weather icon Cloudy
RJ App
Vegas News, Alerts, ePaper

Knights search for consistency in net during tough stretch

Updated December 29, 2022 - 8:13 pm

Adam Henrique wound up a second after crossing the blue line Wednesday at the Honda Center.

He fired a slap shot with four Golden Knights boxed around him 44 feet from the net. The puck zipped around defenseman Alex Pietrangelo’s right leg, past goaltender Adin Hill’s blocker and in for a goal that gave the Anaheim Ducks a 2-0 lead.

“Not what I normally get,” Henrique said. “But I’ll take it.”

Knights coach Bruce Cassidy decided that was enough. He pulled Hill after 7:34, making a midgame goaltending change for the first time this season. The Knights rallied to make the score 2-2 before losing 3-2 in a shootout.

The move showed Cassidy’s frustration. The short-handed Knights are fighting an uphill battle because of injuries. They can’t afford to make things harder on themselves by giving up goals that have a chance to be stopped.

The Knights need more consistency from their goaltenders if they’re going to survive this stretch.

“I’m not a big proponent of that,” Cassidy said of his midgame change. “But something looked off, and we made a call.”

The goaltending hasn’t been an issue most nights.

They had a lot of question marks in net after it was announced that goaltender Robin Lehner would miss the season to have surgery on his hips. Early on, they seemed to have answers.

Goaltender Logan Thompson is 16-9 and was named the NHL’s rookie of the month for November. Hill is 8-3-1 after being acquired in an August trade. They have combined to start every game for the Knights. They’ve helped the club post the 10th-best team save percentage (.907) in the league.

“Our goaltending has been very good,” general manager Kelly McCrimmon said last week. “It’s been a strength.”

That strength has seemed to fade recently.

Hill has an .891 save percentage in five December starts. Thompson’s is .907 this month in 10 appearances. Both of those numbers are disappointing considering the Knights’ defensive effort. They’ve allowed the second-lowest rate of high-danger scoring chances in the NHL in December, according to the website Natural Stat Trick.

The key for Thompson has been consistency.

He’s had impressive games, such as a 27-save shutout against Chicago and a 39-save performance against Ottawa. He was great Wednesday after replacing Hill. Thompson stopped all 22 shots he faced despite playing Tuesday in Los Angeles.

“He played well when he came in,” captain Mark Stone said. “Obviously, didn’t give up anything.”

But Thompson is still learning on the fly through his first full NHL season. He’s already made a career-high 25 starts and 26 appearances. It makes sense he’ll have bumps along the way.

Hill is also on pace for a career high in games played after making his 13th start Wednesday. The 26-year-old has never made more than 22 starts or 25 appearances in an NHL season.

The Knights have a more experienced option in Henderson if they want to try someone different. Goaltender Laurent Brossoit has played 14 games with the Silver Knights after recovering from offseason hip surgery. He said he feels closer to 100 percent than “I’ve ever been in my NHL career,” and his results back up that statement.

Brossoit is 4-2-1 in his past seven starts with a .946 save percentage. He did allow five goals on 20 shots in a loss to San Diego on Wednesday, but the 29-year-old has played in 106 NHL games.

Whoever is in net, the Knights need reliable goaltending right now. They’re without seven injured skaters, including defensemen Shea Theodore, Alec Martinez and Zach Whitecloud. They need all the saves they can get.

Cassidy’s quick hook showed that.

“When you play back to back, we’re always going to play two goalies, typically,” Cassidy said. “Should be the most prepared guy on the team because he didn’t play the night before. That’s not what I saw, so we went a different direction.”

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.

Don't miss the latest VGK news. Like our Golden Edge page