The Vegas Golden Knights and Arizona Coyotes meet this afternoon in the fourth and final game of this mini series.
Once again, the Knights will have the luxury of playing in front of fans, including many of their own. But Vegas is hoping for much better results this time around.
The Knights’ four-game winning streak came to crashing halt in Friday’s 5-2 loss.
The Knights were chasing most of the game but never felt like much of a threat to make a comeback.
They’ll look to turn things around this afternoon at Gila River Arena.
Here are four things to consider for today’s tilt.
Yes, Vegas scored a power-play goal the other night, but that doesn’t mean the power play should be considered a success.
For one thing, Cody Glass’ goal was somewhat of a fluke play, as the puck took a strange bounce off the boards. For another, the Knights looked disjointed on the man advantage all night.
More than that, the power play was so ineffective that it was draining.
While Arizona has one of the best penalty kills in the league, this isn’t a new problem for the Knights. It’s still very early on in the season, but considering the amount of talent in the lineup, there’s no reason the power play can’t be significantly better.
It’s one thing to not score on a power play, it’s another to be out of sync and give the other team easy clears. Vegas needs to set up in the offensive zone, make intelligent and crisp passes and establish some sort of rhythm. At the very least, the Knights need to be a threat with the man advantage.
This is especially true considering how much momentum can be lost or gained on special teams.
Similarly, the Knights will need to stay out of the box.
That has been a problem for Vegas, particularly against the Coyotes. In fact, the Knights have taken 15 penalties in three games against Arizona, including six the other night.
Though Vegas’ penalty kill has been very strong this year, penalties kill momentum.
In the crease
Based on the rotation used so far this season, Marc-Andre Fleury should be in net for this afternoon’s game. He has played very well in two starts this season and has a combined 1.51 goals-against average and .933 save percentage.
Goaltending was an issue the other night in Vegas’ only loss of the season.
Robin Lehner gave up several soft goals and finished the game with an .840 save percentage.
Prior to Friday’s game, Lehner was 2-0-0 with a 2.01 goals-against average and .926 save percentage; he now has a 2.68 goals-against average and .899 save percentage.
While the Knights didn’t exactly play an inspired game, goaltending was still a factor in the loss.
Much like strong goaltending has been a factor in Vegas’ early success this season.
The Knights will need a better performance between the pipes if they want to take three out of four in this series.
Pete DeBoer has used 13 forwards and five defensemen in three out of five games this season.
That is not a common strategy, and it remains unclear why it is Vegas’ strategy early on.
The Knights don’t want to lose Keegan Kolesar through waivers. However, that still doesn’t explain why an extra burden is placed on the defensemen, especially this early on in the season. Plus, Kolesar is averaging just 5:36 of ice time per game and has played less than five minutes in three out of five games.
Further, the ice time distribution among defensemen with the 13-5 strategy doesn’t make a lot of sense. Shea Theodore has been Vegas’ best defenseman this season, yet he typically gets the second-fewest minutes.
The 13-5 combination also forces some forward lines and all defensive pairings to shuffle throughout the game. What this adds has yet to be explained.
One has to believe this can’t continue long-term, but never say never when it comes to DeBoer and the Golden Knights.
How to watch
Time: 1 p.m.
TV: AT&T SportsNet, NHL.TV
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM
Who has been Vegas’ best player so far this season?
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