3 things to watch for as the Golden Knights meet Arizona
Vegas heads to the other part of the desert to take on the Coyotes in the first of four meetings
The Golden Knights did not play well enough against the Calgary Flames. It’s that simple. Not scoring until the third period, allowing too many bad chances against Malcolm Subban, not out-working the other team. It was a collective bad effort, and the players know it.
Now, the Golden Knights will face one of the other struggling teams in the Pacific Division so far this season — the Arizona Coyotes. The Coyotes were two of the Golden Knights’ first three games last season, including the emotional home opener opponent. Oh boy does Vegas need signature wins like that one right now.
Here’s what to watch for as the Golden Knights attempt to return to form.
Bad stretch defensively
Against the Flames, the Golden Knights had 26 giveaways at even strength. That’s bad enough as it is, but the team also gave up seven high-danger chances, four on the penalty kill, and allowed seven goals. That’s not great.
It highlights what’s been going wrong for the defense the past few games — too many shots allowed (seven straight games over 20 shots allowed at even strength) and too many giveaways (the last time the Golden Knights had five or less was the game against Ottawa on Oct. 28, after starting the season with five or fewer in four of their first 10 games).
The Golden Knights have also allowed 10 or more high-danger chances in three of their past seven games. The defense could be doing a whole lot better here, especially after that disaster of a competition against Calgary.
What’s going on with the penalty kill
The penalty kill, when it was at its peak this season (it may no longer be, hold on, we’re getting there) has allowed six high-danger chances to the Edmonton Oilers (resulting in one goal) and four to the Flames (resulting in three).
This is after a streak of 20 games where the Golden Knights allowed either none (four times) or less than three (16). That’s a problem, because if the Golden Knights can’t count on what has historically been their best unit, uh, they might give up seven goals again.
Part of this might be working in new players shorthanded — Nate Schmidt played 1:33 against the Flames, Tomas Nosek played 2:07, allowing a goal — but Schmidt was easily one of the best players on the penalty kill.
The kill needs to figure it out and fast, because it’s a unit the Golden Knights depend on, which will be crucial in the next ten games.
Shea Theodore has now played minutes on the wing, which probably isn’t a good long-term idea. Theodore has been better defensively this season and doesn’t have as much offensive vision past the dots as would be liked for a forward (although if Gallant does want to play a defenseman as a forward, may I suggest Nick Holden, who has a high-danger goal?).
This also highlights something that could be a continuing trend in games to come — players getting time on different lines. Past the second period, Gallant did plenty of it, eventually ending up with a line of Max Pacioretty, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, and Reilly Smith (a line that actually scored). That wouldn’t be a bad line to roll with going forward, especially if the Golden Knights do decide to change things up. The Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson, Alex Tuch line has been suggested by other people, so here’s a few suggestions to round out the bottom six:
Tomas Hyka - Cody Eakin - William Carrier
Ryan Reaves - Oscar Lindberg - Tomas Nosek
Speedy line that works hard on the third, and a defensive, nose-to-the-grindstone fourth. Until the Chicago Wolves’ best players get recalled (which may happen if the Golden Knights continue down this path, and come on, who isn’t ready for a little Brooks Macek), that could be the way of the future.
How to Watch
Time: 6 p.m. PT
TV: AT&T SportsNet - Rocky Mountain
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM