Goaltender isn’t the only position Golden Knights coach Pete DeBoer decided to shake up.
The bottom-six forwards had a new look when the Knights met the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday in Game 1 of the best-of-seven Western Conference quarterfinals.
With the return of left wing Max Pacioretty to his regular spot on the top line, Chandler Stephenson moved to the third line with Nick Cousins and Alex Tuch.
That pushed center Nicolas Roy to the Meat Grinder Line. Tomas Nosek, who has filled in as the center on that line, was a healthy scratch after playing in the three round-robin games.
“I think the versatility of this group is one of the strengths,” DeBoer said in a videoconference call after the morning skate. “Where we start tonight, I know you can guarantee won’t be where we’ll end up. I’ve been happy with all the guys. We’ve got tough decisions to make.”
The third line with Cousins, Roy and Tuch individually combined for four goals and five assists during the round robin. They also teamed for seven points in the exhibition victory over Arizona.
But their possession metrics together were cringeworthy. According to NaturalStatTrickcom, the Knights had only 28.6 percent of the shots while they were on the ice at five-on-five.
Roy teamed with William Carrier and Ryan Reaves to form a hulking fourth line that averages 6 feet 2¾ inches and 214 pounds.
“We’re just going to try to do what we always do, whether we’re playing against Reaves or Vegas or any other team,” Blackhawks fourth-line center Ryan Carpenter said. “We’re just going to try to control what we can and bring energy and contribute.”
Been there, done that
The Blackhawks leaned on their Stanley Cup winners to get past Edmonton in the qualifying round, but don’t assume Chicago has the edge in experience during the series.
The Knights’ roster has appeared in a combined 868 playoff games, the most among Pacific Division teams and third in the Western Conference. Chicago has a combined 758 playoff games on its roster, with Corey Crawford, Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane accounting for 64 percent of those games.
Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, the backup for Game 1, leads the Knights with 143 games played, followed by Paul Stastny with 82.
“They’ve got a lot of experience,” Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton said. “They’ve been to the finals recently, so they’ve got a lot of guys who’ve been through it where we probably only have a handful.”
Picking his brain
Carpenter spent almost two full seasons with the Knights before signing as a free agent with Chicago last offseason, and Colliton tried to glean as much information as he could.
But the lineup the Knights used in Game 1 had six players who were not part of the team at the start of the season, somewhat minimizing Carpenter’s inside knowledge. And, of course, Carpenter never played for DeBoer.
“I maybe know some of the players a little bit. And so maybe that helps a little bit with prescout,” Carpenter said. “But we’re really trying to focus on our game and what we need to do to be successful.”