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Golden Knights At Maple Leafs: 3 Keys To The Game

Monday's game starts at 4:00 PM. It can be seen on AT&T SportsNet. This is Cox channels 313 (SD) and 1313 (HD), DIRECTV channel 684, U-verse channels 757 (SD) and 1757 (HD), and CenturyLink channels 760 (SD) and 1760 (HD).

by Dan Marrazza @GoldenKnights / VegasGoldenKnights.com

Just when everyone thought the wheels were going to fall off for the Vegas Golden Knights, they didn't.

Vegas' convincing win against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday erased a three-game losing streak, and improved the Golden Knights' record to 9-4-0.

Nine. Four. And. 0.

Heading into Monday night's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Golden Knights have a chance to become the fastest expansion team to ever reach 10 wins.

Although against the Maple Leafs, who are 8-7-0 but are probably far better than their record suggests, this tough ask for a Vegas team playing its fifth road game in eight days.

Monday's game can be seen at 4:00 PM (PT).

It can be seen on AT&T SportsNet. This is Cox channels 313 (SD) and 1313 (HD), DIRECTV channel 684, U-verse channels 757 (SD) and 1757 (HD), and CenturyLink channels 760 (SD) and 1760 (HD).

Dave Goucher and Shane Hnidy will have all the action.

Dan D'Uva will be calling the game on FOX Sports Radio. This is 98.9 FM and 1340 AM.

Here are three keys to Monday's game.

Video: Gallant checks in the day after Vegas defeated Ottawa

 

1. Welcome To The Big Stage

In hockey terms, Toronto is the center of the hockey universe. Or the centre of the hockey universe?

Either way works.

Seriously, the city that hosts Monday's Golden Knights game against the Maple Leafs is referred to that. And while it may contain a bit of hyperbole, it's not entirely inaccurate.

What happens in Toronto, both with the Leafs and those who visit, quickly becomes part of the conversation that is the fabric of this sport. For a Vegas Golden Knights team playing in Toronto for the first time, Monday's game is a tremendous opportunity to establish this team as being for real.

9-4-0 is indisputably an incredibly strong record for an expansion team. But to continue this success in Toronto? Against the Maple Leafs?

That would go miles in establishing this Vegas team as for real, rather than some sort of fluky beginning.

The players who make up the Golden Knights' roster have mostly played on these sorts of stages before. But they haven't as a team.

And how this team handles the spotlight will be a central storyline on Monday.

Win this one, and it may really turn a lot of heads in this league.

 

Video: Theodore speaks ahead of Monday's game in Toronto

 

2. Building The Lagace

Maxime Lagace wasn't great on Saturday afternoon on Ottawa. But he was good enough.

Stopping 24 of 28 Senators shots and picking up his first NHL win, Lagace ended the Golden Knights' three-game losing streak. Although for it to continue on Monday, he'll need to turn in a better performance.

With 57 goals scored in 15 games, the Maple Leafs are the league's second highest scoring offense, a shade behind the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Toronto is young, Toronto is talented and incredibly fast. With all due respect to the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks, the Maple Leafs have an offense that is by far better than any team the Golden Knights have faced so far.

 

Video: VGK@OTT: Lagace's parents react to his first NHL win

 

With a young, still inexperienced goalie like Lagace in goal, this could pose a problem. Where if Lagace plays the way he did against Ottawa - despite winning - Toronto has the ability to hang up a crooked number on Vegas.

Avoiding this will be a team effort. Not only from Lagace, who'll have to play the best game of his young career for a chance to win. But this also applies to the team.

Against the Maple Leafs, defensive miscues will end up in the back of your net.

Vegas will have to, by committee, play its tightest defensive game of the season. While the challenge is for Lagace to raise his game, it's also to best assist the young goalie by not giving up second, third and even fourth opportunities on sequences.

 

Video: Marchessault spoke following practice on Sunday

 

3. Have To Be-Leaf

We mentioned the Maple Leafs' vaunted offense. Without comment, we present its leaders. For perspective on what the Golden Knights will be contending with.

Auston Matthews: The 20-year-old Arizona native has 10 goals and eight assists in 15 games.

Nazem Kadri: The second-line center has six goals and five assists.

William Nylander: Only 21, Nylander has 11 points (3G, 8A) in 15 games.

 

Video: Erik Haula spoke after Sunday's practice in Toronto

 

This doesn't even include Connor Brown (six goals), James van Riemsdyk (five goals), Patrick Marleau (five goals) and defenseman Morgan Rielly, who has 11 points.

With Frederik Andersen in goal, the Maple Leafs are the league's fifth worse defensive team right now, so aren't exactly impenetrable.

But this offense is so potent that finding some way to manage it may be Vegas' tallest task of the season thus far.

Edit: Following Monday's morning skate at the Air Canada Centre, Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock acknowledged that Auston Matthews is a bit banged up, and is a game time decision to play tonight.

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