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Golden Knights Shut Out Avalanche

Steve Marcus

Vegas Golden Knights right wing Mark Stone (61) celebrates with center Chandler Stephenson (20) after scoring against the Colorado Avalanche during the first period of an NHL hockey game at T-Mobile Arena Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023, in Las Vegas. STEVE MARCUS

When it comes to Christmas movies, Chandler Stephenson has a rotation of 10 to 12 classics he and his wife, Tasha, watch every year.

There are the usual suspects like “Home Alone” and “Elf.” But there is one movie Stephenson is adamant will never make his list: “Die Hard.”

“‘Die Hard’ is a year-round movie. Christmas movies are on TV during Christmastime,” Stephenson said. “‘Die Hard’ is always on TV.”

Others would certainly disagree. The 1988 box-office hit starring Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman is often on lists of the best Christmas movies.

Willis’ character, John McClane, meets his estranged wife (Bonnie Bedelia) at a Christmas party in New York that is taken over by terrorists.

The plot isn’t exactly in Hallmark Christmas movie territory.

Director Steven E. de Souza said in 2017 that “Die Hard” does fit the Christmas movie requirement. And Willis proclaimed that it was, in fact, not part of the Christmas genre.

The Golden Knights center feels good knowing the star actor is on his side.

“It’s set during Christmas,” said Stephenson, who arges that it’s different from a Christmas-themed movie. “There’s so many arguments about it. It’s so fun to debate about it.”

The two people Stephenson had the biggest discussions with were the team’s former director of communications Sage Sammons and assistant athletic trainer Mike Muir.

When the Golden Knights were in Edmonton on Nov. 28, Stephenson and Muir had a spirited conversation about the movie.

Stephenson said he pointed out “Die Hard” is on TV every other day, and Muir didn’t have a comeback.

“It’s all in good fun,” he said.

Debates aside, there’s no better time of the year than Christmas in Stephenson’s mind. There’s a lot to be happy about this holiday season.

Their son, Ford, will turn 2 years old in May. And Stephenson and his wife are expecting their second child in the next few months.

With the Golden Knights coming off winning the Stanley Cup last season and heading into Christmas with the most points in the league, a new baby arriving during a likely playoff push is going to be a challenge.

But it’s not unique situation for the Golden Knights. Four players became first-time fathers during their championship run last spring.

Christmas is also coming at a good time for Stephenson because he’s playing his best hockey of the season right now.

He got off to a strong start with five points in his first three games, but cooled off significantly over the next month and a half, going his next 20 games without a goal and just seven assists.

Coming off a career-high 65 points last season and playing for a new contract this year, it was an uncharacteristic start for the all-star center.

But he’s found his groove with four goals in his last five games entering Tuesday, including his first shorthanded goal of the season on Sunday in a 6-3 win against Ottawa.

Stephenson got back on track by following coach Bruce Cassidy’s advice: go to the net. His goals on Dec. 9 against Dallas and Dec. 10 against San Jose were a result of doing that.

Stephenson said he suffered a stretch where he was overthinking everything. If he was trying to slow the game down, he’d react too slowly. If he sped it up, it would be too quick.

He’s also found chemistry with Jonathan Marchessault on the second line, which started in that game against Dallas.

Marchessault, last year’s Conn Smythe Trophy recipient, has a team-leading 15 goals with three coming in the last five games.

“It’s always nice when you can get out of a funk,” Stephenson said. “You get some breaks and some bounces, and you feel good about your game again.”

Stephenson’s offensive production is slightly off last season’s pace, but he’s still vital to the Golden Knights’ success.

Center is arguably the Golden Knights’ strongest position, and Stephenson — being a top-six player and vital on the power play and penalty kill — will be of great importance come playoff time.

He showcased that significance in the playoffs when he was one of four Golden Knights players to score 20 points in the playoffs. Though his offensive pace is tending downward from last season, there’s evidence to show he will reach that point again.

Article written by #LasVegasSun