If you want the same game day prep as a broadcast professional, former NHL play-by-play man Tom Callahan shares his news, note and nuggets before each Vegas Golden Knights game on Golden Knights Gameday.
Vegas Golden Knights 1-0-0 vs. Anaheim Ducks 0-1-0
These same two teams just met to open the season on Thursday and Vegas skated away with a 5-2 win. Mark Stone had a goal and an assist to lead the VGK in scoring. Robin Lehner made 20 saves for the win.
The game was a strange one, with both teams clearly going through a feeling-out process. Vegas jumped on the Ducks early, scoring twice in the first 2:13 of the game before the guns fell silent over a long, uncomfortable stretch that lasted into the third period. Anaheim tied the game up almost as fast as they fell behind when Max Comtois scored twice in 3:36. During that stretch Vegas was clearly finding its sea legs, and in the third period seemed to get it together more. The Golden Knights would score three times in the third (Stone, Max Pacioretty, Alex Tuch-EN) to secure the win.
- Vegas was going with only five defensemen and it showed, especially early. Instead of two dedicated pairs and a fifth wheel in Zach Whitecloud, coach Pete DeBoer rotated the Dmen. Early on it led to communication and positioning breakdowns, but the blueliners seemed to settle in more as the game went on. This is going to be a challenge for guys in many ways if this system continues. Defensemen are used to playing one side or another and have habits on how they pinch, pin pucks on the wall, establish their gaps, use their sticks and more. Switching sides of the ice changes all that. Plus unfamiliarity with your partner means an increased emphasis on communication. Vegas will really have to up their game here.
- Keegan Kolesar was the 13th forward and was on the ice for both goals against. Not his best performance, but he’ll rebound from it and get better. The real issue is the Golden Knights cap compliance, hence the reason for the oddball roster. This is the price you pay for Alex Pietrangelo. While Vegas will get away with it for the first six games against lesser opponents, hopefully they have a better answer for this by the time they start facing St. Louis and Colorado.
- Robin Lehner didn’t have a ton of work despite the defensive rotation setup. Anaheim really struggled to generate or establish zone time for long stretches of the game so Lehner didn’t see as many high-quality chances. It’s a good setup for both Lehner and Marc-Andre Fleury to get game action in against Anaheim and Arizona in the first six games.
- Stone, Pacioretty and Chanlder Stephenson looked pretty good. I’m still calling for Stephenson to have a monster year on that line. Look out.
Keep An Eye On
- The aforementioned Stone line. As they ramp up so to will the rest of the squad. It also takes matchup pressure off of the Karlsson unit who already have benefitted from it. Scoring should once again be up for the VGK and this unit will lead the way.
- Zach Whitecloud. I thought Whitecloud looked a little uncomfortable out there and struggled early. He was chasing the puck or the play quite a bit in the early going. I didn’t notice it as much later on, so perhaps it was nerves or just rust. Here’s hoping he gets it back together quickly.
- Ryan Getzlaf. What’s left in the tank for the Ducks vet? He posted an assist and a minus-1 rating for the game in 16:26 of ice time. He also threw a team-high seven hits so clearly he’s doing all he can to be a factor. Anaheim needs his impact if they’re going anywhere this year.
- Kevin Shattenkirk. An inauspicious debut for the Ducks’ prize free agent signing. Shattenkirk didn’t register a point, ended up with three shots and a minus-1 rating. This contract could quickly become heavy for the Ducks if he doesn’t contribute in one way or another.
- Jonathan Marchessault’s opening goal just 1:07 into the game established a new team record for fastest goal to start a season, previously held by Mark Stone. Marchessault has scored the first VGK goal of the season in two of the team’s four opening nights.
- Vegas won its home opener for the third time in four seasons.
- Vegas has now won 10-of-12 meetings against Anaheim.
- Max Comtois’ two goals on Thursday marked his first NHL multi-point game. It was also the fastest two goals by a single player to start the season since Jeremy Roenick scored twice in the first 4:18 for the LA Kings against the Dallas Stars in 2005. Finally, it is the fastest two goals to start a season in Anaheim team history.
- Anaheim is 1-5-1 at T-Mobile Arena.