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3rd Line Desperately Needs A Shakeup

The Golden Knights 3rd line this season has been an absolute disaster.

And that’s putting it politely.

Six games with Pirri-Eakin-Glass. Four games with Pirri-Stastny-Zykov. Three games with Zykov-Eakin-Glass. Three games with Nosek-Eakin-Glass. One game with Pirri-Eakin-Stone.

That’s 17 games, and those 3rd lines amassed a total of one goal. A single goal scored by Cody Glass against the Calgary Flames, which if this were soccer, would have been an own goal credited to Mark Giordano.

Individually, it doesn’t look much better.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Cody Glass – 18 games, 3 goals, 7 points*
Tomas Nosek – 17 games, 3 goals, 4 points**
Cody Eakin – 14 games, 0 goals, 3 points
Brandon Pirri – 10 games, 0 goals, 1 point
Valentin Zykov – 7 games, 0 goals, 2 points

*Glass played four games on the 2nd line. He scored one goal and had two assists in those games
**All three of Nosek’s goals were scored shorthanded or with the 4th line

But they aren’t supposed to be an offensive line. Right? That’s the bill of goods that’s been sold since the Golden Knights installed Eakin as the 3rd line center midway through the 2017-18 season.

Well, they aren’t good defensively either.

Eakin ranks as one of the 15 worst forwards with at least 100 minutes played this season with a 41.3% Corsi. He’s the 21st worst skater in the NHL at shot percentage at 40.8%, and he ranks in at least the 200th worst of 292 NHL forwards in goals against per 60, expected goals against per 60, and scoring chances against per 60. He’s been less than stellar in the faceoff circle winning at just a 46.4% clip, the worst of any Golden Knight with at least 100 draws. He has a -7 +/- rating, the worst of any Golden Knight. He’s one of four VGK skaters with a 0.0 defensive point shares number (the other three are Tuch, Roy and Bischoff who have played a combined 10 games). And, he’s registered just three takeaways, the least of any player with at least eight games played.

Pirri is right there with Eakin in all of the advanced stat numbers with a Corsi of 42.2%, shot percentage of 36.4%, and an expected goals for percentage of 41.8%. He’s been on the ice for just two goals while allowing five, and that’s including his 28:16 of power play time. He’s a -3, and has a -0.2 point share number which means if you simply subtracted Pirri and Eakin from the roster completely stats say they’d be almost half a point better in the standings.

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Vegas Prospect Jack Dugan Wants To “Dominate” Before He Leaves College

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Golden Knights prospect Jack Dugan has spent much of his career being overlooked.

As an 18-year-old he went undrafted despite putting up more than a point per game as a junior in prep school. He used that to fuel himself the next year in which he nearly put up two points per game in his senior season (80 points in 47 games). That Summer he expected to go in the 2nd or 3rd round of the NHL Draft. Instead, he slipped all the way into the 5th round where Vegas finally selected him as the 142nd overall pick.

He came to Development Camp and didn’t really establish himself as a top offensive prospect in the system. He then headed back to the USHL’s Chicago Steel where he once again eclipsed a point per game amassing 66 in 54 games. Heading back to Vegas the following Summer, Dugan was still not viewed by most as an NHL or even AHL ready prospect.

So, off he went to Providence College to play as a freshman. Not surprisingly, at least anymore after reading those last two paragraphs, Dugan nearly hit a point per game with 39 points in 41 games. His team went to the Frozen Four and he established himself as one of college hockey’s best freshman.

Then Development Camp 2019 came, and Dugan looked a step above everyone not named Cody Glass. He was strong, powerful, relentless, and showed good enough hands to finish chances when he got them. Yet, still, it was not time for Dugan to make the leap into professional hockey.

Now, at Providence College as a sophomore, Dugan is lighting up the Hockey East conference. 14 points in six games including four goals, 10 assists, and a whopping +7 rating. He’s also shown a bit of edge to his game tallying 20 penalty minutes in those six contests.

The question now is when, not if, Jack Dugan is going to make the leap to the next level. But with all NCAA kids, they have to leave school and sign a contract first. Draft or undrafted, before an American college player can play in the AHL or NHL, he has to officially declare himself done with college hockey, which is not easy for many guys.

Speaking to Jack Manning of the Golden Knights Watch Podcast, Dugan keyed us in on exactly when the time will be right for him to move on from the NCAA.

I’ve always had that mentality that I probably shouldn’t move up a level until I’ve dominated the first one. So, I would say if the feeling’s right and timing’s right, sure, but if not maybe wait another year. -Dugan on Golden Knights Watch Podcast

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Return Of Schmidt Should Mean Return Of Theodore’s Offense

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It didn’t happen for even one game last year, but tonight appears to be the night for the Golden Knights. Vegas will head into tonight’s Halloween game without a single player on the IR and not a single player missing with an injury.

Nate Schmidt is expected to resume his role as the team’s #1 defenseman and Alex Tuch will get a try with a pair of Cody’s, Eakin and Glass.

Each return from injury has a chance to have a significant effect on the team, but Schmidt’s return does more in regards to changing the lineup. It means at least two new D-pairs and more importantly, it means fewer minutes and less responsibility for guys like Shea Theodore, Nick Holden, Deryk Engelland, and Jon Merrill.

Nate’s a good player and he’s been one of our top players for two plus years and he’s going to make a big difference in our group. He’s important and he puts everybody where they belong. -Gerard Gallant

There are two different likely lineup options for the Golden Knights defense heading into this game. Either Holden and Merrill stick together and Theodore swaps sides to play with Engelland, or they return to the opening day pairs which had Merrill and Theodore together and Holden with Engelland.

Either way, the top pair minutes will now be handed to Schmidt as opposed to Theodore. That’s what Gallant is talking about when he says “puts everybody where they belong,” and the result of that should be a more noticeable impact on the game for Theodore.

We were worried about winning games, we weren’t worried about Shea’s (offense). He was playing big minutes against top players and that might change a little bit now so it’s going to help him, but in the long run it makes him a better player. -Gallant

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Media Members Pick Perfect Golden Knights Lineup

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Heading into Thursday’s Halloween game against the Montreal Canadians, it appears the Golden Knights will be at full strength for the first time all season. Nate Schmidt, Alex Tuch, and Malcolm Subban are all back. Deryk Engelland’s “minor tweak” shouldn’t keep him out of the lineup, and despite being sent to the AHL yesterday, Nic Hague, Jake Bischoff, and Nic Roy are all available to the Golden Knights.

A full-strength roster means a full-strength lineup. But, what that looks like is in the eye of the beholder. The perfect lineup to me is not the perfect lineup to you is not the perfect lineup to Gerard Gallant.

So, we figured the best thing to do to illustrate the possible differences would be to ask members of the media to submit their lineup if they were the head coach. Each of the three writers for SinBin.vegas, plus Justin Emerson from the Las Vegas Sun, Ryan Wallis from Fox Sports Radio, and Jesse Granger from The Athletic each sent in their “perfect lineup” with a little explanation as to why they like it that way.

Ken Boehlke, SinBin.vegas

Marchessault-Karlsson-Smith
Pacioretty-Stastny-Stone
Carrier-Glass-Tuch
Nosek-Eakin-Reaves

McNabb-Schmidt
Merrill-Holden
Hague-Theodore

Explanation: First things first, Cody Glass needs to be playing center, so I put him there. Then, that left me with the option of playing Eakin as 4th line center or as a winger. We’ve never seen him as a wing and he’s a terrifically responsible defensive center that would fit well on the 4th line. So, now it’s Reaves, Pirri, or Roy? I liked what I saw from Roy, but it was as a center and for a single game. So, I’ll stick with what we know, and go with Reaves. The final option is who to play on the left wing on the 3rd and 4th lines. The options are Carrier or Nosek. Carrier has flashed when given the chance to show some offense, and with the Golden Knights, he’s never gotten a chance to play with skilled forwards. Nosek has, and he’s been just okay. So, let’s go with Carrier and see what happens.

As for the D, there wasn’t much to choose from. With Schmidt back, he clearly should be with McNabb to make the best pair possible and have them eat up the toughest minutes. Holden and Merrill have been perfectly suitable with each other so I’ll leave that. Which brings us to the only decision, Engelland or a rookie. I like Theodore on the right because it accentuates his offensive talents. Thus, I’m willing to roll the dice and try Hague with Theodore and see if they can hold their own in their own end. PK duties are fine with 88, 22, 15, and 3 with Engelland out of the lineup.

Justin Emerson, Las Vegas Sun

Pacioretty-Stastny-Stone
Marchessault-Karlsson-Smith
Eakin-Glass-Tuch
Carrier-Nosek-Roy

McNabb-Theodore
Merrill-Schmidt
Holden-Engelland

Explanation: I’d like to see what Glass could do as a playmaking center, particularly with a winger like Tuch. I also think as a lefty, Eakin would be better suited to the left wing than either righty on his line. On the fourth line, Nosek has proven to be a terrific defender that can win faceoffs, while Carrier and Roy’s speed can generate offense while still laying the hits that the Golden Knights value. McNabb and Theodore have been strong matching with other team’s top lines, while Merrill and Schmidt could help them against teams with a strong top-six. Holden has been playing well enough to keep in the lineup, while I haven’t seen enough out of Hague or Bischoff to think that right now they are better than the six veteran defensemen that Vegas has.

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Loss To Avalanche Highlights Importance Of Nate Schmidt To Golden Knights

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights’ best defenseman has only seen the ice for 3 minutes and 11 seconds this season.

I’d love to have him in my lineup, trust me, and he’s going to be there soon. -Gerard Gallant

Gallant made that comment about Nate Schmidt hours before the Colorado game, and then his team put on a 60-minute display of exactly why they miss him so much.

The head coach called the game “embarrassing,” “a total no-show,” and “a team effort” and his main focus was on their inability to defend as a unit. Vegas gave up a season-high 40 shots against, allowed five unanswered goals, and were forced to pull the goalie who has been the best in the league on a night he was playing well.

All in all, it was a complete and utter disaster defensively.

Luckily, help is on the way, and even as bad as it looked last night, Nate Schmidt’s return can, and probably will, fix it all.

The Golden Knights play a system that relies on all five players to defend. It starts with forechecking from the forwards making it difficult for the opposing team to exit their own zone. This leads to an aggressive style of defending the neutral zone taking away time and space and not allowing teams to move through the center of the ice with speed. That then lets Vegas’ defenseman challenge zone entries by standing up at the blue line. Finally, when the puck does end up deep in Vegas’ zone, they have layers of support to both defend and break the puck out when it is eventually turned over.

Pick any one piece of that equation, take it out, and the Golden Knights’ entire defensive structure falls apart.

The Golden Knights problems last night started at the defensive blue line. Vegas’ inability to challenge Colorado’s zone entries led to every other portion of the game spiraling out of control. Time and time again the Avalanche would skate the puck over the blue line without any resistance at all.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

There are always multiple reasons for a problem in a hockey game, but with zone entry defense it almost always comes down to gap control. Gap control means how far away the defenseman is from the skater carrying the puck. In a perfect world, a defenseman wants to be within one stick length of the puck carrier and then challenge with a stick check the moment he attempts to carry the puck across the line. Obviously it doesn’t always work out that way, but the closer a defenseman is to the player entering the zone, the tougher life is on the forward. Last night, the Avs skated the puck in with ease just about every time they entered the zone.

That was the breakdown and it infected every other part of the Golden Knights game. There was no forecheck because forwards were spending too much time in their own zone. There wasn’t enough pressure in the neutral zone because more often than not new players were coming on the ice as Colorado collected the puck. And the puck support fell apart in the defensive zone because of tired legs from chasing the Avs around all night while they had the puck.

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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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Penalties Plaguing Golden Knights Early Season

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Through 10 games, the Golden Knights lead the NHL in penalty minutes. They’ve been assessed 125 minutes or 12:30 per game.

However, counting penalty minutes by itself doesn’t always tell the whole story. At the end of the second Sharks game, Vegas was assessed 30 minutes of penalties following an elongated scrum that sent William Karlsson, Deryk Engelland, and Nic Hague to the showers with 10-minute misconducts each. Add in the three fights (Reaves, Pacioretty, and Stone) and there are another 15 minutes that didn’t really amount to much of anything.

So, it’s really only 80 penalty minutes or 8:00 per game of actual penalties. Not too bad, right?

Wrong.

The Golden Knights’ 40 minors rank them 2nd in the NHL behind only Calgary who has taken 46. Vegas has gone shorthanded five times in four of their 10 games, and have taken at least three minors in all but one game.

To get a better feel for the problem, I went through all 40 minor penalties. Aside from figuring out which players are most at fault, I was looking for where the penalty occurred, the game situation, avoidability, and correctness of call. (See all 40 listed below)

Last year I went through every minor Vegas took over the entire 2018-19 season and we learned that Brayden McNabb was the Golden Knights worst offender. William Carrier, Jon Merrill, and Paul Stastny were also troublemakers.

This year, it’s the same culprits for the most part, especially the main culprit.

9 – McNabb
3 – Pirri, Merrill, Carrier
2 – Stastny, Nosek, Hague, Pacioretty, Marchessault
1 – Engelland, Theodore, Karlsson, Glass, Stone, Zykov, Fleury, Smith, Eakin, Reaves, Team

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Nine penalties for McNabb. Nine! The Golden Knights are the 2nd worst team in taking penalties, and one guy has taken almost 25% of them. He’s been in the box at least once in seven of the 10 games. And of the nine penalties, only two were what I qualified as “unavoidable.”

In watching the penalties I was looking for which ones the Golden Knights could have either stayed away from or had no choice but to take. I graded these leniently, leaning towards giving the players the benefit of the doubt when it was close. They’ve been broken down into three categories, “unavoidable,” “acceptable,” and “unnecessary.” The first are ones that there is nothing the player could have done to stay out of the box. The last are ones that the player didn’t need to take and could have easily avoided. The rest land in-between, usually plays in which the player is trying to defend but ends up taking a penalty.

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Unless The Third Line Produces Cody Glass Should Be The Center

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

During the four games Cody Eakin was out to start the year the Golden Knights experimented with centers Cody Glass on the second line and Paul Stastny on the third. However, it was obvious based on Gerard Gallant’s answers that very little, if any, thought was necessary in figuring out where Eakin would play when he was ready to return. The moment he was ready to go, Eakin found his normal role as the third line center. This moved Stastny up to the second line and pushed 20-year-old rookie Glass to the wing.

Vegas is comfortable with Eakin as the third line center, and they should be as they’ve won 100 of their first 173 games with Eakin in that position for a majority of them. But, after five games of lackluster performance, the time has come for reconsideration from the Vegas coaching staff.

In five games with Eakin as the center between Glass and either Brandon Pirri or Valentin Zykov, the third line has scored just one goal in 42:39 of even-strength ice time. They’ve managed just 22 shots on goal and have created only five high-danger scoring chances. To make matters worse, the one goal came on a puck that was deflected by a Flames defenseman into his own net and happened with less than three minutes left in a three-goal game. Aside from it padding the stats, it really was meaningless.

In other words, the third line with Cody Eakin as the center has created absolutely nothing offensively over five games and 42+ minutes of ice time.

Just look at how they compare to the other three lines.

 G/60S/60SC/60HDSC/60
1st Line3.635.436.114.2
2nd Line2.136.027.59.5
3rd Line1.430.125.37.0
4th Line1.829.828.012.1

The third line is the worst in every single category except shots on goal, in which they are just one shot better than the fourth line.

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Eakin’s Return Will Shuffle Vegas’ Centers

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

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.

Golden Knights Limiting Deryk Engelland’s Minutes Through Three Games

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Since the start of the franchise, one of the constants has been Deryk Engelland. The 37-year-old veteran has been trusted to shoulder a lot of the defensive responsibility for the Golden Knights no matter the situation.

He’s consistently been the first man over the boards any time the Golden Knights are killing a penalty. He’s been paired with top defensemen (Schmidt, McNabb, Theodore)  throughout the entirety of his VGK career, and he’s third in total ice time for Golden Knights skaters in franchise history.

But through three games, there’s started to be a shift. His minutes are starting to decline, he’s starting fewer shifts in the defensive zone, and his production is dipping with it.

Engelland’s average time on ice this season is 17:59, which is down more than two minutes from his Golden Knights career average. This number is heavily aided by the 13 power plays Vegas has defended. He’s spent 14:34 on the kill, with the next closest Golden Knight more than three minutes behind at 11:21 (McNabb).

Thus, with penalty kill time up and total time down, that means he’s playing much less at even strength. Digging into it, the numbers are alarming. Here are the 5-on-5 TOI numbers for Vegas defensemen through three games.

Holden – 60:28 (20:09 per game)
Merrill – 57:28 (19:09 per game)
McNabb – 48:34 (16:11 per game)
Theodore – 48:01 (16:00 per game)
Engelland – 38:48 (12:56 per game)
Hague – 25:01 (12:30 per game)
Schmidt – 2:22

Yep, you are reading that right, Nick Holden is receiving seven more minutes per game at even strength than Engelland. Last night, Engelland played nine fewer minutes than Jon Merrill at even strength.

Last year, Engelland averaged 16:30 of even-strength time per game. They leaned on him even heavier in the playoffs averaging 17:34 per game at even strength against the Sharks. That’s almost four and five minutes more than he’s gotten to open this season, while his PK time has remained virtually the same.

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