Preview: Golden Knights wrap up homestand against Blues ahead of holiday break
Vegas can finish the four-game homestand 2-2-0 with a win tonight.
The Vegas Golden Knights will play host to the St. Louis Blues for the second time this season when the two clubs square off tonight at T-Mobile Arena.
St. Louis won the previous meeting by a final score of 3-2 in Vegas’ first home game following a perfect 5-0-0 road trip. It was the game that snapped Vegas’ nine-game winning streak, and it featured one of the worst periods of hockey the Golden Knights have played this season.
In that second-period frame, Vegas surrendered two goals in 40 seconds despite taking a 2-1 lead 2:43 into the period. The goals came in the final four minutes of the period, and the first one was the result of a major gaffe by Adin Hill. It was his first loss as a member of the Golden Knights and brought Vegas to an overall record of 13-3-0.
Since that Nov. 12 contest, Vegas has gone 10-7-1, which includes a 4-7-0 record on home ice. Though Vegas currently sits atop the Western Conference standings with 47 points (23-11-1), this is not the same team that came out roaring at the start of the season.
Even so, Vegas is coming off a promising 5-2 victory against the Arizona Coyotes. Mark Stone led the charge, scoring two out of Vegas’ four third-period goals. The win snapped a three-game losing streak at home and was just the team’s second win in its last eight home games.
Special teams, third-period surge propel Golden Knights to 5-2 home win against Coyotes
The Golden Knights will look for back-to-back home wins for the first time since mid-November (Nov. 17 against Arizona and Nov. 23 against Ottawa). The only other time Vegas accomplished the feat this season was a three-game home winning streak in late October.
St. Louis is fifth in the Central Division with 33 points (16-16-1) and is coming off a 5-2 loss to Seattle, which snapped a four-game winning streak.
The Blues have been very streaky all season. In fact, St. Louis has mounted three-, four- and seven-game winning streaks as well as four- and eight-game losing streaks. St. Louis is 5-5-1 in December; comparatively, Vegas is 6-5-0 this month.
One thing going right for Vegas has been its power play. Much like last December, the Golden Knights are having a “December to Remember” in special-teams production and efficiency. They matched last year’s December total of 12 power-play goals with two the other night against the Coyotes, and they will look to break that record tonight against St. Louis’ 27th-ranked penalty kill (71.3 percent).
The Golden Knights’ power play is now ranked seventh in the NHL, operating at 26 percent. That number shoots up to 40 percent in this month alone, which trails only Edmonton (45 percent).
But the Blues’ man-advantage has excelled this month as well, clicking on 25 percent of its power plays with eight goals on 32 attempts.
It will have to go up against Vegas’ formidable penalty kill, which has killed off 77.8 percent of opposing power plays this month, good for 12th overall.
When these teams met in November, the Vegas penalty kill was a perfect 4-for-4; the Golden Knights did not have a power play in that game. Based on recent results, however, special teams could play a larger role in the second of three meetings this year between these clubs.
Jordan Kyrou and Robert Thomas lead the Blues in scoring with 32 and 30 points, respectively; Vladimir Tarasenko (25), Brayden Schenn (25) and Pavel Buchnevich (24) round out the top-5.
But Kyrou has been on another level of late, recording six goals and 10 points during his current four-game point streak. He did not play Tuesday against Seattle, however, and is listed as day-to-day.
While Kyrou is following up on his career-best 75-point campaign, it has been a tough year for Ryan O’Reilly, who is a team-worst minus-24 and has just nine goals and 15 points — only two of which have come on the man-advantage — in 33 games.
O’Reilly is on pace for just 37 points, which would be the lowest total in a full season since he recorded 26 in each of his first two years in the NHL (2009-10, 2010-11).
But he’s not one to count out, as he has been very effective against the Golden Knights historically. He leads the Blues in the all-time matchup with nine goals and 20 points in 18 games, which includes the game-winning goal in the Nov. 12 matchup.
The Blues are giving up an average of 3.61 goals per game this season, which is the organization’s highest average since the 1987-88 campaign (3.68).
Goaltending has been a huge part of that.
Jordan Binnington is 12-11-1 with a 3.13 goals-against average, .897 save percentage and two shutouts, while veteran Thomas Greiss is 4-5-0 with a 3.55 goals-against average and .903 save percentage.
The Vegas numbers are more flattering. Logan Thompson is 15-8-0 with a 2.61 goals-against average, .917 save percentage and two shutouts, while Hill is 8-3-1 with a 2.66 goals-against average and .903 save percentage. Thompson is the likely starter for tonight, though.
With 10 points on his current six-game point streak, Chandler Stephenson now leads the Golden Knights in scoring with 32 points in 35 games.
Vegas has an all-time record of 11-9-1 against the Blues.
Michael Amadio — Chandler Stephenson — Mark Stone
Reilly Smith — William Karlsson — Jonathan Marchessault
Jonas Rondbjerg — Jake Leschyshyn — Phil Kessel
William Carrier — Nicolas Roy — Keegan Kolesar
Alec Martinez — Alex Pietrangelo
Brayden McNabb — Daniil Miromanov
Nicolas Hague — Ben Hutton
Brandon Saad — Ryan O’Reilly — Josh Leivo
Pavel Buchnevich — Robert Thomas — Vladimir Tarasenko
Ivan Barbashev — Brayden Schenn — Noel Acciari
Alexei Toropchenko — Logan Brown — Nathan Walker
Nick Leddy — Colton Parayko
Torey Krug — Justin Faulk
Niko Mikkola — Robert Bortuzzo
*Subject to change