The Vegas Golden Knights should have all of their forwards available at some point during the road trip. Barring any additional injuries, of course. How might coach Bruce Cassidy set the forward lines and who is the odd man out?
Below is a reminder of how the Golden Knights lined up for the opener against the Seattle Kraken.
It is safe to assume that is the first choice of coach Cassidy once Nic Roy and Chandler Stephenson rejoin the team. There is a possibility Paul Cotter and Brett Howden get swapped. But the 12 forwards above are most likely who take the ice once all forwards are healthy.
The third line of Pavel Dorofeyev, William Karlsson, and Michael Amadio was clicking prior to Chandler Stephenson’s injury. Below is a path to keeping Dorofeyev in the lineup.
Keeping Dorofeyev active would mean Brett Howden or Paul Cotter would be a healthy scratch. Per MoneyPuck.com, the line of Howden-Stephenson-Stone has an expected goals % of 35.3% vs 26.3% expected goals % of Cotter-Stephenson-Stone. For comparison, the third line of Dorofeyev-Karlsson-Amadio has an expected goals % of 46.6%. Howden is a plus-3 and Cotter is even. That could slightly suggest that Howden is playing a bit more responsible of a defensive game.
The third line of Dorofeyev-Karlsson-Amadio has seven goals which ties for No. 12 overall per MoneyPuck.com.
Is the top line of Barbashev-Eichel-Marchessault struggling?
This is where MoneyPuck.com paints an odd picture. Barbashev-Eichel-Marchessault have an expected goals % of 64.3% which ranks No. 63 overall of line combinations. The top line has nine goals as a unit which ties for No. 6 overall.
It is hard sell the fact that the top line is struggling, the Golden Knights are 12-2-1 with 25 points which leads the NHL. Life is good.
What happens to the lines if the team starts losing?
The Golden Knights are fortunate not to have any trouble spots among their forwards. We are halfway through November, the trade rumor mill is churning for teams looking to address holes in their lineups. The Golden Knights do not expect to be active in trades throughout the season, barring injury.
Here are the things that most likely will not change in the Golden Knights’ forward lineup. Jack Eichel and Jonathan Marchessault on the top line, Stephenson centering any line that Mark Stone is on, Karlsson centering the third line, and the fourth line of Carrier-Roy-Kolesar.
That leaves four positions in the lineup that can potentially be moved around.
Here is something that we could see coach Cassidy deploy if the team finds themselves in a losing streak.
Dorofeyev has proven he can be an every day player at the NHL level. Moving Dorofeyev to the top line removes some of the “heaviness” that coach Cassidy likes and replaces with skill. Barbashev is a responsible forward that would make the third line even tougher to play against.
Barbashev can also be moved down to the second line and coach Cassidy could see if Howden or Cotter clicks better on the top line while leaving Dorofeyev on the third line. Coach Cassidy could even go as far as scratching Barbashev for a game or two if needed.
Everything is good
The Golden Knights are in a spot to move some players around to see what works best. It is a great thing that Dorofeyev is making it difficult to be removed from the lineup. There is nothing wrong with Dorofeyev, Howden, and Cotter competing to stay in the lineup on a daily basis.
It is a never ending work in progress for teams to find their game by the time the playoffs begin. The Golden Knights are much further along than most teams at having an identity.