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Season Review: Reilly Smith

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

When it comes to a top-six player, expectations are usually high. Over his first two seasons with Vegas, Reilly Smith has a total of 113 points (41 goals, 72 assists) in 141 games. He averaged 21 goals and 36 assists per season.

Coming into the season, projections were about the same, 20 goals and 35 assists. However, Smith exceeded anyone’s expectations in this shortened 2019-20 season, passing career highs in goals, shorthanded goals, game-winning goals, and shooting percentage. He earned every bit of his $5M annual salary pitching in .76 points per game.

One of Smith’s season highlights was a beautiful, breakaway backhand goal he scored on December 2nd against the New York Rangers.

Seems like I’ve gotten a lot of breakaways this year. I’ve done that move four or five times, and I’ve gotten lucky. I think it worked on a few. It’s probably one of those things that I’ll probably go back to. Hopefully, none of the goalies in the league are listening to this interview. -Reilly Smith

His backhand was so effective that his brother stole the move four days later.

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

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Scoring Goals In VGK Debut A Bit Of A New Phenomenon In 2019-20

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Well, it happened again. In his first game with the Golden Knights, Nick Cousins found the back of the net helping his new team take home the win. He became the 6th Golden Knights to score in his debut this season and the 3rd to do it in the last four games.

Yeah, that was fun. It’s been a crazy couple of days here with all the travel but there’s no better way to be thrown in the fire than to play a game at home and obviously it was great to contribute. -Cousins

In the Golden Knights history, 10 players scored in their debut.  The first to do it was James Neal, in the Golden Knights first-ever game. Then, both Alex Tuch and Vadim Shipachyov tallied in the same game against Boston a few weeks later. Then, it went dry for quite a while and the entirety of last season.

10/6/17 – James Neal (2)
10/15/17 – Vadim Shipachyov*
10/15/17 – Alex Tuch*
4/3/18 – Brandon Pirri
10/2/19 – Cody Glass*
10/27/19 – Nic Roy
12/3/19 – Chandler Stephenson
2/20/20 – Alec Martinez
2/23/20 – Patrick Brown
2/26/20 – Nick Cousins
*NHL debut

In total, the Golden Knights have gotten a goal from 10 of the 47 skaters to make their debut and it’s happened in 10 of the 25 games (a lot of guys debuted on 10/6/17 and 10/15/17).

The Golden Knights have had team success along with the goal scorers this year, another new phenomenon for 2019-20. In games with skaters making their debuts, Vegas was 5-4-1 in 2017-18 and 2-3-0 in 2018-19. This year, they are 9-1-0 with the only loss coming in Keegan Kolesar’s debut against Columbus.

Oddly enough, goals are far more common than assists. 10 players have scored a total of 11 goals, but in the 25 games in which Golden Knights have debuted, there have only been seven assists. Four of the seven came in the Golden Knights inaugural game in Dallas on October 6th, 2017.

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DeBoer Gives A Peek Into How He Views The Golden Knights Special Teams

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Over the course of an 82 game season, special teams will be the determining factor in a fairly large number of games. Of the 225 regular season games in franchise history, only 71, or 32%, have seen no power play goals scored by either team. In other words, in two out of every three games, special teams will change the final score by at least one goal, usually more like two or three.

It gets even more important in the playoffs as just eight of the Golden Knights 27 playoff games have been goalless from the power plays. (And we all remember how last season ended.)

So, to see the Golden Knights operating at just 19% on the power play and killing at just 76%, both below league average, under DeBoer, there would be an expectation of a bit of concern from the head coach.

I haven’t spent as much time on the power play. I mean I know it got cold there the first seven or eight games I was here. I think we only got one or two but I think long term and the history of the power play here it’s been pretty good so my concern level isn’t high there. -DeBoer

The Golden Knights put up four power play goals in five opportunities against the St. Louis Blues on Thursday, but if you throw those out, they’ve hit on just three of 31 since DeBoer took the job. That’s an 11 game span in which they are scoring at under 10%. The NHL’s worst power play team in 2019-20 is Chicago at 14%.

I thought we got back to some foundation of what it should look like the other night (against St. Louis) and we got rewarded for that.

Vegas finished last season just a shade below 17%, which saw them in 25th place at the end of the regular season. They were much better in Year 1 at 21%, but still barely ranked in the top 10. Over the course of the franchise’s history, they haven’t exactly been a juggernaut and with DeBoer they’ve struck in just four of his 12 games.

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The First 10 Games Of The DeBoer Era

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Anytime there’s a change in regime it takes time for the new person in charge to make the adjustments before the world sees results. For Presidents, we give them 100 days. For NHL head coaches, let’s go with 10 games.

Pete DeBoer’s 10th game behind the Golden Knights bench was on Thursday where he led his team to a crazy overtime win over the St. Louis Blues. It moved the team’s record under DeBoer to 5-3-2. They’ve scored 37 goals while allowing 34 with the power play operating at 22.6% and killing at 75%. Their shot share is a whopping 58.5% and the PDO has remained steady under 100 at 98.3.

Let’s start by comparing this all with Gallant, who coached the Golden Knights for 49 games before being let go.

 DeBoerGallantDifference
Record5-3-224-19-6
Point %.600.551+.049
GF per game3.703.08+0.62
GA per game3.43.04-0.36
Power Play22.6%22.1%+0.5%
Penalty Kill75%78.8%-3.8%
Shooting %10.1%9.1%+1.0%
Save %.876.900-.024

The numbers show DeBoer up a bit in most categories, but the changes are far from significant.

There have been 8 head coaching changes in the NHL this season. One is Gallant, one just happened yesterday, so we’ve got six others to work with. How did their teams stack up over the first 10 games you ask? We head back to the table!

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Blues vs. Golden Knights Has Been A Wild Ride

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights and Blues have locked up three times this season. All three games have been on the crazy side, with two going to overtime and the team leading at the end of the 1st period losing all three.

In five games at T-Mobile Arena, the Blues and Golden Knights have gone to overtime in four of them, with Vegas winning all four. In fact, Vegas has never defeated the Blues in regulation in nine tries.

Jonathan Marchessault became the first player in Golden Knights franchise history to score a game-winning OT goal twice against the same team.

In the three games this year, there have been six lead changes and eight game-tying goals scored. In the Sharks/Golden Knights playoff series last season, there was a total of one lead change in the entire series. In the Jets/Golden Knights Western Conference Final series in 2018 the lead never changed in five games.

In all three games, St. Louis has scored three straight goals in the game, yet Vegas has been able to overcome it two of the three times. Also, the Blues scored first in all three games. The Golden Knights record when they concede first is 9-16-6, yet they are 2-1-0 vs STL. When Vegas trails after one period, they are 6-14-2, but also 2-1-0 against STL.

There have been 26 goals scored between the two teams in the three games for an average of 8.7 goals per game. The average in all Golden Knights games this season is just barely above six.

Plus, here’s some other crazy stuff about just last night’s game.

  • Highest scoring VGK game of the season (11 goals) (tied franchise record)
  • First game in VGK history with 2 lead changes in 1st period
  • Second-time VGK has scored 4 power play goals in a game (vs TBL on 12/19/17)
  • First time a team has allowed 4 goals to the same player and won since 2016 (Ottawa beat Toronto, Auston Matthews 4 goals)

Plus, the series has had the David Perron vs Ryan Reaves drama, Oscar Dansk’s first career NHL win, William Karlsson’s first goal as a Golden Knight, and both Perron and Stastny have scored for both teams against both teams.

There are two ways in which this could be a potential playoff matchup, either as a 1st round division winner vs wild card or as a Western Conference Final. It’s not quite San Jose/Vegas or Edmonton/Calgary, but from a strictly hockey standpoint, everyone should be rooting to see these teams matchup up come April or May.

Playoff Pace For Vegas Is A Manageable 91 Points

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Before tonight’s action, the Golden Knights are on pace for 93 points and sit two behind Vancouver for the Pacific Division lead. The Pacific is commonly referred to as the worst division in the league, which it is, but the Central isn’t much better. With the exception of St. Louis, the rest of the division isn’t exactly lighting the league on fire.

Based on points, the Blues are the only Western Conference team in the top seven in league standings. Going deeper, if the league simply used points percentage regardless of conference, 10 of the 16 future playoff teams would be from the Eastern Conference (VGK is #16). Golden Knights fans should be happy that the league is split in half.

The current pace to make the postseason in the West is 91 points. It’s a whopping 99 in the East. Currently, Vegas is sitting three points ahead of the last team in the West. In a make-believe world where the Golden Knights were playing in the East they would be out of the picture entirely. At 63 points, Vegas would be fifth in the Atlantic and seventh in the Metropolitan and fifth in the Wild Card standings with at least two more games played than everyone else.

To ensure Vegas gets close to that cut line of 91 points, they’ll still need to rack up points in the majority of their remaining games. Including tonight, the Golden Knights have 26 more regular season contests. They’ll need to win at least 14 games or earn 28 points to get back to the playoffs. That means they need 53.8% of the available points, which doesn’t seem like a lot until you consider they’ve only cashed in on 56.2% to this point.

Vegas should be aiming for more than 91 points, and I’m sure they are. You don’t fire a coach and have the expectations of limping into the playoffs.

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Shorter Shifts Are “Non-Negotiable”

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

With a new coach comes change.

I think every coach has some tweaks and some beliefs they want to instill. Coming in mid-season it’s going to be a little slower process and take some time. -Pete DeBoer

DeBoer has been tasked with taking over a team that knows it’s good but haven’t quite been able to sustain it consistently. The Golden Knights started out the season with two big wins against DeBoer’s Sharks, then dropped 15 of their next 24. Next, they hit a hot streak winning 13 of 19, but things quickly took a turn for the worse with Vegas losing four straight, costing Gerard Gallant his job.

Now, DeBoer is in charge and he has to figure out how much needs to be changed and where he needs to implement those changes.

From a systems point of view, there will be some tweaks but this is a well-coached team, I’m not coming in here to change everything. -DeBoer

Those tweaks will come eventually, but don’t expect to see them in the next three games.

We’ve got to take it a little bit slower for me. These games until the break I’m going to use to get to know the guys and the team. The players, I want them to play, show me what you can do, what you are capable of, and hopefully coming out of the break we can start to establish some of those things. -DeBoer

However, DeBoer did outline a few things he says he won’t wait for, those he calls, “non-negotiables.”

I was a coach have some non-negotiable things we’re going to stress and that’s attacking and playing north, stopping and defending hard, tracking back, keeping our shifts short, playing four lines. Those are the non-negotiable items for me that we’re going to try and instill right away. -DeBoer

For the most part, it’s all standard coach speak and things the Golden Knights were already doing with Gallant. But, there’s one “item” among the non-negotiables that will require a change from Vegas’ players.

“Keeping our shifts short.”

The average shift length of all players in the NHL is 45.5 seconds. 47.1 seconds for defensemen and 44.6 seconds for forwards. (as of 1/21/20)

Under Gallant Golden Knights came in way above the averages, while DeBoer’s Sharks teams have been below.

 VGKSJSNHL
Team ATOI49.244.945.5
Forwards ATOI49.144.044.6
Defensemen ATOI49.546.847.1

Vegas’ shifts are on average over five seconds longer than San Jose’s and four seconds longer than the league. The difference mostly comes down to forwards, where the Golden Knights 49.1 seconds per shift. While Gallant was at the helm, that was tied with Washington for the highest in the league. (Games through 1/14/20)

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Misery Loves Company: VGK Not Only Team To Experience Four Straight 3-0 Deficits

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights found themselves in a three-goal hole late in the 1st period against the Blues. It felt like the sky was falling until Vegas stormed back to win the game 5-4 in overtime.

Three nights later, once again, Vegas saw 3-0 on the scoreboard, this time against Pittsburgh. Back-to-back games falling behind by three felt improbable, yet once again they stormed back only to come up a bit short.

A couple nights later, it happened again! 3-0 turned to 4-0 against the LA Kings and it’s officially reached epidemic levels.

Then, Saturday. 1-0 in the 1st. 2-0 in the 2nd, and what do you know in the 3rd, 3-0 again for the fourth straight game.

All we could do was shout things that Jackie Chiles would say. “That’s deplorable, unfathomable, improbable!”

Here at SinBin.vegas, our first thought was, this has to be historic. 3-0, four games in a row, there’s no way anyone else has done this in a decade. Wrong!

In fact, a team currently residing in 1st place in the Pacific Division did it just two months ago.

The Calgary Flames fell behind 3-0 against the Coyotes, Golden Knights, Avalanche, and Blue in four straight games from November 16th to the 21st.

Falling behind 3-0 in a game isn’t nearly as rare as it would seem. Every single team in the NHL has done it at least once, and 24 of the 31 teams have done it at least three times this season.

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Consecutive Goals Both A Blessing And A Curse

1st period problems have been evident throughout the entire homestand with the Golden Knights allowing 13 goals in the opening frame in the last six games. However, that’s been a temporary problem. There’s a bigger problem that’s been going on all year, and it’s reared its ugly head these last three games.

Consecutive goals.

The Blues, Penguins, and Kings all scored at least three straight on the Golden Knights. In 13 separate games, Vegas has allowed the opposing team to score three or more consecutive goals. They are 2-10-1 in those games, and 1-6-1 at home.

Allowing 3+ consecutive goals
10/08/19: 4-3 loss vs Boston – 4 straight
10/15/19: 5-2 loss at Nashville – 4 straight
10/21/19: 6-2 loss at Philadelphia – 4 straight
10/25/19: 6-1 loss vs Colorado – 4 straight
11/02/19: 4-3 OTL vs Winnipeg – 3 straight
11/13/19: 5-3 loss vs Chicago – 5 straight
11/27/19: 4-3 OT win at Nashville – 3 straight
12/08/19: 5-0 loss vs NY Rangers – 5 straight
12/12/19: 4-2 loss at St. Louis – 3 straight
12/27/19: 4-3 loss at Anaheim – 4 straight
01/04/20: 5-4 OT win vs St. Louis – 3 straight
01/07/20: 4-3 loss vs Pittsburgh – 3 straight
01/09/20: 5-2 loss vs LA – 4 straight

We were on to this earlier in the season, especially after Max Pacioretty made a comment about their inability to overcome adversity.

We have to find a way to be resilient and hopefully, these last couple of games can give us the experience we need to overcome this adversity and be better from it. -Max Pacioretty on 11/12/19

The Golden Knights have played 26 home games so far this season. In eight of them they’ve allowed at least three straight goals. That means once in every three home games!

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s unacceptable for it to happen once in a blue moon in your own building, let alone 30% of the time.

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Common Golden Knights Mantra Proving To Be True, And Historic

No real reason for this picture other than that it’s awesome. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

One of the common phrases from Golden Knights throughout the course of the first three seasons has been that they want to play the same way no matter the score of the game. If it’s tied at 0, they want to play the same way as if they are up 4-0 or down 4-3.

It’s one of those sayings that sounds like a cliche rather than something that can actually be implemented in real life though.

Much like the saying “we roll four lines,” which is unequivocally not true about the Golden Knights. Vegas’ top-six forwards play about three minutes more even-strength time than their 3rd line and five minutes more than the 4th line. Quite simply, over the course of the whole game, the Golden Knights don’t “roll four lines” and they never have. (The numbers are essentially identical in all three years.)

However, the “play the same way” mantra is surprisingly accurate and the Golden Knights are on pace to do it at a historical rate.

The way this is calculated is through Corsi or SAT%. Corsi is a horribly imperfect stat but until we have accurate puck tracking data, it’s the best we’ve got. The idea is to gather up all the shot attempts to try and figure out which teams spend the most time in the offensive zone. In theory, a team with a 50% Corsi spends the same amount of time defending as they do attacking. 55% Corsi means you spend more time in the o-zone than the d-zone, and 45% Corsi means more time in the d-zone than the o-zone.

Again, it’s not perfect, but the numbers for the Golden Knights are astounding.

Vegas’ overall Corsi this season when the game is at 5-on-5 is 53.3%. That’s good for 4th best in the NHL, behind Carolina, Los Angeles, and Montreal.

When the game is tied, the Golden Knights Corsi is 53.2%, nearly identical to their total. When Vegas is ahead, the number is 52.8%, half a percentage point under their norm. When they are behind, the number is 53.8%, half a percentage point over their norm.

This is to be expected. When they are down as they protect the lead, they shoot less, when they are up they shoot more as they try to tie it up. However, the disparity is essentially nothing, which is incredibly rare for an NHL team. Over the course of a game, we’re talking about a difference of about one shot per situation. If Vegas gets 53 shots for and allows 47 when the game is tied, they’d get 52 and allow 48 when they are up, and get 54 and allow 46 when they are down. A one shot attempt swing is basically inconsequential and when compared to the rest of the league, unbelievable.

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