Vegas Golden Knights vs. Montreal Canadiens preview: Crime scene return

Have you all recovered from Eichel-mania?

Great, because it’s time for Golden Knights fans to take a trip down memory lane.

The Golden Knights return to the Bell Center for the first time since the end of the Stanley Cup semi-finals in six games last season against the Montreal Canadiens. Arguably it’s a far cry from any rematch the world was hoping for.

Carey Price is not on the active list. Shea Weber plans to retire. Cole Caufield is in the AHL. Nick Suzuki is a very wealthy young man. Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty are in IR. William Karlsson is injured. I don’t know if that’s it, but it’s pretty close.

The Golden Knights come off a 5-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Thursday. Robin Lehner made 38 saves, the most since being acquired by Vegas two seasons ago, and Jonathan Marchessault has scored twice for a much needed scoring explosion.

The Canadians had it a little more difficult than the Golden Knights on the ice. Montreal is off to a 3-9-0 start and has lost three of its four losses after losing 6-2 to the New York Islanders on Thursday. Prodigal son Suzuki had a goal and an assist in that game, but Ilya Sorokin (remember him, Knights fans?) Made 36 saves and was a brick wall.

Can Vegas start over?

The five goals in regulation was an obvious high for a group missing two-thirds of their opening line, but you’d like to think the Golden Knights are ready to continue against a struggling Montreal defense.

The Habs have allowed 15 goals in their last four games; that includes a 3-0 shutout win over the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday. Montreal’s 3.33 goals allowed per game are the sixth worst in the NHL. That’s good news for a Golden Knights team that has scored 2.5 goals per game in 10 games.

Vegas must feel encouraged to score goals on almost every line on Thursday. Brett Howden scored his debut with Vegas; Alex Pietrangelo was rewarded with his first goal; and William Carrier – via a punch to the heart of the plate – was also scored on the scoresheet.

And notice the first three goals of the game: all in, or almost all, the blue paint. These types of goals are imperative as this race continues without Stone, Pacioretty or Karlsson. And that’s how guys like Howden will be rewarded.

Robin Lehner stays good

It was another high-quality start for Lehner on Thursday as he continued his valiant start through nine starts.

He stopped eight of nine high-danger chances on Thursday; the only one being Brady Tkachuk’s goal where the Ottawa captain could have made a steak dinner and eaten it before anyone in Vegas could recover in front.

When it comes to eye testing, Lehner has been great given the circumstances. If you’re Team Eye Test, he’s done everything you could have asked him to do so far. Team Analytics would say something else.

His above-average goals (-2.30) are the fourth worst among goalies who have played at least 300 minutes. The guards in front of him form a strange group: Darcy Kuemper, Philipp Grubauer and Marc-André Fleury. High-risk goals recorded above par are also second, ahead of Fleury only.

But you compare the situations: The Blackhawks are at full power while the Golden Knights play as HenderVegas Gold / Silver Knights. Sometimes the numbers don’t really tell the whole story.

What the hell, Montreal?

The fight is real for the impromptu reigning Western Conference champions.

This was expected from Montreal for all of the reasons listed above. Many of their main contributors to this miraculous playoff run are either injured or no longer part of the squad. Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Corey Perry are two of those who have moved on since.

Suzuki is off to a 10-point start in 12 games, the only Canadiens player to have a double-digit score. Jonathan Drouin has seven points in 11 games for what was a successful return to the ice after struggling with anxiety and insomnia. Game 6 nemesis Artturi Lehkonen is emerging as one of the best 5v5 defensive forwards this season.

The biggest omission is the goalie. Price, who is expected to join Montreal on Monday, has been part of the NHL / NHLH assistance program since the start of the season. The game is better when Price is around, and we hope he gets better.

Jake Allen was the starter in Price’s absence, going 3-7-0 with a 2.92 GAA and .904 save percentage. Allen was once a Golden Knights killer, so of course he’s probably up for a shutout.

Where to look

Time: 7 p.m. ET

Television: AT&T SportsNet-RM

Radio: Fox Sports 98.9

The Golden Knights lineup

Jonathan Marchessault – Nicolas Roy – Reilly Smith

William Carrier – Chandler Stephenson – Evgenii Dadonov

Michael Amadio – Keegan Kolesar – Mattias Janmark

Brett Howden – Jake Leschyshyn – Jonas Rondbjerg

Nicolas Hague – Alex Pietrangelo

Alec Martinez – Shea Theodore

Brayden McNabb – Dylan Coghlan

Robin lehner

Laurent Brossoit

About Dorie Castro

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