The Vegas Golden Knights have reclaimed their place as one of the best teams in the Western Conference following two wins against the Detroit Red Wings and Buffalo Sabres. Yes, those were must-win games against teams competing not for the playoffs, but for the draft lottery. Still, the Knights winning must-win games is always a good sign.
Now, the Knights will be tasked with stiffer competition against the Philadelphia Flyers, who surged into a top spot in the Metropolitan division but have since fallen to third, following a 5-4-1 record in their last 10 games.
Claude Giroux has emerged as a dark horse Hart candidate, with 24 goals, 57 assists, and 81 points in 69 games. Having a linemate like Jakub Voracek (16-58—74) doesn't hurt, and while his pace has slowed a bit, Sean Couturier (29-34—63) is still having a breakout year. Shayne Gostisbehere is also proving his critics wrong, posting 10-40—50 this season. Not bad from a defenseman.
The Golden Knights wrap up this five-game road trip, but there’s a chance some history could be made tonight. Marc-Andre Fleury is going for win No. 400 in his career, making him the 13th goalie ever to make it happen.
Nail in the coffin
The Golden Knights are 32-4-3 when scoring the final goal in regulation. That includes both of the last two victories. There's a lot of benefits to that final goal. Sometimes it can be the game winner, as was the case with Shea Theodore's last minute goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
It can also be a nail in the coffin for a potential comeback by the opponent. It can swing momentum back in favor of the Knights, and keep it that way as the seconds tick off the clock.
The final goal can also tie the game up, making sure the Knights get at least one point in the standings out of a close game. That final goal is something the Knights need to focus on - don't be the victim in the third period, be the successor, the victor. Every goal matters, but this season, the final say has often been a statement by Vegas.
Don't give up the puck
Over the past 10 games, when the Knights give up 10 or more turnovers, they are 0-3-1. When they give up fewer than 10, they're 5-1-0. The one loss came against the Columbus Blue Jackets, when the Knights gave up the puck just once.
The reason this matters? The last time the Knights faced the Flyers, they gave up 14 giveaways. That affected the game pretty heavily, and was part of the reason a 4-1 loss was handed to them. It's hard to compete in a game when the puck keeps sliding off sticks.
If the Knights are able to better care for the puck, they're going to find it easier to compete with a top-heavy Flyers team. Make sure the passes have room to connect, make sure the Knights take care of the puck along the boards, and that they're passing if they're getting pressured, and Vegas will be a much different team against the Flyers during this go-round.
Come with me, I want to show you something:
That's the shot chart against the Flyers last time these two teams played. Yes, the Flyers mostly scored from the doorstep, but that's been addressed in previous pre-game articles. The Knights need to be better defensively in the high-danger areas.
What I want you to look at is the Knight's side. Look at the wide array of shot areas. The goal from behind the faceoff circle is an oddity. That's not going to be where the Knights score from often. There's a lot of shots from a lot of areas. Now back to the Flyers side - there's not a lot of shots, but they're from very specific areas.
The Knights' game in entirely predicated on getting a lot of shots towards the net, but sometimes that means they're not as quality of a chance. The Knights need to focus on getting those quality, high-danger shots more often.
Whether that's from getting more bodies in front of the net, or getting closer to the goaltender before shooting, the Knights need to be more aware of where they're shooting from. Get to the necessary areas, and it will be easier to score on Philadelphia.
How to Watch
Time: 4 p.m. PT
TV: AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain, NHL.TV
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM