You’ve heard it before, but let’s say it again: the Vegas Golden Knights can clinch a playoff spot tonight.
Was it all by design? You have to wonder. The past two games, the Golden Knights could have secured their spot on the road to the Stanley Cup. But they were on the road. They were up against two hard teams. Why clinch there when you can clinch at home?
Obviously it’s fun to celebrate an accomplishment in the Fortress, but let’s not get cute. This is the third time in a row the Golden Knights have had an opportunity to clinch, and they have already failed twice. Now is the time.
Here’s what to look for in tonight’s game against the Minnesota Wild.
Maybe don’t mix things up?
Let’s get this one out of the way—the lines against the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday were not good.
Lines Vs. #GoAvsGo— Ryan The Hockey Guy (@RyanHockeyGuy) March 28, 2019
Marchessault - Karlsson - Smith
Nosek - Stastny - Tuch
Carpenter - Eakin - Stone
Carrier - Bellemare - Reaves
Schmidt - Engelland
McNabb - Theodore
Merrill - Miller
It is great that Gerard Gallant wanted to experiment before the playoffs. Work out some kinks, find some new rhythms, maybe create some action. This didn’t happen.
Putting Alex Tuch on the second line wasn’t in and of itself a bad move, especially considering how great he was next to Stastny earlier in the season. It’s the placing of Tomas Nosek and Mark Stone that made no sense. What Mark freakin’ Stone was doing on the bottom six, the world may never know. He wasn’t on the third line for long, though. After trailing 3-1 against Colorado, Gallant put him back on the second, where he rightfully belongs.
With so much on the line, it’s important that the Golden Knights stick to what they know across the board. The first and fourth lines are solid and practically inseparable, so it’s the second and third lines that need to be watched a little more closely.
Keep Mark Stone in the second line where he can generate more scoring chances with the best playmakers Vegas has. That’s the real key here.
Minnesota’s fight to stay alive
The Wild is down, but not out.
Our good friends at Hockey Wilderness said it best: Minnesota probably has to have a perfect record for their last five games in order to punch a playoff ticket.
“It is a helpless position,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau told reporters Monday. “There’s not much we can do about it. But again, the dominos have got to fall in the right area.
“As long as there’s a breath in our bodies and we have an opportunity, we’re going to go out and do things. You know, try to play like we did [against the Predators.]”
Indeed, the Wild only allowed one goal from the Nashville Predators at their home game Monday. The Wild has allowed 2.8 goals on average in their last ten games, but they haven’t been able to generate the offense needed to win most nights.
Fun fact: the Golden Knights have scored an average of 3.6 goals in their last ten games. Just saying.
On Wednesday, Malcolm Subban had one of his most mixed games since he took over as starting goalie (Marc-Andre Fleury is still hurt. He’ll be back soon!). He stopped some incredible chances from the Avalanche, but that wasn’t enough. Four goals went past him.
GOAL. Tyson Barrie scores right off the faceoff to make it a 3-0 game. pic.twitter.com/gz2uIKGBKk— Knights On Ice (@knightsonice) March 28, 2019
The third goal against him was one of his worst of the season. He admitted to reporters that he lost the puck right off the faceoff, allowing Tyson Barrie to score from the low-danger zone. That’s not good.
Still, now is not the time to panic about Vegas’ young goaltender. Yes, the Golden Knights lost three games in a row, but they won three right before that. Subban recorded the first shutout of his NHL career just a week ago. His save percentage across those six games? It’s .900. That’s actually quite good. So, don’t worry yet!
All that said, Fleury might be back tonight. It’s hard to say how much longer the Golden Knights will want to rest him with his injury, especially in light of the playoffs coming up. We’ll find out soon enough.
How to Watch
7:00 p.m. PT
TV: At&T SportsNet
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM