In early December, the NHL tweeted out a GIF of two comparable goals scored by Reilly and Brendan Smith. Not only were their backhand moves remarkably identical, but they pulled it off in the same week.
Seeing double. 👀
Brothers Reilly (@reillysmith18) and Brendan Smith scored eerily similar goals just days apart.
The Smith brothers are only two years apart so naturally they grew up working on the same skills, drills, and moves. Was this some secret family backhand that was passed down?
No. It’s honestly a pretty standard move to do on breakaways. We did it a week apart, and with him playing forward this year, in the past he hadn’t had as many breakaways. He made it look a lot better than I did. It is pretty cool that we did it in the same week.- Reilly Smith
After telling him to quit being modest, Smith opened up about executing his lethal backhand. A skill he considers vital to his offensive success.
I never really used a curve that was so big, it was a straighter curve. Mine’s relatively straight, and I just get more off from my backhand that way. I was always given the ability to have a pretty good backhand growing up. It’s just something that I’ve worked on.- Reilly Smith
This season the Golden Knights are allowing 3.04 goals per game. Which places them 15th in the NHL. On the flip side Vegas is 17th, scoring 3.04 per game. The exact amount of goals that they let in. That’s a problem.
Over an 82-game season, a team holding opponents to under 3 goals a game will have a good chance for future success. Likewise, teams scoring 3+ goals per game have a strong chance of clinching a playoff berth.
Top 10: Goals Scored Per Game
Florida 3.67- Playoff Position
Colorado 3.65- Playoff Position
Tampa 3.60- Playoff Position
Toronto 3.57- Playoff Position
Washington 3.55- Playoff Position
Boston 3.31- Playoff Position
Pittsburgh 3.30- Playoff Position
Nashville 3.30- Out of Playoffs
NY Rangers 3.29- Out of Playoffs
Vancouver 3.24- Out of Playoffs
***17th Vegas 3.04- Playoff Position***
Vegas is averaging just below the league average of 3.05 goals scored per game. Only three other Western conference teams projected to participate in the playoffs score less. However, all three have a better win% and give up less than Vegas.
The dismissal of Gerard Gallant and hiring of Pete DeBoer came as a shock to the hockey world as a whole. Here is how some of the most powerful voices in the game reacted.
He’s known as a good coach, a coach that’s beloved by his players. The players work hard for him. He holds them accountable but does it in a way that is respectful and not demeaning. By all accounts, he’s one of the best coaches out there… By anyone’s standards would be an incredible two plus years with an expansion team. How do you explain dismissing Gerard Gallant?… It seems knee-jerky too me. I just don’t like this. I don’t understand it, and I don’t I really like it. -David Amber, Sportsnet
There are other elements to this. You have a 75-year-old owner in Bill Foley who wants to win now. I’m telling you do not underestimate that factor in all of this. I think there was a lot of pressure from above here. I think there was frustration. I don’t think Bill Foley thinks about what the team is going to look like five years from now. I think he worries about what the team is going to look like right now. -Pierre LeBrun, TSN
They felt that their team was massively underperforming. They feel that with Pete DeBoer there available, a different hand can help fix some of the wounds there. They’re sloppy in their zone, they’ve been an inconsistent team. I was just surprised that a really good coach was let go given the position they are in. I don’t know that they would’ve made this move if Pete DeBoer wasn’t sitting there. -Ray Ferraro, TSN
George McPhee ran the Washington Capitals since 1999 and a lot of games were played against the Florida Panthers when Pete DeBoer was coaching there, and a lot of games were played against the New Jersey Devils when Pete DeBoer coached there. So there’s a huge reference point for George McPhee. -Pierre McGuire, TSN
There is probably a dark poem to be written about the impact that phantom major penalty call that in Game 7 last spring had on both Gallant and DeBoer. With the chirping going back-and-forth that series, Gallant called DeBoer a clown. Now their legacies are linked. -Frank Seravalli, TSN
Ever since he was traded to the Golden Knights, Chandler Stephenson has done everything he’s been asked to do. And he’s done that and more.
From centering the team’s most talented line, helping the penalty kill, and even scoring a game-winning goal in 3-on-3 overtime. Stephenson has done so well in his role that the team trusted him to play another, 1st line forward.
I don’t really think there’s too much of a challenge. With the type of players I’ve been playing with, you know they make my life really easy. Stoney, Patch, Smitty, Karly, are all All-Stars in my mind. They’re fun to play with. -Chandler Stephenson
You think it would take some time to adjust during a game to new linemates, even for the professionals. However, Stephenson feels no pressure to make immediate chemistry with anyone Gerard Gallant has assigned him with.
They do all the dirty work and they let me play my game without telling me where to go, or do this, do that. They just let me play. That’s nice and relaxing at the same time. -Stephenson
Position adjustment doesn’t bother Stephenson either. Mainly he’s been a center in Vegas, but he’s played plenty of wing in the NHL. Either position, he will find a way to pitch in.
You have a little bit more responsive at center. At wing, your more of a straight line. It’s not too much of difference for me since I’ve played so much over the years. At center, you know you need to be more defensive but for the most part it’s pretty similar. -Stephenson
The same goes for forward William Carrier. One of the original Golden Knights has mostly been relegated to the fourth line playing alongside Ryan Reaves, Tomas Nosek, Nicolas Roy, and others over three seasons. Lately though, he’s been bouncing around filing holes when needed.
Former Golden Knight David Perron didn’t hold back on Saturday after the Blues loss in overtime. Perron made some scathing remarks about Vegas’ physicality, suggesting they stepped over the line.
You don’t like to see some of that extra stuff they do. One to our captain, I thought that was bullshit to be honest with you. That’s how I see it… Now we know what to expect. We’ve played them enough already. I see a lot of games of them. I really appreciate a lot of the stuff they do. I like their coaches, the organization, everything. But I didn’t like that (stuff on Alex Pietrangelo). -David Perron, Blues forward
Perron was clearly upset with some of the after whistle scrums, which in his eyes, were created by Vegas. One in particular involving Ryan Reaves and St. Louis captain Alex Pietrangelo.
Everybody saw what happened. I didn’t even start it. I just stopped in front of the net Petro (Alex Pietrangelo) tried to move me. He’s not going to move me. -Ryan Reaves
By now, most of us understand and appreciate Reaves’ role. If a player wants to get face-to-face, no matter who it is, #75 isn’t backing down. Pietrangelo happens to be an important player for St. Louis which is why Perron took umbrage. To Reaves, an opponent is just another opponent.
Hats off to Petro (Pietrangelo) for standing in there. You look at that situation, Petro stands up and tries to get to get me from out in front of the net.-Reaves
Pietrangelo got nicked up during his scrum with Reaves. On Monday, he sounded off.
I was just trying to take care of business. He was standing in front of our goalie. But I’ll tell you: It’s the first time I’ve ever been scratched in the eye before… I’m OK with getting into a scrum, but I’m not too fond of being scratched. Maybe that’s his new way, I don’t know. -Alex Pietrangelo, Blues defenseman
Cody Glass and Nic Hague were drafted together in 2017 as the first homegrown generation of Golden Knights. The two rookies were selected alongside Nick Suzuki and Eric Brannstrom potentially in what appeared to be the Golden Knights future core. Obviously, things changed and Suzuki and Brannstrom were traded to other organizations. However, Golden Knights fans will always keep an eye on the two former prospects.
In Montreal, fans are frustrated with the Canadiens dim playoff chances but Suzuki is pleasantly surprising Habs nation.
His hockey IQ certainly stands out… he knows where to go instinctively. He knows who to take, he knows the area to cover. The puck seems to follow him. Players with good IQ’s, that’s what happens.- Dan Robertson, TSN Montreal PxP
The 20-year-old is 7th on Montreal’s roster in goals and overall points. He began the year in a bottom-six role, averaging 13 minutes per game, but now he’s a second-line winger. He’s making an impact on the Canadiens power play, chipping in seven PP points. His playing time went up and so did his production. In 40 games, the 13th overall pick in 2017 has three multi-point games, one in which he registered three assists. Currently, Suzuki is in the top five in NHL rookie scoring along with Olafsson, Makar, Q.Hughes, and Mikheyev.
In comparison, Cody Glass has pitched in as well as a Golden Knight, but not quite to the level of Suzuki in Montreal. In 35 games, the Golden Knights rookie has played mostly on the third line but he’s added 6 power play points. Unfortunately, Glass missed a handful of games due to injury but many Golden Knights fans are still impatient and hoping for more. It becomes increasingly difficult to calm folks down when Suzuki is having such success in Montreal.
Points Per Game
Power Play Points
Time On Ice
The story changes a bit when you look at the defensive rookies side-by-side. Vegas fans have nothing to be disappointed about in that respect. Hague has played in 30 of VGK’s 42 games and has shown a lot in his time on ice. Whereas Brannstrom is still trying to figure out his role.
In Vegas, the 6’6″, 21-year-old rearguard worked his way from beginning the season paired with a Deryk Engelland, to now skating consistently with Shea Theodore. It shows the coaching staff trusts him more with tougher assignments and keeping up with the high-level Theodore brings. Although Hague is without his first NHL goal, the rookie defender is releasing 1.13 shots per game and eventually his laser slapshot will hit the back of the net.
Up in Ottawa, the Senators sent Brannstrom down to the AHL in early December. According to the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch, the Swedish defenseman needed to rebuild his confidence.
A healthy scratch for only the second time this season as the Senators faced the Oilers, the decision was made by general manager Pierre Dorion, coach D.J. Smith and the rest of the staff that the time had come to send Brannstrom down because he wasn’t playing up to his capabilities in the NHL… Not only was Brannstrom struggling to contribute offensively — he is still looking for his first NHL goal — while getting lots of opportunities in those situations, his game had taken a turn for the worse defensively because he was taking gambles, trying to get points. –Bruce Garioch, 12/05/19
What drew the Golden Knights scouting staff to draft Brannstrom was his offense and creativity with the puck. However, the Senators were concerned he wasn’t progressing properly and felt the risky, young d-man needed some more time in the AHL. Garioch speculated that there could’ve been a bit pressure on the 20-year-old, after all, Brannstrom was the centerpiece of the Mark Stone trade. In mid-December, Ottawa recalled the undersized rookie and he’s since been averaging 17+ minutes per game.
Points Per Game
On Ice Goals For
On Ice Goals Against
Time On Ice
While the comparisons are still premature, considering these players have lengthy careers ahead of them, their rookie seasons won’t determine anything in regards to their success. Glass and Suzuki will always be compared throughout their hockey lives because of their positions, but mostly because Vegas traded one of them for Max Pacioretty. Hague and Brannstrom don’t compare much at all. Either way, if all four rookies turn out to be successful NHL players, Vegas fans should feel confident about the organization’s scouting department, and the prospects they draft in the future.
In 92 games as a Golden Knight, center Paul Statsny has a total of 58 points (23 Goals, 35 Assists), 0.63 points per game. In the 46 wins Stastny participated in, the 34-year-old compiled 43 points (20 Goals, 24 Assists), averaging 0.93 points per game. Pretty significant impact.
On the other side, when Vegas loses, Stastny rarely shows up on the score sheet. In 21 total losses this season, he has only two points. His points per game drops to an alarming 0.095.
Ken wrote why he thinks the numbers are down, which may be fair, but the fact is since the organization committed 7.6% of their payroll to Stastny they simply can’t afford to his numbers to be where they are, no matter what the excuses are.
One thing is clear about the 2019-2020 Golden Knights, they’re offensively inconsistent, and Stastny is one of the main reasons why. He’s had 4, 5, and 8-game goal droughts this season and a 21 game assist drought to go along with other 5 and 6 game assist droughts. In a three-game span in November, Stastny had no shots on net, no points, and played less than his average TOI in each game. It was during a stretch when the club desperately could’ve used his offense.
Vegas is 4-4-2 in games when Stastny doesn’t register a shot. He’s posted a -7 rating with only one assist in those games.
Last season on December 23rd, the Golden Knights lost their second game in a row, and third of their final four before the Christmas break. This year, Vegas lost again on December 23rd.
You have to stay focused on Christmas break and like I said, I wasn’t disappointed with our team tonight, but I have to give credit to Montreal. They came in here and played a hard game, a competitive game, all the things that we talk about being first on pucks… but again I’m disappointed in losing, but I’m pretty happy with that one point… Gallant-12/22/18
… it’s Christmas time and it just seemed like the last two games we had no jump, no energy and probably a lot of family in town and you’ve got to be focused to play in the NHL and play well every night and to me it didn’t look like we were focused enough.-Gallant, 12/23/18
The coach was a little bit lighter this holiday season after their 7-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche.
I don’t think that it was that. We looked tired. We looked mentally tired, to me. We just didn’t look like we had the same jump. We’ve played really good hockey lately and tonight was a game that I wanted to play a lot better against the team that beat us here pretty good last time and it just didn’t happen.- Gallant, 12/23/19
The numbers don’t lie.
The final three games before last season’s Christmas break, Vegas was 1-0-2, this season they were 1-1-1. The question is, are the players fully focused this time of year? Or is it just coincidental? Either way, the coach was happy with the timing of the holiday break.
Big time. Yeah, it’s a great break. We played a lot of hockey. We had a lot of travel and I’m sure the guys are tired so it’s a great point, they have three days off and we’ll get back at it after Christmas. -Gallant, 12/23/19
Could it be as simple as being distracted by family members traveling in for the Holidays, or the stress of getting all their Christmas shopping done? Gallant seemed to think so last year, and it sure looks like the same can be said 365 days later. Looking ahead to the break can be dangerous for a team looking to pick up standing points. However, there’s a second trend that comes along with the three days off. Vegas tends to play like they got everything on their Christmas list.
We’ve speculated for weeks that the Golden Knights might be in the market for a defenseman at some point this season. At first, we assumed management would go for an offensively minded defenseman, but some analysts are speculating just the opposite.
I think they’re looking at defense. They’re a rock offensively and have enough scoring. Pacioretty is shredding it up right now. Marchessault is starting to heat up… I would say that Vegas is a team that’s probably looking at defense. Stopping power rather than scoring power. They have more than enough .-Pierre McGuire, on TSN Montreal
Another insider, Elliotte Friedman wrote in his latest 31 thoughts blog, that there are a handful of defensive defensemen possibly available by trade deadline.
Here are some of the players mentioned: Jake Muzzin, Justin Braun, Joel Edmundson, Radko Gudas, Justin Schultz, Brendan Dillon, Andy Greene.
Justin Braun is the name that pops off the page for me, especially considering his familiarity with the division. Friend of the site, and reporter for Fear of the Fin and The Point, Sheng Peng watched enough of Braun to appreciate his defensive skill set.
There aren’t many bottom pairings capable of limiting Patrick Kane, as Dillon and Braun helped do in San Jose’s 5-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. The tandem played more against Kane at 5-on-5 than any other pairing.
Not many teams have that confidence to match their third pairing, last change at home, against a superstar.
In Karlsson’s absence, Dillon, Braun and Burns have taken the bulk of the shifts at 5-on-5 against the likes of Kane and Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon. This with Vlasic, still considered to be one of the better defensive defensemen in the world, under relative wraps.-Sheng Peng, March 4th, 2019
Here’s an example Sheng singled out, highlighting Braun’s defensive positioning and patience on a 2-on-1.