Preview: Shea Theodore is back for Vegas’ second game against Colorado

The Golden Knights’ next game is in four days.

The Vegas Golden Knights are in the middle of their first set of games against one of their key rivals for the season. The Colorado Avalanche have come to town and the Golden Knights got their first win (1-0) over one of the other two favorites of the Western division for the first time this season — they previously lost to the St. Louis Blues before their pause due to COVID-19 protocol.

Marc-Andre Fleury was the reason why the Golden Knights got that win, shutting out the Avalanche despite 2.4 expected goals against at 5-on-5 (2.43 expected across all stengths). He made six high-danger saves and 30 saves overall in the 1-0 victory on Sunday as the Golden Knights got just 24 shots on the opposing net.

With Lake Tahoe coming around the bend, the Golden Knights need to play better hockey in front of Fleury. So far this season, their day one goaltender has the third-best save percentage among goaltenders with more than one game (behind Petr Mrazek and Mackenzie Blackwood) with a .944. With a .905 last season and a previous career-high of .927 (2017-18), who knows how long Fleury remains the front runner for the Vezina?

The Golden Knights’ 41.08 percent expected goal share against the Avalanche in Sunday’s game one between the teams contributed to Vegas’s 53.14 percent expected goal share on the season, down from last season’s league-leading 56.07 percent share. Vegas is a team capable of playing much better hockey, they just haven’t shown that in recent games.

That should change starting in Game 2 against Colorado. The good news: Shea Theodore is healthy again. The Golden Knights are a much better team in every aspect with Theodore around, and he was taken off the injured list Tuesday. He’ll see game action for the first time since Feb. 9.

The bad news: the Avalanche have the 12th-best offense with 3.17 goals per game, so they aren’t going to play many 1-0 games. Vegas needs to up their own offense again going forward. Again, Theodore will help with that.

Here are three things to watch for on Tuesday.

Three things to watch for

  • The Golden Knights have been the worse team at 5-on-5 in each of their last three games. The last time Vegas won the expected goals battle was Feb. 9 against the Ducks. That’s something that needs to change, as Fleury has been heavily bailing this team out at full strength, saving 3.46 goals above expected at 5-on-5 in those three games. The skaters in front of him need to be better in this one.
  • The Golden Knights’ penalty kill has been much better than their 5-on-5 play. In the last five games, they’ve given up just one goal — a third-period tally in the comeback by the Ducks on Feb. 9 — despite playing 21:16 shorthanded in those five games. Against the Avalanche in game one, the Golden Knights controlled their penalties, taking just one and giving up zero shots shorthanded. While that might not be a repeatable performance, the Golden Knights have proven capable of dealing with the Avalanche’s man advantage.
  • Mark Stone is just three points behind Connor McDavid and four points behind the league leaders, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, in 5-on-5 points. He has games in hand on both, a result of the Golden Knights’ pause. While Stone’s scoring has declined — he has just one point in his last three games after going scoreless just once in his first 10 — he can still catch up to the pack. Stone leads the Golden Knights with 16 points in 13 games and is Vegas’s primary generator of offense./

How to watch

Time: 7 p.m.

TV: NHL Network

Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM