stone in the fold, Nashville Predators center Matt Duchene called the Knights “one of the best teams in the league.” A visitor has yet to argue that point.
“They’ve been a great team ever since they started, you know?” Bruins center Charlie Coyle said. “They’ve added some good depth, some guys who can score and obviously play.”