NBC’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues as the Washington Capitals host the Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday Night Hockey at 8 p.m. ET. You can watch that game online by clicking here.
The Golden Knights continue their five-game road trip Wednesday without the services of Paul Stastny. The center suffered a lower-body injury Monday in Buffalo and will miss at least the next three games. He’ll be re-evaluated after that, said head coach Gerard Gallant.
Cody Eakin, who’s yet to play this season, will enter the lineup vs. the Capitals.
While the hype around this game will be that it’s a Stanley Cup Final rematch, the Golden Knights aren’t looking into the past.
“One thing is that we have to stop talking about last year,” said forward Jonathan Marchessault. “It’s a new year now. Last year is over. It’s a new team.”
The Capitals, meanwhile, have had an interesting start to their Cup defense, winning their opener 7-0 over the Boston Bruins and then dropping a 7-6 decision to the Pittsburgh Penguins the following night. Washington’s franchise record for goals through the first three games of a season is 17, set in 1988-89. The NHL record for most goals through the first three games of a season is 27, set by the Toronto Arenas in the League’s inaugural season of 1917-18; the modern-era record (since 1943-44) is 25, set by the Montreal Canadiens in 1975-76.
As Eakin returns for Vegas, Michal Kempny is expected to make his season debut for the Capitals after suffering a concussion during the preseason. Dmitrij Jaskin is also expected in for Washington after being claimed on waivers from the St. Louis Blues.
What: Vegas Golden Knights at Washington Capitals Where: Capital One Arena, Washington D.C. When: Wednesday, October 10th, 8 p.m. ET TV: NBCSN Live stream: You can watch the Golden Knights-Capitals stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page.
The NBCSN Thursday night doubleheader continues with the Vegas Golden Knights hosting the Philadelphia Flyers at 10 p.m. ET. You can watch that game online by clicking here.
It’s been nearly four months since the Golden Knights had to watch the Washington Capitals celebrate a Stanley Cup championship at T-Mobile Arena. They’re back tonight to follow up an historic first year in the NHL.
Owner Bill Foley’s original plan of “playoffs in three, Cup in six” was blown out of the water with the Golden Knights’ success last season. Over the summer, GM George McPhee bolstered his lineup by adding Paul Stastny and Max Pacioretty and extending Marc-Andre Fleury, Shea Theodore and William Karlsson. There’s no reason to believe that, even with some regression areas, Vegas can’t be contenders again.
What: Philadelphia Flyers at Vegas Golden Knights Where: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada When: Thursday, October 4th, 10 p.m. ET TV: NBCSN Live stream: You can watch Flyers-Golden Knights stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page.
The Tatar for Perron swap here is the big one, and could be the result of a collision with teammate James Neal in the Game 1 loss.
Perron had a great regular season for the Golden Knights, scoring 16 goals to go with 50 assists in 70 regular season games. He has yet to score a goal in the playoffs, but does has seven assists in nine games.
The Golden Knights acquired Tatar from the Detroit Red Wings at the trade deadline and paid a heavy price in terms of draft picks (a first-round pick in 2018, a second-round pick in 2019, and a third-round pick in 2021), but he has yet to fit in the way the Golden Knights had hoped. He has only played in four playoff games and since coming over in the trade has four goals and two assists in 24 games.
He has scored at least 20 goals in each of the past four seasons and is in the first year of a four-year contract that will pay him $5.3 million per season for another three years.
Much of the discussion below remains, and the Golden Knights have plenty of incentive to get more out of Tatar going forward. Maybe another trip to the press box could be a bit of “tough love” for Tatar?
Tatar and Nosek are still skating with the extras. Likely scratched for Carpenter and Lindberg.
Look, every NHL team is going to lack something, especially in this salary cap era. Daydreaming about improved depth is a pretty common occurrence for just about every squad in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Such matters are worth delving into because a) it’s possible that some teams could stumble upon solutions better than others and b) such studies sometimes shine a light on other things that work or fall short for a team.
The Vegas Golden Knights stand an interesting example.
On one hand, they’ve developed a reputation for “rolling four lines” and for succeeding thanks to a by-committee approach, including on defense. At their best, the Golden Knights make their opponents feel overwhelmed by waves of attackers.
Is it possible that the San Jose Sharks have exposed a few cracks in that wall, or are merely better equipped to reveal that the Golden Knights might have some depth issues, too? Such questions might receive more clarity as this series goes along (Game 5 airs on NBCSN tonight at 10 p.m. ET), but in perusing the stats from San Jose’s 4-0 shutout in Game 4, some things stand out.
Vegas’ top line had its chances.
Opinions may vary, but while the points have come and gone, the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs make a strong argument that the top line of Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson, and Reilly Smith really is a legitimate top line. Sometimes it’s a dominant one.
While Vegas was blanked, that trio generated 11 of the Golden Knights’ 34 shots on goal. None of them suffered negative plus/minuses in a 4-0 loss, either.
Neal remains an intriguing UFA (if he doesn’t re-sign with Vegas) because he’s one of the NHL’s most reliable snipers (25 goals despite being limited to 71 games in 2017-18) while combining a mean streak with the sort of frame that can help him get to those “dirty goal” areas. At his best, he can be a headache for defenses to deal with.
It seems like he’s asserting himself against the beefy Sharks, too. While he suffered a -2 rating, Neal fired a lofty seven shots on goal during Game 4. He has one goal and three assists along with 19 SOG in four games so far in this series.
So, theoretically, the Golden Knights are in a nice spot with the first line and with Neal playing at a high level alongside Erik Haula and Alex Tuch. With that in mind, waking up their bottom-six forwards could be key.
It’s reasonable to wonder if Perron is truly healthy. If not, he should be commended for producing three assists so far in four games against the Sharks. Like Neal, he’s an intriguing pending UFA; Perron scored 66 points in just 70 games this season. He could be the key to getting more out of depth players, or if Gerard Gallant deems it necessary, making a more dangerous second line.
To say the least, Tatar has been a disappointment since being traded to Vegas, even for those who thought that the Golden Knights gave up far too much for the former Red Wings winger to begin with.
Through 20 regular-season games, Tatar only managed four goals and two assists for six points. He’s been a non-factor during the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, at least when he’s avoided being a healthy scratch altogether, failing to score a point and only managing four SOG in four games. His ice time is also a testament to how little confidence the Golden Knights have in him so far.
With just seven points in 21 career playoff games, some might wonder if Tatar simply wilts during this time of year.
That’s a lot of doom and gloom, but let’s not forget that Tatar is riding four consecutive 20+ goal seasons. He may never be worth the three significant draft picks Vegas gave up to get him, but Tatar is legitimately capable of catching fire and moving the needle in this series. Just look at what he can do when things are clicking:
Now, could Perron bring that out of him? Would a move up the lineup provide a crucial confidence boost? Maybe he deserves a little power play time after getting none in Game 4?
One of the things that makes Vegas such a great story is all of the opportunities that came here that may have never emerged for guys like William Karlsson, Shea Theodore, and Alex Tuch. Extending that spirit by at least letting Tatar get one foot out of the doghouse could, for all we know, be enough to light a fire under the solid scorer.
Sometimes you’re just stuck with a limited fourth line, but Gallant should at least consider bringing Ryan Carpenter back and giving Oscar Lindberg a few looks. Lindberg hasn’t played since April 7, so obviously he’s not held in high regard right now, but the former Rangers forward does have some playoff experience (four points in 14 games) and would probably work hard to prove that he deserves to stay in the lineup.
Again, every team would like more depth (or, the deep ones might want some more high-end skill). To some extent, you sometimes need to just appreciate the smaller battles a line can win.
On the other hand, sometimes winning a tough playoff series comes down to making adjustments and finding new combinations. The Golden Knights are experiencing a real challenge in the Sharks. For all we know, a reinvigorated Tatar could tilt the scales in their favor.
• The New Jersey Devils had to go through five years worth of struggles before getting back to the playoffs. Here’s a look back at everything they went through leading up to this point. (All About the Jersey)
• The Leafs and Jets are the only Canadian teams to make it to this year’s playoffs, but is either one of them really Canada’s team? (Pension Plan Puppets)
• Special teams, goaltending and depth will all play a factor in the series between the Flyers and Penguins. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
• Craig Morgan breaks down 10 intriguing story lines heading into the playoffs, including whether or not the Pens have another cup run in them. (FanRag Sports)
• The Arizona Coyotes have three players from Saskatchewan. So Friday’s bus accident that took the lives of 15 junior hockey players and staff in the province really hit close to home for Luke Schenn, Josh Archibald and Darcy Kuemper. (AZ Central)
• Even though he was waived by the Flames and was forced to continue his career in Europe, Jaromir Jagr hasn’t thrown in the towel on playing in the NHL next season. (New York Times)