Blues at Golden Knights Preview: Vegas needs more complete effort in hopes of split

St. Louis punched Vegas in the mouth on Tuesday, but the Knights responded and earned a point.

Well it’s been a wild 48 hours in Vegas Golden Knights land.

Remember when the storyline was supposed to be Alex Pietrangelo facing the Blues for the first time? That was fun for a few hours. Then the Golden Knights’ coaching staff has to self-isolate due to a positive COVID-19 test among the staff, and Kelly McCrimmon is playing coach, and you didn’t think this season would be weird six games in, did you?

Now that the weirdness has subsided a bit and what happened on Tuesday is likely to happen again tonight, the Golden Knights will try to get a split out of their two-game series against the St. Louis Blues. McCrimmon is expected to be the acting coach with the Henderson Silver Knights coaching staff serving as assistants for the second straight game.

Lest we forget there was a hockey game among all that hoopla. Vegas lost 5-4 in a shootout on Tuesday after rallying from two goals down twice. We’ve just accepted the fact dumb things happen when these teams face each other.

Given the circumstances, it was a well-earned point for the Golden Knights on Tuesday. That doesn’t mean it was a perfect effort. Robin Lehner, albeit settled down after allowing three goals in the first period, did not have a good night. The power play continues to be an atrocious mess. The Vegas blue line continues to be a swaying teeter totter.

That being said, to be 5-1-1 is still good hockey. But the Golden Knights need a much better 60-minute performance if they want a split against a team they’ll likely see in the playoffs.

Three things to watch for

  • Marc-Andre Fleury is expected to get the start, keeping in line with the rotation the Golden Knights have used in the crease to this point. If we were scoring the goalie competition, Fleury would have a 10-9 edge in each round over Lehner. Fleury has been stellar at 3-0-0 with a 1.00 GAA and .951 save percentage, coming off a 16-save shutout Sunday at Arizona. This will be Fleury’s first challenge this season, no disrespect to Anaheim and the Coyotes. Lehner has allowed eight goals in his past two starts. Imagine the loud noises if Fleury has a stellar game against this stacked Blues team.
  • Golden Knights defenseman Brayden McNabb was placed on long-term injured reserve late Wednesday night. That means the soonest Vegas’ top-pair defenseman can return is Feb. 22. In addition to McNabb going on LTIR, the Golden Knights called up Cody Glass and Nick Holden from the taxi squad, while sending Nicolas Hague to the taxi squad. At time of publishing, the Golden Knights have a 13-5-2 roster with more moves to come. I’m not going to try and explain the cap logistics involving Glass’ performance bonus and how that impacts Vegas’ cap gymnastics, but in short, don’t expect these to be the last moves before the game. Maybe McCrimmon is content playing Holden 25 minutes tonight (the things you can do if you’re the coach and GM, am I right?). This is the opportune chance to get Hague and Glass in the lineup at the same time, so all may rejoice. My guess is Hague comes back up for Holden, and the Knights call up another defenseman (Dylan Coghlan?) while Keegan Kolesar is a healthy scratch.
  • What we can agree on is the Golden Knights were the better team on Tuesday, especially offensively; they out-attempted St. Louis 83-48 (!!!), had more high-danger chances (13-9), and if not for hitting seven posts, this would’ve been a more lopsided affair in favor of Vegas. What killed the Golden Knights were turnovers. Three Vegas turnovers led to three St. Louis goals on Tuesday; two from Alec Martinez, and the Pietrangelo turnover that led to strong hockey man Jordan Kyrou putting his former teammate on a poster. The Knights can’t put themselves in a hole against this methodical team. One way to not fall into a hole? Score some power-play goals against the fifth-worst penalty kill unit in the league; not go 1-for-6 with the only goal coming on a 5-on-3. Good lord, this power play./

How to watch

Time: 6 p.m.

TV: AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain, ESPN+, NHL.TV

Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM