All Hallow’s Eve, when the minions of Samhein come back from their graves to wreak havoc on the living! Welcome to Halloween hockey! Tonight, prepare yourself for a night of spooks and scares as your Vegas Golden Knights prepare some tricks, but also some treats! Which one is Reilly Smith as Goldmember? You decide!
The Golden Knights enter this Halloween contest neither hot nor cold, having looked lost against the terrifying Avalanche but carving the Anaheim Ducks like a jack-o-lantern. This game against the Montreal Canadiens, a spooky gang who enter the night after a game against the Arizona Coyotes just yesterday, will be a test of how well the Golden Knights can deal with rest, having not played since Sunday, and where they’re currently at after showing both their Jekyll and their Hyde sides.
The Canadiens are now 6-4-2 on the season, being led by a trio of double-digit point scorers including Jonathan Drouin, Max Domi and Brendan Gallagher. Neither of their goaltenders has been particularly excellent so far this season — Carey Price entered the contest against Arizona with a .907 save percentage (now .914) and Keith Kinkaid enters this one with a .875 — but a defense which has limited opponents to the tenth-fewest expected goals against is a scary thing none the less.
The Golden Knights will need to get back to their possession-dominant game against one of the best possession teams so far this season (the Canadiens have the sixth-best Corsi for percentage in the NHL), something Vegas struggled with against the Philadelphia Flyers, another of the top possession teams in the league.
Here’s what to watch for as the Golden Knights try and send shivers down the Canadiens’ collective spine.
Marc-Andre Fleury offers tricks
But like, the good kind. It’s always nice to watch a Fleury game, and it’s something that’s not been talked about enough this season. Fleury could be a Vezina candidate this year (if anything, the Malcolm Subban injury only helped his case, and Subban coming back in addition to Nate Schmidt and Alex Tuch will give Fleury much needed rest), and has been one of the best goaltenders to this point in the season.
So far this season, Marc-Andre Fleury has faced the second-most expected goals against (behind John Gibson of the Anaheim Ducks) with 28.74. His 7.24 goals saved above average are second-best in the league behind just Tuukka Rask. His 2.74 goals saved above expected are third among goaltenders with more than five games played behind just Rask and Robin Lehner.
Fleury is playing some of his best hockey right now, and it will be interesting to see if he can keep it going against the Canadiens, who will be in their second game of a back to back.
Tuch and Schmidt offer treats
Returning from injured reserve, it has yet to be determined what impact Schmidt and Tuch will have on the Golden Knights. But they stand a significant chance of being positives, especially since their biggest impact, even if they’re not hot right out of the gate, is making the Golden Knights roster deeper.
Tuch will likely play with the Codys, Glass and Eakin, and force Brandon Pirri out of the lineup. Pirri has not been nearly the player he was last season, and has been held without a goal so far, with just one assist in nine games. Even if Tuch doesn’t score right away, he’ll likely be a positive in terms of possession for the third line, as Pirri has just a 42.11 Corsi for percentage, 34.38 percent shot share, and 36.84 percent high-danger share. It will be tough for Tuch not to be better than that.
Schmidt meanwhile, even if he’s not inserted on the top pairing (there is an argument that Brayden McNabb and Shea Theodore have been too good as the go-to guys to be split up), will make the defense much deeper and allow either himself or Theodore to play against lower competition and dominate.
Schmidt coming back would also mean the return of somebody who can quarterback the second-unit power play and also play on the penalty kill, which don’t exactly need help but it’s always nice to have.
Max Pacioretty seeks cold vengeance
The man in the yellow hat never got to face Montreal at T-Mobile Arena last season. He was injured when the Golden Knights last hosted the Canadiens, the team that traded him after he was their captain and a prominent goal scorer in his last years with them. In the game in Montreal, he wasn’t able to put up any points. It’s not like Pacioretty will have to face Carey Price in this game, either, as the Canadiens’ high-priced netminder played last night against the Arizona Coyotes.
This will be another test for Pacioretty, who should be seeking revenge. While Pacioretty has 11 points in 13 games so far this season, nine of those have been assists. For a player who made his living scoring goals — he had 30 goals each season from 2013-14 until 2016-17 and was injured in 2017-18 — it would be nice to raise his goal total from just two so far this season. Shooting just 3.7 percent (far below expectations and his career average) it would not be a shocker to see Pacioretty rack up a hat trick sometime soon.
Wouldn’t it just be a spook-tacular twist for it to be against the Canadiens?
How to watch
Time: 7 p.m.
TV: AT&T SportsNet, NHL.TV, ESPN+
Radio: 98.9 FM/1340 AM