Roughly 48 hours after being shut out against the Anaheim Ducks, the Vegas Golden Knights walloped the Calgary Flames Wednesday night by scoring a touchdown (!) against their Pacific Division rival. That’s one way to respond after playing one of their worst games of the season.
As always, let’s review what we’ve learned from the blowout victory.
1. Vegas’ secondary scoring proved to be the difference
With James Neal, Shea Theodore and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare all inactive against the Flames, the Golden Knights desperately needed some of their bottom-sixers to step up. And they did just that in a very big way. Seven different players scored goals for Vegas Wednesday night, and three of those goal scorers — Ryan Carpenter, Tomas Nosek and Alex Tuch — have all played primarily in bottom-six roles this season (Tuch, however, played on the second line in place of Neal Wednesday night). Together, those three players combined for three goals and five points on the night.
And let’s also not forget about Luca Sbisa’s third period tally that put Vegas up by two scores as he registered the first multi-point game of his career.
Monday night’s game against Anaheim wasn’t an inspiring effort, but it’s certainly encouraging to see these atypical goal scorers stepping up when they needed to.
2. Gerard Gallant unhappy with the fourth line
Turk had some choice words for his team’s bottom three forwards following the victory:
It’s not hard to see why Gallant’s upset. Oscar Lindberg and Stefan Matteau both managed a 0.00 Corsi For percentage, failing to even attempt a shot on net all night. Nosek’s possession metrics weren’t great either, but he at least netted a goal to make up for the trouble.
Lindberg and Matteau combined for just 9:25 of ice time against Calgary. Nosek was given 7:13 of ice time, though his linemates’ failures hardly fall on his shoulders as he’s typically been a reliable presence on Vegas’ fourth line all season.
This may be a bit surprising to some, but the Golden Knights are sorely missing Bellemare, who was placed on injured reserve earlier this week. Until he comes back, however, they may be stuck with the Lindberg and Matteau for the time being. But don’t be surprised if one of Lindberg and Matteau are scratched in favor of Brendan Leipsic in Vegas’ upcoming battle against the Vancouver Canucks.
3. Carpenter is on a roll
Don’t look now, but Carpenter has scored six goals in his last nine games. The 27-year-old forward may not have played a key role with the San Jose Sharks, but it certainly appears he’s settling in nicely with the Golden Knights.
In Carpenter’s 14 games as a Golden Knight, he’s established himself as a legitimate bottom-six scoring threat. It may be a small sample size, but he currently sits behind only Jonathan Marchessault for the team lead in Expected Goals For per 60 (0.94). Not too bad for a guy who was claimed off waivers just a couple months ago.
4. Good things happen when you get in the goalie’s grill
As shown in the heat map above, four of the Golden Knights’ goals at even strength came from close range. It’s a simple concept — get to the net, take away the goaltender’s eyes and fire away. That said, it can sometimes be difficult to execute when taking on a team with a talented D-core. Against the Flames, though, Vegas was successful in crowding the net and making life miserable for David Rittich, and it ended up paying dividends.
5. Vegas breaks yet another record
It appears the Golden Knights are running out of records to break. They’ve already broken the record for wins by an expansion team in its inaugural season, but they rewrote the history books yet again Wednesday night by having recorded the most points by an expansion team in its inaugural season. With 84 points on the year, the Golden Knights have officially surpassed the 1993-94 Florida Panthers, who had 83 points in their inaugural campaign. It’s a foregone conclusion that the Golden Knights are far and away the best expansion team in the history of the NHL. At this point, we just need to wait and see what kind of history they’ll make in the postseason.