Some will call it a small sample size but in his short return, center Paul Stastny has been everything we expected, and maybe even more.
The pass from Stastny, the finish from Tuch, a thing of beauty. pic.twitter.com/QYwQssKd0X— SinBin.vegas (@SinBinVegas) December 16, 2018
In his three games back from injury, Statsny’s presence has added another layer of calmness on the ice. His approach to slow down the game has helped his linemates to be in the right position for success. Sure, we saw him briefly to start the season, but the team was working through chemistry issues when then the veteran was injured in game three. On Sunday morning, in game 35, Stastny led the second line and his team to an overtime victory.
We made a couple mistakes, but I think once we talked about it and kind of corrected it, then I think we started playing more free and supporting each other and getting the puck more. -Paul Stastny
In New York, Stastny showed great awareness, making great defensive and neutral zone plays to advance the puck. Most notably, Alex Tuch’s nasty stall-shot OT winner, assisted by Stastny. The veteran center scored his first VGK goal on a gorgeous pass by Max Pacioretty earlier in the game. The trio had five combined points to lead the offense at Madison Square Garden.
Averaging 6’2, and weighing in at a combined 621 lbs. the Golden Knights second line, when healthy, is a handful.
Here's a better angle of the Pacioretty injury. Appears to be another knee injury for VGK. pic.twitter.com/2xBl28fOQw— SinBin.vegas (@SinBinVegas) December 18, 2018
Unfortunately, the line’s flow was interrupted once again when Pacioretty left the game in Columbus and never returned. Without any knowledge of the severity of the injury, Stastny in the lineup will help Vegas’ depth players adjust to more minutes or new assignments. His quick ability to create positive line chemistry is just one element. If #67 is out for an extended time, Stastny is the right center to get a fill-in winger up to speed. Matched up with a red hot Tuch, the second-line should survive without Pacioretty for a short while.
Coaches constantly talk about carrying strong veteran leaders on the team, and it’s not just for rah, rah locker room crap. In Stastny’s case it’s his awareness and anticipation of the puck. It’s his knack to draw defenders in and find an open teammate, and his patience too allow plays to develop. It’s Stastny’s 55% Faceoff Win percentage, his hockey IQ and his ability to play 5-on-5, 5-on-4, 4-on-5, and 3-on-3. These are the veteran elements Stastny has brought to the ice. This is what the Golden Knights spent $35 million on.
We felt like we had a couple holes to fill on the second line and we wanted to get a couple of real good two-way players that can play in all situations. -George McPhee, 9/26/18
And this is only after 104:41 of total TOI this season. Talk about a small sample size. Maybe that’s all we need, considering his successful veteran resume… and price tag.