After a dream debut season, the Golden Knights have had a rude awakening in their sophomore year. They went 8-11-1 over their first 20 games, tied for 26th in the NHL and ahead of only the lowly Kings in the Pacific division. Luckily for them, that’s when Nate Schmidt came back from his suspension.
Since he’s been back, both he and the Knights have been tearing it up. In the nine games that Schmidt has been in the lineup, Vegas has gone 7-2, good for second in the league since November 18, and recorded a pair of shutouts. Schmidt also scored his first two goals of the season, including the game winner, on Tuesday against the Capitals, his former team. Schmidt hasn’t missed a beat during his suspension and he now paces his team in a number of key categories since his return.
Since he made his debut on November 18, he’s the only Golden Knight to average over 20 minutes of ice time a night, while his pair with Brayden McNabb has faced the toughest competition among the three regular pairings Vegas uses. As head coach Gerard Gallant said: “I think it makes everybody else better because they go back to the position they were before.” Vegas is now tied for third in the Pacific division and, with their defensive pillar back, they should continue to move up the standings.