The Vegas Golden Knights are ready to drop the puck and start the 2021 NHL season tonight against the Anaheim Ducks. Golden Knights Gameday will be a recurring feature giving you the rundown for that day’s game.
Vegas Golden Knights 0-0-0 vs. Anaheim Ducks 0-0-0
Vegas comes into the season after a playoff run that lasted until the Western Conference Final where the lost to the Dallas Stars. The Golden Knights made big waves this off-season by signing top free agent defenseman Alex Pietrangelo and trading center Paul Stastny to the Winnipeg Jets, as well as dealing defenseman Nate Schmidt to the Vancouver Canucks. This will also be the first full season for head coach Pete DeBoer, who took over midway through last season. Still boasting one of the deepest lineups in the NHL, the Golden Knights look to return to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in three seasons.
Anaheim finished last season out of the playoffs at 29-33-9. The Ducks have a pleasant surprise on their hands after the emergence of 19-year-old Trevor Zegras at the World Junior Championships. Zegras led the tournament in scoring and captured MVP honors while leading Team USA to a gold medal victory over Canada. For a Ducks team that scored a fourth-worst 187 goals-for last season, the injection of offense is sorely needed. But questions will hover over the rookie including his readiness for the NHL, as the Ducks have assigned him to the AHL’s San Diego Gulls to start the season.
The Ducks have an aging core led by Ryan Getzlaf, and the team’s big off-season signing was 31-year-old Stanley Cup-winning defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. Perhaps the biggest question for the Ducks will be what to expect from starting goalie John Gibson. As Gibson goes, so go the Ducks.
Keep An Eye On
Vegas – All eyes will be on Alex Pietrangelo in his debut for the Golden Knights. Pietrangelo signed with Vegas via free agency prior to the season and has won a Stanley Cup with the St. Louis Blues in 2019. Last season Pietrangelo led the Blues in Time On Ice at 24:11 per game and power play TOI at 3:06 per game. Pietrangelo registered his fourth 50-point season last year with 16-36-52 and tied a career-high with six power play goals.
Anaheim – Josh Gibson. It’s not an exaggeration when I say he’s the reason the Ducks will sink or swim this season. The addition of Shattenkirk is nice for Anaheim, but Gibson has to return to Vezina-candidate form if Anaheim will have a chance at making the playoffs. The last four years Gibson has played 50 games or more and registered 20 wins in five straight seasons. Everything centers on him having an excellent campaign.
- Vegas named its first captain in team history yesterday, announcing Mark Stone will wear the “C” this season. Stone’s alternates will be Alex Pietrangelo and Reilly Smith.
- Last year Vegas went 3-1 against Anaheim, the only team the Golden Knights played four times in the shortened campaign. Mark Stone led the Golden Knights with two goals and nine points in those four games.
- A major question was answered earlier this week when the Golden Knights waived veteran defenseman Nick Holden to get under the NHL’s salary cap.
- Anaheim has not played a game since March 11, 2020 when they suffered a 4-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues. That’s a total of 309 days.
- The Ducks are 2-8-2 all-time against the golden Knights and 1-4-1 in Las Vegas.
- Should Ryan Getzlaf lead Anaheim in assists this year, he will establish a new NHL record for most consecutive years leading a team in that category at 14 seasons. Currently Getzlaf shares the record with Anze Kopitar, Joe Thornton and Wayne Gretzky.
- Anaheim goaltender Ryan Miller enters the season two wins behind Dominik Hasek (389) for 14th on the NHL’s all-time wins leaderboard, and needs 13 wins for 400 in his career.