Thompson’s time: Golden Knights goalie red hot as Vegas heads into playoffs

VGK vs Kraken

Steve Marcus

Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Logan Thompson (36) makes a save during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Seattle Kraken at T-Mobile Arena Thursday, March 21, 2024.

The Golden Knights may need to start calling their goaltender “Air Logan.”

Logan Thompson earned the nickname March 25 in St. Louis by going airborne to stop a penalty shot from Blues leading scorer Pavel Buchnevich in overtime of Vegas’ biggest game of the season up to that point. The Golden Knights secured victory 19 seconds later when William Karlsson drew a couple defenders at the other end before tapping a pass to Jonathan Marchessault, who wristed in a shot for a 2-1 victory.

“The word ‘clutch’ is what we’re looking for,” Karlsson said of Thompson after the game. “He’s very clutch. Obviously a huge save on their penalty shot in OT. That’s what we need from our goaltender this time of year.”

Thompson was spectacular throughout Vegas’ penultimate regular-season road trip of the year, a four-game stretch that started with the win against St. Louis. And the Golden Knights needed it badly as their season-long grasp on a playoff spot had started to slip with injuries mounting and goalie play declining.

Thompson halted the slide by shutting down the two teams chasing the Golden Knights closest in the standings, the Blues and Minnesota Wild. Against the Wild, the final game of the trip five days after facing the Blues, Thompson turned away 32 shots and gave up only one goal—that during a five-minute major penalty.

His final save came with the Wild pulling their goalie for a 4-on-3 advantage in overtime and once again led to the game-winner as Marchessault got a hold of the loose puck and scored on the empty net for another 2-1 victory.

“A great save by Logan there again,” Marchessault said. “He’s been tremendous for us these past few weeks, and I’m happy for him to get the win.”

With eight games left to play in the regular season, the Golden Knights were no longer at risk of missing the playoffs and therefore a chance to defend their Stanley Cup title. They hadn’t technically clinched a postseason spot yet, but it was a mere formality as the 3-0-1 road trip at least momentarily boosted them from a wild-card position to the No. 3 seed in the Pacific division.

The only loss came in the game where Thompson didn’t play, a 5-4 overtime defeat to the Nashville Predators with Henderson Silver Knights stopper Jiri Patera in the crease. Thompson has lifted the Golden Knights whenever he’s played, putting together a streak of six straight appearances with only one goal allowed.

“I’m happy for Logan,” Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said. “He’s battled hard in there.”

Vegas will need Thompson to keep battling hard and flying high if it wants to be a factor in the playoffs. As the Golden Knights know first-hand, it almost always takes excellent goalie play to make a push toward the Stanley Cup Final.

All indications are that Thompson is the best, if not only, candidate to fill the role in Vegas this year.

It wasn’t supposed to be that way, as Thompson and Adin Hill, who was excellent in last year’s championship run, entered the season sharing time in net. The expectation, though it was never explicitly stated, was that Hill would reclaim the permanent spot come playoff time.

But that may turn out neither possible nor preferred. Hill is currently sidelined for the second time this season with a lower-body injury, and his status for the playoffs is unknown.

But he wasn’t playing well before getting hurt, having given up at least three goals in seven straight starts — during which the Golden Knights went 2-5 — before exiting during a March 23 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Cassidy had vowed to stick with Hill and help him through the rough stretch, though he referenced the goalie needing to navigate mental hurdles and poor third-period play.

Now the gameplan instead might be for the Golden Knights to ride Thompson as far as he’ll take them. Teams don’t typically play more than one goalie in the playoffs, even if that was their modus operandi during the regular season.

And it’s not always the goalie everyone expects. Hill himself came off the bench last year, as Vegas got through an opening-round series with Winnipeg and the first two games of a showdown against Edmonton with since-departed Laurent Brossoit in net.

But Brossoit got hurt to thrust Hill, who hadn’t played in two months with his own injury, into action and prompt a legendary run in which he went 11-4 as a starter for the rest of the playoffs.

Thompson, who was also unavailable due to injury, was along for the ride but later admitted it was difficult to watch while itching for the chance to play in the postseason for the first time in his career.

The 27-year-old has shown more than enough to prove he should be capable and worth trusting. Even before his latest ascent, Thompson emerged as a potential top-tier goaltender at the start of last season en route to an All-Star Game nod.

He’s since been forced to wait his turn, but the time for patience is over. The Golden Knights now look like Thompson’s team.

“He’s playing really good hockey,” forward Anthony Mantha said of Thompson. “Hopefully, he’ll keep going, and we’ll do our best in front of him.”

This story appeared in Las Vegas Weekly.

Original News Source Link – Las Vegas Weekly

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