The Vegas Golden Knights played one of their best games of the season Saturday night against the Nashville Predators. A 5-1 win, the team looked much improved after five straight losses at home. Now, they look to follow it up against the struggling Colorado Avalanche.
The Avalanche are 1-6-3 in their last 10 games. Their power play isn’t working — they have as many shorthanded goals as man-advantage goals in their past 10 games (well, one). The first line of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Gabriel Landeskog has slowed down considerably. Their blue line has stopped scoring as well -- Tyson Barrie has two points in the last 10 games.
Still, this is a team with one of the most impressive lines in hockey. They’re still a threat to disrupt the Golden Knights who, despite that win against Nashville, are still very much in the midst of a rough patch.
The new-look third line
A lot happened in the lead up to the game against Nashville. Malcolm Subban finally started a game, the defense got all switched around, but none of those changes were as important, perhaps, as the new-look third line.
Max Pacioretty, Cody Eakin, and Oscar Lindberg were put together for the first time this season, and, well, they did exceptionally. Usually this season, the third line has been a black hole in terms of possession. When Eakin and Ryan Carpenter have played together, they’ve been below 50 percent in both shot share and high-danger share, and have a 36.36 percent goal share.
Pacioretty, Eakin, and Lindberg, however, had 60 percent Corsi, 61.54 percent shot share, and a 100 percent goal share at even strength. Pacioretty, in one of his best games, had two goals. Lindberg had another one.
If the third line can continue that success, well, it would be a necessity. Three great lines are better than two good ones.
Better luck this time
There aren’t many noticeable trends in the Golden Knights’ last 10 games. They’ve dominated losses and been on the wrong side of wins. They’re able to limit opponent’s chances and still give up too many goals, and given up too many chances to solid outcomes.
One thing that has been a trend — bad luck. When the Golden Knights are below a 1.000 PDO (at 5-on-5) in their last 10 games, they’re winless (0-6). Three times they were under a .900 PDO — those are their worst losses. But when the Golden Knights are above a 1.000 PDO, they’re 3-1 (they had a 1.023 against the Toronto Maple Leafs).
This season, when Vegas is above a 1.000 PDO (again, at 5-on-5) in a game, they’re 15-1-2. Below that mark, and they fall to 17-23-2. With three great lines (against goaltending for Colorado that hasn’t been great of late) and a rested Marc-Andre Fleury, the Golden Knights should have a significant chance at a better PDO.
How to beat the Avalanche
Colorado hasn’t had one factor decide whether they’ve won or lost as of late. Their goaltending hasn’t helped, though. Semyon Varlamov has a .898 save percentage in his past nine starts. Philip Grubauer, in his past two games, has a .846.
But one thing that does stick out is the first line. There’s been just one goal in the past ten games — MacKinnon, Landeskog, and Rantanen — factored in on the same goal. They won that game. There’s been just one game where they’ve all had at least one point, and that was an overtime loss. They’re a better team when their reliable first line is reliable. It hasn’t been recently.
That’s the key to stopping them. Keep MacKinnon, Landeskog, and Rantanen off the scoreboard. Do that, and the Golden Knights stand a significantly better chance of winning, no matter what else they may do.
How to watch
Time: 6 p.m. PT
TV: AT&T SportsNet
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM