Updated November 15, 2023 - 11:11 am
This is when things began to really click early last season, when some serious bonding took place and the Golden Knights rolled forward.
Remember? That five-game road sweep in November.
Another such point in the schedule began Tuesday night against Washington, and any thoughts of repeating last season at this time for the Knights ended quickly with a 3-0 loss at Capital One Arena.
From a visit to the White House to honor their Stanley Cup championship Monday to beginning the season’s first extended trip some 24 hours later. A wild turnaround.
The Knights, shut out for the first time since February, simply didn’t capitalize on numerous opportunities. Some of that had to do with them. A lot of that had to do with Capitals goalie Charlie Lindgren. He was terrific.
“You have to give a guy credit sometimes when he’s better than your shooters,” Knights coach Bruce Cassidy said. “(Not scoring) hasn’t been an issue. We won’t dwell on it. I don’t think we’re that type of group.”
The work boots
This is when it’s important to have a veteran team, when you put such a moment as meeting the president and all the hoopla that went into one afternoon and quickly turn the page to, as Cassidy said, putting your work boots back on.
There was some work done Tuesday — the Golden Knights outshot the Capitals 35-31.
Just not enough finishing around the net.
“We had like four breakaways,” captain Mark Stone said. “We were getting the looks, for sure.”
It can’t be said enough. The hot start to the season — the Knights are 12-3-1 but have lost three of their past four — has as much to do with roster construction as anything else. The fact that nearly everyone returned from the title run allowed the Knights not to miss a step on the ice, even with the short summer.
That’s why losses such as this aren’t looked at some doom-and-gloom proposition. This was really a 1-0 game.
“I think having the same locker room as last year with all the guys on board helps,” defenseman Shea Theodore said. “You didn’t have to come into a season and adjust to a new system or fitting in some way. It has definitely helped for a good start.”
Even so, road trips such as this — the Washington game is followed by ones at Montreal, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Dallas — can help develop the most talented of teams.
Tough opponents. Tough buildings in which to play. Makes you dial in your game fast. Makes the focus that much more significant. Makes everything a bit more tense.
And if you’re defenseman Ben Hutton, winning credit card roulette at dinner sure makes things easier on the wallet.
“Yeah, that’s nice,” he said.
The trip didn’t have to begin this way. The Knights had chances early and often. Stone. William Karlsson (twice). Jack Eichel. Pavel Dorofeyev. A two-on-one. A three-on-one. More rushes with big-time chances. Shots in close that just couldn’t beat Lindgren.
The game remained close because the Knights killed off nine minutes of penalties, some because they were sharp and some because the Washington power play stinks.
But that’s what Cassidy’s team also failed at, going 0-for-2.
The movement was good, but the shots weren’t. Didn’t get enough pucks to the net. Didn’t pick up the penalty kill.
“We need this (road trip),” Cassidy said. “We love playing at home, where we have great support. But after a while, you need to get out on the road.
“We have a lot of returning guys, so maybe (long road trips) aren’t as important for this group as maybe other years. I still think you need to get out and play through the adversity of the road and traveling … So here we are.”
From the White House to the work boots. Some kind of wild turnaround is right.
Ed Graney, a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on X.