Vegas Golden Knights: Goaltending, milestones, and momentum give them an edge

With a set of back to back games against division rivals Anaheim and Los Angeles, the Vegas Golden Knights rely on timely goaltending, momentum and a few milestone nights to take home four points.

Vegas Golden Knights: Goaltending, milestones, and momentum give them an edge
The new expansion Vegas Golden Knights have had plenty to celebrate their inaugural season. (Photo: NHL.com)

With the holiday wrapping paper thrown away and players contently stuffed with turkey, the NHL resumed play on December 27th. 

The Vegas Golden Knights resumed their winning ways against the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings in an eventful and emotional set of back to back games. 

Although tested with uncharacteristic slow starts in both games, the Golden Knights were able to find a way to battle back in both games, in large part to goaltending, timely scoring, and milestones. 

Goaltending 

A backup goalie is the most underrated player on any given NHL roster. They have the ability to make a good team, a great team. A backup goalie has the ability to afford the starter days off, something a lot of teams do not have. 

Malcolm Subban has afforded the Golden Knights the ability to play him with confidence. This, in turn, allows Marc-Andre Fleury to take a night off, especially in back to back situations. 

Subban played a very solid 1st period in Anaheim, where the Golden Knights came out flat. He finished with 28 saves on the night and was undoubtedly a key factor in the game.  

Fleury was his usual stable self in game two of the back to back against the Los Angeles Kings. He stopped 26 of 28 shots, five of those were point-blank saves in overtime. 

All in all, these two wins against division rivals would not have happened without the Fleury/Subban tandem. 

Momentum 

With about five minutes left in the first period of the Anaheim game, the Golden Knights were being badly outplayed and outshot. They were not forechecking well and couldn't hold onto the puck.

Something that this team has the ability to do, however, is grab momentum and hold onto it. Being badly outplayed and relying on Subban, defenseman Shea Theodore got a nice pass in the side slot area and put it past goaltender John Gibson

This made Anaheim's valiant effort seemingly all for naught as the teams went into the dressing room tied at one. 

Vegas took over from there, eventually winning the game 4-1. 

The following night against the Kings in the third period, tied 1-1 and time winding down, Vegas needed a boost. 

Brendan Leipsic, the lone forward on the Golden Knights roster to score a goal pushed a puck past Kings netminder Johnathan Quick. 

The bench erupted and the game launched into one of the quicker paced periods that Vegas has played.

It was a special goal from a guy who wears number 13 in honour of the Finnish Flash, Teemu Selanne, that gave the team that little something extra they needed. 

They would end up winning in overtime compliments of a nice shot by David Perron. 

Milestones 

Lost in the genuinely remarkable story of the Golden Knights are some of the personal milestones that occurred during this mini two-game road trip.

Against Anaheim, forward Reilly Smith played in his 400th career game. He started his career with the Dallas Stars, where he was drafted in the third round of the 2009 draft.

He spent two seasons with the Stars. He also played two seasons for the Boston Bruins and Florida Panthers

This season he has 28 points in 36 games. His career high in points came back in the 2013/14 season where he notched 51 points. 

Not to be outdone, Fleury played in his 700th career game against the Kings. Fleury is only the 27th goalie to ever play in 700 games but is only the seventh goalie to reach the milestone by the age of 33. 

It is fitting that Fleury played his 700th game against the Kings, as his NHL career started. His first game was played at the Mellon Arena on October 11th, 2003. He made 46 saves in a 3-0 loss, but in many ways, the acquisition of Fleury in the 2003 draft was the beginning of the Pittsburgh Penguins dynasty. 

Enjoy some footage of a very young Fleury on his draft day below:

 

Before this season Fleury has spent his whole career with the Penguins, winning three Stanley Cups. 

The year that Fleury won his first Stanley Cup was also the year that Smith was drafted. 

This season Fleury has posted a 7-1-1 record, along with a 1.96 GAA and 9.38 save percentage. His career numbers are: 382-217-2-67 with a 2.58 GAA and 9.12 save percentage. 

Vegas looks to continue their success on New Year's Eve with an afternoon game against the Toronto Maple Leafs

Who do you think was the MVP of the back to back games? Will the storybook ending ever end for Vegas? Comment down below.