Oscar Dansk

Getty Images

Prior’s knack with goalies put to test in Vegas

2 Comments

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Dave Prior has a knack for fast-tracking goalies to the NHL.

The analytical and strategic mind that helped draft and develop 2016 Vezina Trophy winner Braden Holtby in Washington was brought to Vegas with hopes he would not only work with veteran Marc-Andre Fleury but also develop the fledgling franchise’s younger netminders.

Little did Prior know his expertise would be so thoroughly put to the test during the first two months of the season.

After Fleury went down with a concussion Oct. 13 and missed the next 25 games, the expansion Golden Knights have enjoyed a historic start thanks in part to four goalies who had seen action in two combined NHL games before this season.

Malcolm Subban, Maxime Lagace and Oscar Dansk saw most of the action, while Dylan Ferguson spent just over nine minutes between the pipes.

And though Fleury lost in his 696th career start Tuesday night against the Carolina Hurricanes in his long-anticipated return, Vegas is still in second place in the Pacific Division with 40 points, three behind the Los Angeles Kings.

”It’s been a fascinating story for me as a coach because I haven’t been challenged in this way before,” Prior said. ”I don’t think I’ve approached it any different than I have tasks in the past. You’re not usually confronted with replacing one guy after another after another. I had a lot of input into the goaltenders that we signed here and took in the expansion draft.

”The goalies didn’t let me down. I steered them in the direction, but they’ve done all the work.”

The five goalies have a combined .905 save percentage, led by Subban, whose .924 save percentage ranks eighth among all goaltenders with a minimum 10 games played. Among goalies who have played at least four games, Dansk leads the league with a .946 save percentage and Fleury is ninth at .930.

Prior said the development of his goaltending prospects began with a philosophical approach in training camp. He knew the chemistry was far from what he wanted, but he was also pleased they had bought into the system and that he had earned their trust.

”When these opportunities came, it sort of was an opportunity to accelerate the process,” Prior said. ”You don’t usually get to train guys in this environment that are in the minors. I believed they had the upside to become NHL goaltenders. I was just hoping the step they were going to be good enough to make it to No. 1 in the American (Hockey) League first, let alone be thrown into being the guy who had to play in the NHL. They worked really hard and bought in and we managed to survive the loss of Marc-Andre.”

Without Fleury, the Golden Knights were 16-8-1, including a stellar 7-1-0 against Pacific Division opponents.

Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said he’s left the goaltenders alone, avoiding interfering with what Prior instilled during training camp.

”I don’t know how he does it. He spends a lot of time in video with these guys, more than I’ve seen in the past,” Gallant said. ”He’s just focused on them doing the right things and playing the right way. … He wants to get the best from every goaltender and he gets the best confidence of every goaltender.”

Prior acknowledged Gallant’s hands-off approach and said it’s made it easier to work with Fleury, develop Subban and teach the younger players.

”I still have always gone about my job with the fact that I am the person sort of establishing how we’re going to play,” Prior said. ”When you’re having someone second-guess your approach, it makes it more difficult. I appreciate his hands off. I think if we were failing he may be a little more involved, but the goaltenders have done a good job.”

Marc-Andre Fleury set for return after getting taken off IR

Getty Images
3 Comments

The Vegas Golden Knights have their starting goaltender back.

After nearly two months and 25 missed games, Marc-Andre Fleury is expected to make his return to the lineup on Tuesday after being pulled off injured reserve on Sunday.

Fleury hasn’t played since Oct. 13 when Detroit Red Wings forward Anthony Mantha collided with the 33-year-old as he drove to the net. Fleury was shaken up on the play but saw it through, picking up his first loss of the season after allowing six goals on 27 shots.

Fleury was solid in the crease in the four games he figured into, going 3-1-0 with a .925 save percentage and a 2.48 goals-against average.

Since he went down, the Golden Knights have had four other netminders see the crease after injuries ran rampant through their goaltending stable.

Their combined record, despite a clear lacking of NHL experience, has been remarkable:

  • Malcolm Subban – 10 GP, 7-2-0, .924 save percentage
  • Maxime Lagace – 14 GP, 6-6-1, .872 save percentage
  • Oscar Dansk – 4 GP, 3-0-0, .946 save percentage
  • Dylan Ferguson – 1 GP, 0-0-0, .500 save percentage

Remember when Subban was claimed off waivers on the eve of the start of the regular season? Quite the steal.

That adds up to a 16-8-1 record with Fleury out of the lineup, which is incredible given how banged up Vegas got between the pipes.

The Golden Knights are on a four-game heater at the moment, and with Subban playing admirably — winning his past three starts — it remains to be seen if Fleury takes the crease on Tuesday.

If not Tuesday, Fleury is surely a lock to get the start against his former team. The Pittsburgh Penguins come to town on Thursday.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Golden Knights can’t contain excitement in getting a healthy goalie back

Getty
3 Comments

Everyone, you can downgrade the Vegas Golden Knights’ goalie situation from “absurd” to … I don’t know, tenuous?

Eh, we can fuss over the right way to describe the situation any time. For now, the Golden Knights are delighted that Malcolm Subban has been activated from IR, as mentioned on their official website, and boy was it mentioned on Twitter.

The fawning borders on “Your friend who’s fallen into puppy love and is totally overwhelmed, making it both adorable and kind of annoying.”

Aw.

Sheesh, we get i–

*rolls eyes*

At least it all started with this helpful update on who’s healthy and who’s not:

Meanwhile, Dylan Ferguson returns to the WHL.

OK, so let’s take a look at how that big group did so far, remembering that the Golden Knights are still keeping it going with a fairly astounding 11-6-1 record.

Marc-Andre Fleury: 3-1-0, .925 save percentage, suffered what might have been a concussion.

Maxime Lagace: 3-5-1, .864 save percentage, didn’t fall apart altogether despite being wildly inexperienced for the task at hand.

Oscar Dansk: 3-0-0, .946 save percentage. When he got hurt, things went from ridiculous to absurd.

Subban: 2-0-0, .936 save percentage. He’s back, did you hear?

Ferguson: One goal allowed, one save in 9:14 of play.

*takes a breath*

So, yeah. that’s quite the run of netminders. Subban was playing remarkably well before he was injured, and it’s worth remembering that the Golden Knights essentially chose him over Calvin Pickard. Time will tell if that’s the right decision for the franchise, but right now, they’re clearly over the moon just to have a more NHL-appropriate goalie available again.

Sometimes it’s about the simplest things in life, eh?

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.

Vegas’ goaltending situation is starting to get absurd

Getty
8 Comments

Do you have any goaltending experience? Yes. You. You, the person reading this right now.

If you do, the Vegas Golden Knights might be calling you soon as all of their goalies keep suffering all sorts of calamities that are knocking them out of the lineup one by one.

After Maxime Lagace had to leave Tuesday’s 8-2 loss in Edmonton after giving up seven goals and appearing to be injured the team had to turn to 19-year-old Dylan Ferguson to finish the game.

In doing so, Ferguson became the fifth different goalie to appear in a game for the Golden Knights this season.

They have only played 17 games.

Now there remains a chance that he might have to start Thursday’s game in Vancouver, as noted by Sportsnet’s John Shannon on Wednesday.

If you want to include Calvin Pickard, whom the Golden Knights selected in the expansion draft but traded before he ever had a chance to play in a game for the team, they are sort on their sixth goalie of the season.

This, of course, is absurd.

A big part  — perhaps the biggest part — of Vegas’ early season success was the fact they were getting exceptional goaltending. Given that Marc-Andre Fleury was the top player they acquired in the expansion draft and was expected to be one of the initial building blocks of the franchise that was probably the plan all along.

Get a good goalie, give what will almost certainly be an undermanned team at least a chance to win on most nights, then go from there.

For a while, things were going according to plan.

Then Fleury suffered a concussion in his fourth game and has not played since.

From there the team turned to its new backup, Malcolm Subban. After getting absolutely lit up in his only two NHL appearances prior to this season Subban stepped into the lineup and was exceptional until he, too, ended up getting injured with a lower-body injury.

That opened the door for Oscar Dansk, and he too exceeded all expectations until he too ended up getting injured in a loss to the New York Islanders. He has not played since, either.

Between the three of them, Fleury, Subban and Dansk had posted an 8-1-0 record with a combined .934 save percentage before they were all knocked out of the lineup.

At some point when a team — in this case an expansion team — gets this far down its goaltending depth chart it is going to start to become a problem. The Golden Knights are just 2-5-1 with Lagace in net while his .860 save percentage has been by far the worst in the NHL among goalies that have appeared in at least eight games.

With decent goaltending Vegas could probably continue to be an interesting team, especially as a lot of their top forwards continue to score at a pretty respectable rate. There is only so much they can do, however, when the team is literally running out of goalies and turning to their fifth and sixth string goalies.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

PHT Morning Skate: T.J. Oshie has special bond with young cancer patient

Getty
1 Comment

–We know that Connor McDavid is really good at hockey, but like the rest of us there are certain things he just can’t do. He’s not a morning person, he can’t cook, and dealing with spiders isn’t a strength of his. (ESPN.com)

–The Rangers had a lot of scouts on hand to watch Monday’s game between Ottawa and Montreal. Could they be after Canadiens forwards Alex Galchenyuk and/or Andrew Shaw? (NY Post)

–The Toronto Maple Leafs got off to a hot start, but they’ve now dropped four of their last five games. Head coach Mike Babcock isn’t going to tolerate this slide going much further, so he decided to make huge changes at practice. Patrick Marleau was moved to center, Tyler Bozak found himself on the fourth line and a few depth players are coming out of the lineup. (pensionplanpuppets.com)

–TSN’s Travis Yost looks at established players that have seen the ice time drop over the last few seasons. There’s some interesting names on the list. Are these players starting to decline? (TSN.ca)

–NBCSN’s coverage of the hockey season continues on Wednesday night, as the Flyers battle the Blackhawks. NHL.com look at five reasons you shouldn’t miss this game. The fact that Patrick Kane and Ivan Provorov are in this game certainly doesn’t hurt. (NHL.com)

–In yesterday’s morning skate, we had a list of the top 15 scariest masks of all-time. Today, the Sporting News tells the tales of some of the most frightening masks the ice has ever seen. (Sporting News)

–Here’s a really touching story about the impact Capitals forward T.J. Oshie has had on a young cancer patient named Addy Flint. “Her getting to see T.J. and watch the Caps practice is really inspirational for her,” Addy’s mom, Stacey said. “She mentioned how it kind of allows her to look forward to something. She’s been determined to be healthy today as well as it kind of gives her something fun to remember when there are kind of the rough times.” (Washington Post)

–The Tampa Bay Lightning have several quality defensemen on their roster. Because Mikhail Sergachev is sticking around, there’s one less spot for Slater Koekkoek and Andrej Sustr. Despite their depth on the blue line, now isn’t the time to get rid of those two guys, according to rawcharge.com.

–You’ve probably heard a thing or two about Vegas’ depth between the pipes being tested. With Marc-Andre Fleury, Malcolm Subban and Oscar Dansk on the shelf, The Score looks at five goalies that could help the Golden Knights right now. Guys like Andrew Hammond and Michael Hutchinson could probably be had for a relatively low cost. (The Score)

–The Arizona Coyotes haven’t had much to celebrate this season, but rookie Clayton Keller has been one of the positives on the team. The youngster has been able to create offense on a bad team, which doesn’t surprise people in the organization. “A real creative mind, a creative person, a lot of structure and detail with his life,” Coyotes GM John Chayka said of Keller. “Good personality, easy to get along with, easy to talk to, but also very intense and passionate and driven about anything hockey related. He’s a hockey genius, no doubt about it.” (Sports Illustrated)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.