Golden Knights mailbag: What makes this season different?

Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Shea Theodore, left, celebrates after right wing Alex Tuch, center, scored against the San Jose Sharks during the third period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

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Meet the new Golden Knights, same as the old Knights. The team has started to play well again so let’s get to it:

“What makes this year different than last year?” — Kyle (Facebook)

It was offense. Until it wasn’t.

Through 20 games the Knights ranked 29th in goals per game (2.45) after finishing fifth last season (3.27). But things started to click in the five games leading up to Tuesday’s date with the Chicago Blackhawks.

The team scored 19 goals in that span (3.8 per game) on its way to a 4-1 stretch.

The return of defenseman Nate Schmidt from suspension helped the Knights push the puck in transition and seemed to spark defenseman Colin Miller. Freed from a larger role upon Schmidt’s return, Miller asserted himself offensively more and recorded six points during the 4-1 span.

Left wing Max Pacioretty also played a major role in the increased offense by taking his season point total from four to 11 in five games. The Knights were counting on him to match, or even exceed, James Neal’s overall production from last year and, when he struggled to do that early, the team scuffled.

Now Pacioretty looks to be more comfortable and the team is thriving. Suddenly the 8-11-1 start, when things looked so different than last season, is in the mirror and the Knights are holding onto a playoff spot.

“Do you think Vegas should go after (William Nylander)?” — Brian (Facebook)

The Nylander saga is nearing a close but don’t expect the Knights to be part of any sort of resolution.

Nylander, 22, is a talented forward locked in a contract dispute with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He hasn’t played all season while pushing for a long-term deal, but if he isn’t signed before Saturday deadline he’s ineligible to play this season.

If contract talks continue to stall the Maple Leafs could try to trade him, but after scoring 61 points in each of his past two seasons Nylander won’t come cheap. Acquiring him would cost Knights general manager George McPhee heavily in draft picks, prospects or both — plus Nylander will still want his payday.

That’s likely too rich for McPhee, who already has a long-term contract for center William Karlsson on his to-do list.

“(Alex Tuch) looks like Fredo with that stache.” – (Twitter)

Unlike the second son of the famous Corleone crime family from “The Godfather,” I don’t think Alex Tuch is breaking many hearts. In fact, McPhee should be crying with joy after signing a point-per-game forward (entering Tuesday) to a seven-year extension worth only $4.75 million annually.

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Ben Gotz at . Follow on Twitter.

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