St. Louis Blues: Vegas Golden Knights Are For Real, Or Are They

LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 17: David Perron (R)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 17: David Perron (R) /

The St. Louis Blues take on the Vegas Golden Knights tonight. The question on everyone’s mind is whether their hot start is for real or whether it is more Las Vegas glamour.

The St. Louis Blues have not taken on a team for the very first time in quite some time now. The Winnipeg Jets were the last team to be new, by name, in 2011-12. The last truly new team the Blues faced was Minnesota and Columbus in 2000-01.

None of the current Blues were on the team back then. So, this is a new experience for them.

The thing that they are wondering is whether this Vegas team is for real. Are they really a 5-1 team or is it all smoke and mirrors like a good Las Vegas magic show?

As Dennis Green would say, you are who we thought you were. That can be taken two ways though.

Vegas is a good team. The NHL structured it that way. No other expansion teams had the advantages of the expansion draft rules that were granted to the Vegas franchise. I suppose paying a $500 million expansion fee will get you some perks.

They have earned their good start as well. They have played good, inspired hockey. You can argue about whether the tragedy that happened in Las Vegas with the concert shooting is elevating their play or not, but they look like a team that intends to win every night. That is not always the case with expansion teams.

However, they have not had the highest of competition quite yet. They do have wins over Boston and Dallas. Dallas has struggled out of the gate though.

Their other wins came against Arizona (twice) and the Buffalo Sabres. Not exactly Stanley Cup material there.

Vegas is also getting hot starts from guys like James Neal and David Perron. Blues fans will be very familiar with that last name as he has been on the team twice during his career.

We know all too well how streaky he can be, only to disappear at random. That’s not a knock on him either.

He plays hard, especially the last few years now that he has learned to be a more complete player. The statistical production is just not always there.

Then there is Neal. He’s a solid scorer and will likely continue to lead the team in production. He’s not a true number one though.

His career year came in Pittsburgh, where he was not even close to the top focus of defenses. Other than that, he’s about a 40 point scorer over the course of his career. Neal will definitely hurt you if you let him, but he’s not going to be able to shoulder the load over an entire season if he is THE guy.

Then we come to the goaltending situation. As well as the Golden Knights have played during their first six games, they relied on goaltending quite a bit.

Marc-Andre Fleury looked like a man on a mission in his first four games. He was as good or better than his best in Pittsburgh and he needed to be.

However, Fleury is gone for the foreseeable future. He received a concussion after being kneed in the head about a week ago.

Malcom Subban has filled in valiantly, going 2-0 in the former Stanley Cup winner’s absence. The team has been good defensively too, only allowing about 27 shots per game in those two.

The bottom line is Vegas has the talent to give the Blues fits in one game. They are organized, well coached and have a decent amount of talent top to bottom.

They do not have the talent to make a true run through an entire season yet though. If Neal is your best and Perron your second, there just is not enough there for the long haul.

Even with the league setting things up to favor Vegas, they don’t have that top-end star yet. All the best teams have that star you can lean on and that will come with time to the desert.

For now, the Blues need to keep playing their game. Neither team can rely solely on momentum because they are both off to good starts.

The Blues need to get rubber at the net and really test the Vegas goaltender. They need to win the special teams battle as Vegas is lacking in that area (PP% – 7.69, PK% – 78.95).

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This is a game the Blues should win, on paper. Vegas has only lost one game at home though and cannot be taken lightly. They might be a new team, but they’re not the usual expansion team.

They also have a couple former Blues’ system players in Brad Hunt and William Carrier. Those guys will want to show St. Louis they were better than the team thought.

It’ll be an interesting night down on the strip. Hopefully the Blues don’t come up snake eyes.