T-Mobile Arena is in a frenzy. Outside, Las Vegas Boulevard is buzzing. The four representatives of the Vegas Golden Knights - Mark Stone, Alex Pietrangelo, Jonathan Marchessault, and Pete DeBoer - are having the night of their lives.
The night starts out as a beautifully painted picture. Stone is saucering pucks in the backdrop of the Fountains of Bellagio. Pietrangelo wins the Breakaway Challenge with a Mike Tyson doppelgänger on the ice. Marchessault glides through the Skills Competition with no bucket, while DeBoer takes in the event with a lasting grin.
What begins as picturesque night, however, suddenly starts to fade out of focus. Moments are fragmented, memories become a blur, and next thing we know we find a spacey Pete DeBoer behind the bench admitting the next day that he is "a little hungover".
Okay, maybe drawing parallels from DeBoer saying "today's a little bit foggy for me" to Doug from The Hangover being discovered sunburnt and dehydrated on the hotel roof is a little far fetched. Although DeBoer may have personally recovered physically from his hangover, his team is still trying to retrace their steps to find their game.
Since the NHL's All-Star Weekend, the Golden Knights are 5-10-1, winning a only shade over 30-percent of their games. While two of those losses are to the league's top team, the Colorado Avalanche, Vegas has also suffered defeats from some of the league's bottom-feeders - the Arizona Coyotes, Ottawa Senators, Philadelphia Flyers, and Buffalo Sabres.
Along the way they have lost allies and gained new ones. Numerous injuries, including a long-term back issue with Stone, have decimated the team. Starting netminder Robin Lehner has been in and out of the lineup. Quality also came in, however, with star center Jack Eichel joining the team's attempt to get back on track in February.
Despite the constant shuffle, the Golden Knights have averaged about a 56-percent win probability in the 16 games since the all-star break, per PuckLuck.com's player-based model. The model also takes into consideration that 10 of those games were on the road, and still they were favored in seven of those 10.
So what exactly is the issue? In desperation it's easy to point to Lehner missing time as a key factor, but that would just be a blind reality. The Golden Knights have held their opponents to about 2.9 goals per game in this time, which is under the 3.1 league average this season. Laurent Brossoit has stepped in admirably to replace Lehner, shouldering the bulk of the load.
If the team has found anything on their journey it certainly hasn't been the back of the net. Per PuckLuck's projections, Vegas only reached their projected goals-for in six of those 16 games. Only Marchessault is at a point-per-game pace in that time and the team's secondary scoring is nearly non-existent. Top forwards Eichel, Max Pacioretty, and Reilly Smith have scored at a 49-57 point pace, which isn't nearly enough to make up for the rest of the lineup's deficiencies.
Vegas is now 10th in the Western Conference in points percentage, leaving them on the outside looking in regarding the playoff race. While underperforming the projections could indicate a bounce-back is in store, four of the next five opponents are currently ahead of them in the standings. The one that isn't - the Winnipeg Jets - just blew them out on Tuesday.
And so the hangover continues. Everyone has their own idea of a cure after a rough go of it. The question is, will Pete DeBoer ever be able to find it in Vegas?
FADE TO WHITE.