It didn’t happen for even one game last year, but tonight appears to be the night for the Golden Knights. Vegas will head into tonight’s Halloween game without a single player on the IR and not a single player missing with an injury.
Nate Schmidt is expected to resume his role as the team’s #1 defenseman and Alex Tuch will get a try with a pair of Cody’s, Eakin and Glass.
Each return from injury has a chance to have a significant effect on the team, but Schmidt’s return does more in regards to changing the lineup. It means at least two new D-pairs and more importantly, it means fewer minutes and less responsibility for guys like Shea Theodore, Nick Holden, Deryk Engelland, and Jon Merrill.
Nate’s a good player and he’s been one of our top players for two plus years and he’s going to make a big difference in our group. He’s important and he puts everybody where they belong. -Gerard Gallant
There are two different likely lineup options for the Golden Knights defense heading into this game. Either Holden and Merrill stick together and Theodore swaps sides to play with Engelland, or they return to the opening day pairs which had Merrill and Theodore together and Holden with Engelland.
Either way, the top pair minutes will now be handed to Schmidt as opposed to Theodore. That’s what Gallant is talking about when he says “puts everybody where they belong,” and the result of that should be a more noticeable impact on the game for Theodore.
We were worried about winning games, we weren’t worried about Shea’s (offense). He was playing big minutes against top players and that might change a little bit now so it’s going to help him, but in the long run it makes him a better player. -Gallant
Theodore has five points (1G, 4A) in the first 13 games of the season. He’s attempted fewer shots, created fewer chances, and has gotten fewer pucks to the net in the first 13 games than he did in any 13 game stretch last season.
At even-strength, his offensive numbers have taken a big hit. He has just two points in 13 games where last year he tallied 21 in 79 games. That’s nearly half the point production per game. He’s also down more than one shot on goal per 60 and more than two shot attempts per game this year from last. But the most glaring stat is “rush attempts.”
Last year Theodore led all defensemen with eight rush attempts at even-strength. The year before he put up nine, also the most of all defensemen. This year, Theodore has yet to attempt a single one. In fact, the defensemen have just two in 13 games as a group. One by Deryk Engelland and another by Nick Holden.
Schmidt will bring that himself, as he averages about eight per year, but unleashing Theodore to go forward will make a huge impact in the Golden Knights offense. Without having to worry about stopping guys like Nathan MacKinnon, Filip Forsberg, and David Pastrnak, Theodore will have the green light to jump in the rush and lead the team in transition.
This will lead to even-strength offense from the blueline, something the Golden Knights have been lacking severely. They have just one goal (Theodore’s), and two primary assists from defensemen at even-strength this year. That means one goal every 13 games and one primary assist every six and a half. Last year, those numbers were one goal every four games, and a primary assist every other game.
Schmidt’s return will make the team better in every way, but the way you’ll probably notice it the most is in scoring from the defense.
Because now you may actually see some.