After a great start to the season and a successful first home game, the Vegas Golden Knights will take on their first Eastern Conference opponent. The Detroit Red Wings are coming to T-Mobile Arena with a winning record of their own.
They have some great young players who are scoring goals. That includes rookie Martin Frk, as well as Anthony Mantha, both at two tallies. Mike Green leads the Red Wings in points with six assists. Those points have helped the Red Wings win two of their first three games.
The Red Wings will be looking for additional production against the Golden Knights, as Marc-Andre Fleury has held down the fort in net. The two goals he allowed in the home opener were the most he’s let in as a Golden Knight, and after a 4-0 first period, those goals were somewhat irrelevant.
Red Wings like Trevor Daley, Gustav Nyquist, and Frans Nielsen have yet to score. Tomas Tatar, who scored 25 last year, has yet to put a puck in the net. The Golden Knights have their own guys they want to get going, like Jonathan Marchessault, David Perron, and Reilly Smith.
The Golden Knights (and their fans) will especially pay attention to the following things against the Red Wings.
James Neal looks to keep on streaking
James Neal scores again (duh). First power play goal in Golden Knights history! pic.twitter.com/0oYiFtlJTV— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) October 11, 2017
In each of the first three games, James Neal has scored a goal. Against the Dallas Stars he had two, and then in the home opener he repeated that feat. Now, the question becomes, how long can Neal keep his goal scoring streak going?
Neal has looked exceptional. He has to have a ton of confidence in his stick right now, and it seems like everything he shoots is finding the net. There hasn’t been a poor performance in this streak, and his goals have been crucial. Neal has all three game-winning goals for the Golden Knights so far.
Now, the expectation is that other Golden Knights start scoring consistently and get some of the game-winning goals. But Neal has been an exciting factor in each Knights game, and he should continue to be.
Can Vegas do it again on the power play? And keep up the PK?
The Golden Knights’ power play started the season 0-for-11 coming into the home opener. That changed, as the Golden Knights scored a goal in three opportunities, a great shot by, of course, Neal.
The Golden Knights’ penalty kill hasn’t allowed a goal since the third penalty of the season, against Dallas. They’ve now gone seven straight kills in a row.
That’s partly because the Golden Knights have a ton of solid defensive forwards, including Oscar Lindberg, William Karlsson, and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. The Knights also have a great defensive core that’s been a big part of killing off so many penalties successfully.
Can the special teams continue their recent work into this game against Detroit? Can the penalty kill continue to make up for any bad plays? Can the power play continue to find ways to score, now that they’ve thrown the monkey off its back?
The answers should be yes. The penalty kill has shown no sign of slowing down. The power play has figured out how to score, how to get bodies to the net, and how to shoot from the point. All of those things add up to a successful opportunity.
In both of the games against the Arizona Coyotes, the Golden Knights won faceoffs above the 60th percentile. That’s pretty good.
So far, the Golden Knights have had nine players take a faceoff. Of those nine, six have won at least 50 percent. The guy who’s taken the most, Cody Eakin, has won 39 of 70. Lindberg has also been great, winning 22 of 37, and Bellemare, a winger, has been unbelievable, winning 19 of 26.
Winning those faceoffs have helped the Golden Knights continue to win games, and their utter domination at the dot, winning 68 percent, helped lead to utter domination in the second game against the Coyotes.
The Golden Knights will look to continue winning in the circle, and to have those faceoff wins continue leading to excellent scoring chances. With centers and wingers like Bellemare winning so many faceoffs, the Knights should keep the momentum going.
How to watch
TV: AT&T SportsNet (Cox channel 313/1313, DirecTV channel 684)
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM
Puck drop: 7:30 p.m. PT