Even though the Golden Knights haven’t taken on the New York Islanders yet this season, VGK return home to a familiar situation. For the 5th time this year, Vegas will take on a team on the second game of a back-to-back.
Last night, the Islanders lost 5-4 to the Arizona Coyotes extending their losing streak to three. They are the third of the previous four teams to lose the front end of the back-to-back before taking on the Golden Knights.
VGK are 3-1-0 in the first four and there are lessons to learn about those games to help give perspective on what we might see tonight.
10/13 vs Chicago Blackhawks
VGK win 1-0
Vegas 2nd game of the season they took on a Blackhawks team that had played the night before in Colorado. Chicago got blasted against the defending champions, allowing four power play goals. The game was 4-1 heading into the 3rd and Chicago ultimately fell 5-2.
The Hawks looked much better against the Golden Knights the following night. They came out and blitzed Vegas attempting 25 shot attempts and generating six high-danger chances in the 1st period. But, Logan Thomspon was tremendous stopping all 10 Blackhawk shots. VGK took over from there landing 17 scoring chances in the 2nd period alone while allowing just 10 the rest of the game. A goal from Paul Cotter was the only one of the game.
Chicago switched goalies from their game the night before in Colorado. Backup Alex Stalock took on the Golden Knights and was excellent in this game.
10/20 vs Winnipeg Jets
VGK win 5-2
This one was the opposite of the Chicago game as the Golden Knights jumped all over the tired Jets, scoring four times in the 1st. Winnipeg also visited Colorado the night before and played into overtime where they defeated the Avs 4-3. Winnipeg held a 3-1 lead in that game but a pair of late 2nd period goals sent it to intermission tied at three where it would stay until OT.
The advanced stats tell a much different story of the game in Vegas though. Despite scoring four times, per NaturalStatTrick.com Vegas landed just four scoring chances and none qualified as high-danger in the 1st period. It was an opportunistic effort from VGK scoring early and often against a backup goalie. The next two periods, like against Chicago, Vegas locked it down allowing just three high-danger chances.
The Jets also chose to play their starter in the front end of the back-to-back before facing the Golden Knights. Connor Hellebuyck stopped 30 of 33 in Colorado while David Rittich got lit up in Vegas allowing four goals on 13 1st period shots.
10/22 vs Colorado Avalanche
VGK lose 3-2
The very next game for the Golden Knights saw the exact same situation with another team coming in from Colorado. This time it was the Avalanche themselves who had lost 3-2 the night before at home to the Seattle Kraken.
The biggest difference here is that the Avs used their backup against the Kraken, saving the starter to face the Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena. Pavel Francouz played well against Seattle stopping 35 of 38 but it wasn’t enough to secure the win.
In Vegas, the game was fairly even at 5-on-5, but special teams made the difference. Both teams scored on 1st period power players and the Avs added another one on the man-avantage in the 2nd. Colorado finished the game 2/2 on the power play while the Golden Knights squandered their next three chances ending at 1/4.
11/1 at Washington Capitals
VGK win 3-2 in OT
The Capitals actually arrived in Washington DC after the Golden Knights as they played in Carolina on Halloween night. The Hurricanes knocked off the Caps in shootout in a wild game involving 14 minor penalties including one on Washington in OT.
Washington scored quickly against the Golden Knights on a power play tally just 3:39 into the 1st period. However, VGK answered with an Eichel power play goal of their own late in the period. Defensively, the Golden Knights were excellent in this game at even-strength, especially in the 1st and 3rd periods. The problem was scoring. It appeared to be headed towards another game where the Golden Knights couldn’t generate enough offense to win, but a late goal from William Carrier saved the day.
Washington also used their backup goalie in this game. Darcy Kuemper was great the night before in Carolina, stopping 33 shots in regulation and OT, but he failed in shootout allowing two goals on the three attempts. Charlie Lindgren got the call against the Golden Knights and couldn’t keep them out when it mattered most.
So, what does it all mean?
First, the goalie matters. In the three games in which the opposing team used their backup against the Golden Knights, VGK came out victorious. The one time the starter played Vegas, the Golden Knights lost.
Last night in Phoenix, starter Ilya Sorokin played for the Islanders. He allowed five goals in a losing effort. The Golden Knights are expected to see the backup, Semyon Varlamov tonight.
Next, 1st periods are key. VGK’s opposition has faded as each of the games went on. Chicago, Colorado, and Washington all had their best period of the game in the 1st while the Golden Knights’ easiest game was the one they played best in the opening 20, against Winnipeg.
Finally, the Golden Knights have outshot their opponent in 16 games this season while have been outshot in 13 (it was even in a few games). In the four games when facing an opponent on a back-to-back, VGK have outshot the opposition by a total of 34 shots. Three of the four games Vegas outshot the other team by exactly 10 shots on goal.
The Golden Knights have struggled at home recently and the Islanders can be a stingy team. But, the situation once again sets up nicely for them to wear down a tired team. They’ve done it before, and as long as special teams don’t let them down as they did against Colorado, they should be able to do it again.