Gameday: Golden Knights begin back-to-back road trip against defending champion Blues
After a dominant win over the Blackhawks, can Vegas get another win over a Central Division foe?
The Vegas Golden Knights swatted away a bad performance against the New York Rangers, forgot about it, and then proceeded to score the same amount of goals that were scored on them against the Chicago Blackhawks. That’s quite a bit of redemption.
Vegas (16-12-5) is fourth in the Pacific Division, one point behind the Calgary Flames and three off the pace set by the Arizona Coyotes and Edmonton Oilers, who are tied for first. They’ll now face one of the best teams in the Western Conference to this point in the season in the reigning Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues.
While the Golden Knights are getting hot — the loss to the Rangers was their only game without a point in the standings since Nov. 25 — the Blues are the exact opposite, entering this contest on a three-game losing streak. The two teams had very different games on Tuesday.
The Golden Knights’ win demonstrated how dominant they can be, while the Blues’ loss to the Buffalo Sabres demonstrated how much the Blues are willing to give up. Although the 5-2 score looks worse than it really was (Buffalo scored two empty-net goals), the Blues gave up eight high-danger chances, three of which found the net that Jake Allen was guarding. St. Louis enters this game having lost three in a row.
Still, the Blues are 18-8-6 this season, and it’s never a good idea to take a team like that lightly, even in the midst of a skid. Here’s what to watch for in tonight’s game.
The Blues’ possession concession against the Sabres is nothing new for the team this year. The Blues are 21st in Corsi this season, 24th in shot share, 28th in expected goal share and 30th in high-danger share. In other words, the Blues have not been great at maintaining possession so far this season, and the team’s 1.008 even-strength PDO, 10th best in the league, likely has a lot to do with the Blues’ winning ways.
Meanwhile, Vegas has been a top ten team in some stats (eighth in Corsi, ninth in shot share) and is just outside in others (12th in expected goal share, 11th in high-danger share). This could be a game where Vegas dominates the puck and spends a good chunk of time on the attack, but the bad news is that in games where Vegas has 10 more Corsi events than the opponent at even strength, the Golden Knights are 4-6, and when getting five more shots on net, Vegas is 3-5. The Golden Knights’ puck dominance has not led to dominance in the standings.
This might be the game to break that for Vegas, although the Blues’ goaltender might have a lot to say about that.
Among goaltenders with more than 500 minutes, Jordan Binnington is 21st with a .922 even-strength save percentage. Marc-Andre Fleury is 27th with with a .917. Binnington’s high-danger save percentage at even strength is tied for fourth, and Fleury’s (.846) is tied for 17th. At all strengths, Fleury has been better with a .921 save percentage compared to Binnington’s .920, but Binnington remains the better high-danger goaltender (.880 to .861).
Even so, these are two of the better goaltenders to this point of the season. Binnington is following up a Calder campaign in just about 30 games last season with another excellent season with the Blues, and Fleury has been excellent behind a less stellar defense.
In games in which three or fewer goals are scored between the two sides, the Golden Knights are 4-0-2. The Blues are 2-2-0 (but add four wins and no losses when four are scored). If this boils down to a goaltending duel, as it could, the Golden Knights could have a distinct advantage in a well-rested Fleury.
It’s always nice to meet back up with one of the very few former Golden Knights; tonight, that will be David Perron. And Perron’s having quite the season as well, with 30 points in 32 games. Perron has four points in his last five games and has been an exceptional force on the power play as well, scoring four power-play goals and racking up 15 points on the man advantage.
Perron has remained close with the Golden Knights, especially the French-speaking players, since leaving. He’s had perhaps the best career after leaving Vegas, although James Neal could potentially get better in Edmonton. Plus, Erik Haula was excellent for Carolina before getting hurt, so it will be interesting to see if there are any lingering revenge feelings for Perron.
Perron’s greatest impact has been on the man advantage, so it would be nice if Vegas could be a bit more careful in this game, just in case.
David Perron — Ryan O’Reilly — Tyler Bozak
Jaden Schwartz — Brayden Schenn — Jordan Kyrou
Ivan Barbashev — Robert Thomas — Troy Brouwer
Mackenzie MacEachern — Jacob de la Rose — Austin Poganski
Colton Parayko — Alex Pietrangelo
Jay Bouwmeester — Justin Faulk
Vince Dunn — Robert Bortuzzo
Jonathan Marchessault — William Karlsson — Reilly Smith
Max Pacioretty — Chandler Stephenson — Mark Stone
Valentin Zykov — Paul Stastny — Alex Tuch
William Carrier — Tomas Nosek — Ryan Reaves
Brayden McNabb — Nate Schmidt
Nicolas Hague — Shea Theodore
Deryk Engelland — Nick Holden
How to watch
Time: 5 p.m.
TV: AT&T SportsNet, NHL.TV, ESPN+
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM