3 things to watch as Golden Knights enter Ducks’ pond
Can scoring in bursts and a better Max Lagace lead the Golden Knights to another victory over a division rival?
The Vegas Golden Knights will finally get a look at their division rival Anaheim Ducks when the two teams play at the Honda Center. The Golden Knights will come in with a full head of steam fresh off two wins and one of Maxime Lagace’s best performances as a starter.
The Ducks are also on a hot streak. They’ve won three in a row with wins over the Boston Bruins, Florida Panthers and San Jose Sharks. The Ducks’ wins haven’t been as dominant, but a win streak is a win streak, especially with as many injuries as the Ducks have had to deal with. Anaheim is currently missing Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, Ondrej Kase, Jared Boll and Ryan Miller. That injured list includes both of their top six centers, a fourth liner, a young rising star, and their backup goaltender. Their injuries are extensive.
On the flip side, the Ducks now have their five best defensemen back and healthy for the first time this season. The defensemen join John Gibson, who is posting a .924 save percentage this season and is a perfect 12-0-0 when the team allows more than 36 shots against. A true volume goaltender.
The Knights’ goaltender hasn’t been bad recently, either. For the first time, Lagace has strung together two starts over a .900 save percentage and is coming off a performance against the Los Angeles Kings in which he made 27 saves on 29 shots. Lagace didn’t allow the second goal until the game was well in hand.
So can the young goaltender keep his winning streak alive against another division rival? When he has been hot so far this season, the Knights have done really well, as they are 3-1-0 when Lagace posts a save percentage above .900. The loss came in a 2-1 game in Boston, and the goaltender can’t be blamed for a lack of offense.
Scoring in bursts
Speaking of offense, the Knights have had plenty of it recently. Over their past three wins, the Golden Knights have scored multiple goals in five of nine periods. In three others, however, they posted no goals. The Golden Knights have found that their momentum translates quite well within a 20 minute period, but doesn’t necessarily make the jump from one period to the next.
If this continues versus the Ducks, it’s great news. The last time the Ducks allowed multiple goals in a period (Nov. 3 against the Nashville Predators) they lost. If the Ducks allow the Golden Knights to score two or more goals in a period, they may see the same result, as many opponents have discovered.
Knights players themselves are scoring in bursts as well. At least three of Vegas’ players have scored multiple points in each of the last five victories, and at least one player has achieved that in all of the Knights’ wins.
Lagace, Shea Theodore, Brendan Leipsic, Alex Tuch, and Tomas Nosek are all rookies this season. So are Oscar Dansk and Malcolm Subban. Each of these rookies have accomplished things that show their worth to Vegas’ front office going forward. They’ve also each been important to a Knights’ victory at one point or another.
Theodore has played 21 minutes in both of the last two games. While he hasn’t shown up on the scoreboard since the Nov. 6 game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, he has shown improvement. He’s becoming stouter defensively, and Gerard Gallant is rewarding him for it.
Leipsic has a point in each of his last two games, both assists. He’s still looking for his first goal, and he will break through at some point. But his playmaking skills are not in question, even while playing limited minutes.
Tuch’s scoring abilities have been well proven, and he has five goals since being called up from the Chicago Wolves. He also has two points in each of his last two games, and his goal against the Kings was the one that cemented a victory. He played 18:34 in that game, as well as adding two blocks.
Lastly, Nosek has been important on the penalty kill (he’s ninth on the team in shorthanded time on ice, with 19:46), and has scored two goals and five points so far this season. He’s also started 53.7 percent of his even-strength shifts in the defensive zone and has still found ways to produce.
These rookies can be relied upon at times, and that’s an excellent thing both against the Ducks and moving forward this season.
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