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Results Aren’t Changing, So Something Else Must

Let’s try changes before it’s 3-0. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Following their latest nightmare of a road trip, all three trips have been now, the Golden Knights now sit at 3-8-0 on the road, 7-10-1 overall, and with a measly 15 points in the first 18 games. If you extrapolate those numbers over a full 82 game season, that’s 11-31-0 on the road, 32-46-4 overall, and 68 points. That is a disaster.

That is also why something has to change. Of course, the easiest change will be made available to the Golden Knights in two games, when Nate Schmidt is eligible to return from his suspension. It will almost certainly help, but relying on one player to completely turn the fortunes of a team around is like walking up to the craps table thinking you’re going to win rent for the month. It might happen, but realistically, it’s probably not.

Following the loss in Boston, reigning Jack Adams winner Gerard Gallant responded to a question about swapping Max Pacioretty and Jonathan Marchessault mid-game with this answer.

If you are not winning you are going to try things. That’s what a coach’s job is supposed to be. So you try and get a little spark. -Gallant

However, the team has barely tried anything nearly a fourth of the way through the season. They’ve made one call-up from the AHL, they’ve made voluntary changes on just one line, and they’ve never swapped more than one defenseman if not dealing with an injury.

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BOSTON BRUINS 4 VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 1 (7-10-1 15 PTS)

Boston jumped out to an early lead and then did everything they could to help the Golden Knights back in it. Not one, not two, but three power play chances and Vegas was not able to cash in on any of them. Matters got worse as the Bruins opened the lead to 3-0 before Gerard Gallant shuffled his top two lines and sparked a goal by Cody Eakin from Alex Tuch. A late 5-on-3, Boston’s third of the game, provided the dagger and Vegas heads home from yet another disastrous road trip. Just two points and push their road record to 3-8-0.

Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights at Boston Bruins at TD Garden.

  • Change has worked, so keep changing. Static isn’t working.

Three Stars
*** Anders Bjork
** Brad Marchand
* Jaroslav Halak

Expectations Should Be High For Nate’s Return

**Steve Carp’s twice-weekly column publishes every Wednesday and Sunday during the Golden Knights season.**

Nate Schmidt’s return to the Golden Knights’ lineup is exactly a week away. Suffice to say, he has been missed more than anyone ever realized.

I’m not going to get into the 20-game suspension the NHL meted out to the defenseman after testing positive for a banned substance prior to the season. We’re never going to learn the real circumstances as to what happened or what the substance was.

But if NHL Players Association executive director Don Fehr is smart, he’ll demand that transparency be built into the next Collective Bargaining Agreement. It will benefit the players to not have to hide behind a bunch of legalities when and if someone gets popped.

It would have been nice if Schmidt could have come clean and told the world exactly what happened. But what’s done is done. And as we look ahead to next Sunday and beyond, Schmidt’s return is not only welcome, it is critical to the team’s breaking out of its early-season morass and get itself into contention in the Pacific Division.

You all know the numbers. Schmidt leads the team in time on ice. He will help give Vegas’ anemic power play a boost. He’ll help make the penalty killing unit stronger as part of the second unit (Deryk Engelland and Brayden McNabb are the top D pair on the PK).

Then there are the intangibles that come with having Nate on the ice. He usually is skating against the opposition’s top forward and does a very good job of limiting the opponent’s chances. He will help the Knights’ transition from defense to offense because he is such a good passer and he sees the ice so well. He also will join the rush and support the attack.

I’m sure his teammates will be glad to have him back. He was warmly received in Ottawa the other day as he practiced with the team. He probably regaled the boys with stories of his time in Austria and how he helped the Vienna Capitals maintain their grip on the top spot in the Austrian League by his presence on the ice at the Caps’ practices.

That’s all well and good. But now is the time to step in, produce and lift up the Golden Knights. They sure could have used him Saturday at the Bell Centre. To cough up leads of 2-0 and 4-3 and lose to Tomas Tatar and the Montreal Canadiens 5-4 and come away with zero points should have left the players angry.

The Knights wrap up the four-game road trip tonight in Boston. They’re two games below .500 (7-9-1) with 15 points. When you’re swimming upstream and you have a chance to get to .500 and you let it get away, it’s the kind of night that come the off-season, you’ll look back on it and say, “How the hell did we let that one get away from us?”

And while you can say the Knights didn’t have Schmidt, Engelland, Paul Stastny and Erik Haula Saturday in Montreal, the fact is they had control of this game and there are no excuses.

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MONTREAL CANADIENS 5 VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 4 (7-9-1 15 PTS)

The Golden Knights put in a dominant 1st period jumping out to a two-goal lead. The first goal came from Brad Hunt on the power play and then Jonathan Marchessault deflected one in with his skate for the second. However, a nightmare five minutes led to three straight Canadien goals. Vegas did respond with a goal of their own from Alex Tuch set up by some great forechecking from Cody Eakin. Vegas took yet another lead in the 3rd but blew it once again. Tomas Tatar scored the game-winner.

Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights at Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre.

  • Steve Carp’s column the impact Nate Schmidt must have when he returns.

Three Stars
*** William Karlsson
** Jesperi Kotkaniemi
* Andrew Shaw

Two Stories About George McPhee Surface; One Good, One Not-So-Good

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

One of our habits here at SinBin.vegas is to scour the Internet for any and all stories about the Golden Knights. Whether they are about ex-players, prospects, coaches, executives, or in today’s case the General Manager, if it’s out there, we find it. George McPhee’s name popped up in multiple places this week starting with an interview on Hockey Central in which he gave an update on Paul Stastny’s status, but that was the least interesting thing we found concerning the architect of the Golden Knights. Two stories worth sharing found their way onto the web, one good one, one not-so-good one.

We’ll start with the good story.

When McPhee was senior in college at Bowling Green the team he captained started the season 0-6-1. They went on to turn things around and win the CCHA regular season and playoff titles and made the national tournament. The head coach of that team was Jerry York. York’s team this year has another McPhee, George’s son, Graham. Graham’s team at Boston College was 0-5-0 and York had McPhee turn to his old man for a little reassurance.

I said ‘Graham, call your dad and ask him.’ It’s still a long year. We have a lot of work to do, but we’ve got a pretty good club. –Jerry York to CollegeHockeyNews.com

You guys have probably never been 0-5-0. You just haven’t. But I’ve been there. Graham McPhee’s father was our senior captain at Bowling Green. We started 0-6-1. I told them I’ve been there, and that this team has a chance to become a very good team for us. Believe me, just because you start 0-5-0, doesn’t mean you have to have a lousy year. -York

A few days later, Boston College won their first game of the season and have won three straight since. Who knows what McPhee actually said to his son and how much of that message made it to Graham’s teammates, but it makes for a good story if we give all the credit to George, so we’re going to do that.

On to the other story, which is not nearly as positive for the Golden Knights GM.

While McPhee was the GM of the Washington Capitals he made a trade that sent Jaromir Jagr to the New York Rangers, for now NBC studio host, Anson Carter.

As the story goes, (you can read the whole thing here) the Capitals arranged a driver to bring Carter to his condo to gather his belongings before heading out to the Caps next game. Carter says he was on the phone with a female hairstylist while in the car setting up a time for her to meet with him to tend to his glorious dreadlocks.

Later, when he got to Washington D.C., Carter was called into the head coach’s office.

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Hockey Central Rips Pacioretty, Golden Knights

Any time the Golden Knights head to Canada, specifically Toronto, the major media heads north of the border tend to weigh in on what they are seeing from Vegas. Following the 3-1 loss at the Maple Leafs, the voices of Sportsnet’s Hockey Central were not shy in tearing down the reigning Western Conference Champs.

Vegas played fast last year. They were a fast relentless team. I remember sitting down at breakfast with Gerard Gallant this summer and I said, you know Stastny, he slows things down. I mean I hope the pace is (still) pretty good. Then you throw Pacioretty on that wing and all of a sudden you are saying where’s the pace, where’s the speed with this group. -Doug MacLean, former NHL GM and head coach

We’re all in agreement that the shine on some level for many reasons has worn off on that Vegas team. -David Amber, Hockey Central host

They also had a singled out a specific new member of the Golden Knights.

I watch Pacioretty and he is not the 30 goal scorer we saw in previous years with the Montreal Canadiens. For me, he’s just not engaged, involved. He’s got to find a way to start getting into the trenches to score goals again. I don’t know whether or not it’s just the needle moving at the speed of the game the last two or three years, but if you don’t have that dynamic step it’s tough to get into spots to score goals. -Nick Kypreos, former NHL player

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VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 5 OTTAWA SENATORS 3 (7-8-1 15 PTS)

After killing off an early penalty in their own zone, the Golden Knights scored not one, but two power play goals in the 1st period. With new power play lines, Jonathan Marchessault netted the first one for the new top PP line, while Shea Theodore got the second one for the other unit. The Golden Knights extended the lead to 3-0 with a goal from Nick Holden, his first as a member of the team. Then, following a fight with Ryan Reaves and Mark Borowiecki, the Senators got on the board. Ottawa climbed all the way back to tie it at three, but a pair of “4th line” goals by William Carrier and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare restored Vegas’ lead and gave them the win.

Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights at  Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre

  • Respected hockey voice says Pacioretty and Stastny have slowed VGK down.

Three Stars
*** Jonathan Marchessault
** Thomas Chabot
* Pierre-Edouard Bellemare

Nate Schmidt Speaks About Suspension After Returning To Practice In Ottawa

On September 2nd the NHL informed the world that Nate Schmidt had been suspended for 20 games for violating the league’s Performance Enhancing Substance Program. On that day, Schmidt, his agent, and the Golden Knights organization released strongly worded statements claiming his innocence.

Since then, he skated with the Golden Knights throughout all of training camp, then went to Viena, Austria to practice with a team there while being suspended, and now he’s back with the Golden Knights awaiting the final five games of his suspension to elapse.

“When you can look in the mirror and know you didn’t do something, that’s all that matters.” (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

For the first time since the suspension, Schmidt was made available to the media. This occurred in the visitor’s locker room at the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa yesterday. (Stick tap to David Schoen of the Review-Journal for posting the video which is embedded below.)

Schmidt’s same jovial personality came through, as it always does, but two things were clear in hearing and watching him speak. First, he still firmly believes he did not do anything wrong. Second, it pains him deeply that his career will forever be linked to this suspension.

Right after it happened I called George and said, it’s not the games or the money, it’s my reputation. I couldn’t care less about the money I’m giving up and it sucks to miss the games but really it’s about your character being attacked. But the outpouring of support from guys on this team, and guys in the league, and friends and family, and even guys from other sports, it was incredible. It made you know at the end of the day that when you look in the mirror and you know you didn’t do something that that’s the only thing that mattered to me. I know I can say that I didn’t do anything intentionally or ever tried to do anything, that’s not me. When you can look in the mirror and know you didn’t do something, that’s all that matters. -Nate Schmidt

Schmidt does understand however that most people may not believe him. He says he’s can’t let that effect him though.

The internal support and my own personal belief in knowing (I didn’t do anything wrong) is enough for me. -Schmidt

Maybe the most interesting piece of information that came from Schmidt’s first interview since the suspension was his answer to the question, “do you know where the substance came from?”

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SinBin.vegas Podcast #130: Risk Outweighing Reward

We’re starting to grow frustrated as the Golden Knights sound like a broken record. Hosted by Ken Boehlke and Jason Pothier.

  • Recap of the Toronto loss
  • Fear of risk over excitement for reward
  • When/why did they stop coaching and managing like they did last year?
  • A lesson on pinching
  • Jason’s over packing for trips
  • Buy tickets to the next Monday’s Dark!

And much more…

We are on iTunesStitcher, and Google Play. Subscribe now!

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First Line Has Gone Quiet

What the heck is happening to our beloved 1st line?!? (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Over the course of the first 10 games of the season, the Golden Knights top line of William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, and Reilly Smith tallied 10 of the teams 21 goals. They also accounted for 24 of the team’s 49 points. In short, as we wrote about at the time, they were carrying the team.

Unfortunately, that has come to a screeching halt. In the past five games, the top line has scored just two goals, racked up a measly three assists, and have a disastrous combined -11 rating. They’ve also allowed four even-strength goals after allowing just four in the first 10 games.

To make matters worse, their shot totals, scoring chances, and high danger chances are all down, while their goals against, shots against, and chances against are all up. We also haven’t seen the killer forechecking we’ve grown so accustomed to over the past five games either. Quite simply, they are no longer carrying the team, and with the injury to Erik Haula, that has to change.

I’m not sure I’m ready to say it’s time to break them up, but with the lineup in a bit of turmoil, it has to at least start creeping into consideration. A move like this could ignite Max Pacioretty, it could breathe a little more scoring into the 2nd line, and if reigning Jack Adams winner Gerard Gallant decides to really shake it up it might lead to the return of the balanced attack that the Golden Knights became known for a year ago.

Much like a majority of last season, the top line had been scoring almost three points a game as a unit, but it’s been nearly two weeks since that’s been the case. If it returns, all will be well, but if it doesn’t, that line may look a lot different in the next two weeks.

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