The Vegas Golden Knights are playing for their third five-game winning streak of the season Tuesday when they face the Carolina Hurricanes at T-Mobile Arena.
After dropping three in a row two weeks ago, the Golden Knights responded with four impressive wins in a row, three coming after regulation (two by way of shootout). Vegas capped off its week with a 4-3 win over the Dallas Stars on Saturday.
The Hurricanes are entering significantly less hot than the Golden Knights. Carolina has lost four straight and six of its last seven. Still, the Hurricanes remain a dangerous, young team, led by what should be a stacked defense.
Teuvo Teravainen, Sebastian Aho, and Jeff Skinner are the three leaders offensively. Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce are becoming a premier shutdown defensive pairing, and the Hurricanes back them up with young studs like Noah Hanifin and Haydn Fleury. That kind of youth will make this an exciting matchup for the older Golden Knights.
This will be an interesting game for a few other reasons. Chief amongst them: Marc-Andre Fleury.
Flowers in December
After missing the past two months with a concussion, Fleury is expected to start against the Hurricanes. This will be his first game since Oct. 13, which leaves a lot of questions. Since goaltender has been one of the most important for the Knights this season, answers are needed, but not yet provided.
How is Fleury going to play? His .925 save percentage and 2.48 goals-against average through four games suggest he’ll play well. However, his last game, against the Detroit Red Wings, did not go smoothly. Fleury gave up six goals and had a .778 save percentage, but gave up five of them after taking the knee to the head from Anthony Mantha.
Fleury has yet to face top-tier competition, sans the Stars on opening night. While Dallas might not be an elite team at this point, they came into the season with lofty expectations. The game against the Hurricanes will be the first of many better tests this season.
It helps that the Vegas defense has learned to play with goaltenders not named Fleury. If the defense is able to play as well as they have in front of Max Lagace and Malcolm Subban, Fleury will do just fine.
Over the past five games, the Golden Knights have not played a full 60-minute game. They’ve taken periods off and faded down the stretch. Look at the Dallas game for the latter and the Anaheim Ducks game (second period) for the former. There hasn’t been a consistent effort, and that’s led to the Knights having to win in overtime and in the case of the Winnipeg Jets game, losing.
It almost led to a surefire win against the Stars being forfeited, as the Knights couldn’t muster energy in the third.
Over the past five games, the Knights’ shot totals in each period combined: 74-51-55-17. There’s a massive dip from the first period to the second. That’s in part due to efforts of seven shots in the second versus Winnipeg and five in the middle frame against the Ducks. The Knights put more pucks on net in overtime against the Ducks than in the 20-minute second period.
That must stop. The Golden Knights have to string together consistent effort across 60 minutes. Their best, most consistent game was against Dallas. They won that in regulation. The Knights had 14 shots in the first, 15 in the second and 10 in the third.
The lesson to be learned: continually generate shots on net, and good things happen. If the Knights stay above 10 shots per period, they can continue to score as they’ve been able to when they’re at their best. It helps now that the roster is healthy again.
Continued improvement on the power play
After breaking a 15 power-play goalless streak, the Knights are now 2-for-6 over their last two games.
After scoring on their first shot in the first power play against the Stars, the Golden Knights launched three shots on net in their second power play. They added two shots that were blocked and a shot that went over the net. The Golden Knights got possession in the Stars zone and hold the puck there. They struggled with that feat during their long drought.
If the Golden Knights are able to continue rebuilding their power play and getting better possession during their two-minute man advantages, they will become much deadlier than their current rank in the NHL, at No. 17.
Also, a good power play can do a lot for a team. That’s been proven over the last two Golden Knights wins. If the power play continues scoring, the Golden Knights will continue their winning ways.
How to Watch
Time: 7 p.m. PT
Watch: AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain, NHL.TV
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM