With a 5-4 overtime win against the San Jose Sharks at T-Mobile Arena on Friday, the Vegas Golden Knights are firmly in first place among Pacific Division teams. That's quite an accomplishment for an NHL expansion team, as the Golden Knights have an overall 14-6-1 record with one quarter of the season completed. What's even better is that Vegas has two games in hand over the second place team, the Los Angeles Kings.
What that means is that the Kings have played two more games than the Golden Knights have, but the Golden Knights have more points nonetheless. It's too early to start marking down things like that in terms of playoff chances, but right now, the Vegas organization has to be feeling pretty good. The team has balanced scoring, stable goaltending despite injuries and a solid defense that can play well no matter which guy is in net.
Take the win over the Sharks as an example: The Golden Knights saw a 4-1 lead evaporate quickly in the second period as their starting goalie—Maxime Lagace—wasn't feeling well. Enter Malcolm Subban in the crease, and the defense tightened down, allowing the potent San Jose skaters just three shots on goal over the final 21:21 of the game as the opportunistic Vegas offense took advantage in overtime for the big victory.
This recipe for success, which has proven to be a super formula so far for the expansion Golden Knights, takes its show on the road tonight as Vegas travels to Arizona to take on the last-place Coyotes. While the Golden Knights are 9-1 at home, including the last eight straight, the team is merely 5-5-1 on the road. However, Arizona (6-16-3) has the worst record in the NHL right now. Subban should get the start for Vegas in the desert tonight.
Lagace has been carrying the Golden Knights, having made 11 straight starts since making his NHL debut in relief of Oscar Dansk on Oct. 30. It will be nice for Subban to get back into action and give Vegas two options in net every time out now, until Dansk and No. 1 goalie Marc-Andre Fleury return from their respective injuries.
Meanwhile, the defense continues to be resilient no matter which guy is behind them. The breakdowns that led to three straight Sharks goals on Friday were quickly remedied, and overall, the Golden Knights are 11th out of 31 teams in the NHL when it comes to goals allowed. That's very good for an expansion team. Unsung heroes on the blue line include Brayden McNabb, who leads the team with 48 blocked shots and 51 hits, and Deryk Engelland, who has 38 blocks and 34 hits. These defensemen are making life uncomfortable for opposing skaters.
Overall, Vegas has four players with at least 30 blocked shots and five players with at least 34 hits. This means there is a lot to get through before the opposing team can get a shot off if it's even accurate. The Golden Knights are allowing just 30.2 shots on goal per game, which is the fifth-best mark in the NHL. The fewer shots the goalies face, the better chance they have of denying goals to the other team.
The Coyotes average just 30.4 shots on goal per game, which is 24th in the league. This plays well into Vegas' game plan tonight, so chances are good that the Golden Knights can solidify their hold on first place in the Pacific Division. Game time is 5 pm PT.
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