In baseball, there are plenty of pitchers who can make it through a team’s lineup once.
The challenge is beating the hitters over and over, even after they know the pitches and have had a chance to gauge the timing. If a pitcher can do that, you have an ace.
The Golden Knights have done spectacularly well on their first run through the NHL lineup but hit a speed bump on their second go-round with the Dallas Stars Tuesday night.
Vegas fell to Dallas 3-0, suffering the first shutout defeat in franchise history.
The first time the teams met it was the Golden Knights’ first game ever, meaning the Stars had no game film to break down, no scouting report and no idea what to expect on the ice.
“I think (this time) was a little bit easier to prepare,” Stars goalie Ben Bishop said. “They might have surprised some teams out of the gate.”
The Golden Knights have surprised just about everyone to this point, as they still sit atop the Pacific Division standings with record of 15-7-1. The Stars were one of the victims, as James Neal scored two goals to lead the Golden Knights to a 2-1 win Oct. 6 in Dallas.
Tuesday night was different, as the Stars defenders stuck to Vegas like glue, preventing the Golden Knights from getting scoring chances in front of the net. As professional athletes, it’s doubtful teams took Vegas lightly in the beginning, but they certainly aren’t after the hot start.
“I don’t think they’re surprising anybody now,” Bishop said. “We know that they are the real deal and we were ready tonight.”
Bishop stopped all 34 of the Golden Knights' shots, 15 of which came in the first period.
“We tried to limit the odd-man rushes,” Bishop said. “We just had one there in the first period and the guys did a pretty good job. They’re a quick team and they want to play fast, so we kind of slowed it down a little bit.”
The Golden Knights held Dallas in check offensively for the vast majority of the game, but forward Radek Faksa scored three goals in seven minutes at the end of the second period for the first hat trick of his career.
“We just tried to play a good checking game,” Dallas captain Jamie Benn said. “For the most part we stuck to the game plan and checked them hard. They have a lot of good players and they’re good in this building. Our goalie played a great game.”
But while Dallas certainly had a better showing in their second game with the Golden Knights, there’s certainly no blueprint for beating Vegas.
The high-paced transition game the Golden Knights play makes it especially tough on goaltenders.
“Vegas comes at you with numbers and puck possession and that’s really difficult for a goalie to play that way,” Stars coach Ken Hitchcock said. “If it’s in your zone and it’s mulling around, goalies can play that game much easier but they get a lot of rush attack chances and a lot of bang-bang plays.”
Bishop has had the answer, saving all 53 shots he’s faced by the Golden Knights dating back to the Oct. 6 meeting, but other goalies have struggled. Vegas is second in the NHL with 3.7 goals per game.
Game film to study and familiarity may help Golden Knights opponents as the season plays out, but no amount of information will make Vegas skaters any slower.
“Vegas is a hell of a hockey club,” Hitchcock said. “They are the fastest team we’ve played all year and (they have great) quickness on pucks and on the attack.”