4 things to watch for as the Golden Knights square off against the Canucks
Vegas closes out November in Vancouver with a chance to win five in a row.
The Golden Knights are flying high with wins in four straight games and a record above .500 (13-12-1) for the first time this season. The last time these teams met, the Knights had won three games in a row before losing to Vancouver in a shootout, so Vegas is looking for different results tonight.
The Knights hold a 4-0-1 all-time record against the Canucks and have yet to lose in Vancouver; the Knights are 6-1-1 against Pacific Division opponents this season.
The Canucks have gone 1-7-2 in their last 10 games. Leading Vancouver (11-13-3) in scoring is center Bo Horvat, who has 11 goals and 11 assists for 22 points in 27 games. However, rookie Elias Pettersson has 21 points (13-8—21) in just 21 games after scoring 10 goals and 16 points in his first 10 NHL games. His scoring has slowed a bit since returning from a concussion, but he and Brock Boeser make for a frightening combination on the Canucks’ second line.
Here’s what to watch for in tonight’s game.
The Golden Knights’ second-line trio of Alex Tuch, Cody Eakin and Max Pacioretty has been rolling for quite some time now, and Vegas will rely on its production once again tonight against a Canucks team that’s giving up 3.48 goals per game, the fifth-highest average in the league. Tuch is scoring at higher than a point-per-game pace this season, with 19 points in 18 games, and Eakin and Pacioretty have been red-hot in recent games.
Tuch has five goals and 14 points in his last 11 games, Eakin has seven goals and 12 points in his last 12 games and Pacioretty has six goals and 11 points in his last eight; they have combined for nine goals and 19 points during the Knights’ four-game winning streak.
Cody Eakin has never reached 10 goals before December in his NHL career ... until this season. #VegasBorn— Danny Webster (@DannyWebster21) November 28, 2018
Needless to say, the second line is firing on all cylinders, which has also helped relieve some pressure on the other lines. In fact, the Knights got a goal from each of the four lines in Tuesday’s win over Chicago, which is a great sign for a team looking to rediscover some of the magic from last season.
Momentum is king
One thing that hasn’t been a huge strength during the four-game winning streak is Vegas’ power play, which has gone a combined 3-for-14 in the last four games. Even though Vegas scored a power-play goal in each of its last three games, there were way too many opportunities left on the table. It was a similar case when these teams met in Vegas Oct. 24, as the Knights went 0-for-4 with the man advantage.
That’s something the Knights will look to clean up tonight in Vancouver, especially going up against a Canucks penalty kill that is operating at just 76.7 percent. Fortunately for Vegas, the power play has been much better on the road (21.9 percent, 13th overall) than at T-Mobile Arena (15.2 percent, 26th overall) this season. Special teams have a knack for swinging the momentum of a game, so Vegas will need to take advantage of any opportunities that arise.
Fleury is a huge reason for Vegas’ recent turnaround, and it’s clear he’ll need to continue to bring his best if the Knights want to continue on their current path of success.
Two weeks ago, Fleury held a 7-7-1 record with a 2.69 goals-against average and .895 save percentage. Now he sits at 13-8-1 with a 2.36 goals-against average and .911 save percentage. The save percentage still isn’t where it needs to be, but those numbers are drastically better after a few weeks of spectacular play.
In fact, Fleury has gone 6-1-0 with a 1.70 goals-against average and a .941 save percentage in his last seven games, recording three shutouts in that span, and he is 5-0-0 with a 1.58 goals-against average and .942 save percentage in his last five starts. He leads the league in shutouts with five. That’s a lot of free donuts.
“I love donuts. I love Krispy Kreme. I feel bad because they keep giving so many donuts away. Maybe I’ll save them a box.” -- Marc-Andre Fleury.#VegasBorn— Danny Webster (@DannyWebster21) November 25, 2018
In Fleury’s most recent start, an 8-3 victory over the Blackhawks, his save percentage drop to .875, though that was just the second time this season his save percentage was below .900 in a win.
He managed a .923 save percentage in the 3-2 shootout loss to the Canucks in October, but Flower is playing like a man possessed right now, an effort he’ll look to bring to tonight’s tilt.
With their 8-3 win over the Blackhawks Tuesday night, the Golden Knights earned four consecutive wins for the first time this season. Not only that, but Vegas improved its record to 13-12-1, one game above .500. Tonight’s game presents an opportunity to further improve the Knights’ overall record and improve their rank in the standings.
With Anaheim earning a 3-2 win in Florida last night, Vegas was bumped back down to fourth place in the Pacific Division. But a win of any kind tonight will move the Knights back into third place with 29 points, the same as San Jose, who has a game in hand, and one point behind the division-leading Flames, though Calgary has two games in hand.
Aside from the team’s winning streak, however, there are several scoring streaks on the line in tonight’s game. Tuch has three goals and four assists in a four-game point streak, and Pacioretty has six goals and nine points in his six-game point streak. William Karlsson has goals in back-to-back games for the first time since Oct. 20, and Ryan Reaves and Shea Theodore both have points in two straight as well. Plus, as mentioned above, Fleury has won five in a row.
How to Watch
Time: 7 p.m. PT
TV: AT&T SportsNet
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM