The Vegas Golden Knights had one of their worst games of the season the other night against the Calgary Flames. The 7-2 loss featured five Flames goals in the first period, and the Knights were unable to score until the third period in a game in which they really needed the offense to be better.
But the Knights also needed the defense to be better than it was, and while everyone can agree that Malcolm Subban was left out to dry by both the defense and the offense, a few goals came from stoppable areas.
Here’s how the team can improve in a second effort against the Flames.
26-14. For the Knights, that’s usually a favorable ratio, as in 26 takeaways and 14 giveaways. But that wasn’t the case the other night against Calgary. In that game, it was 26 giveaways and 14 takeaways, and that was just at even strength.
In no other game has Vegas topped 15 giveaways this season. The Knights have been in the double digits just four times, including the game against the Flames. That’s unacceptable, and the Golden Knights are clearly better on the puck than they performed against Calgary.
Now they need to prove it. The 14 takeaways is an acceptable number — it could be higher, but the Golden Knights have only had double digit takeaways 10 times this season. The real key to this game, to this redemption, is to just not cough up the puck. Seems simple enough for a team that hasn’t in the past.
Again, stop the big five
The other key, as I wrote about in the first Flames-Golden Knights preview, is to stop Calgary’s big five (a.k.a. the team’s five best players who rank 1-5 in team scoring and also make up the Flames’ top power play unit): Matthew Tkachuk, Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Elias Lindholm and Mark Giordano. The Knights need to do their best to shut them down and limit their point production; that’s obviously easier said than done, but without the five-headed monster, the Flames are a significantly worse team.
That didn’t happen the other night. At 5-on-5, Gaudreau, Monahan and Tkachuk each scored. Tkachuk and Monahan each had a goal on the power play as well. This isn’t an impossible assignment here; it’s been done, and it’s something the Golden Knights should be able to do.
Core needs to be better defensively
The problem with stopping Calgary’s core last game was that the guys who are supposed to do that job — the first line, and what should have been the top pairing in Nate Schmidt and Shea Theodore — weren’t good enough. It’s that simple.
Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith, Schmidt and Theodore each had three giveaways (an especially surprising stat for Theodore, who has 10 even-strength giveaways on the entire season). William Karlsson had two.
In addition, at even strength, Schmidt had four high-danger chances against, Theodore had three, Karlsson had two and Smith and Marchessault each had one. Marchessault and Schmidt each had 12 shots against, Karlsson had 11, Theodore nine and Smith seven. That was just at even strength.
Those five players need to be better at locking things down defensively. If they can do that this afternoon, then the Golden Knights will be much more competitive and better able to come out on top. It would certainly go a long way towards not giving up seven goals again.
How to Watch
Time: 3 p.m. PT
TV: AT&T SportsNet
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM