The Knights will try to make up ground as they sit four points out of first place.
The Vegas Golden Knights are set to take on the St. Louis Blues tonight at Enterprise Center in the first of a two-game set. The Knights have gone 3-0-1 in four games against the Blues so far this season.
The last time these teams met for a two-game series, they were fighting for the top seed in the West Division.
Times have changed.
The Knights are four points behind Colorado for the top seed in the West, while the Blues are out of a playoff spot entirely.
The Golden Knights have lost three games in a row (0-2-1); the Blues are 0-5-1 over their last six.
Needless to say, both teams are desperate for a win.
David Perron continues to lead the Blues in points and is scoring at a point-per-game pace this season with 37 points in 37 games. Ryan O’Reilly is second with 34, and Brayden Schenn, Jordan Kyrou and Mike Hoffman have 26, 24 and 21, respectively. Hoffman, who signed as a free agent, has been a disappointment, as the perennial near-30 goal scorer has just nine through 35 games. He has one assist in four games against the Knights.
Perron has three goals in four games against his former team, and Jaden Schwartz has three points in two games. However, it’s Vladimir Tarasenko who leads the Blues in scoring against Vegas this season, as he has one goal and four points in three games.
Mark Stone leads the way for Vegas with nine points in four games, and Max Pacioretty has seven in three. Jonathan Marchessault and Shea Theodore each have five.
The Blues have averaged fewer shots per game (24.8) against Vegas than any other team, but they’ve given up 36.8, which is the highest shots-per-game rate the Knights have against another team this year. The Knights also have a higher goals-per-game rate (4.75) against St. Louis than against any other team in the division.
The Blues’ likely starter tonight is Jordan Binnington, who is 10-11-5 with a 2.79 goals-against average and .904 save percentage. Those numbers plummet in this matchup, however. In fact, Binnington is 1-1-1 but has a 4.48 goals-against average and .884 save percentage. If it’s Ville Husso in the crease, he lost his only start against the Knights this season, giving up four goals and finishing the night with a save percentage of .840.
The Knights’ starters have split the series at two games apiece, and both have given up five goals — four goals in their first start and one goal in their second. The Knights defeated the Blues by a final score of 5-1 in the last two meetings.
As a refresher, here’s a summary of each game in the season series so far:
Game 1 — Jan. 26, St. Louis at Vegas
The Vegas coaching staff was in COVID protocol, so Kelly McCrimmon and the AHL squad filled in behind the bench. Alex Pietrangelo faced his former team for the first time since signing in Vegas in the offseason; he finished the game with an assist, a plus-one rating, three shots, two hits and three blocks in a game-high 28:57 of ice time. The Knights gave up three goals to St. Louis in the first period but overcame two two-goal deficits thanks to a hat trick from Pacioretty (Stone assisted on each goal), which he completed to even things up with 3:25 left in regulation. The Blues won the game (5-4) in a shootout. Vegas led in shots (46-25) and hit the post seven times; the Knights took five minor penalties, and Stone fought Justin Faulk.
Game 2 — Mar. 12, Vegas at St. Louis
Marc-Andre Fleury missed morning skate but came off the COVID protocol list in time for the game. The Knights were up 3-2 in the third period, but St. Louis scored twice on the power play to take a 4-3 lead. Less than a minute after the go-ahead goal, Alec Martinez scored to even things up at 4-4. Reilly Smith scored on the power play in overtime to help the Knights win their first game in St. Louis. The final score was 5-4; it was the fourth straight game between these clubs that required overtime. Vegas led in shots (40-23).
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) March 13, 2021
Game 3 — Mar. 13, Vegas at St. Louis
Stone scored two big goals in the third period, and Fleury made 34 saves on 35 shots to help Vegas claim a 5-1 win, a score that did not reflect how close the game was throughout the night. It was Vegas’ first regulation win against the Blues. Theodore ended a 16-game goal drought. This was the game that featured an extended 5-on-3 power play for the Blues, but Fleury and the Knights stood tall. It was the only game in which St. Louis led in shots (35-26).
Game 4 — Mar. 22, St. Louis at Vegas
It was a 1-1 game through two periods, but Stone kicked off the third with an early goal, which ended up being the game-winner. Keegan Kolesar scored his first career NHL goal to give the Knights a two-goal lead 10 minutes later. The Knights scored two power-play goals in the final 5:04 of regulation to seal the 5-1 win. Vegas held a significant edge in shots (35-16), giving up just three in a dominant third period. It was the third straight game in which Vegas scored five goals against the Blues.
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) March 23, 2021
Here are a few other things to consider ahead of tonight’s matchup.
What to watch for
- Pietrangelo will be making his long-awaited return to St. Louis, as he was out of the lineup for the two-game set in St. Louis in March. Pietrangelo was drafted fourth overall in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft and played parts of 12 seasons with the Blues, hitting the 50-point plateau four times. In total, Pietrangelo scored 109 goals and 341 assists for a total of 450 points in 758 games with the Blues. He was captain of the team when the Blues won the franchise’s first Stanley Cup back in 2019, so it should be an emotional return for the 31-year-old.
- Vegas has had success against the Blues this season, though St. Louis will be looking to bounce back after a frustrating loss to Colorado. One thing working in Vegas’ favor is the fact that St. Louis has been much better on the road than at home this season. In fact, the Blues are 4-8-4 at home compared to 12-7-2 on the road.
- The Golden Knights have struggled on the power play all season. There were a few moments throughout the season where it appeared as though the fog was clearing, but the issue has reared its head once again. The Knights have gone a combined 0-for-10 over the last three games, which includes three unsuccessful opportunities in Saturday’s game against the Wild. That led to Stone saying he was “very concerned” about the power play, which was was a key reason why the Knights lost the tight game. On the year, the Knights’ power play has scored at a 17.9 percent effectiveness rate, which is good for 24th in the league. Vegas will face the 26th-ranked penalty kill tonight, however, so it’s as good a time as ever to turn things around.
- The Blues have had a plethora of injuries this season, but the team is relatively healthy up front (aside from Vegas-killer Oskar Sundqvist, who is out for the year). The Knights are the thinnest they have been in years, and Pete DeBoer has shortened his bench in recent games. St. Louis definitely has the edge when it comes to depth, and rolling four lines could be a legitimate advantage tonight. The Knights will need a full team effort (and solid goaltending) to compete.
- At the end of the day, the Knights just need a win. Vegas needs to do whatever it takes to get back in the win column, especially as Chandler Stephenson finishes up his three-game suspension. Both squads are desperate, but the Knights can’t take unnecessary penalties, can’t commit unforced turnovers and can’t wait for the perfect play; they need to simplify their game. That means getting bodies to the net and winning battles in the dirty areas. It doesn’t have to be pretty, it just has to be enough.
Just keep in mind, it’s Knights-Blues: anything can happen.
Schwartz — O’Reilly — Tarasenko
Hoffman — Schenn — Perron
Zach Sanford — Robert Thomas — Kyrou
Kyle Clifford — Tyler Bozak — Ivan Barbashev
Torey Krug — Faulk
Marco Scandella — Vince Dunn
Jake Walman — Robert Bortuzzo
How to watch
Time: 5 p.m.
TV: AT&T SportsNet
Radio: Fox Sports 98.7 FM/1340 AM