The Pittsburgh Penguins have had a long time to sit and think about the bad things they’ve done, after playing a second sloppy game and losing 5-1 to Montreal on Saturday night. And they’ve done more than just sit with a couple of practices, a defensive change, and unfortunately an injury to their starting goalie. The Pens are never a boring team, and that is on full display right now, even if for unsettling and less than fun reasons at the moment!
Vegas Golden Knights (1-3-0) vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (1-1-0)
When: 7:00 p.m.
How to watch: Locally broadcasted game on AT&T Sportsnet in Pittsburgh.
SBN blog: Knights on Ice
- The return of Fleury won’t be as special
Sequels are rarely as good as the original (an emotional and bittersweet return to the place of mutual admiration). And the second game Marc-Andre Fleury returns for as a visitor is going to be a flat out dud. Because this is the 4th game in 6 days for Vegas (and 3rd game in 4), Fleury will be watching this one from the bench, as he’s played in all the games leading up to this. Speaking of, Fleury’s off to a very slow season start with a .846 save % and 3.95 GAA. It’s settling for some Pittsburgh fans to imagine that MAF is always the magic elixir to any and all problems but...he’s not. And he’s moved on. In net for Vegas will be backup Malcolm Subban, who has one appearance so far this season in relief of a game Fleury started and Subban did stop all 9 shots he saw in 30 minutes of mop-up duty.
- Speaking of sequels
Vegas had the most extraordinary season, ever, by far, of any expansion team ever. They won the Western conference and ending up three wins away from a Stanley Cup in their very first year. If Disney wrote a movie about it, no one would want to believe it. Yet, what can they do for an encore? There was plenty of shuffling players in the off-season and as mentioned they’ve won just 1 of 4 games and come into tonight “tired” by NHL terms with a back-to-back and travel and face a rested opponent. That alone doesn’t win or lose a game, but the schedule is stacked against them too right now.
- Pens searching for semblance of structure
On the Pittsburgh side, the storylines are about as dire at the moment. They’ve surrendered 11 goals in just two games. There’s a lot of questions, issues and unknowns right now- starting in the net. They might make a change to scratch Olli Maatta who struggled mightily on Saturday night and give Juuso Riikola a chance to make his NHL debut. The forwards aren’t getting back with effort on defense. The defensemen aren’t defending the puck or the opponent’s bodies/sticks in space, getting comically lost. The goalie wasn’t making saves and now he’s hurt. Pittsburgh talks about doing the right things, and tonight is an opportunity to actually “play the right way” as their coach is so fond of saying.
Vegas is in an uphill battle tonight on the road deep into a condensed road trip. Here’s the lines they used last night in a 5-2 loss in Washington.
Vegas in warmup (without injured Stastny):— Tom Gulitti (@TomGulittiNHL) October 10, 2018
Fleury (vs. Holtby)
One name you don’t see above with lines is Paul Stastny, the key free agent center addition who was injured earlier this week and will be out again tonight.
The healthy scratches right now are defensemen Brad Hunt and Jake Bischoff. It remains unknown if Vegas will shake anything up after their big loss, but up front that should be the personnel they use.
From last night the Nick Holden / Jon Merrill pair was a +2 a piece and Vegas is very content to break out the ice time evenly among defense pairs...Also new Golden Knight Max Pacioretty had a team-high 8 shot attempts last night vs the Caps and a goal disallowed due to being offside.
“It’s early, but still we haven’t played the way we wanted to consistently every night,” Fleury said. “That said, I think tonight [against the Caps] was better a little bit, but we’ve got to keep making progress to be where we want to be.”
Player to watch
To me, William Karlsson embodies the Golden Knights like perhaps no other player. Karlsson was cast off by Columbus, he had played two full seasons there scoring a pedestrian 20 and 25 points. He was fairly young (and is only 25 years old today) and was a somewhat useful player but certainly did not seem like an impact player by any means. Then in 2017-18 in Vegas surrounded with the magic of playing with all the others jettisoned, Karlsson scores 43 goals and 78 points out of the clear blue desert sky. It was totally unexpected yet completely awesome, just like his team was last year.
So, what happens in year 2? Is it the real deal? A mirage? Somewhere in between? It’s a fascinating question about the team and about Karlsson too. So far he’s got no goals (but three assists) in the season’s first 4 games.
With Matt Murray injured, Casey DeSmith ascends once again to be the top goalie. He seems confident, poised and ready to go, as we wrote about here yesterday at Pensburgh.
Riikola in the lineup is obviously the attention-getter, but based on practice yesterday there won’t be any changes to the forward lines just yet, perhaps surprisingly enough.
#Pens workflow...— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) October 10, 2018
Penguin to watch
All eyes are probably going to be on DeSmith and Riikola tonight, but I’m looking at the big boys down the middle in Sidney Crosby- Evgeni Malkin- Derick Brassard. Stastny’s injury weakens Vegas big time at center. The Pens have an advantage at center against about almost anyone, but Vegas isn’t filled with a #1 or #2 type of defenseman either (though Shea Theodore is quickly growing into such a role). The Golden Knights are, by their own admission, struggling and frustrated and a bit road-weary deep into a trip and playing their backup goalie. The Pens are rested and should be primed to exploit their strengths which match up well on paper with the weaknesses and areas not working quite right for Vegas. You know, if they bother to show up and exert much of an effort.