Players on the Vegas Golden Knights must be holding their heads high after their overtime win yesterday against the New York Rangers in Madison Square Garden. Better yet, after spending the last few days battling it out with the New York-based teams (New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils included), Vegas walked away earning five points in three games. Not too shabby.
But the journey back home didn’t end last night. The Golden Knights have one last battle before returning to the desert.
The Columbus Blue Jackets are returning home after a road trip to the west coast that garnered mixed results. They played well against the Kings and won 4-1, but that game was sandwiched between two close matchups that ended in losses. The most recent, to the Anaheim Ducks, went to overtime and ended 2-1 in Anaheim’s favor.
Columbus is sure to put their best foot forward as they return home, but the Golden Knights could spoil the party as they hope to end their road trip on a high note. Here’s what to watch for as the Golden Knights battle the Blue Jackets.
All eyes on the net
Is this topic worth discussing again? Let’s find out.
Marc-Andre Fleury has started the past 13 games. At this point, it can’t be ruled out that tonight won’t make it 14.
There is a lot of speculation surrounding the Golden Knights’ roster choices, but none interest beat writers or fans more than Fleury’s workload. Our very own Ryan Quigley wrote earlier this week that his rate of play was concerning. I published a piece 22 days ago (!!!!) calling for Malcolm Subban to get more chances to prove himself in the crease. For whatever reason, he hasn’t.
It seems ridiculous that this is where we’re at, but it’s also ridiculous that Fleury has allowed an average of only two 5-on-5 goals per game since Nov. 21. Maybe it’s time to give up and just expect Fleury to start tonight and every night for the rest of his life.
Even though he’s started the past 13 games. And played yesterday. On the road. Sigh.
Putting the lineup on shuffle
There were a few expected choices in yesterday’s lineup, but also a few odd ones. The exclusion of Ryan Reaves, for instance, was a head-scratcher. He’s not on a roll like he was early in the season, but he hasn’t necessarily been playing poorly.
Still, other choices made sense and would continue to make sense tonight. Let’s look at the second line, or the “All-American Line” as it’s lovingly called (all players are from the U.S.).
Max Pacioretty, Paul Stastny and Alex Tuch got into a groove yesterday against the Rangers. Stastny, in particular, had a fantastic game, especially if you consider it was his second game since returning from a significant injury. He scored a goal of his own and assisted in Tuch’s game-winner in overtime.
Stastny had been on the third line against the Devils, so sending him to the second meant sending Cody Eakin down. And with Reaves out, Tomas Nosek went to the fourth line.
Vegas got bit by the injury bug early this season, so with players like Stastny coming back into the fold, it’s hard to figure out where exactly the players need to go when they’ve been playing well as is. Eakin, in particular, had really found his footing on the second line, and it remains to be seen if he can keep that up with other players around him. And the fourth line seemed practically inseparable until Reaves was a healthy scratch yesterday.
Much like the Golden Knights’ goalie situation, expect the lineup to be a little unpredictable tonight. Reaves could be back, Pacioretty could go down to the third line, Carpenter could be a healthy scratch. We just don’t know. Especially considering the fact that Gerard Gallant will no longer comment on the lineup before games...
A full 60 minutes
Often times, when the Golden Knights suffer a loss, it’s because they didn’t put together a full 60 minutes of quality play. For example, Vegas led 3-0 against New Jersey by the end of the first period, but the game ended 5-4 in overtime with a Devils win.
Interestingly enough, the Blue Jackets tend to have similar issues. At their home games in particular, Columbus is known for just not showing up for full periods at a time. They also blow leads late in the game, much like Vegas did on Friday.
Both the Golden Knights and Blue Jackets ended their last games fighting for a win in overtime. While one team won and the other lost, it seems like there’s a similar story arch with these two teams. They struggle in some games but get by just fine in others. It just depends on if they play to their full potential for a full 60 minutes.
This game could be a very interesting matchup. These two teams have something to prove tonight and it’ll be exciting to see if one or both of them step up to the plate.
Time: 4 p.m. PT
TV: AT&T SportsNet-Rocky Mountain, FOX Sports Ohio, NHL.TV
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM