3 things to watch for as the Golden Knights play their first ever game against the Stars
Vegas heads to Dallas. Hockey is here.
A day before the season opener in Dallas, it’s safe to say that what’s happening with the Vegas Golden Knights is confusing. The team claimed Malcolm Subban off the waiver wire to put a more established NHL goaltender, Calvin Pickard, on that same wire.
The team has also assigned players like Vadim Shipachyov, Shea Theodore, Alex Tuch, and Tomas Hyka in the last few days. Those were players thought to have made the Golden Knights’ roster, and some of them have yet to show up in Chicago. It’s safe to assume that some of these were just moves on paper, but when will they get called up? And what is George McPhee planning?
All of these thoughts are at the front of our minds as the Golden Knights get ready to take on the Dallas Stars. The next 24 hours could be very busy for the Knights and could change a lot of things. So let’s take a look at the Stars.
The Dallas Stars, for the last few years, have had one of the best offenses in hockey. They are led by Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, a lethal duo that has also prevented each other from having a true shot at the Hart trophy. It’s hard to be the most valuable when you have a linemate just as good. Each scored 26 goals, with Seguin scoring 72 to lead the team. Benn ended the year with a perfect 69.
The fault in Dallas’ stars was its defense. They were second in the league in goals allowed, behind only Colorado. That’s not good. Part of that was their mess of a defense, the other part was a lackluster goaltending duo.
Both of them, the Stars hope, have been fixed. The Stars traded for Marc Methot after the expansion draft, and Ben Bishop signed with the Stars on a six-year contract. Both of these players will be making their Dallas debut.
What does the roster look like?
I can’t get the following thoughts from my head. Are the Golden Knights going to roll four defensive pairings? The expectation is that McPhee makes a trade, but what if that expectation is wrong? And also, even if a defenseman is traded, that leaves eight defensemen (plus Clayton Stoner on IR) currently at the NHL level. The Golden Knights could conceivably still roll four pairings, and call Theodore back to the NHL level.
If they do go with the more conventional 12 forwards, six defensemen squad, McPhee is still keeping us on our toes. Which of the defensemen start, and who gets the most minutes? The least? The preseason didn’t do a great job of answering these questions. The forwards situation is much less volatile
This will be the first taste of Golden Knights regular season hockey. So anticipation for the roster would be natural. But right now, the roster makeup has us almost off the edge of our seats in anticipation.
Who will score the first goals?
In all likelihood, the first set of goals, both for and against, will be scored for the Golden Knights. The question is, who scores them?
Cody Eakin had the honor of being the first Knight to break in T-Mobile Arena in the preseason. He should have a good shot to score the first regular season goal as a top-six winger. It would also be a sweet revenge, as Eakin was drafed from the Dallas Stars in the expansion draft. Smart money would be on the guy in Eakin’s place, James Neal, who will play tonight.
There’s also the dark horses. Knights youngsters Brendan Leipsic and Tomas Nosek on the bottom six could come out of nowhere. Jonathan Marchessault was a 30-goal scorer last year. He could repeat that this year.
And on the Stars’ side, the early favorites are Benn and Seguin. Alexander Radulov, a free agent acquisition from the Montreal Canadiens, could also get the job done. Their dark horses are Jason Spezza and Martin Hanzal, who give the team center depth, as well as fourth liners Antoine Roussel and Radek Faksa. Both had 12 goals last season.
How will Marc-Andre Fleury look?
This will be a great test of both the Golden Knights’ defense as well as their face-of-the-franchise goaltender. The last time Fleury played the Dallas Stars, he made 33 of 35 saves, a .943 save percentage. He collected the win, as the Pittsburgh Penguins put up six goals.
If Fleury gives the Knights that much of a chance, they should be able to convert on it. Perhaps not in the same six goals way, but a 3-2 victory would still go a long way. Fleury could also see a lot more than 35 shots, but a .943 save percentage is still hard to argue with.
Fleury is a lovable personality in net, someone with playoff experience, who Knights fans should be excited to watch. And if he makes a strong showing in the first game, Fleury all but guarantees his spot as the primary public persona.
How to watch
Puck drop is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. PT. Fox Sports Radio has the action on 98.9 FM/1340 AM, and the game will be on the NHL Network, Sportsnet 360, TVA Sports, and AT&T SportsNet.