Calvin Pickard

Getty

Can Golden Knights keep winning as they keep losing goalies?

6 Comments

The Vegas Golden Knights confirmed today’s fearful report: Malcolm Subban is expected to miss about a month thanks to a lower-body injury suffered during another Golden Knights upset (3-2 in OT vs. the Blues) on Saturday night.

It makes for a dizzying run of turnover in the Cinderella expansion team’s net; Calvin Pickard went to the Toronto Maple Leafs as the odd man out, Subban is headed to IR, and Marc-Andre Fleury is sidelined with another concussion.

The spotlight, then, turns to Oscar Dansk, the 23-year-old goalie who stopped 10 of 11 shots against St. Louis when Subban went down with that injury.

Golden Knights GM George McPhee said the predictable, right things regarding Dansk and the situation:

“Injuries provide opportunities for others and that is the situation we have here,” McPhee said. “Our top two goaltenders are currently sidelined so we will now give our AHL goalies the chance to play in their absence. We felt Oscar Dansk performed well in relief on Saturday in his NHL debut.”

In a way, Dansk feels like a lower-level version of Subban. While Subban is/was a struggling former first-rounder, Dansk was the second-round version; the Columbus Blue Jackets made him the 31st pick of the 2012 NHL Draft.

(Hey, the 31st pick is now a first-rounder thanks to the Golden Knights, so there’s that.)

Dansk hasn’t been setting the hockey world on fire at other levels, but maybe that makes him an interesting fit for this weird situation, as the Golden Knights continue to defy odds and puck-gravity during a 6-1-0 start.

What to expect

While the Chicago Blackhawks boast the sort of firepower that could make for an unpleasant introduction for Dansk, at least the Golden Knights still have a few games remaining on their first-ever homestand:

Tue, Oct 24 vs Chicago
Fri, Oct 27 vs Colorado
Mon, Oct 30 @ NY Islanders
Tue, Oct 31 @ NY Rangers

That back-to-back to end the month could be Halloween-scary, but at least Vegas has some time to prepare. The losses are likely to come starting on Oct. 30, as they face a six-game road trip and eight of nine games away from home. That’s challenging, no expansion disclaimers needed.

How they’ve been playing

Some wonder if the Golden Knights should loosen their defensive logjam by trading for a netminder.

Rather than wading too deep into that discussion, this seems like a reasonable time to look at the Golden Knights seven games (and six wins) in.

  • One thing that stands out is Vegas’ penalty kill. They’ve been almost perfect if you exclude a rough showing in their overtime win against the Sabres (Buffalo went 3-for-5 in that game). Aside from that, they’ve only allowed one power-play goal. They’ve also only hit the penalty box three or four times most nights, with one night with just one trip and the five opportunities for the Sabres standing as the outliers.

The Golden Knights should expect more struggles in both regards, at least at times, this season. Maybe this long run of home-ice advantage and their expansion status helped avoid most whistles? Perhaps Gerard Gallant has them playing extra-smart?

  • So far, the shot counts have been pretty reasonable in five of seven games. They’ve only been heavily outshot twice so far: their first game (46 shots on goal for Dallas, 30 for them) and this past one vs. the Blues (49 for St. Louis, 22 for Vegas). That’s surprisingly competent stuff.
  • With any team enjoying success, close games can be a red flag, especially if there are OT wins. Vegas has three wins in overtime and one other one-goal win. Their 3-1 win against Boston included an empty-netter.

This isn’t to dismiss those wins, but sometimes close games are more like “coin flips,” and some of those will start going against the Golden Knights eventually.

  • The Golden Knights are a top-10 team in two luck-leaning categories: PDO and shooting percentage. That said, they’re not the top team in either spot, so it’s not outrageous to give them some credit.

***

Through some intriguing combination of competence and beginner’s luck, the Golden Knights are off to a shockingly good start.

It’s one thing to lose one goalie, but seeing both go down is brutal for any squad, let alone an expansion team. The Golden Knights have every excuse to start to fade, and were likely to see slippage even at full strength.

Even so, credit this team for being far better than anyone expected, and this hungry bunch will at least be able to point to doubtful bits like these if they need some “us against the world” motivation.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

MORE FROM NHL ON NBC SPORTS:

Report: Golden Knights’ Subban ‘probably out weeks’ after injury versus Blues

Getty
13 Comments

The Golden Knights won again on Saturday, but lost goalie Malcolm Subban to an injury in the third period.

Vegas head coach Gerard Gallant, as is often the case immediately following a game in which an injury occurs, didn’t have an update on Subban’s condition. He called it a lower-body injury, and said he would know more by Sunday.

However, John Shannon of Sportsnet, citing a team source, reported that Subban will undergo an MRI on Sunday and is “probably out weeks.”

That isn’t good news at all for a Vegas team already without Marc-Andre Fleury, who is still on injured reserve after suffering a concussion.

The 23-year-old Subban, who was picked off waivers by Vegas following his training camp with the Bruins, had a promising start to the season since joining the Golden Knights. Since the injury to Fleury, Subban has played in three games, winning two of those and allowing six goals on 94 shots against. He allowed only one goal on 38 shots last night before leaving the game.

Oscar Dansk came off the bench last night when Subban was hurt, and stopped 10 of 11 shots faced as the Golden Knights picked up the overtime victory, despite getting outshot 49-22.

But any lengthy injury to Subban would really test the depth of the Golden Knights goaltending. Fleury has already been out for just over week. The 23-year-old Dansk made his NHL debut last night, and Vegas doesn’t have Calvin Pickard anymore, after he was traded to Toronto a few weeks ago. Maxime Lagace is still down with the AHL Chicago Wolves.

————

Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

 

Golden Knights lost more than just first game vs. Red Wings: Fleury goes to IR

9 Comments

One of this early season’s best stories might have hit a serious snag.

The Vegas Golden Knights recently announced that Marc-Andre Fleury and Jonathan Marchessault have been placed on IR. Goalie Maxime Lagace and forward Alex Tuch were called up from the AHL in their absence.

As this oddly adorable update notes, Erik Haula is also out of action, opening the door for intriguing KHL import Vadim Shipachyov:

This most likely opens the door for an intriguing storyline on Sunday: could we see Malcolm Subban face the Boston Bruins not that long after the team waived him?

That’s kind of fun, but seeing “The Flower” get injured is a tough pill to swallow after the Detroit Red Wings handed them their first-ever loss (6-3 on Friday). Even with that tough game, Fleury’s early Vegas numbers sparkle: 3-1-0 with a strong .925 save percentage.

Place that on top of being an early “face of the franchise” and this injury hurts. This was almost certainly the moment that Fleury got hurt. (Update: Sportsnet shared video of the event; see above this post’s headline.)

(In case you’re wondering, Lagace seems like a pretty marginal 24-year-old netminder, at least judging by a glance at his numbers at lower levels.)

If Subban has a rough Sunday, there might be a least a couple murmurs about the organization letting Calvin Pickard get lost in the shuffle, eventually falling to the Toronto Maple Leafs in a trade that felt like just a small step up from losing him for nothing.

It’s possible that Haula got hurt thanks to this fight with Tomas Tatar:

All things considered, it seems like the Golden Knights lost in more ways than one against the Red Wings on Friday.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

MORE FROM NHL ON NBC SPORTS:

Pickard probably biggest loser in Maple Leafs – Golden Knights trade

Getty
17 Comments

Curtis McElhinney may have a two-year contract in hand, but the Toronto Maple Leafs likely realize he’s only a stopgap at age 34. They made a move in possibly securing the future behind franchise goalie Frederik Andersen on Friday, acquiring Calvin Pickard in a trade with the Vegas Golden Knights.

The Golden Knights initially waived Pickard, as they had a three’s a crowd situation after claiming Malcolm Subban. Subban serves as Marc-Andre Fleury‘s backup, then.

Vegas’ takeaway in this trade is meager: Tobias Lindberg and a sixth-round pick in 2018.

Simply put, it seems like Pickard was the odd man out.

The road ahead for Pickard is pretty murky, as the Leafs announced that he’s headed to the AHL. Pickard, 25, likely slots in at third on the Toronto depth chart ahead of Garret Sparks.

This is shrewd move for the Maple Leafs, who gave up very little for Pickard. He somewhat surprisingly already cleared waivers alongside defenseman Martin Marincin, so the Maple Leafs can allow him to marinate with the Marlies.

And, boy, does this serve as quite a bum deal for Pickard.

Consider that, in 2016-17, Pickard played 50 regular-season games for the Colorado Avalanche. He struggled in that situation, but then again, so did the Avalanche. Historically so.

Even with that troubled run, Pickard has produced a .914 career save percentage in 86 NHL games, which argues that he’s at least too good to be in the AHL. He turned some heads in international play this summer, making an argument that Pickard could prosper on a more even playing field.

It’s not even that outrageous to ponder a best-case scenario where he’d be part of a productive “platoon.”

The Avalanche ultimately opted to expose Pickard in the expansion draft, yet it seemed like the netminder would still get a chance to be a backup. Fans of teams with struggling starters or goalies may soon wonder why Pickard didn’t get claimed on waivers today, too.

Instead, the Maple Leafs’ nice gain is Pickard’s clear loss, and there’s even a chance that he’ll face more turbulence in the future if he gets moved again. Overall, it’s a bad break for a goalie who showed some promise.

It’s also another testament to the challenges a goalie faces without a beefy contract.

Trade brewing? Golden Knights raise eyebrows by waiving Calvin Pickard

Getty
8 Comments

In claiming Malcolm Subban off of waivers, the Vegas Golden Knights seemed like they might need to fight through a dreaded three-goalie situation, at least for some time.

That’s not the worst problem to have when it makes for a trio of Subban, Calvin Pickard, and starter Marc-Andre Fleury … but it also might not be a long-lasting issue.

There were more than a few bewildered faces (or intense stares?) when word surfaced that Vegas placed Pickard on waivers today. He wasn’t the only notable name, as the Toronto Maple Leafs did the same with Martin Marinicin:

So, what might happen next? And why did they do this?

It’s not completely intuitive that placing a goalie on waivers would make him easier to trade. Sin Bin Vegas sheds some light on why this could grease the wheels:

Interesting.

Sin Bin Vegas notes that this could allow a recall of Vadim Shipachyov. It’s also worth noting that, while he was placed on IR to start the season, James Neal apparently could come back soon. The Las Vegas Journal-Review’s Steve Carp seemed impressed with Neal during the morning skate.

So, maybe part of the plan is to trade Pickard. Perhaps management simply believes that it’s worth the waiver risk to get other skaters into the mix.

Either way, it’s an interesting situation. Subban making things crowded means that this wasn’t totally out of left field, but personally, it wasn’t necessarily anticipated, either.

Especially considering that there are at least some who are quite fond of Pickard.

Pickard, 25, struggled when pressed into action in 2016-17, yet few goalies would put up great numbers over 50 games with that abysmal rendition of the Colorado Avalanche. Despite those tougher times, he has a solid .914 save percentage so far in his brief NHL career.

Goalies are fickle beasts, and some believe that Pickard has potential. Depending upon how this shakes out, we might see more than a few Subban vs. Pickard comparisons down the line.

Anyway, should a team bite the bullet and grab him now? Is Subban worth it? There’s a lot to digest here.