Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Vegas Golden Knights Pick & Prediction MARCH 4th 2024

The Vegas Golden Knights rode a solid veteran defense and strong goaltending to the Stanley Cup championship last season. But coach Bruce Cassidy admits those ingredients have been lacking lately heading into Monday night’s contest at Columbus.

Simply put, the Golden Knights have been leaking goals at an alarming rate the last two weeks, allowing 30 goals over a six-game span — including seven goals twice in their last five contests.

Vegas has slipped into third place in the Pacific Division, 10 points behind first-place Vancouver and one point behind surging Edmonton. The Golden Knights have won just twice in their last nine games (2-6-1) and come into Monday’s game off their most lopsided loss of the season, 7-2, at Buffalo on Saturday.

The Golden Knights no doubt have missed injured forwards Mark Stone, Jack Eichel and William Carrier during the recent skid. But Cassidy is quick to point out Vegas still has a healthy defensive corps as well as two talented goaltenders in 2023 Stanley Cup star Adin Hill and backup Logan Thompson, an All-Star last season.

“A lot of self-inflicted errors again tonight,” Cassidy said after the loss to the Sabres. “It’s been a costly road trip for that in terms of us not managing the puck well on the offensive blue line, another shot block that went back the other way, another bobbled puck … these are easy goals, right? You can’t outscore your mistakes every night in this league.”

The Golden Knights are just 1-2-1 on their current road trip with the lone win at Toronto, 6-2. That came after a 4-3 shootout loss at Ottawa and was followed by a 5-4 setback at Boston heading into Saturday’s meltdown at Buffalo.

“We’ve scored 15 goals this trip and have one win,” Cassidy said. “We have some of our top producers out, so we’re finding ways to create offense. Is it at the expense of defense? I don’t think so. I don’t think we’re getting caught up the ice in bad decisions.

“We’re just making poor plays with the puck, executing. We need the healthy group of our lineup which is our (defensive) corps, which is the strength of our team, to play better, to execute better, and to lead this team. Goaltenders are healthy, they need to play better and lead this team. That’s where it should start.”

Columbus would seem to be the perfect place to start a turnaround. The Blue Jackets have the fewest points (50) in the Eastern Conference and have won just 10 times (10-16-4) in 30 home games.

The Blue Jackets come in off a 5-2 victory at Chicago, the worst team in the Western Conference, on Saturday to snap a two-game losing streak.

Elvis Merzlikins stopped 26 shots to pick up his 12th win of the season, and five different Blue Jackets scored goals in the victory. Merzlikins has allowed just two goals in each of his last three starts.

“Lately, I think we are playing great hockey,” Merzlikins said. “I don’t think there is any pressure on us right now. We are literally enjoying the game and fighting and battling and doing our job well. … We’re just trying to do our game, and we’re doing well.”

–Field Level Media

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