This past Wednesday’s showdown against the Calgary Flames wasn’t considered a statement game for the Vegas Golden Knights, knowing they’d meet again in a few days.
It’s different this time.
“I’m not going to say we’re not out of getting into a chance, or that we are going to get a chance to catch anybody,” said defenseman Nate Schmidt, “but these are games that you need to have if you want to try and push these guys. If you drop games to teams you’re trying to catch, it’s that much harder to get up to them.”
The roles are a bit reversed, too, as the Golden Knights visit the Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome tonight for the tail end of a back-to-back. Vegas has won six straight, all since acquiring Mark Stone at the trade deadline Feb. 25. Calgary, meanwhile, has dropped four straight and trails the San Jose Sharks by one point for the Pacific Division lead.
The Golden Knights, should they push the win streak to seven, will pull within six points of Calgary for second place. Vegas won’t play again until Friday (and Calgary plays twice until then, so this could all be for not). It’s an important four-point game, nonetheless.
Let’s break it down.
Momentum from Saturday
Vegas made quick work of the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday. It took five goals in the first period to shut the door. That would have conceivably been the perfect game to start Malcolm Subban and have Marc-Andre Fleury prepare for this more important contest.
At the time of this writing, that doesn’t seem to be the case, as Subban is expected to start in net for Vegas. Fleury made 29 saves for his 438th win, moving into sole possession of eighth place on the League’s all-time wins list. Vegas coach Gerard Gallant is not expected to name a starter until, approximately, two hours prior to game time. It wouldn’t shock me if Fleury goes again with a late start tonight, but alas, I’ve been wrong before.
Nevertheless, the importance of Vegas keeping momentum here is paramount, depending on what side of the standings spectrum you’re on. The Golden Knights don’t play again until Friday in Dallas. If the goal remains obtaining home-ice advantage for at least the first round of the playoffs, this is a game the Golden Knights need to have.
Stone keeps on rolling
Before I go any further, I present a favorable map for those who enjoy the color red.
So Mark Stone looks ok in Vegas so far. pic.twitter.com/s7XRSVwyDK— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) March 10, 2019
After his first multipoint game Saturday night, Mark Stone has four points in four games. The only downside to the 6-2 victory less than 12 hours ago was the Max Pacioretty, Paul Stastny and Stone line finally allowed a goal at 5-on-5. They’ve been dominant.
Stone, in particular, has been really good. His Corsi of 57.8 percent is five points higher than what he had in Ottawa, and he was still really good in Ottawa (62 points with a plus-13 on a team with less talent). On the heels of signing an eight-year, $76 million extension, Stone has been the jolt on a line that is clicking on all cylinders, and a team that was in desperate need of a string of wins. Vegas is putting it together at the right time, thanks to the future of the franchise.
Somebody wake up the Flames
What a time to fall off.
Calgary’s four-game slide is its longest this season. All four have also come in regulation, something that hadn’t happened all year until Vegas’ win Wednesday.
The Flames just haven’t gotten enough production from their top players. Hart candidate Johnny Gaudreau had a 32-game stretch (Nov. 28 - Feb. 12) where he scored 50 points (21 goals, 29 assists). In his last 12, despite a seven-game winning streak for the Flames, Gaudreau has been kept to seven points (one goal, six assists).
Sean Monahan has the same output as Gaudreau in the past 12 games. Elias Lindholm has three points in his past eight. Those are Calgary’s top three scorers this year. They need to get it going. Calgary has also allowed 14 goals in its past four games after allowing four total in its previous four.
It’s not panic time yet for the Flames, but it is problematic right now. Vegas succeeded in containing them Wednesday. Should another win be in the cards, it’ll need to happen again.
How to watch
Time: 6:30 p.m.
TV: AT&T SportsNet
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9/1340