The halfway mark is here. The Vegas Golden Knights will play there 41st game of the season Sunday night against the New York Rangers at T-Mobile Arena.
Vegas has a chance to get to 60 (!!!) points at the midway point of its inaugural season. Regardless of the outcome tonight, the Golden Knights will go into their five-day break with the top mark in the Western Conference with two games in hand over the Winnipeg Jets. Again, as we continue to point out, this doesn’t make sense, but we’re here and accepting it. It’s great.
The Golden Knights’ eight-game winning streak came to an end Thursday in St. Louis, but they rebounded with a 5-4 victory at Chicago on Friday. Vegas has won 13 of 15 and enters Sunday on a seven-game home winning streak. The Golden Knights (28-10-2) welcome a New York team (22-14-5) that is coming off a 2-1 shootout victory over the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday. Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist made 38 saves for his 424th NHL victory, moving him to eighth place on the League’s all-time wins list.
At time of publish, we expect Pierre-Edouard Bellemare to return to the lineup after missing the past two games due to his wife giving birth (CONGRATS TO THE BELLEMARES BTW). Defenseman Luca Sbisa left late in the second period of Friday’s game, but is expected to play. Outside of that, here’s what to watch for tonight.
Stop with the turnovers, you wonderful people
The Golden Knights dominated the first period in Chicago on Friday. If the dictionary had pictures (which the book that is my namesake should by this point), it would have something from the first 18 minutes of Vegas’ trip to Chicago. The Golden Knights were dominant in the forechecking department, got a lot of shots toward the net and even played solid defense to limit Chicago’s scoring chances away from Malcolm Subban.
Alas, good things don’t last long with sloppy play.
Turnovers were an issue. The Blackhawks turned three Vegas turnovers from the defensive zone into three unanswered goals. If not for the heroics of Cody Eakin and Reilly Smith, the Golden Knights could’ve been staring at a really bad road loss, capping off an abysmal two-game road trip. The Rangers have been playing well over the last month, going 13-5-3 in their past 21 games. Vegas needs to play a mistake-free game.
Even more production from the first line would be cool
This stat should end the world as we know it.
The Golden Knights are 22-5-2 when the first line scores. Like, what?
Ever since the Marchessault-Karlsson-Smith line was born, it has been the catalyst to Vegas’ success. That production has been rewarded for the likes of Jonathan Marchessault signing that six-year extension worth $30 million (William Karlsson, you are the next contestant on “The Price Is Right”).
Marchessault has 13 points in the past nine games. Smith has eight in the past five. Karlsson has eight in the past seven. Watching these three play is a thing of magic. Getting to 60 points at the halfway mark will be evident on those three playing well, should the Golden Knights go into the break in a good mood.
If you like goaltending, this is for you
More than likely, barring the most unforeseen circumstances that would bend time and space, Henrik Lundqvist will not be starting Sunday after playing last night. Regardless, should it be Ondrej Pavelec that gets the start for the Rangers against the Golden Knights, there’s not much of a dropoff. Lundqvist and Pavelec have combined for a .948 save percentage in the past 12 games (saved 416 of 439 shots).
The Golden Knights are expected to start Marc-Andre Fleury after he got Friday’s game off. He continues to have these #PrimeFleury moments even well after being activated from injured reserve. He’s allowed two or fewer goals in six of his past seven starts and is 5-1-1 in that stretch.
Make no mistake: The Golden Knights feel comfortable with whichever goalie is playing that night. Some guys feel more confident they can win when Flower starts. Regardless if this game is a low-scoring affair, much like the Thursday tilt in St. Louis was, the Golden Knights are going to have a chance to win because of Fleury no matter how well the opposing goaltender is playing. It also helps that Vegas is a League best 17-2-1 at home.
How to watch
Time: 6:30 p.m. PT
TV: AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain, MSG+, NHL.TV
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM