The Vegas Golden Knights will play their first road game of the 2021 NHL season as they travel to Los Angeles to take on a young Kings team that made plenty of offseason additions in hopes of speeding up their rebuild. The Golden Knights won their first game of the season 4-3 against the newly created Seattle Kraken. They will hope to keep that momentum rolling and start the season off with a win streak.
These two teams played against each other eight times last season because of the special schedule that was needed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Golden Knights managed to win six of those eight games and they averaged 3.8 goals-per-game during those victories. However, this is an improved Kings team and sustaining that same level of dominance will not be as easy this season.
In their first game this year, the Golden Knights took a commanding lead before almost allowing a big comeback to the Kraken. Taking the positives from that game and ensuring that they continue to do those things over the entire sixty minutes will be key to stealing two points from the Kings.
These divisional games are always important for the eventual playoff picture and thus both teams will be roaring and ready to go.
Can the Golden Knights thoroughly dominate a weaker opponent?
After finishing as the top two teams in the league last season and then enjoying a tense playoff series against one another, the Colorado Avalanche and the Golden Knights have started to recognize each other as their biggest obstacles on their respective journeys towards the Stanley Cup. That is why you can be sure that the Golden Knights took note of the Avalanches’ dominant performance last night against the Chicago Blackhawks even while they were missing star forward Nathan Mackinnon.
The Blackhawks are a weaker team, despite some big name offseason acquisitions including former Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, and are expected to finish closer to the bottom of their division than the top. The Kings are in a similar spot and the Golden Knights will hope for a statement win that announces their presence as the cream of the crop in the Pacific Division.
This means that they shouldn’t be happy with just two points, instead they should be looking to display that they aren’t in the same tier as the Kings. While the NHL has a ton of parity that means that even bad teams can beat good teams on any given night, the Stanley Cup contenders always separate themselves from the pack in that they win the games that they are supposed to win. This means beating up on teams that are considered to be much weaker and that is exactly what the Golden Knights will look to do tonight.
How will Lehner perform?
It’s never easy for a team to lose their franchise goalie but it’s been even more difficult for the Golden Knights considering how big of a fan-favorite Fleury was, as well as the fact that he’s the reigning Vezina Trophy winner. There is a great deal of pressure on Robin Lehner to be good enough to keep the Golden Knights in every game and even steal a win every now and then, just how Fleury did for this team in the past.
Game one of the season was a mixed bag for Lehner who made a few big saves during big moments but also made a few mistakes that he wishes he could have back. While he was still good enough to get the win, it wasn’t the most confidence inspiring performance. The goal that tied the game for the Kraken was a great shot from Morgan Geekie but one that Lehner would have had in an ideal world.
The Kings beefed up their forward group this offseason with the addition of players like Phillip Danault and Victor Arvidsson. They also have many young players that will form the nucleus of their team in the next few years and will be looking to take a step forward for the Kings this season. It will be a good test for Lehner who will be hoping for that first standout performance of the season.
Can the first line continue their torrid pace?
The Golden Knights top line hit the ground running during their first game as they contributed three goals. Sniper Max Pacioretty got the first two while Chandler Stephenson scored the game-winner in controversial fashion after the puck went in off his skate. The third component of the top line, captain Mark Stone, might have had the best game of them all despite not scoring as he had three assists and was his usual unbelievable self.
With Alex Tuch still sidelined due to injury, the Golden Knights are missing one of their better depth scorers. Throw in the fact that newcomers Evgenii Dadonov and Nolan Patrick are still acclimatizing themselves and there starts to be some extra pressure on the top-six to do the vast majority of the offensive work.
The Kings don’t have one of the most impressive defensive groups in the league and the Golden Knights should be able to take advantage of that and put a few past goalie Cal Petersen who is expected to start. Expect the top line to have another great night and contribute at least one goal.
The puck drops tonight at 7:30 PM PDT in Los Angeles. The Golden Knights are currently favoured to win the game with odds of -155 at Caesars Sportsbook while the total has been set at 5.5.