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Author: Jason Pothier Page 1 of 42

First 20 Games Isn’t Like Last Season’s Start

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Gerard Gallant doesn’t sugar coat. He hasn’t in the past and he didn’t after the first 20 games of this season. So far, he isn’t impressed with his team’s start.

No not really. I feel we haven’t played as good this year. Last year we were missing some key people and we were treading water a little bit and then we took off at the 20 game mark last year. No, this year I think we haven’t played as well in every game and a little more inconsistent. -Gallant

It’s way, way too early to panic. Vegas’ roster is incredibly talented and the team will have plenty of time to perfect their game before the postseason. However, if we’re calling out poor play, the first quarter of the season left a lot to be desired. Sure, Vegas has four more points through 20 games this season, but there are areas of concern.

↑ Up from last year
↓ Down from last year

VGK 2019-20 First 20 Games: 9-8-3 (21 Points) ↑

55 Goals For ↑/61 Goals Allowed ↓
-5 Goal Differential ↑
9 Games of 2 or less Goals Scored (2-6-1) ↑
5-4-2 in games against Playoff teams ↑
4-4-1 in games against Non Playoff teams ↓
6 Victories by 2 or more goals ↑
6 Losses by 2 or more goals ↑
3-2-3 in one goal games ↓
Longest win streak: 2 ↓
Longest losing steak: 4 ↓

VGK 2018-19 First 20 Games: (8-11-1) 17 Points

50 Goals For/56 Goals Allowed
-6 Goal Differential
12 Games of 2 or less Goals Scored (2-9-1)
(1-8) in games against Playoff teams
(7-3-1) in games against Non Playoff teams
5 Victories by 2 or more goals
9 Losses by 2 or more goals
(3-2-1) in one goal games
Longest win streak: 3 games
Longest losing steak: 3 games

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Vegas Point Streak Overshadowed by OT Losses

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For the most part, fans only care about wins and losses, but they must remember an NHL season is a marathon, not a race. I know, blah, blah, blah.

Over the past five games, the Golden Knights have won just two of them. Many fans are up in arms screaming about blown leads, consistency, and scoring issues, but they should be happy with that stretch as their team earned at least one point in five straight games. Look at it as a competitive team finding a way to earn a point, even in a losing effort. Last night in Toronto was a perfect example of a well-earned point.

Somehow the Golden Knights found themselves in a 1-1 tie at the end of regulation against one of the better offensively skilled clubs in the league. With their backup goaltender in net, let’s face it the odds were stacked against them. Vegas held a team that averages 3.35 goals per game to one score in 60 minutes. Even more notable was the Golden Knights penalty killers allowed only one goal in six power play opportunities. That lone Leafs goal was scored 48 minutes into the game. The Golden Knights defensive plan, on purpose or not, worked and earned them a point.

A loss isn’t a loss in the NHL. Overtime losses are half a win, and that’s how I’m looking at the Toronto game. Same goes for Vegas’ overtime losses against Montreal and Winnipeg even though those are understandably tougher pills to swallow. Sure you can look at Vegas’ three OTL’s as late-game failures or you can see it as a step closer to a playoff berth.

This season, the Golden Knights have earned an average of 1.23 points per game. That’s a pace that would give Vegas 102 points by the end of the regular season. Remember, no team with at least 100 points has missed the playoffs. Over the past five games of “inconsistent” play, they’ve racked up seven points, which is good for 115 over an 82 game season.

Everyone, including the head coach, knows the Golden Knights have more to give, yet here they sit right in the thick of the playoff chase early in the season. Their PDO is 97.9, which is the 5th worst in the NHL. (For those new to PDO, read this.) They’ve scored seven fewer goals than the “expected goal” rates show and yet they’ve overcome it. The other teams with negative actual goal vs expected goal rates have all struggled mightily (SJS, DET, NJD, LAK). And, they have the league’s 4th worst shooting percentage at even-strength at just 6.47%. The last two years that number was 7.75% and 8.38%.

Put all of that together, and it all points to the same thing. The best has yet to come for the Golden Knights.

Of course, we can’t sit here and celebrate overtime losses for the whole season because eventually, they will have to start earning two points a night rather than one. But as long as they keep pace, an occasional OTL isn’t the end of the world. In fact, it’s getting them closer to the century mark.

It might sound too simple, and something you’d hear from a coach, but it’s true. Good teams find a way to earn a point. Actually, I’m pretty sure we’ve heard a coach say that.

Golden Knights Stats and Trends For October

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Over the first month of the season, the Golden Knights went (8-5-1) standing in 3rd place in the Pacific Division. Vegas finished October with 17 points and held a (+5) in goal differential. For the most part it was a good opening 31 days for Vegas but clearly they have a lot more to prove in November.

Here are some statistics I find crucial to a successful season, and some interesting trends the team built over the opening month.

Vital Statistics

Primary Assists

  1. Pacioretty: 6
  2. Karlsson, Marchessault: 5
  3. Stone: 4
  4. Theodore: 3
  5. Glass, Smith, McNabb, Carrier: 2
  6. Eakin, Stastny, Nosek, Pirri, Engelland, Holden, Schmidt: 1

First VGK Goal of the Game

  1. Stone: 4
  2. Karlsson, Statsny: 2
  3. Carrier, Theodore, Nosek, Smith, Marchessault, Holden: 1

Game Winning Goals

  1. Stastny: 2
  2. Smith, Marchessault, Carrier, Roy: 1

Power Play Goals

  1. Stastny: 4
  2. Stone: 3
  3. Pacioretty: 2
  4. Karlsson, Marchessault, Holden: 1

Shootout Goals

  1. Theodore, Marchessault: 2
  2. Pirri: 1

Points Per Game (Top 10)

  1. Stone: 1.21
  2. *Tuch, Roy: 1.00
  3. Pacioretty, Karlsson: 0.86
  4. Smith: 0.79
  5. Stastny: 0.64
  6. Marchessault: 0.57
  7. Glass, Schmidt: 0.50
  8. Theodore: 0.36
  9. Nosek, Carrier: 0.28
  10. Holden: 0.21

Power Play Points

  1. Pacioretty, Stone: 7
  2. Stastny: 6
  3. Theodore, Glass, Marchessault: 3
  4. Karlsson: 2
  5. Smith, Holden, Hague: 1

Shootout Goals

  1. Theodore, Marchessault: 2
  2. Pirri: 1

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Golden Knights History Before And After Breaks Suggest Success

The Golden Knights have a mini-break this week with their next game being on Thursday night against the Montreal Canadiens. Last year, they had seven separate occasions of three or more days off. Vegas went 7-6-1 on games directly before and after those breaks. In 2017-18, the Golden Knights had five occasions and were 7-2-1.

2017-18: Before and After Break Record
7-2-1 Overall
4-1-0 Games Before Break
3-1-1 Games After Break

2018-19: Before and After Break Record
7-6-1 Overall
2-4-1 Games Before Break
5-1-1 Games After Break

Some look at the extra rest as a good thing, others will argue the timing could possibly disrupt any momentum from Vegas’ dominant performance last night against Anaheim. Either way, the Golden Knights will use the lay off to their advantage.

Yeah I think so. We’ll practice Monday and take Tuesday off. So we’ll have a good hard practice on Monday, hopefully they’ll smile in the practice and make it fun. If not, I’ll be grumpy. -Gerard Gallant

Veteran Max Pacioretty can appreciate the extra rest but also puts the responsibility on individual players. He stresses each member of the team is a professional and should spend their time wisely.

Approach it as a player. Do the right things, make sure your body is ready to play the next game. Everybody responds differently to different types of preparation. At this point in our career, most guys know how to handle a couple of days here between games. It’s important to make the right decisions. -Pacioretty

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Pothier: It’s Time To Let Engelland Be

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Some appreciate his play, most don’t, but there’s no question he’s beloved by the fanbase.

That’s Deryk Engelland.

When a bad play leads to a goal some fans are quick to point out the last guy defending the puck. Which at times, happens to be Engelland. However, it can take a series of events why a team gave up a goal. We can’t always blame the guy that made the initial turnover or the last line defense. It is a team sport after all.

Believe it or not, Engelland has proven to be a valuable asset to the Golden Knights organization. And in many ways. We all know his community impact, leadership skills, and that he’s an overall good dude.

But there’s more. Engelland helped one of the Golden Knights core players, Shea Theodore grow, and is in the process of breaking in two and possibly more defensive prospects this season. Consider Engelland as a defensive coach on the ice, or training wheels. And he’s only charging the league minimum.

First of all, we like to try to put experience with a little bit of inexperience. Just to give them a little bit of a safety valve. -Ryan McGill

His minutes have dipped, but so did his salary. Relative to his contract, he’s expected to play a third-pair role, protected by high offensive zone starts, and busting ass on the penalty kill. That’s the job description for most team’s 5th-7th defenseman. Not many have the extra skills to be an on-ice prospect developer.

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Golden Knights Getting Production Up And Down The Lineup

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I’m assuming most Golden Knights fans have a daily routine of checking the latest NHL standings, league leaders and Vegas player stats. Oh, and SinBin.vegas of course. If you’re one of those people then you might notice some unfamiliar point leaders seven games into the season.

Some of Vegas’ depth players are having the fastest starts to their careers. Players that most think are bottom six, PK’ers or checking forwards are pleasantly surprising the coaching staff and fanbase.

Tomas Nosek has four points (3 Goals, 1 Assist) in eight games. Nosek’s career high in goals is eight, so he’s halfway there with 74 games remaining. Last season, Nosek didn’t register his fourth point until November, 27th. His third goal of the 2018-19 wasn’t scored until December, 12th.

William Carrier is on pace for around 15 goals this season, that would almost double his career-best (8 goals), which he set last season. Carrier didn’t score his first or second goals until mid-November of last year. The bruising fourth line forward had a total of nine points (8 goals, 1 assist) in 2018-19, he’s already tied his assist number from last year and is projected to crush his career totals. Hopefully, in games played as well.

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Eakin’s Return Will Shuffle Vegas’ Centers

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All signs point towards center Cody Eakin resuming the same role tonight he’s performed effectively for the past two seasons. Arguably, one of the better third line centers in the NHL, Eakin’s return to duty is integral to the Golden Knights and their Stanley Cup chase.

He’s a huge player to our team. He works hard, he’s quick and he wins a lot of draws. He’s an easy guy too play with. And on the ice he’s one of the leaders. I gladly welcome him back.-William Karlsson

A healthy Eakin completes Vegas’ depth down the middle. It allows Gerard Gallant to solidify his second line, by reuniting Paul Stastny with Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone. Unfortunately, it could be a harsh reality for young center Cody Glass. Who will either be on the wing or on the bench tonight against Calgary. (If practice Friday was any indication, it’ll be the latter.) (Update: It wasn’t any indication. Glass is headed to the wing.)

That so-called second line can play with each other, they’ve had a lot of success together. For our line, we get matchups that we can play against top lines because Cody [Eakin] can shut them down. It creates transition. -Brandon Pirri

Brandon Pirri will likely play on the third line anchored by Eakin. He quipped about Gerard Gallant’s ‘so-called’ expression, but there’s no question as to what the coach expects from his third line.

He’s so solid defensively and he allows creative guys a little more room to more to make plays. He can make up for the little mistakes here and there. With his speed he can get back and catch those guys. -Pirri

An underrated aspect to Eakin’s game is his speed. He has the ability to break out and create a rush, and quickly get back to defend. Eakin’s two-way play can greatly benefit offensive wingers like Pirri, and eventually Alex Tuch.

He creates a ton of speed, he’s one of the best skaters in the league. He pushes defenses back and creates a gap for guys like me who are looking for high ice a little more. -Pirri

We’ll see how Gallant sets his lineup tonight, but it appears Eakin is playing, and he’s almost certainly centering the third line. Which leaves questions about Glass’ immediate and long-term role this year. I’m sure it’ll be addressed eventually by the coaching staff and front office, but for now, it’s nothing but positive words in press conferences from the head coach and a spot on the wing for #9.

Vegas Has History Of Clinching Games In The Opening Minutes Vs SJS

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In their first two games of the 2019-2020 season, the Golden Knights have scored three goals in the opening ten minutes. It was a point of emphasis for the opponent after the opening night matchup against San Jose.

The key in this building is getting through the first ten minutes. And we didn’t do that.-Pete DeBoer, Sharks Head Coach

It’s not just this season, it dates back to the inaugural 2017-18 campaign. Under Gerard Gallant, the Golden Knights have a track record of taking quick control of the game, especially against the Sharks. Just look at how Vegas handles San Jose at T-Mobile Arena. The Golden Knights have a clear advantage in the opening ten minutes.

11/24/17: VGK 5 SJ 4
Shea Theodore Goal At 2:33 1st Period
James Neal Goal At 11:16 1st Period

3/31/18: VGK 3 SJ 2
Shea Theodore Goal At 2:21 1st Period

4/26/18: Game 1- VGK 7 SJ 0
Cody Eakin Goal At 4:31 1st Period
Erik Haula Goal At 4:57 1st Period
Jon Marchessault Goal At 6:02 1st Period
Alex Tuch Goal At 11:43 1st Period

11/24/18: VGK 6 SJ 0
William Karlsson Goal At 0:14 1st Period
Colin Miller Goal At 4:40 1st Period
Max Pacioretty Goal At 9:29 1st Period

01/10/19: SJ 3 VGK 2
Tomas Nosek Goal At 1:34 1st Period

04/14/19: Game 3- VGK 6 SJ 3
Mark Stone Goal At 0:14 1st Period
Max Pacioretty Goal At 12:43 1st Period

04/16/19: Game 4- VGK 5 SJ 0
Max Pacioretty Goal At 1:11 1st Period

10/02/19: VGK 4 SJ 1
Mark Stone Goal At 3:46 1st Period
Reilly Smith Goal At 5:21 1st Period

VGK/SJ History Totals:

VGK is 7-1-0 against San Jose when they score in the opening 10 minutes of a game
VGK scored 16 Goals against San Jose in the opening 13 minutes
VGK scored two or more goals in 5 separate games

Is it as simple as having a ‘race out of the gate’ mentality? Or is it the atmosphere at the T-Mobile Arena?

I think it’s a little bit of both. -Marc Andre Fleury

And nobody benefits more from the quick starts than the goalie.

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Pacioretty Understands How Glass Is Feeling With Final Cuts Coming

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s fair to say Cody Glass is in limbo. The young center is clearly ready for NHL action but chances are the organization will send Glass to the AHL. Not ideal for an already patient prospect, but with Vegas’ center depth, it’s been the reality for him for the past two years and appears to be once again this year.

Years back another highly-rated NHL prospect was in the same situation as Glass.

Yeah my first year. They even told me when they sent me down that ‘you deserve to be here, but we just didn’t have room for you.’ -Max Pacioretty

Pacioretty was selected 22nd overall by the Montreal Canadiens in the 2007 NHL Draft. The following training camp, in 2008, that he found himself on the roster bubble.

Then I went down and I started off the season slow.-Pacioretty

Pacioretty was eventually pulled up that season and ended up playing almost half of a season with Montreal. He would go on to finish the year with 11 points (3 goals, 8 assists) in 34 games.

Whether you make the team out of training camp or not, there’s going to be so much made of the guys who do make and the guys that get sent down. All that can change in a matter of days, hours, minutes. So don’t get stuck on that decision and don’t let it affect the way you play. Whether you’re up or down take each day as a day to get better.-Pacioretty

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Veterans Embracing Opportunity To Help Along Talented Rookies

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s been a productive preseason for the Golden Knights. The team is undefeated in four exhibition games while using a mix of reliable veterans and rising rookies. Jonathan Marchessault, Max Pacioretty, and Brandon Pirri have all skated on lines with younger players eager to make a mark. It can be a challenge at times due to their inexperience, but for the most part, the veterans seem to embrace their role in helping rookies take the next step.

I don’t think it’s a challenge, I think it’s fun. I’ve noticed that a few of the younger guys, this year they’re playing with more confidence and they’re playing better. Which helps their confidence a lot.-Brandon Pirri

Pirri formed a strong relationship with the young defenseman during his time with the Chicago Wolves last year. He says the deep AHL playoff run made a world of difference in the development of guys like Zach Whitecloud, Nic Hague, Dylan Coghlan, and Jake Bischoff.

They are very mature. They were doing NHL things in the American Hockey League. In the American League it’s more like preseason hockey, but towards the end it’s real hockey. -Pirri

Marchessault understands the pressure young prospects can feel during camp and preseason games having been in their shoes many times during his career.

It’s all about helping them. Ultimately, they want to make the team so you go out there and try to make them look good. You try and give your best effort, talk to them, and build their confidence. I know what it’s like. -Marchessault

Max Pacioretty has four preseason goals, two of them were assisted by Cody Glass. #67 enjoys playing with prospects and tries to organically help them along the way.

It needs to be genuine. If you see something that can help, rather than saying something to say something, it goes a long way. They’re good hockey players at this level. There’s things they can teach me. -Pacioretty

Overall it seems to be quite enjoyable for all of the established players. Playing on lines with players from the pipeline reminds them of their first camp experiences, and allows them an opportunity to give advice and show leadership.

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