Wednesday was supposed to be the final curtain call for the Vegas Golden Knights rookies looking to make the 23-man roster.
After a 4-1 loss at home to the Colorado Avalanche, the Golden Knights are going to have a long 24-36 hours ahead of them.
“Everybody had a bad game tonight,” said coach Gerard Gallant. “It was a tough game to watch, obviously. It was a team loss. It’s going to be tough. It’s getting down to the last three, four days and we’re going to have to make a tough decision. I can’t tell you who it is right now, anyway.”
The Golden Knights had all but one line — their top line of Jonathan Marchessault, Paul Stastny and Mark Stone — feature players who are fighting for those coveted roster spots. Top prospect center Cody Glass centered a line with Brandon Pirri and Valentin Zykov; Nicolas Roy and Patrick Brown with probable fourth-liner William Carrier; and Curtis McKenzie with Reid Duke and Keegan Kolesar.
Think of the fourth line as guys who will likely be part of the next wave of cuts. A probable two roster spots were to be decided by five forwards on Wednesday, and not one stood out for all 60 minutes.
Glass was excellent on the power play, but struggled to drive offense at 5-on-5, as has been the case.
Roy continued his terrific play in the faceoff circle (6-of-9), winning 56.5 percent of battles in the circle, but winning the possession battle can get you so far if nothing materializes offensively. Colorado outshot Vegas 32-17, including a 21-11 edge through two periods.
The rails came off in the second period. On top of Colorado scoring twice to extend the lead to 3-0 (Vladislav Kamanev at 1:37, Logan O’Connor at 10:52), the Golden Knights had five total shots on goal in the second frame.
The first two came within 45 seconds of each other, ending at 3:34 of the period.
The next three, at the time of the period: 8:29, 14:53, 19:30 — a clip of almost 5 minutes per shot.
“It wasn’t a total team effort,” Gallant said. “We’ve had a great preseason so far, so I’m not going to put too much into it. It happens. We just didn’t have any zip at all from the start of the game, right until the end. No big deal. It’s an exhibition game, we’ll get by it.”
The Golden Knights are now 4-1 with two games remaining. Gallant said he expects most of his regular players to see the ice Friday against the Los Angeles Kings and Sunday against the San Jose Sharks.
Translation: Wednesday might have been the final time any of these players had a chance at making the final roster. That includes Glass, who had one shot on goal in 14:04.
Glass has been very good this preseason. It’s also helped his cause playing with Max Pacioretty, Alex Tuch and Reilly Smith for most of it. When patrolling his own line, regardless of the talent around him, he’s struggled. Zykov and Pirri aren’t world-beaters, but they’re not terrible.
“I felt like it was just a sloppy game overall,” Glass said. “I think it was hard to create chances 5-on-5. I thought the young guys did a pretty good job at 5-on-4, showed they could be versatile. It was just a scrambly game overall.”
Glass has one advantage: He’s been very good on the power play. His vision is outstanding, a strength that could find him some second-unit time should he make the team. As far as 5-on-5, getting to the point where he adjusts to the speed of the game comes down to his ability to play on the wing, and there’s only two periods of proof so far.
Cody Glass is still a work in progress at 5-on-5, but he is damn good on the man advantage. Nice cross-ice feed here to Dylan Coghlan. pic.twitter.com/hKHPSxCQvn— Knights On Ice (@knightsonice) September 26, 2019
The blue line battle has reached an impasse. Wednesday was not the best night for Nic Hague or Dylan Coghlan, the two top names fighting for a spot. Jake Bischoff led all Vegas defenseman in ice time at 23:46. The Golden Knights had to play four defensemen for the entire third period because of undisclosed injuries to Shea Theodore and Zach Whitecloud.
Gallant said they are day-to-day and will have more of an update Thursday.
It was a rough night for Hague on the power play. One moment particularly at 18:28 of the first period, with 30 seconds left on Vegas’ first power play; Vegas circled the puck around the zone after Hague’s shot attempt went wide. Marchessault passed to Hague near the right circle for a potential second shot. Instead, Hague gets moved toward the half boards and loses the puck to Matt Calvert.
Hague was a minus-2 in 21:14. He would like to forget one of those goals allowed, even though by the time he was put in the spin cycle by Jayson Megna, he was probably exhausted.
Jimmy Schuldt showed he still has some progress to make, and this moment might have solidified him starting the season in the AHL.
That led to Calvert’s goal. It’s the tiny mistakes that have hurt Schuldt in the past couple of weeks. This one might have been the worst.
One bad game won’t be a deterrent for Coghlan and Hague, though, especially given the circumstances. The good outweighs the bad. Coghlan didn’t have a strong game in 20:36, but his howler of a shot is still a strength the Golden Knights don’t have. Hague’s ability to score is an element needed in every pairing.
It’s hard to get excited when you’re playing a roster featuring all-time great Valeri Nichushkin and doesn’t have Nathan MacKinnon. But for those who played, this game might have been their last chance before they’re shipped to Chicago.
If Glass, Coghlan and/or Hague aren’t playing Friday, the world knows where they stand.
“Our guys didn’t really get up for the game, and it showed during the game,” Gallant said. “But it happens. you work hard, you get by it. It’s an exhibition game. It doesn’t matter if we win or lose in my opinion, but we just didn’t play well tonight.”