Golden Knights take on white-hot Flames
After snapping a two-game losing skid in emphatic fashion – Friday’s seven-goal outburst over the Arizona Coyotes — the Vegas Golden Knights return home Sunday night to face the Calgary Flames with renewed confidence.
That said, the Flames and Coyotes are diametrically opposed, and not just because of the weather they generally experience in December. The Golden Knights were certainly full marks for their 7-1 win in Glendale, Ariz., but that was against the worst team in the Western Conference, largely owing to its poor defense.
The Flames, meantime, are atop the West standings, and are on an 8-1-1 run. They possess the stingiest defensive squad in the league, allowing just 2.0 goals per game.
“We got to get ready for Calgary because they’ve been, I think, one of the best teams in the league this year,” Vegas forward Jonathan Marchessault said.
In big part due to injury issues, the Golden Knights have struggled to find their footing and be the team that was expected to run away with the Pacific Division title. But Vegas seems to be finding its form.
Consider that 14 of 18 skaters hit the scoresheet against the Coyotes, led by Max Pacioretty’s two goals that give him six points in four games. Also, the Golden Knights have tallied three power-play goals and three short-handed goals in their past two games.
“We want to win that special teams battle every night,” coach Peter DeBoer said. “If our penalty killing can shut them down and we can chip in a power-play goal here and there, it makes a big difference.”
Thanks to Friday’s 4-3 shootout victory over the Anaheim Ducks, The Flames have cobbled together the second-best record through 24 games (15-4-5) in franchise history — which is not a small feat for a team that has played 15 of those games on the road.
The team’s best start (16-4-4) came in the Calgary’s Stanley Cup-winning 1988-89 season.
Plus, there are positive signs things can get even better. Sean Monahan and Blake Coleman both broke lengthy scoring droughts in Anaheim upon being put together on a line with Trevor Lewis.
“When it’s not coming and not working, you’ve just got to grind through it and stick with it,” said Monahan, a three-time 30-goal scorer and seven-time 20-goal marksman who now has three goals on the season after being held out of the net for the previous 12 games. “You don’t want to get frustrated and lose the other aspects in your game. You’ve just got to stick with it and build your confidence up slowly.”
Coleman, who has the skill to easily be a 20-goal scorer, has four goals this season — his first in Calgary after signing a lucrative free-agent contract in the offseason.
“I definitely have higher expectations of where I should be in that department, but at the same time, I want to win games and the team’s been doing that and I’ve found different ways to contribute,” Coleman said after breaking a 16-game drought. “It’s one of those things where it’s kind of come in waves in my career. I usually get hot and stay hot for a little bit.”
The Flames are looking for more of that offensive touch against the Golden Knights to exorcize another demon. Calgary has yet to win a game at Las Vegas, having posted a 0-6 record in which the Flames have been outscored 27-6 and shut out three times.
–Field Level Media