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6 Things To Know About The Golden Knights' Hot Start

Vegas is off to a better start through three games than any expansion team in NHL history

by Gary Lawless @GoldenKnights / VegasGoldenKnights.com

1. James Neal

Neal is a massive story in Vegas and around the NHL with 5 goals in three games and all of them game winners. An injury kept him out of training camp and his first game of the season was the opener in Dallas. No pre-season for Neal to work off the rust and get his shot going. No matter, everything he shoots (he has a 45.5 percent shooting percentage) seems to be going in. Neal told Eric Duhatschek of The Athletic on Friday he's open to signing an extension with the Golden Knights. The 30-year-old is scheduled for unrestricted free agency at the end of this season. GM George McPhee will certainly get offers for Neal as the trade deadline approaches. And if he stays hot - the value of those trade packages will increase.

Video: ARI@VGK: Neal spins and scores from the circle

 

2. Flower power

Fleury hasn't lost in a Golden Knights uniform and has been simply brilliant. The best part of his game - he's athletic and smooth and efficient - is his compete level. He hates to lose and this plays no small part in why is third among active goaltenders in wins behind Roberto Luongo and Henrik Lundqvist, respectively. They say wins and losses aren't goalie stats - they're team stats. Fair enough. But Fleury has the unique ability to keep his team in games which eventually allows them to collect wins. He's the most important player in Vegas right now and that won't change this season.

 

Video: ARI@VGK: Fleury flashes the leather on Stepan

 

3. Team play

Talk to the Golden Knights and they'll tell you they better as a sum than they are as parts.

"We don't have those big studs some other teams have," said defensemen Colin Miller. "So we know we have to play to our system and support one another. We've become a team real fast. It's the way we have to play."


4. Brendan Leipsic

Forward Brendan Leipsic had two assists on Tuesday in a win over the Arizona Coyotes and is beginning to gain confidence at the NHL level. He's a smart player who sees the ice well and loves to compete.

Leipsic got buried in the Leafs organization behind a slew of top end prospects. But don't count him out. He's been told all his life he's not good enough or too small. And he keeps rising. Coach Gerard Gallant is learning to like everything about Leipsic.

"He competes and he's smart. I really liked his last game," said Gallant.

 

Video: Golden Knights erupt for four early goals


5. Forecheck

The Golden Knights are aggressive in the offensive zone. They attack the puck in the offensive zone and have two forwards below the hash marks.

Gallant also encourages his D to get involved in the forecheck when the right opening arises. Each situation requires a different read but the group is in attack mode. The other end of this equation is what happens when they lose a battle. Everyone must be involved in applying back pressure. It's a fun system to play but good reads and high effort are key.
 

6. Big Turk

Head coach Gerard Gallant keeps the technical side of his game to himself. He's got a quiet genius in Mike Kelly on his staff and Ryan McGill is the perfect voice for this defence group. Young Ryan Craig is studying the game and finding areas to contribute. Video coach Tommy Cruz knows want Gallant wants and goalie coach David Prior is a proven commodity at the NHL level. All in all it makes for a strong staff.

The secret sauce for this group, however, is Gallant's ability to get players to buy in to a system and to work hard all the time. Gallant respects players and it shows in the way he treats them. It's authentic but comes with a major return as the players respect Gallant and are willing to work for him. Skill is key in the NHL but all teams must work to succeed. Vegas is light on skill but heavy on work ethic and this will keep them in games all season.

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