The Vegas Golden Knights took their second thumping in franchise history as they lost 6-3 on Monday against the New York Islanders. Despite Vegas’ second loss and first ever on the road, there are some lessons to learn, and some positives.
The first power play unit is on lock
Colin Miller, Brad Hunt, and Alex Tuch continue to look like the most explosive combination for the Golden Knights’ power play. Miller was especially present, scoring two points on the and being the main reason the Knights scored on 2-of-5 chances. Tuch’s deflection was off of Miller’s shot, and then he roamed around to find his shot.
The secret to the success — Miller and Hunt get many, many shots to the net on the power play. They leave it up to players like Tuch to finish the job from the point. Miller scored a goal after roaming for a shot. It was a beauty, and proves why this unit was one of the good things about this game.
Oh hey! The Golden Knights scored a hockey point!— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) October 31, 2017
(they're still down 6-3) pic.twitter.com/Hrij6OJvcp
That unit should have been the difference, but then Oscar Dansk got hurt, and, well, you know. The tides turned and the game changed very quickly.
Stop taking penalties
Over the first 10 games, the Golden Knights have taken over eight penalty minutes per game. That’s too many, even with a top-15 penalty kill. The Islanders scored twice on five chances, mirroring the Golden Knights.
That play can be cleaned up. Even with a sloppy defense five-on-five, the penalty kill was one of the worst parts of the night. That initial goal likely took the wind out of Lagace’s sails before he had even begun, and proved to be a crucial goal as well.
The worst have been some of Vegas’ best players. James Neal went to the box twice. Erik Haula and David Perron both ended up there, as well as Reilly Smith. None of these guys have been used much on the penalty kill, but to be fair, they’re not giving Gerard Gallant a ton of room too.
On the flip side, William Karlsson has not taken a single penalty so far this season, and has been one of the most crucial penalty killers. He’s showing that offensive guys can also have a role on the penalty kill, and that if Neal would keep himself clean, he could score shorthanded. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare came close against Chicago. Nobody would argue that Bellemare is better offensively than Neal.
Yes, their penalty kill is dynamic and capable of scoring. They have provided some excellent scoring chances. But you know where else the Knights have been getting excellent chances? The five-on-five.
Maybe ... don’t hype up every Wolves prospect?
This isn’t a great lesson to learn before Shea Theodore comes in for his first game, but this is the first time the AHL hasn’t translated to the NHL.
Dansk had been excellent. Tuch has five points in six games. Everything I’ve seen of Theodore indicates he’s going to make the jump incredibly well, including his NHL experience.
But Max Lagace didn’t look great. He entered the game and posted a .636 save percentage. That’s coming in cold more than halfway into the game. Still, that’s not excellent, and he will have to be better. Lagace was the AHL starter over Dansk. Both played in the preseason, and Lagace got a full game while Dansk only got two periods. Lagace had four starts in the regular season while Dansk had one, the second game of a back-to-back. Everything indicates Lagace was the favored goaltender.
Lagace didn’t start his AHL season off great either. He posted a .778 save percentage (in a full game) against the Texas Stars, who scored six goals on him. The Wolves scored five, which helped somewhat. It’s what he did after that first start that shows his talent.
Since that .778 start, Lagace posted a .921 save percentage over three starts. That’s with a lesser defense than the Golden Knights have, or at least that’s how it’s supposed to be. Theodore is certainly going to help. There’s reason for hope with Lagace. He just has to prove it himself.