It’s Francouz time!
The Avalanche have struggled during the preseason so far. Semyon Varlamov put up an incredibly poor showing against the Vegas Golden Knights in their first game, and then backup Philipp Grubauer allowed seven goals in a shutout loss to the Minnesota Wild to extend the team’s preseason record to an alarming 0-2.
Now, the Avalanche are headed to Vegas to face off against their first opponent for a second time, looking to finally get that elusive preseason win.
The Avalanche have struggled a bit leading up to the start of the regular season, and it’s tough to really put a finger on why.
Goaltending has been a big part of it, for sure. Although Grubauer was playing behind a roster of predominantly AHL-bound players in the game against the Wild, the fact that he allowed seven goals raised a few eyebrows - and the game against the Golden Knights to open preseason game action featured the MacKinnon line as well as a handful of other NHL mainstays, along with Varlamov. They then failed to work over Vegas goaltender Zach Fucale, who had struggled to hold a place in Montreal’s depth chart over the last few seasons and spent the bulk of his development years in the ECHL.
Tonight, the team will look to audition yet another goaltender, with Pavel Francouz making his preseason debut, but they’ll also look to see how the team’s depth players hold their own against a Vegas roster that some coaches are saying already look to be in mid-season form.
Pavel Francouz will get his first real test tonight, with Vegas putting out essentially an opening night-level roster. They’re missing a few familiar faces (Collin Miller won’t appear in the Vegas defensive lineup, Nate Schmidt is suspended, and Cody Eakin is out with a day-to-day thing) but for the most part, the Czech-born goaltender will get a chance to face names like Max Pacioretty, Alex Tuch, and the entire William Karlsson line intact.
It’s going to be a massive test for both the blue liners and for Francouz, but almost moreso for the goaltender himself. The expectation is that he’s going to be starting the year in the AHL with the Eagles, but this will be a fantastic way to gauging how he holds his own when faced with
Look for quality of saves, not necessarily quantity. There’s a good chance he’ll get shelled tonight, but the team will be almost certainly looking to see how he handles the types of shots that Vegas sends his way without the benefit of guys like Erik Johnson, Samuel Girard, and Tyson Barrie. Even if he allows a high volume of goals, they’ll look to see how he progresses throughout the game - does he adapt as he figures out the game speed on the North American rink? - and whether or not . the same types of shots get past him every time.
On the other end of the rink, Malcolm Subban will get the nod for Vegas, facing a not-so-tough Colorado lineup. But it’s a test for him, as well; with Oscar Dansk, Maxime Lagace, and Zach Fucale all desperate to get a shot at the big league sometime soon, he needs to continue to prove that he’s far and away the best option as Vegas’ number two. And given how well the other Vegas goaltenders have performed so far, it will be almost an expectation that he does well.
Gallant: We’re switching [Stastny and Pacioretty] in and out. We’re not going to mess with the [William] Karlsson line, but this line is a new line taking place with our team. We’re trying to give some people some opportunities. pic.twitter.com/4UEROb9Ghl— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) September 24, 2018