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‘Let’s keep it going’: Knights rounding into form as playoffs approach

The Golden Knights are starting to play how they want to.

Their stifling defense, which defined their run to a Stanley Cup championship last year, is beginning to show late in the regular season.

“I think there’s been a stretch now, so it wasn’t just luck for a week,” coach Bruce Cassidy said.

The Knights have had times this season where their defense has carried them. They just haven’t been able to sustain it.

They allowed 24 goals during their 11-0-1 start, for example. Cassidy said the team wasn’t playing perfect hockey but the Knights found ways to win.

They were 3-5-3 their next 11 games. They allowed 33 goals in that span.

The Knights’ inconsistency showed up later in the season as well. They had an eight-game stretch from Jan. 11-26 where they went 6-1-1 while allowing 18 goals. Then they gave up 55 their next 14 games.

A switch seemed to flip in the Knights’ 3-1 win against the New Jersey Devils on March 17. It was the start of a run where the team allowed two goals or fewer six times in eight games.

That stellar defense is why the Knights are 8-2-1 their last 11 games and have all but locked up a playoff spot for the sixth time in seven seasons. It’s a stretch that’s made the team look capable of defending its championship.

“(Our game is) a lot closer than what it was a month ago,” Cassidy said. “So, let’s keep it going.”

It comes down to little details that can swing a game for Cassidy.

He said the Knights are quicker getting out of their own zone. They’re limiting second chances. The Knights have also been better in the neutral zone, which has allowed them to set up faster on offense and defense.

All those factors have allowed the team to lean into its strength: Five-on-five play. The Knights have a 200-149 edge in scoring chances their last eight games, according to the website Natural Stat Trick.

“I like where it’s going,” Cassidy said. “We’re not stuck in our end for long stretches.”

The team hasn’t been playing offensive slouches, either.

The St. Louis Blues scored 28 goals the seven games prior to their March 25 meeting with the Knights. The Blues were held to one goal in a 2-1 overtime loss.

The Knights will be tested again when they host the Vancouver Canucks at T-Mobile Arena on Tuesday.

The Canucks average 3.45 goals per game, sixth-most in the NHL. That’s one reason why they’re in first place in the Pacific Division, 10 points ahead of the third-place Knights with eight games remaining in the regular season.

It’s a tall task to slow Vancouver down. But the Knights can be confident after allowing eight goals on the 3-0-1 road trip they finished Saturday.

They’ve shown their defense can travel. As long as it came home with them, they should be in fine shape.

“They’re a good team coming in,” goalie Logan Thompson said. “We know what they have. We’ll be ready to go. I think that road trip was big for us.”

Contact Danny Webster at dwebster@reviewjournal.com. Follow @DannyWebster21 on X.

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