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Carp: Golden Knights Still Have Work To Do

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2021 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**

I’m guessing if you were one of the 17,504 who were inside the Fortress Friday, you didn’t walk out of the building. More than likely, you floated your way out the doors and into the hot Las Vegas night.

You had the right to feel euphoric. You had just witnessed a great hockey game, one that may ultimately have saved your team’s season. It was played amid a loud, frenetic atmosphere, fiercely contested from both sides and exhilarating in the outcome.

But by winning Game 3, 3-2, the Golden Knights merely closed the gap between themselves and the Colorado Avalanche. They’re not out of the woods yet. Not by a long shot. However, there’s reason for optimism heading into today’s Game 4 as the Knights look to even the series and turn it into a best-of-three event.

The biggest cause for optimism? The team’s best players are finally showing up. Max Pacioretty, the team’s leading goal scorer during the regular season, appears to be getting comfortable again as he redirected the game-winner past Philipp Grubauer, who finally showed a human side to himself after being nearly impenetrable the first two games.

Jonathan Marchessault, another would-be goal scorer who has shown a flair for getting big goals, got the game tied with a little bit of puck luck after banking one off Grubauer and in to tie the game.

Then, there’s Marc-Andre Fleury, who once again is proving to be money in the postseason. He closed the door on the Avs down the stretch and made sure there’s going to be a Game 5 in Denver come Tuesday. It’s his net and there will be no controversy going forward.

I have no idea what’s going on with Robin Lehner. But his lack of availability is concerning, even if he never gets back in goal. The $12 million experiment was predicated on having two No. 1 goalies. That experiment appears to have run its course and Fleury will be tasked with taking his team as far as he can.

I knew Fleury was ready a minute into Game 3 when he whacked Brandon Saad in the back of his leg after Saad tried to engage in some extracurricular activity after the whistle. He was rock solid throughout and his robbery of Mikko Rantanen late in the game to prevent the Avs from tying it was a huge moment in this series.

But there’s more. There’s William Karlsson contributing offensively and winning faceoffs. There’s Mark Stone who kept the play alive along the boards, dropped the puck off to Nick Holden, whose shot from the left point was redirected by Pacioretty for the game-winner. Alex Pietrangelo had an assist and played better defensively. Shea Theodore was more engaged offensively. He has three assists in his last two games.

All of this points to what Pete DeBoer said after the win: “Your best players have to be your best players.” We’re seeing that, particularly in Game 3. That is something to build on heading into the all-important Game 4.

Let’s see Theodore continue to activate himself more into the attack. Let’s see the Misfit Line of Karlsson, Marchessault, and Reilly Smith continue to contribute. Let’s see Chandler Stephenson, Stone and Pacioretty make Nathan MacKinnon’s line work harder in the Colorado defensive zone and skate with them when the Knights lose possession.

And let’s have DeBoer leave his lineup the way it is. It’s unlikely Mattias Janmark is ready to return Sunday and Brayden McNabb remains on the NHL’s COVID-19 list. And they have both been missed. That said, Dylan Sikura is doing good things in Janmark’s spot and Holden has filled in splendidly for McNabb.

The question is, what does DeBoer do with Ryan Reaves? The veteran tough-guy forward has served his two-game suspension for his abuse of Ryan Graves in Game 1 and he is eligible to play. But given the performance of Keegan Kolesar, who has made the fourth line faster and more competitive, do you bring Reaves back?

I would not take Kolesar out. He, Patrick Brown, and Will Carrier are playing better than Colorado’s bottom forward line and while they have not scored, they are doing the job that you want from a fourth line — play with energy, maintain continuity and not be a defensive liability. But after hearing DeBoer’s comments Saturday when asked about Reaves, I think No. 75 will be in the lineup.

The atmosphere will once again be electric inside the Fortress for Game 4. Momentum is clearly with the Knights. They are starting to get some puck luck go their way and they know they can beat Grubauer and Colorado. Psychologically speaking, they appear to be in a good place. But now’s not the time to get cocky or overconfident. This can easily flip back to the Avalanche, and let’s not forget, the Avs still lead this series.

We have a lot of hockey left to play. Now it’s all about the next game. -Marchessault

The little ball of hate is absolutely correct. There’s still lots of work to do.

**Steve Carp is the author of “Vegas Born — The remarkable story of the Golden Knights.” Follow him on Twitter @stevecarp56. All of Steve Carp’s work here on SinBin.vegas is presented to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm. For over twenty-five years, the Jimmerson Law Firm has been widely recognized as one of Las Vegas’s preeminent full-service law firms. Specializing in high stakes business, civil and family litigation, the Jimmerson Law Firm has an unparalleled track record of winning when it matters most. To reach the Jimmerson Law Firm, call (702) 388-7171 and tell them SinBin.vegas sent you.**

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19 Comments

  1. DOC (Go Knights Go)

    Simple!

    Take 2nd step !

    TONIGHT!

  2. DOC (Go Knights Go)

    PS! Normally I find your write ups ok, Carp. But, “Knights still have work to do”?

    Pretty obvious, yes?

  3. There is zero reason to add Reaves back in the line up unless of course you are interested in loosing. He is a liability spelled with a capital ” L”. He adds nothing and takes a seat on the bench from someone who can skate and potentially score. Seems they have done fine in his absence- the league could have done Vegas a huge favor by suspending him longer.

    • Howard

      Hdbiker7851; not sure what Deboer likes about Reeves. He’s a defensive liability out there. Perhaps at home because of last change, won’t be such an issue, but at Colorado it can become a huge issue, and if we lose SPECIFICALLY because of this(means Reeves is out there and blows an assignment and AVS score), Deboer will get fired.

      • Reaves should not even be at the rink he adds nothing other than trouble whether here or Denver. As you stated he should be fired. I would hope he is smarter than that.

  4. sb

    The weak spot of the VGK is obvious and to get past Colorado, that needs to reverse from the weakness to a strength.
    MAF’s last five games SA% – .880%, .900%, .875%, 769% and .900 (at the cost of $7 mil per season). And the Vezina talk has suddenly vanished.
    Compare this to Grubauer’s last five game SA% – .969%, .900%, .951%, .960% and .930% (at the cost of $3.3 mil).
    Why is Colorado winning? Obvious. It’s goaltending. Why is Vegas struggling? Obvious. It’s goaltending.

    • Howard

      Frankly SB, you are the reason a lot of us VGK who actually know hockey, can’t stand ‘fans’ such as you.

      Only 2 of the goals given up can be considered ‘soft goals.’ Based on this year’s playoffs and your ignorant hockey knowledge, Tampa’s Vasilevskiy must also suck at goaltending.

      It’s really about time that Vegas fans learn hockey, instead of continually making utter asses out of themselves when they post nonsense such as this.

    • Coyote

      We make every goalie look good. MAF is human. He lets a few in, of course, but he is our best hope.

      In MAF we trust. Need the defense to play well, too.

    • Daryl

      There is more to hockey and especially goaltending than stats. So far this series I would say MAF has given up 2 soft goals. When COL gets the high danger shits they’ve been getting you aren’t going to make those saves. COL has the advantage in save % because VGK shoots the puck non stop from anywhere on the ice. Most of their shits are not tough saves. COL on the other hand doesn’t shoot as much but make precise passes and as I said high danger shots. This will lower your save %

      You really don’t understand hockey do you?

  5. Tim

    My take first I think Patch played his best game as a Knight he’s always a sniper threat but Friday he was all over the ice playing hard. If you look at our lineup playing AHL guys because of injuries kudo’s to DeBoer the way he’s matching up and there playing hard. He was dealt this hand and yes Colorado has more skilled players but no matter what happens the team as a whole have played there ass off. I was never a DeBoer fan maybe from our history with the Sharks but you can’t knock the job he’s done. Management made some mistakes which have left us shorthanded but lets get passed that and pull even in the series tonight and put the fear of the lord in Colorado and there over confident fans.

  6. Howard

    Concerning goaltending:

    If a goalie is in good position, and offense says breaks down D with seam pass 5 times a game, and shot comes inside the dot, the goalie is expected to save that shot very few times. These are not considered soft goals.

    If a goalie is constantly out of position, or in position and flubs a lower danger shot, this is a soft goal.

    Maf gave up one soft goal last game as a shot came OUTSIDE the dot and behind, no screen. MAF had it go out of his glove and a rebound was put in = BAD SOFT GOAL.

    If on a power play, a sniper has a screen in front of goalie, the goalie can’t stop a shot he can’t see unless he gets LUCKY. – not expected to save that.

    Grubhauer hasn’t been great, he’s been good except for the Marsh goal, in which he was out of position off his post.

    Grubs stops on those breakaways were good, nothing special because the shooters over thought their shots. Max in the last game just made too many stick handles – overthinking it.

    Tuch and Max did same in game 2 – overthinking. For some reason, VGK seems to do this a lot and I’m not sure why.

    A great save is when a goalie gets caught out of position, then manages somehow get a stick on it or a glove.

    Holtby made a great stop on Tuch in game 2 of 2018 Cup Final. While a bit lucky, he used proper stick technique and Tuch didn’t get the puck elevated.

    The best way to beat most goalies is to shoot high, but those shots are harder to place just right. You need a ton of skill to do that. This is why I often say that VGK lacks SKILLED SHOOTERS. Most of them just shoot at the goal, and when they try to place shots just right, they seem to miss rather badly.

    Compare VGK shooters to say Tampa Bay. This is also why we suck on the PP and Tampa is great on it.

    What makes VGK a very good team is total commitment to defense/checking = team concept – VGK probably has best team structure in The NHL, and that’s a credit to Deboer.

  7. Howard

    VGK biggest weakness (in relation to my last post)

    is skilled shooting. VGK FO for some reason did not address this in the offseason (mix and match 2nd and 3rd line center) and opted to waste money on a 1B goalie we didn’t NEED, and an aging DMAN they might have first wanted to WATCH FILM ON.

    Petro isn’t an Erik Karlsson type shooter (neither is Erik anymore because of all his injuries), nor is he a Doughty type either. Petro doesn’t have strong/fast wrister, but a slow deliberate one – why he was a big waste of money.

    VGK front office did here what most NHL front offices do – fall in love with name recognition, and in hockey, that means far less than any other major sport – if u don’t think so, name me in any major sport where an expansion team comes up 3 games short of winning a championship in their first year of existence.

    I really wish NHL front offices would mimic what top MLB front offices like The Dodgers do – make signings based on metrics, not ” hey, we can get this guy, he’s a big name” thinking.

  8. DOC (Go Knights Go)

    Regardless of what the Revo haters say, it’s been documented many times his teammates respect and want what he brings . I think he’ll be in there tonight!

    But that’s up to PDB, so we’ll see what he does!

  9. knights fan in minny

    holden should be in playing well

  10. Daryl

    I see PDB went with Reaves AND Kolesar…. This is one of the reasons I don’t like him nor think he is a great coach. This makes absolutely no sense. VGK needs speed and skilled players, what does Reaves bring to the table. As we saw in game 1,nobody is scared that Reaves is on the bench. VGK also played better the last two games without Reaves

  11. Julie

    Well, I guess we could rehash our goalie options….ok, done with that. Looks like Fleury is earning the 12m experiment. Good for him!

    Lots of energy in this first period! But Elliot Friedman’s suit…. Oh, my, that is some Willie Wonka mojo right there.

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