Vegas Golden Knights vs. Vancouver Canucks
7:00 p.m. PST, Rogers Arena, Vancouver, B.C.
TV: Sportsnet Pacific, Radio: SN 650
For those wondering about the longevity of the Vegas Golden Knights franchise, your concerns are probably legitimate.
However, the players on that roster have come together and put forth their best effort in the early going.
Did anyone really see this team starting off 8-1? It was an incredible and incredibly surprising start considering their lack of depth, patchwork defence and carousel of goaltenders.
It took the Golden Knights three injuries to their starting goaltenders and an extended road trip for them to finally start showing the cracks in their armour.
After roaring to that 8-1 start, the Golden Knights are now 2-5-1 in their last eight games. They just got obliterated by the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night, and they will be hungry to prove that game was just an anomaly.
Right now, the net is being minded by fourth-stringer Maxim Lagace. That should spell disaster for most teams, and especially an expansion franchise.
Still, Lagace’s numbers have not been good. He’s allowing more than four goals per game and he sports a save percentage of .860 with a 2-5-1 record.
Although the goaltending has fallen off a cliff since Lagace was slotted in as the starting goaltender, one of the most impressive things about the Golden Knights is their balanced offensive attack.
David Perron, James Neal, Reilly Smith, William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault all have at least four goals and ten points through the Golden Knights first 17 games. That’s solid top six production from a number of undervalued forwards.
On a side note, how do you think the Florida Panthers feel now about letting Smith and Marchessault go? Their problem lies on defence and not offence, but their offensive attack would be that much more potent if they held onto those two wingers.
Even after those five forwards, the Golden Knights are getting good production from the rest of their forward corps. Erik Haula, Alex Tuch, Oscar Lindberg, Thomas Nosek and Brendan Leipsic have all provided adequate production in lesser roles.
Despite bleeding shot attempts, even Luca Sbisa is on a 40-point pace. There’s no way that can stay sustainable, but if they rest of their forwards can continue to produce, the Golden Knights have a fighting chance at competing once their goaltenders return.
None of their goaltenders will be returning tonight. Luca Sbisa also won’t play after suffering an injury against the Winnipeg Jets on Nov. 10th.
The Home Team
I know I’ve only talked about the Golden Knights so far but hey, how often does your team face an expansion franchise for the first time.
*makes mental note to forget about preseason drubbing...*
Ok, so the Canucks might have faced the Golden Knights once before, but that was a game with Brock Boeser, Jake Virtanen and...no one else that’s currently donning a Canucks jersey.
Plus Tyler Wong isn’t with the Golden Knights anymore, so all is well.
Speaking of Boeser, the new formation of the power play unit of him, Bo Horvat, the Sedins and Alex Edler worked well against the Los Angeles Kings. They looked dangerous and scored a goal in the second.
The other power play goal was off the rush and while also nice, it’s not a goal you typically draw up on the power play.
Still, it was a huge win for the Canucks in order to not make the California trip look like a disaster. Canucks fans everywhere were hit with a dose of Willie PTSD after they surrendered two early goals to the Kings.
What the Canucks still need is a more balanced scoring attack, aside from the Derek Dorsett outburst, Thomas Vanek and the first line of Sven Baertschi, Horvat and Boeser, the Canucks are still lacking offence from the rest of the team. Vegas has the leg up on Vancouver in this department.
Where Vancouver clearly has a leg up right now is in the goaltending department. At even-strength, you couldn’t have asked for a better performance from Anders Nilsson and Jacob Markstrom.
The duo is first in the entire NHL in terms of scoring chance save percentage at even strength. Unsurprisingly, their also first in high-danger scoring chance save percentage, all according to Natural Stat Trick. Only the San Jose Sharks have a lower goals against total at even-strength.
Their solid performance has been overshadowed by some weak goals, but the solid performance from the Swedish duo might be one of the most under-discussed stories about this team.
Game Day Battle Hymn
I utterly hate the guy for what he’s known for, but Gary Glitter’s Rock and Roll Part II has been entrenched in my head since I was a kid. It was my favourite goal song growing up, and I do wish I could enjoy it the same today.
Thanks for ruining my childhood, Gary.
Seeing him on stage just makes me think of Vegas. If only I could take a time machine back to the 1970’s and jam to this song out in Fremont.
Anyways, since I can’t bring myself to post the original, so I’m posting the less-catchy remix. Still, it does wake me up for gametime, so here it goes.
Enjoy the game folks.