Vegas Golden Knights vs. Montreal Canadiens preview: Back to the scene of the crime
Have you all recovered from Eichel-mania?
Great, because it’s time for Golden Knights fans to take a trip down memory lane.
The Golden Knights return to Bell Centre for the first time since the Stanley Cup Semifinals ended in six games last season against the Montreal Canadiens. Safe to say this is a far cry from any rematch the world was hoping for.
Carey Price isn’t on the active roster. Shea Weber is contemplating retirement. Cole Caufield is in the AHL. Nick Suzuki is a very rich young man. Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty are on IR. William Karlsson is hurt. Not quite sure if that’s everything but it’s pretty close.
The Golden Knights are coming off a 5-1 win at the Ottawa Senators on Thursday. Robin Lehner made 38 saves, the most since he was acquired by Vegas two seasons ago, and Jonathan Marchessault scored twice for a much-needed scoring outburst.
The Canadiens have had it a bit rougher than the Golden Knights from an on-ice perspective. Montreal is off to a 3-9-0 start and have lost three of four after falling 6-2 against the New York Islanders on Thursday. The prodigal son Suzuki did have a goal and an assist in that game, but Ilya Sorokin (remember him, Knights fans?) had 36 saves and was a brick wall.
Can Vegas do it again?
The five goals in regulation were an obvious season-high for a group that’s missing two-thirds of its top line, but you’d like to think the Golden Knights are primed to keep it rolling against a struggling Montreal defense.
The Habs have given up 15 goals in their previous four games; that includes a 3-0 shutout win against the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday. Montreal’s 3.33 goals allowed per game is sixth-worst in the NHL. That’s welcoming news for a Golden Knights team scoring 2.5 goals per game through 10 contests.
Vegas has to feel encouraged getting goals from almost every line on Thursday. Brett Howden scored his first with Vegas; Alex Pietrangelo was rewarded with his first goal; and William Carrier — via a knuckleball down the heart of the plate — got on the score sheet, as well.
And notice the first three goals of the game: all in, or near, the blue paint. Those types of goals are imperative as this run goes on without Stone, Pacioretty or Karlsson. And that’s how guys like Howden will get rewarded.
Robin Lehner remains good
It was another great quality start from Lehner on Thursday as he continues his valiant start through nine starts.
He stopped eight of nine high-danger chances on Thursday; the lone being the Brady Tkachuk goal where the now-Ottawa captain could have made a steak dinner and ate it before anyone on Vegas could’ve recovered in front.
Eye test wise, Lehner has been great given the circumstances. If you’re Team Eye Test, he’s done all and more you could’ve asked of him to this point. Team Analytics would say something else.
His goals saved above average (-2.30) is fourth worse among goalies who have played at least 300 minutes. The goalies in front of him is a weird group: Darcy Kuemper, Philipp Grubauer, and Marc-Andre Fleury. High-danger goals saved above average are also second worst, ahead of only Fleury.
But you compare the situations: The Blackhawks are at full strength while the Golden Knights are playing as the HenderVegas Gold/Silver Knights. Sometimes, numbers don’t really tell the whole story.
What on Earth, Montreal?
The struggle is real for the impromptu reigning Western Conference champions.
This was expected from Montreal for all the reasons listed above. A good number of their key contributors from that miraculous playoff run are either hurt or no longer on the team. Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Corey Perry are two of those that have since moved on.
Suzuki is off to a 10-point start through 12 games, the only Habs player that is in double digits in scoring. Jonathan Drouin has seven points in 11 games for what’s been a successful return to the ice after his dealings with anxiety and insomnia. Game 6 nemesis Artturi Lehkonen is turning into one of the best defensive forwards at 5-on-5 this season.
The biggest omission is goaltender. Price, who is set to rejoin Montreal on Monday, has been in the NHL/NHLPA assistance program since the start of the season. The game is better when Price is around, and we hope he’s doing better.
Jake Allen has been the starter in Price’s absence, going 3-7-0 with a 2.92 GAA and .904 save percentage. Allen has been a Golden Knights killer before, so of course he’s probably in line for a shutout.
Where to watch
Time: 7 p.m. ET
TV: AT&T SportsNet-RM
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9
Golden Knights projected lineup
Jonathan Marchessault — Nicolas Roy — Reilly Smith
William Carrier — Chandler Stephenson — Evgenii Dadonov
Michael Amadio — Keegan Kolesar — Mattias Janmark
Brett Howden — Jake Leschyshyn — Jonas Rondbjerg
Nicolas Hague — Alex Pietrangelo
Alec Martinez — Shea Theodore
Brayden McNabb — Dylan Coghlan