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Knights on Ice —Knights Set a Franchise Record, but It Came with a Price
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For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Las Vegas, NV
Sunday, April 25, 2021


Last night the VGK beat the Anaheim Ducks 5-1 at the Honda Center in Anaheim for their 9th win in a row, a franchise record. But they may have paid a costly price in the process.

Coming into last night’s game, the VGK were down 3 forwards, all due to injuries: Reilly Smith, Keegan Kolesar, and Ryan Reaves. They started the game with just 11 forwards and 7 defensemen due to their salary cap gymnastics. Then, in the game, they lost 2 more forwards. Early in, Tomas Nosek was injured taking a faceoff in the neutral zone. He had to be helped to the locker room; he couldn’t put any weight on his legs. Nicolas Roy was also injured sometime in the 2nd period and didn’t return.

The recent success of the team has been due in part to the contributions of the bottom 6 forwards, especially Tomas Nosek, and that Coach DeBoer had 4 lines to roll out shift after shift. That is not the case right now and the only silver lining, if any, is that they have the next 3 days off.

Will 3 days be enough to get a full squad ready for their game against Colorado on Wednesday night at T-Mobile? Colorado is breathing down the neck of the VGK as both teams are racing toward the completion of this 56-game season and trying to secure first place. With last night’s win over Anaheim and St. Louis beating Colorado earlier in the day, the VGK leads the Avalanche by 4 points. Colorado had a number of games postponed because of COVID and has 2 games in hand.

The remaining schedule favors Colorado. They have 4 games vs. the L.A. Kings, 4 vs. San Jose, 2 against Vegas, and 1 vs. St. Louis.
The VGK’s remaining 9 games are much more challenging. They play 8 games against teams either fighting for a playoff spot or for a better playoff position: 2 games vs. Colorado, 2 vs. Minnesota, 2 vs. St. Louis, and 2 games vs. Arizona. The one soft spot is their final game of the year against San Jose, but by the time they get to their 56th and final game, the result will probably be determined.

The VGK have feasted on all 3 California teams and Colorado has 8 of their remaining 11 games against those same teams.

Is it possible Vegas will win all of their remaining 9 games? It’s possible, but not very likely. Still, they can have a lot to say about where they wind up for the first round by beating Colorado in their 2 games. Winning in regulation and not OT would be an almost insurmountable 8 points for Colorado to overcome.

To say that Wednesday’s game may be the biggest game of the year for both the VGK and Avs is an understatement. It appears that, based on the goalie rotation, Fleury will be in the blue paint come Wednesday night, but Robin Lehner is now making some considerable noise since returning to the lineup. They both want to play and Coach DeBoer has said he doesn’t want to think about who he’s going to play until he has to think about it.

Well, Pete, you better start thinking long and hard. Without question, you have the best goaltending tandem in the entire league. Can you continue to play the rotation game in the playoffs? It’s not common, that’s for sure; by the end of the season, most teams have confirmed who their #1 goalie is. This VGK situation is unique, but then again, this franchise has been unique since its inception.

On the podcast I do with Eddie Rivkin, we interviewed CBS sports radio host Lindsey Brown. Brown was an All-American goaltender and I posed the question to her: If she were the coach and had both Fleury and Lehner as her goaltenders, would she decide whom based on who the opponent was and their style of play? If you’d like to hear her answer, click the link at the bottom of this post to that podcast and all the others we’ve done this season.

Speaking of goaltenders, since returning from his concussion, Robin Lehner is 9-0-1, giving up only 16 goals, for an incredible 1.60 GAA. As a VGK, he is 15-1-2, allowing only 36 goals in 18 games for a 2.00 GAA.

Chandler Stephenson, who had 5 SOG in Wednesday’s San Jose game on 5 breakaways and came away with no goals, made the most of his 2 shots in last night’s game. He scored on the very first shot of the game just 28 seconds in. It was the Knights’ only shot for the next 6:58. Then he scored his 2nd goal on a pinpoint headman pass from Shea Theodore, which sent Stephenson in on a breakaway. Unlike Wednesday night, he made good; depositing the puck behind John Gibson put the VGK up 2-0. Stephenson’s second goal proved to be the game winner as Anaheim could only find the back of the net on Lehner off of a mad scramble in front of the crease that Lehner could not stop.

Shea Theodore, who’d been somewhat quiet on the offensive side of the puck this season, had 1G and 1 A last night and has a 4-game point streak going with (1G, 6A) in this 4-game streak. It was Shea’s first goal since March 31.

Max Pacioretty increased his point streak to 7 games when he assisted on Stephenson’s opening goal. Mark Stone had his 6-game point streak snapped last night.

The 2 Wills added the other 2 VGK goals. William Karlsson scored off his skate as Gibson made a highlight-reel save on a Jonathan Marchessault shot in the third period, only to see the puck bounce out, hit Karlsson’s skate, and change directions back into the net behind Gibson. Carrier’s goal was the only one scored in the 2nd period, which gave the VGK a 3-0 lead.

Chandler Stephenson had a 3-point night, scoring his 11th and 12th goals, a career high, and was a plus 4. He also had the most ice time of all 18 skaters at 21:18. It’s rare for a forward to have more minutes than the top defensive duo, but with the depleted bench, DeBoer kept on sending him over the boards, as his speed was giving the Anaheim Ducks all they could handle.

Other game notes. The VGK are 22-1 vs. the 3 California teams. That’s 44 points out of a possible 46. That’s clearly the reason they’re sitting on top of the Honda West Division with a 34-11-2 record. They’re 12-10-2 against the other 4 teams. They will have to be better than this if they want to advance out of the Division.

My 3 Stars of the Game
1) Chandler Stephenson (2G, 1A, and the GWG)
2) Shea Theodore (1G, 1A)
3) William Karlsson (1G, but could have had at least 2 more)

Next game is Wednesday vs. Colorado at 6:30 p.m. Pacific Time at T-Mobile.

If you want to hear and see more VGK content please check out the podcast I do with Eddie Rivkin on YouTube. It’s called “Hockey Knights in Vegas.”

Your comments and opinions are welcome here at Las Vegas Advisor or you may contact me directly at [email protected] or on my Facebook page or the Facebook page of Vegas Hockey Guy or on Twitter @TheRealJoePane

One other note: If you’re reading this blog from Facebook or Twitter and would like to access it earlier in the morning before I share it on social media, it’s usually published by 8 a.m. the morning after a game on LasVegasAdvisor.com. What better way is there to enjoy your morning coffee than reading my take on last night’s VGK game.

Stephenson’s opening goal

Stephenson’s breakaway goal

Karlsson’s goal after an incredible save by Gibson

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