Vegas Golden Knights goaltenders just can't stop getting injured
The team has been forced to use four goalies in its first 10 games of the season
The Vegas Golden Knights have been in their inaugural NHL season. As is the case with most expansion franchises, the competitive expectations were set pretty low for their first year in existence. The roster constructed via this past summer's expansion draft left plenty of doubts and questions, but the one place they seemed to be set was in net.
The Golden Knights snagged goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury from the Penguins via the draft, and Fleury immediately became the face of the franchise. It looked like a promising win-win situation -- Fleury would get the chance to play regularly once again after losing the starting job in Pittsburgh to Matt Murray, and Vegas got an established veteran it could market and build around.
But things haven't exactly gone as planned for the Knights.
In an odd twist of fate, the team has gotten off to an unfathomablyhot start. They sit 8-2-0, which is the best 10-game start ever for an NHL expansion franchise. They've gotten a bit of help from a favorable schedule, but that doesn't take away from how well the team has been able to play together in the early going. It has been the best story of this young NHL season, especially considering how the Knights have managed to find so much success despite an astounding amount of instability ... wait for it ... at the goaltending position.
The Golden Knights suffered their second loss of the season Monday -- a 6-3 defeat at the hands of the Islanders -- and they finished the game with their fourth-string goaltender in net. That's right -- their fourth goalie in 10 games.
The timeline of Vegas' bad luck between the pipes has been pretty incredible, so much so that there has essentially been a revolving door of netminders on the Strip.
Fleury only played four games for the Knights before suffering a concussion Oct. 13 against the Red Wings. Before the head injury, the veteran looked great, posting a .925 save percentage while facing an average of more than 30 shots a night. He has yet to return, though he's currently described as "day-to-day" by Vegas head coach Gerard Gallant.
Before Fleury's injury, Vegas claimed Malcolm Subban on waivers from the Bruins and it looked like it might carry three goalies for the season. But soon after Subban's arrival, the Golden Knights waived Calvin Pickard, who they snatched from the Avalanche in the expansion draft, and officially put their faith in Subban as the team's backup.
The 23-year-old Subban -- a former first-round pick and brother of Nashville Predators defenseman P.K. Subban -- made just three starts before suffering a lower body injury against the Blues on Oct. 21. That injury was serious enough to land him on injured reserve while Vegas had to dip even further into its pool of goaltending options.
Next up was 23-year-old Swedish goalie Oscar Dansk, who started the season in the minors but made his NHL debut after Subban went down. Following his relief appearance, he made three starts of his own and performed well, even posting a shutout against the Colorado Avalanche on Friday. But, like Subban, he was forced out of his third start, leaving Monday's game in Brooklyn after suffering an undisclosed injury.
That meant that Maxime Lagace, the undrafted 24-year-old who has spent the past four seasons bouncing between the AHL and ECHL, was called on to make his NHL debut in relief against the Islanders. That didn't go so well, as Legace allowed four goals on 11 shots in the loss.
Again, that makes four goalies in 10 games for Vegas. Not ideal. So, now what?
The Golden Knights have a pretty busy road ahead, with five games in the next seven days. If Dansk is forced to miss additional time and Fleury still isn't ready to be activated, the Knights could look at bringing in some external help, as they're running out of rungs on the ladder when it comes to goalies within the organization.
The most likely scenario is that the team recalls 19-year-old Dylan Ferguson from the WHL to back up Lagace on an emergency basis. Ferguson was a seventh-round draft pick by the Dallas Stars in this summer's draft before being traded to the Knights in a deal for defenseman Marc Methot.
It's certainly not the way any of us saw the Knights' goalie situation playing out -- especially this early in the season -- but maybe the only thing more baffling than their terrible lack of luck in net is the team's ability to keep soldiering on even without it.
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