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Knights on Ice — The Problem: The First Game Following a Road Trip
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Dateline: Las Vegas, NV
Tuesday, March 30, 2021

 

Once again, fresh off of a road trip, the VGK came out flat. It also happened when they returned to T-Mobile on March 15 from their 6-game road trip and last night they were a step behind the L.A. Kings for most of the first period. Robin Lehner was in net and Marc-André Fleury wasn’t even in the building as he was given a real day off. Oscar Dansk was Panda’s backup and it didn’t start off pretty.

Roy scored exactly 60 seconds into the game. It wasn’t Nic Roy of the VGK who scored, it was Matt Roy who beat Robin for the 1-0 lead; it was Roy’s 2nd goal of the season in 28 games.

Back on Feb. 7, in the last game Lehner played before he missed the next 18 with a concussion, he also gave up a goal to the Kings’ Anze Kopitar just 36 seconds into the first period. Getting beat by Anze Kopitar isn’t unusual; he’s a proven goal scorer. But getting beat by Matt Roy isn’t the kind of start Robin was hoping for. To Robin’s credit, he was perfect for the remaining 59 minutes of the game stopping all 24 shots he faced in the VGK 4-1 victory.

It was the VGK’s 6th straight win at T-Mobile, a streak they’ve accomplished 6 different times. The franchise record for consecutive wins at T-Mobile is 8, in the 2017-2018 season. It started on Oct 15 with a win vs. Boston, followed by wins over Buffalo in OT, St. Louis in OT, then Chicago, Colorado, Winnipeg, L.A., and San Jose on Nov 24 in OT. The streak ended with a 3-0 loss vs. Dallas on Nov. 28.

Vegas has an astonishing record at T-Mobile this season, 14-2-1. Pittsburgh has more wins at home (16-3-1), but have played 3 more home games than Vegas. Colorado has a 14-4-2 record on their home ice.

Last night Robin Lehner kept the VGK in the game until Vegas could shake the cobwebs out of their shiny gold helmets and get their legs moving and did they ever recover. They piled on with 4 unanswered goals, from Reilly Smith’s PPG, followed by Tomas Nosek and Nicolas Hague in the 2nd period. Alec Martinez scored his 5th of the season and his first goal against his former team in the 3rd period that closed the scoring and kept the VGK in first place as Colorado won their game vs Anaheim. Martinez has scored in back-to-back games and is currently on a 3-game point streak with 2G and 1A.

If you were wondering how many games it was going to take Robin Lehner to regain the form that influenced coach Peter DeBoer to lean in his direction as the #1 goaltender in the playoff bubble in Edmonton, look at his his stats since returning: 3-0-0, a 1.33 GAA, and a .939 save percentage. The only one problem with this is Fleury’s numbers are just as impressive and the fact that DeBoer went with Fleury in the 2 games in Colorado tells you what his mindset is now. I called it a problem, but the real problem is for the other 7 teams in the Honda West Division — and hopefully beyond once we get to the 15 other playoff teams.

Trust me, Pete DeBoer welcomes a problem like this. Yes, the $12 million in the net has the VGK pressed up against the salary cap, but never forget this: Defense wins championships and the VGK are all in on drinking from Lord Stanley this season. It will not be an easy journey; it never is. But the playoff alignment this COVID season has many potholes to avoid. The first is Colorado. If Vegas escapes the West, they have either Tampa Bay, Washington, or Toronto waiting for them and that’s just a small sample. It’s the hardest trophy in any sport to win, but I couldn’t think of a better goaltending duo and a pretty savvy head coach who has been to the Stanley Cup Final 2 different times with 2 different teams. They do say the third time is the charm.

Other game notes. The VGK’s Roy was a healthy scratch, which allowed Cody Glass to return to the lineup. It hasn’t been easy for Cody to crack the lineup and as I’ve said on my podcast and here, playing him on the 4th line will slow his progress. He played between Tuch and Kolesar last night on the 3rd line and seemed to impress DeBoer and his teammates with his play.

My 3 Stars of the Game:
1) Alec Martinez (His complete dominance in the defensive zone with 6 blocked shots, a game high, and 1G; the next closest player with block shots had 2)
2) Robin Lehner (24 saves on 25 shots and only 1 blemish the entire game; he gave the team some time to find their legs and shake off their road trip return problems)
3) Reilly Smith (whose PPG tied the score and took back control of the game; his goal will help the confidence of the PP unit)

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 Nights in Vegas.” Here’s a link to our previous podcast.

Next game is tomorrow vs. the Kings at 7 p.m. Pacific Time at T-Mobile

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.

Robin Lehner’s only blemish of the game

Nosek’s GWG

Smith’s PPG

About Huntington Press

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E-mail: cs@huntingtonpress.com

 

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