The Vegas Golden Knights have not faced the Anaheim Ducks since Feb. 27. That’s 47 days, which in a shortened and compacted season is quite a time span without facing one of your seven opponents. Luckily, the two teams will play each other three of the next five games.
The Golden Knights have a severe advantage so far this season against Anaheim, as Vegas has won four of the first five games of this series. The one game the Golden Knights lost was a shutout from John Gibson where the Ducks scored just one goal.
The Knights have a 51.58 percent shot share (fourth-best in the division) and 51.75 percent expected goal share (fifth-best) against the Ducks this season. The Golden Knights have yet to score a power-play goal against Anaheim — the only team in the West Division not to (all six other teams have scored at least three) — but have given up just one goal against to Anaheim’s power play. The Ducks are last in the NHL in power-play percentage (just 11.3 percent) and 18th in penalty-kill percentage (78.5 percent). The Golden Knights’ special teams could look to improve against the Ducks.
While the Golden Knights added to their roster at the trade deadline with the acquisition of Mattias Janmark, the Ducks added Haydn Fleury (previously with the Carolina Hurricanes) and subtracted Jani Hakanpaa and Ben Hutton. The Ducks also acquired Alexander Volkov since the last time the Golden Knights faced them, and Volkov has five points in seven games with the Ducks.
Against Anaheim, the Golden Knights are led by Mark Stone, who has five points in this series so far. Shea Theodore and William Karlsson each have four points, as Karlsson has a team-leading three goals (both players were drafted by the Ducks). Eighteen Golden Knights have scored at least one point.
On Anaheim’s end, Max Comtois has four goals and five points against Vegas, and Rickard Rakell has four points, all primary. The Ducks have seen 12 players score against Vegas.
The Ducks are led this season by Comtois, who has 12 goals and 26 points in 43 games. Rakell has 23 points, the only other Anaheim player with more than 20 points this season (Vegas has eight players with more than 20 points, six with more than Comtois). The Ducks allow the 12th-most goals against per game this season (3.09), perhaps a result of Gibson’s subpar save percentage (now at .904). However, the Ducks have seen great play from Anthony Stolarz recently, as Stolarz has a .943 save percentage and three wins in five games this season, including a 46-save shutout on Apr. 12.
Vegas is four points behind the Colorado Avalanche with a game in hand. Taking both games of this set against Anaheim could help elevate Vegas back into contention for the division lead.
Here’s what to watch for.
What to watch for
- Janmark made his Vegas debut on Wednesday and immediately made an impact, adding a primary assist in 15:21. He added two high-danger chances and three scoring chances. The third line of Janmark, Alex Tuch and Tomas Nosek had six shots for and two against, resulting in three goals for during a team-high 14:01 at 5-on-5. Those solid numbers were a part of a new-look bottom six, including a fourth line of William Carrier, Nicolas Roy and Tomas Jurco which generated 1.03 expected goals for and allowed just 0.07 against in 10:52 of 5-on-5 time against the Kings. The bottom six was arguably more impressive than the top six on Wednesday, and if that were to become a pattern, it’d be for the best.
- The Ducks are having a youth movement this season, as 10 players 23 or younger have played at least one game with Anaheim this season. The active roster currently includes rookies Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale, and the Ducks have Sam Steel, who has three assists against the Golden Knights this season, on injured reserve. The Ducks’ average age of 28.4 is heavily affected by the likes of David Backes, Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Miller, but the future is clarifying for the Ducks. Meanwhile, the Golden Knights are almost a full year older (29.2) and have just five players below the age of 23 with a full game played. It doesn’t help that Keegan Kolesar, Cody Glass and Dylan Coghlan, three such players, are unlikely to return to the lineup soon. Even with the Ducks having three of the four oldest players between the teams, the Golden Knights are on the older side of the age scale against Anaheim.
- Both teams have gotten excellent goaltending since Apr. 1. All four of the goaltenders who could play in this game are in the top 20 in the NHL (among goaltenders with 60 minutes played). Stolarz is third in the NHL with a .952 save percentage, Gibson is 11th (.934), Marc-Andre Fleury 15th (.929) and Robin Lehner 19th (.927). Be prepared for not a lot of scoring in this one but some good-looking saves.
How to watch
Time: 7 p.m.
TV: AT&T SportsNet
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM