Oscar Dansk

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Goaltending at center of Golden Knights’ slump

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with the Wednesday Night Hockey matchup between the Chicago Blackhawks and Vegas Golden Knights. Coverage begins at 10 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Vegas Golden Knights will go as far as Marc-Andre Fleury is able to take them this season.

Not only in terms of how he plays, but also how often he plays.

It has been a very simple recipe for the team dating back to the start of last season, and it goes exactly like this: When Fleury plays, and plays well, the Golden Knights look like a legitimate Stanley Cup contender that can stack up against any team in the league.

When he does not play, or when he does not play well, the team has had virtually no chance of winning on any given night.

They have a deep group of forwards with impact players carrying the top lines, their defense may not have any potential Norris Trophy winners on it, but it is a capable group, and in general the team plays a winning brand of hockey.

Even so, goaltending is the make-or-break position on this team and it all relies on the health and play of Fleury.

Their recent 10-game stretch entering their Wednesday Night Hockey matchup with the Chicago Blackhawks is a perfect illustration of the importance of their starting goalie. They have won just three of those games, and even though the offense has cooled off and had its own share of struggles, the goaltending has not always given them a chance to win. They have consistently fallen behind early, often times by several goals, and have had to play catch-up almost every night.

Fleury has slumped a little recently (an .897 save percentage in his past six starts), but the bigger problem remains the fact the team has absolutely no one behind him that can give him some regular time off and give the team a chance to win. On this most recent 10-game stretch backups Malcolm Subban and Oscar Dansk have started four games, all of them losses, and allowed 15 goals with a combined save percentage of just .881. Not good enough.

[COVERAGE OF BLACKHAWKS-GOLDEN KNIGHTS BEGINS AT 10 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

For the season, the Golden Knights are one of just four teams that have yet to get a win from their backup goalies, and dating back to the start of last season they are just 8-14-4 in games that Fleury has not started. Their backups have a combined save percentage of .896, which is a completely terrible number even as far as backup goalies are concerned.

This is a potentially big problem for two reasons.

First, it means when Fleury does not play the Golden Knights points percentage dips down to lottery team levels. Even if you assume that Fleury is able to play 60-65 games that is still 20 or so games where they are  just giving away points in the standings, something that could force them to play Fleury more than they need to. Or should.

That leads to the second problem, which is Fleury’s workload and how many games the Golden Knights actually want him to play during the season. For as durable as he has been throughout his career (and still is; keep in mind he played 61 games a year ago), you have to consider the reality that he turns 35 years old later this month. In the history of the league there have only been seven instances of a goalie in their age 35 season (or older) starting more than 60 games in a season, and only two of them — both Martin Brodeur seasons — ended up making the playoffs that year. In both cases he completely bombed in the opening round, losing each series in five games.

Even when taking age out of the equation the sweet spot for No. 1 goalies in today’s NHL seems to be somewhere around the 55-60 game mark. It cuts down the injury risk and keeps the starter fresh for the grind that is the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Maybe it’s a coincidence, but Fleury’s three best postseasons — when looking at individual success and length of postseason run — came in years where he started 35, 38, and 46 games during the regular season, while his three worst performances came in years where he started more than 65 games. Granted, no one is going to suggest his playing time should be limited to 35 or 40 games, but keeping him under 60 might be very beneficial in the long run. The problem is Golden Knights don’t have anyone on their roster behind Fleury that should inspire enough confidence to give them 25-30 starts without seriously hurting the team’s spot in the standings and playoff race.

It is a big problem and one that needs to be addressed because they can’t rely on Fleury to play every night, and their current backups haven’t proven to be good enough to give him a break.

Kathryn Tappen will host Wednesday’s coverage on NHL Live alongside analysts Keith Jones and Patrick Sharp and NHL insider Darren Dreger. John Forslund, Eddie Olczyk  and Pierre McGuire will have the call from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nev.

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.

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

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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

Oscar Dansk exits game vs. Islanders as Golden Knights lose another goaltender

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If you’re a beer league goalie, you might want to shoot a note to Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee right now.

As the Golden Knights began a road trip with eight of their next nine games away from home, they lost starter Oscar Dansk to injury during a 6-3 loss to the New York Islanders.

Dansk, who is 3-0-0 with a .961 even strength save percentage this season, left the game late in the second period.

Maxim Lagace would take over and finish the night and allow four goals on 11 shots faced.

Vegas hasn’t said what Dansk’s status is going forward, but just to be safe they’re bringing in Dylan Ferguson on emergency recall from Kamloops for Tuesday’s game against the New York Rangers. The 18-year-old Ferguson was a seventh-round pick last June and acquired from the Dallas Stars in the Marc Methot deal. In 13 appearances with the WHL’s Blazers he has a 4.05 goals against average and .878 save percentage.

“It’s part of the game. It’s next guy up,” Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant said afterward.

The Golden Knights are used to this by this point. No. 1 Marc-Andre Fleury, who Gallant described as “day-to-day,” is out, along with Malcolm Subban, their No. 2 who was acquired on waivers earlier this month. Lagace was the fourth goaltender to make an appearance for a Vegas team that’s only played 10 games.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Jackets’ prospect Oscar Dansk loaned to Swedish club

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After struggling in his first professional season in North America, goaltender Oscar Dansk is heading to Sweden for the 2015-16 season.

Dansk, originally a second-round pick (31st overall) by the Columbus Blue Jackets at the 2012 NHL Draft, spent the 2014-15 season between the AHL’s Springfield Falcons and ECHL’s Kalamazoo Wings.

“I got away from my game a little bit because I felt like I wasn’t playing really well, so (I) tried to find a solution,” Dansk told The Columbus Dispatch. “I maybe should have just built on my game and made it stronger. I got away from my game, which probably hurt me in the long run.”

In 21 AHL games Dansk went 7-7-5 with a 3.57 G.A.A. and a .880 save percentage. The 21-year-old was 1-8-0 while posting a 3.73 G.A.A. and a .889 save percentage in 11 games with Kalamazoo.

“He didn’t have a great season in Springfield, so there was some concern,” said Blue Jackets’ goaltending coach Ian Clark. “Sometimes he slips mentally and starts to overcompensate, but when he’s strong in his game and he’s trusting in his game, he’s a very good goaltender. We’ve got to get rid of those fluctuations where his mind flips. His core assets are real strong.”

Dansk will play next season on loan to Rogle BK, a first-division Swedish League team.

“I’m just going to work every day,” he said. “I have a schedule with fewer games over in Sweden, so I’ll have more time in practices to really nail down a few things and just take my time and not rush into things.”

Deadline approaching for Jackets to sign prospect Peter Quenneville

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The Columbus Blue Jackets have already lost prospect goaltender Oscar Dansk who decided to sign in the Swedish Hockey League earlier this week.

According to Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch, the Jackets are now in danger of losing Peter Quenneville.

GM Jarmo Kekalainen tells Portzline the Jackets are still uncertain about signing the forward.

If Quenneville isn’t signed by June 1, he is eligible to go back into this year’s draft.

The 21-year-old has spent parts of two seasons with the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League after leaving Quinnipiac University during the 2013-14 season. He had 27 goals and 75 points in 72 games this season.

Quenneville, who is the second cousin of Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville and nephew of Islanders’ defenseman Johnny Boychuk by marriage, was the seventh round selection of the Jackets (195th overall) in 2013.