Golden Knights most to blame for playoff series loss to Stars

The Golden Knights are no longer the reigning champions.

The Golden Knights who deserve blame after losing to the Stars in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Vegas Golden Knights were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Sunday night. And it’s a bit of a surprise, all things considered. Their opponent, the Dallas Stars, had come close to winning the Presidents Trophy during the regular season. But Vegas was no ordinary wild card team.

The Golden Knights were the defending Stanley Cup champions. Vegas defeated the Florida Panthers in last year’s final to claim their first championship. Furthermore, they loaded up at the NHL Trade Deadline ahead of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs. They were more than capable of beating the Stars in this series.

From the outset, it looked as if they would do just that. The Golden Knights won the first two games of this matchup. However, they went on to lose three straight. Vegas had to win Game 6 at home just to force a Game 7 back in Dallas. And in that Game 7, the Stars were the better team.

The Golden Knights face some difficult questions this summer in terms of roster construction. For now, though, fans want to know what went wrong. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some Golden Knights players who could have stepped their game up a bit more in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Alex Pietrangelo took a costly penalty

Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (7) skates against the Dallas Stars during the first period in game one of the first round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the American Airlines Center.Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Alex Pietrangelo is a leader on this Golden Knights team. This is evidenced by the “A” that adorns his sweater night in and night out. Even beyond that, though, he is a veteran presence on the back end. A veteran presence who captained a Stanley Cup champion before he ever played in Vegas.

As a result, Pietrangelo’s actions in Game 5 of this series are a bit disappointing. He swung a glove at Dallas veteran Tyler Seguin after a collision into the boards away from the play. It’s understandable that the Golden Knights rearguard was frustrated with Seguin. Seguin had delivered a nasty hit to teammate Shea Theodore earlier in the period.

However, as coach Bruce Cassidy pointed out, there is a time and place for that. And the moment he chose wasn’t the right time. Dallas received a power play as a result of Pietrangelo’s shot, which they took advantage of. Jason Robertson scored the goal that eventually won Game 5.

Of course, it’s hard to pin this all on Pietrangelo. That being said, the penalty put Vegas in a bad spot. Instead of potentially clinching the series at home, they had to fight for their playoff lives. That certainly gave Dallas a ton of momentum for the rest of the series.

William Karlsson needed to produce more

When the Golden Knights played their inaugural season, they were led by a few “misfits” if you will. Players cast aside by teams that didn’t want them or simply had no room. William Karlsson was the leader of this bunch. He turned in a career year in 2017-18, scoring 43 goals and 78 points.

Karlsson hasn’t reached those highs in the years following. But he remains a steadfast contributor to this Vegas franchise on the ice. That includes this season, where he scored 30 goals and 60 points in 70 games. All of this makes his performance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs rather disappointing.

Karlsson played in all seven games of the series despite battling a lower-body injury. He clearly wasn’t 100%, but remained on the ice nonetheless. And when he played, he struggled to produce. He recorded just two points — both assists — against the Stars in this series. “Wild Bill” didn’t score his first point until Game 6.

Obviously, the injury has an effect on his play. But he skated in all seven games, and he played 15 minutes or more in each game except Games 2 and 7. He had chances to make an impact on the game for Vegas. However, it just didn’t happen against the Stars.

Tomas Hertl disappointed

The Vegas Golden Knights are certainly no strangers to big moves. In fact, Vegas makes controversial moves seemingly every season. This year was no different from the rest. Vegas struck in the dying embers of the 2024 NHL Trade Deadline, acquiring veteran forward Tomas Hertl from the San Jose Sharks.

This was a huge move on behalf of the Golden Knights. Hertl, when healthy, is a proven performer. He put up back-to-back 60+ point campaigns with San Jose before his injuries. He also had experience in the Stanley Cup Final, going in 2016 with the Sharks.

Hertl returned before the end of the 2023-24 season and played well enough. He scored four points in six games ahead of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Unfortunately, that was the bright spot for the veteran Golden Knights forward. Hertl scored no goals and just one single point against the Stars.

The Golden Knights hoped Hertl could help them out in their quest to repeat as champions. Unfortunately, it just didn’t happen. Their big NHL Trade Deadline acquisition failed to make a big impact this spring. And as a result, we will have a new Stanley Cup champion next month.

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