No doubt about it, Nathan MacKinnon is one of the best players in the world, and the Avs are missing another elite scorer in Mikko Rantanen. The Golden Knights boast a deadly duo in Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty in their own right, though, and that pairing powered Vegas’ win against the Avalanche.
The Golden Knights ultimately beat the Avalanche 5-2 to win their 10th game in a row. That’s the longest winning streak in the NHL this season, and in Vegas’ franchise history.
Golden Knights win 10th in a row, strengthen West Division lead over Avs
When we look back at the race for the West Division title, Wednesday’s Golden Knights win over the Avalanche could end up being important.
Following this one, the Golden Knights and Avalanche only meet one more time. The Avs could regain ground in part because of their schedule. Aside from that remaining game against the Golden Knights, the Avalanche’s schedule contains four games apiece vs. the Sharks and Kings. On paper, those are the sort of opportunities that could allow Colorado to go on a tear.
By winning in regulation, the Golden Knights fattened their lead over the Avalanche, but Colorado does have a game in hand. (Plus that seemingly friendlier schedule. Along with that remaining Avs game, the Golden Knights face each of the Coyotes, Wild, and Blues twice, plus one game vs. the Sharks.)
Updated look at the Avalanche – Golden Knights race for the West Division title
- Golden Knights: 35-11-2, 72 points in 48 games played
- Avalanche: 31-12-4, 66 points in 47 GP
- Wild: 31-14-3, 65 points in 48 GP
The Wild aren’t totally out of the mix, particularly for the second seed in the West Division. Even so, things look less optimistic for the Wild after a painful regulation loss to the Blues.
For the Avs, this loss to the Golden Knights means that they’d need to finish awfully hot to win the West Division title. (Winning that last Colorado – Vegas encounter looks crucial.)
More important to get on track
Even with a promising schedule, the Avalanche might not be able to catch the Golden Knights for the West Division title. Playing eight of their last nine games against non-playoff teams might help the Avs fine-tune things before the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, though.
Those games could provide Rantanen, Philipp Grubauer and others with a chance to shake off rust. They can also consider resting a workhorse like Nathan MacKinnon, if they’d like.
Ideally, the Avalanche would head into the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs playing at or near their highest level. (It would be a true shame if another playoff run was derailed by a mixture of injuries, goaltending, and injured goalies.)
It’s fair to wonder, too, if the Avalanche can trust Devan Dubnyk — even as a No. 2 option.
Max Pacioretty’s goal had a 1.4% chance of scoring. Mark Stone’ goal had a 1% chance of scoring (via @MoneyPuckdotcom)
— Justin Emerson (@J15Emerson) April 29, 2021
Truly, the difference between facing the Wild and Blues might not be huge. Not with the way the Blues have been heating up.
But with 10 straight wins, the Golden Knights are clearly hitting their stride. They, too, might want to consider the old rest vs. rust question.
Speaking of “on paper,” asking Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone to rest might seem logical. That’s especially true considering that Pacioretty is 32 (Stone is 28). The Golden Knights might instead want to avoid messing with a good thing, though. Stone’s justifiably gaining a ton of attention, but Patches is red-hot, too; Pacioretty extended his point streak to an impressive eight games (5G, 9A, 14 points) with a three-point night.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.