It was late November and the Vegas Golden Knights had lost their way.
While the playoffs can't be made prior to Christmas, damage incurred before the arrival of St. Nick can put a team in such a hole the postseason becomes unattainable. On the morning of November 27, Vegas had lost 10 of 13 games and, at 11-11-4, were out of a playoff spot with a points percentage of .500. For a team with a roster many suggested had Stanley Cup pedigree, rock bottom had been achieved.
The Golden Knights were getting whipped around like someone blindfolded on a diving board in a windstorm. With each new gust came the threat of being tossed into the depths.
Head coach Gerard Gallant made the decision he'd been chewing on for some time and switched up his club's D-zone coverage from man-to-man to a hybrid zone.
The improvement was immediate as the Golden Knights went on a four-game winning streak but more importantly the positive results have been lasting as the team has won 13 of 19 since the switch, including eight of 11, and is currently on a four-game heater.
During this stretch, the Golden Knights have collected a league-best 28 standing points and prior to Monday's action sat sixth overall in the league, third in the Western Conference and first in the Pacific Division.
While the switch to the D-zone coverage has had some positive impacts on the team's defensive numbers, it's offensively where the club has surged most.
Since Nov. 27, Vegas has scored 66 goals for fourth best in the NHL. On the defensive side, the team has produced a .905 save-percentage while allowing 56 goals in that span for a league ranking of 18th.
Things that have popped out during this run:
Chasing Chandler: The Golden Knights acquired forward Chandler Stephenson three games into this run and he's been a bright spot skating his way into the middle of the second line between wingers Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty. In 16 games he's picked up five goals and nine points including an overtime winner over the St. Louis Blues.
Max and Mark: Speaking of Pacioretty and Stone - the veteran duo have combined for 40 points during this 19-game push and are now at 84 for the season.
Super at center: When healthy, Vegas has seven NHL centers (William Karlsson, Stephenson, Paul Stastny, Cody Eakin, Tomas Nosek, Cody Glass and Nic Roy). How Gallant employs this group going forward will be top storyline.
Top Turk: Gallant has coached his team into tops in the Pacific Division and was named the head coach of the Pacific Division for the 2020 All-Star Game. It's his third appearance in the midseason showcase as he also led the Pacific Division to victory during the 2018 All-Star Game and was the bench boss for the Metropolitan Division during the 2016 All-Star Game. Gallant has compiled a 118-71-20 record during his time in Vegas and led the team to Western Conference and Pacific Division titles during the team's inaugural season.
Superb Subban: A key element in the Golden Knights improvement in the standings has been the play of No. 2 goalie Malcolm Subban. Subban has complied a 6-2-1 record in this span with a .917 save percentage.
Excellent Engelland: Veteran defender Deryk Engelland has benefited from the D-zone switch. Engelland got his confidence and snarl back and has produced a goal and four points while averaging 18:01 time on ice per game.
Surging Shea: On the season, 24-year-old Shea Theodore has begun to put up No. 1 D numbers and sits 20th in scoring among NHL defenders with six goals and 19 assists. Three goals and 13 of Theodore's 25 points have come since Nov. 27.