Preseason: Game 2, Year 2: Golden Knights’ strong exhibition slate continues with win over Avalanche
Erik Brannstrom makes another case for a roster spot. Sign of things to come from the second line? First wave of cuts, and more for Vegas.
Two games, two wins for the Vegas Golden Knights in their 2018-19 preseason campaign.
The Golden Knights defeated the Colorado Avalanche 5-1 at Pepsi Center on Tuesday. Former Montreal Canadien goalie Zac Fucale made 24 saves and got the win. Never has a battle been more intense than the sixth goaltender spot on the Vegas depth chart between Fucale and Dylan Ferguson.
Five different Golden Knights scored, highlighted by Erik Brannstrom scoring for the second straight game. Alex Tuch, Erik Haula, Reid Duke and Brandon Pirri added goals for Vegas.
Here are some thoughts that are surely not overreactions after two preseason games.
So, about No. 12.
Erik Aloicious Brannstrom Tha Gawd IV. What more needs to be said? Just watch.
Brannstrom picks the corner to put the @GoldenKnights up 2-0. pic.twitter.com/tbSiCSNqo0— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) September 19, 2018
What’s missing is Brannstrom dictating the play from the other end. He brings the puck up, finds Tomas Hyka, gets it back in the high slot and beats Semyon Varlamov short side.
Brannstrom was quiet for the most part in Sunday’s win against Arizona, until he drew two straight penalties and scored a power-play goal late. Whatever momentum was gained from that translated well on Tuesday. He had two more points tonight, including an assist on Pirri’s game-opening goal 6:05 of the first period. Watch the patience from the blue line, via friend of the site Sheng Peng:
Brannstrom sucks Barron to him, then finds the open man for 1st #VGK goal pic.twitter.com/bozgLHgUJD— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) September 19, 2018
And this shift, too, showcasing Brannstrom getting better at playing the puck in the defensive zone.
One of Brannstrom's many strong shifts here: While he fails to clear the zone, does a great job of establishing body position on Calvert in front, wins puck. Then, after fumbling pass at point, cool as ice, lays it to Hyka. Finally, another intelligent pinch to keep play alive pic.twitter.com/OZmKzjgbXi— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) September 19, 2018
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to find any legit reason why Brannstrom stays off this roster come opening night. This can also be the problem with preseason games — it’s only preseason. He was great on Tuesday. The argument of him only being 19 years old is slowly becoming one of not much merit. He led all Vegas skaters in ice time with 20:15; probably not by design.
He’s surely expected to play more in these next two road games at the same level of ice time. It might be time to start thinking of the possibility that Brannstrom is the defenseman that fills the Nate Schmidt/Shea Theodore-less void on Oct. 4.
Second line visions
Perhaps a sign of things to come for the Vegas second line, Alex Tuch scored his first goal of the preseason Tuesday. On the assist? New center Paul Stastny.
Those two are expected to run a second line with Max Pacioretty this season. Pacioretty had a goal and an assist playing with prospects Hyka and Cody Glass. Tuch and Stastny saw some power play time on Tuch’s goal, which was set up by a great cross-ice pass from Oscar Lindberg.
Stastny to Tuch, will we see more of this soon? #VGK 3-0 pic.twitter.com/nnCeWfFu4H— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) September 19, 2018
Speaking of the second line, Erik Haula will not go quietly into the night. He scored his first goal of the preseason at 15:18 of the third period. Haula, expected to be the odd man out of the second line auditions, was on the first line with Stastny and Lindberg and played wing. As long as Haula’s scoring goals, it won’t matter if he’s playing center or wing. No doubt he prefers center. But next week should be telling on how Haula and Tuch respond to where they’re going to play this season.
Golden Knights make first wave of cuts
Prior to puck drop, Vegas announced its first cuts from training camp — Xavier Bouchard, Ryan Chyzowski, Connor Corcoran, Rafael Harvey-Pinard, Ben Jones and Jake Leschyshyn will all rejoin their junior teams.
Alex Gallant, Ryan Wagner and Matthew Weis will join the Chicago Wolves in camp. Vegas’ AHL affiliate will open camp on Sept. 24 in Hoffman Estates.