The Vegas Golden Knights are officially on a losing streak, even if one of those losses came in overtime. That’s not great, considering their next opponent is 10-0-1 in their last 11 games. The Dallas Stars are one of the hottest teams in the NHL, and that could spell trouble for the Golden Knights.
Vegas’s penalty kill is currently struggling — they’ve allowed five goals in their last eight games — but that shouldn’t be a problem against Dallas, currently ranked 27th in power play success rate. In fact, if there’s a game where the Golden Knights’ penalty kill could get back on the right track, and get some more chances on net, it’s this one.
The Stars have the goaltending — Anton Khudobin has a .929 save percentage and Ben Bishop a .926 — and the shooting talent — Roope Hintz has 10 goals with a 28.6 shooting percentage, but he’s doing it in convincing fashion — to prevent the Golden Knights from getting back on the right track.
This should be another good game for the Golden Knights, another test of where they are this season. Here are the things to watch for as Vegas attempts to get a convincing win against another potential playoff team.
Marc-Andre Fleury needs to rebound
Against the Edmonton Oilers, Fleury posted a .871 save percentage. That’s not great. The Vegas Golden Knights are 1-7-1 when Fleury posts a save percentage below .900 so far this season, and 10-0-1 when he posts a save percentage above that mark.
Fleury has had some trouble bouncing back after games where he posts a save percentage in the .800’s this season as well. After such games, Fleury has posted a save percentage in the .800’s four times, .900 three times, and has gotten a shutout after a bad performance once.
This would be a great game for Fleury to get back on the right track with a save percentage above .900. He has a .919 save percentage so far this season, so he’s been good more than he’s been bad. If he can rebound against Dallas, well, Vegas stands a much better chance at victory.
Can the should-be best power play get back on track
The Golden Knights have a 8.44 expected goals/60 mark on the power play. That’s the best in the league. Unfortunately, Vegas have converted on just 22.8 percent of their power plays, which is eighth best in the league. Well, you might be saying, that’s not at all bad. But compared to where they should be, Vegas has room to improve. That’s not exactly a problem, but it’s still something to watch.
Vegas’s power play has scored in three of their last five games with an opportunity, as, well, they didn’t get an opportunity against the Oilers. When Vegas’s power play does score, they’re 7-5-1. When the power play doesn’t, the Golden Knights are 4-4-3. There’s a pretty big difference between those two records.
It’s just a matter of converting on chances, and getting the power play going again. Part of the reason the Golden Knights have fallen from being the expected best power play to in reality being eighth best is how cold Shea Theodore has been this season - there’s a big difference between where he’s played and the results he’s gotten - just 11 points in 25 games, including a 20-game goal-less streak and an eight game point-less streak so far this season. An excellent goal against the Oilers might just be what the Golden Knights’ power-play quarterback needs to regain his mojo.
Play your game
The Stars have been utterly dominant in this 11-game point streak. They have a 52.99 percent shot share, 58.16 percent expected goal share, and 56.73 percent high-danger share at even strength. Their Corsi mark is a little less impressive — just 49.67 percent.
But in the first game where the Stars allowed more expected goals against than they gained, their most recent against the Chicago Blackhawks, they had to go to the shootout against one of the worst shootout goaltenders in the league in Robin Lehner to get the win. They were forced into playing the Blackhawks’ more wide-open game, and that hurt them.
Luckily, the Golden Knights play a very similar game, and have had no difficulty in getting more expected goals than they gave up. They’ve done so in their past seven games, since the game against the Washington Capitals. In that time, the Golden Knights have a 55.56 percent expected goal mark at even strength.
If the Golden Knights can force the puck into their offensive zone and keep it there, as they’ve been able to do against other teams, then they’ll stand a much better chance at beating a red-hot Stars club.
Golden Knights projected lineup
Max Pacioretty — William Karlsson — Reilly Smith
Jonathan Marchessault — Cody Eakin — Mark Stone
Cody Glass — Paul Stastny — Alex Tuch
William Carrier — Tomas Nosek — Ryan Reaves
Brayden McNabb — Nate Schmidt
Nicolas Hague — Shea Theodore
Jon Merrill — Nick Holden
Stars projected lineup
Jamie Benn — Justin Dowling — Tyler Seguin
Roope Hintz — Joe Pavelski — Alexander Radulov
Andrew Cogliano — Radek Faksa — Blake Comeau
Mattias Janmark — Jason Dickinson — Corey Perry
Esa Lindell — John Klingberg
Jamie Oleksiak — Miro Heiskanen
Andrej Sekera — Roman Polak
How to watch
Time: 5:30 p.m.
TV: AT&T SportsNet, NHL.TV
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM