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VGK Must Match Urgency And Desperation Of Teams In The Playoff Chase

by Gary Lawless @garylawless /

Emotion. It's the mortar between the bricks of a hockey team. Get the mix right and the bricks will stick together. When the formula is off - things can get loose.

A team needs both - the proper bricks and the correct mix of love, anger, pride, commitment and desperation to excel. 

Both are organic and ever changing. 

Trades, injuries and slumps affect the bricks. Confidence, urgency, complacency and fatigue are just a few things which can change the blend of emotions. 

Both need to be monitored and cared for over the stretch of 82 regular season games and in some cases additional playoff matches.

There are teams in the NHL right now fighting for playoff spots. They are fueled by desperation and urgency. They are in live and die sporting moments. They approach each shift with heightened urgency. For some clubs it works but for others it crumbles their emotional mortar resulting in a pile of rubble.

The Vegas Golden Knights have lived in various states of emotion this season. But now, with the playoffs within reach, they say they need to find a new feeling. They need to match what desperate opponents are bringing to the table with their own cocktail of emotion.

"That's the thing, we have to make sure 20 guys are present for the whole game. We cannot have moments where we are not there because other teams are going to eat us and take over," says veteran center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. "Those teams are battling for their life right now and we have to get into the same mindset."

The NHL standings show there are five teams with legitimate claims to wild card spots in the Western Conference including the two currently holding those berths. In the Eastern Conference the number is six. Of the NHL's 31 NHL teams all but eight clubs have realistic playoff hopes. The jockeying for seeding and home-ice advantage is frenzied.

Vegas has lived above this fray for long stretches this season. But the team is now immersed in the boiling waters of the NHL's last quarter of schedule.

The Golden Knights have a nine-point lead in the Pacific Division but a stretch which has seen the team lose four of five has seen it fall six points off the pace of the Western Conference leading Nashville Predators.

Injuries have robbed Vegas of as many as seven regulars of late. Certainly, it's a factor but the standings don't account for man games lost. It's part of life in pro hockey and a team either deals with the adversity or it does not.

"We're missing guys, but that's no excuse for anything," said Golden Knights center Erik Haula. "We have a deep team and we've been saying that all year, now it's time to prove it."

There are obvious points in the NHL schedule where the rate of play changes. Holiday break in December, post-trade deadline and the playoffs are three signal poles in the NHL which players see and respond to with increased effort and desire. The games get more meaningful and teams respond. Or not.

The Golden Knights are at a juncture. Only they can determine which turn they'll take


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