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The Smiths Secret Weapon

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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.

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

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

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Vegas Needs To Score 3 Or More, Allow 3 Or Less

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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

  1. Florida 3.67- Playoff Position
  2. Colorado 3.65- Playoff Position
  3. Tampa 3.60- Playoff Position
  4. Toronto 3.57- Playoff Position
  5. Washington 3.55- Playoff Position
  6. Boston 3.31- Playoff Position
  7. Pittsburgh 3.30- Playoff Position
  8. Nashville 3.30- Out of Playoffs
  9. NY Rangers 3.29- Out of Playoffs
  10. 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.

  • Vegas 3.04 Goals For/3.04 Goals Against
  • Arizona 2.76 Goals For/2.65 Goals Against
  • Calgary 2.60 Goals For/2.94 Goals Against
  • Dallas 2.56 Goals For/2.46 Goals Against

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Carp: Despite His Struggles, Golden Knights Missing Wild Bill

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2019-20 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**

Seeing Peter DeBoer behind the Golden Knights’ bench Thursday in Ottawa wasn’t the only shock to the system. Not seeing William Karlsson on the ice may have been a bigger shock.

After all, Karlsson had never missed a game in his NHL career. He was the one reliable factor the Knights had, whether it was Gerard Gallant or DeBoer coaching him. We’ve been so accustomed to seeing No. 71 on the top line for the most part that we probably have never given it a second thought.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

But Karlsson’s out with an upper-body injury. He’s listed as week-to-week, which in Knight-speak means we might not see Wild Bill for quite a while. And that’s not a good thing in terms of the team’s short-term success.

We all know Karlsson’s been struggling offensively. You need only look at his game log to know he has had a tough season when it comes to putting the puck in the net. He has just 10 goals and last lit the lamp back on Dec. 13 against Dallas. Yet despite his lack of alacrity for scoring goals, his 34 points ranks him fourth overall, behind Max Pacioretty, Mark Stone and Reilly Smith. He has managed to still contribute offensively despite his goal-scoring struggles.

Chandler Stephenson is doing a serviceable job as Karlsson’s replacement. He’s been a great acquisition for the Knights as he has shown tremendous versatility and an ability to fit in wherever whichever coach, first Gallant, now DeBoer plays him. But Karlsson is an important part of this system and to be without him for any significant length of time is not to Vegas’ advantage.

Let’s start with the fact he is responsible in the defensive end of the ice. He is +4 overall and averages just over 19 minutes of ice time per appearance. He wins battles at both ends of the rink and he’ll block a shot or use his stick to break up a pass.

He has developed into a very good penalty killer. And while the Knights’ overall PK hasn’t been great (they’re tied for 21st in the NHL at 78.9 percent), Karlsson has teamed with Smith to do a nice job.

He’s also been good in the face-off circle this year. In the 49 games he has played to date, Karlsson is winning 51.2 percent of his draws. He has never been above 50 percent in his career. In his first year with the Knights, he was 48 percent. Last year, it dropped to 47 percent. So that’s a marked improvement.

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DeBoer Starting To Implement Changes Sooner Than Even He Expected

(Photo Credit: Ron Futrell, 8 News Now)

When Pete DeBoer took over as head coach of the Golden Knights we knew there would be changes. He mentioned his “non-negotiables” which included shorter shifts, something Vegas implemented in their very first game with DeBoer behind the bench.

But DeBoer said he was hesitant to adopt too many changes too quickly fearing information overload.

My biggest fear coming in was to overwhelm them with information, which slows you down, you’re thinking too much. So when I initially came in and got the job I said I’m not going to do that. –DeBoer on SLGND Podcast

DeBoer has been a head coach in the NHL, for a long time, 12 years to be exact, but he’s never taken over a team in the middle of the season. So, he’s leaned on the advice of his friends who have, one of which being Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice.

In doing so, DeBoer decided it would be best to use the first three games to observe. After one game and one practice, there’s already by a shift.

I’ve given them a little bit more than maybe I’d planned a couple days ago because the group has impressed me with their intelligence and their ability to pick up on some things, so that’s something that’s moving on the fly. –DeBoer on VGK Insider Show

Over the course of the first three years, the Golden Knights systems have remained essentially the same. Under Gerard Gallant, line changes were common, but the style of play never changed.

Save for one key moment earlier this season when the Golden Knights introduced their new zone defensive scheme (VGKD 2.0). According to all accounts, that system change was implemented in a single day and without ever even practicing it on the ice. It wasn’t perfect but they were able to put it into action and ended up winning the first game using it in Nashville.

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Gerard Gallant And Mike Kelly Helped Create What Eventually Got Them Fired

Imagine what the Golden Knights would look like right now if the first season went the way everyone projected. If they played like an expansion team usually does and finished at or near the bottom of the standings. A lot would look different, but the men behind the bench would still be familiar.

The Golden Knights overachieved in every sense of the word in their first season. They won more games than they were supposed to, they went further in the playoffs than anyone could have ever imagined, and they created a culture of success.

In just one season, the most magical season not to result in a championship in sports history, the Golden Knights went from an organization willing and able to be patient to one with a “Cup or Bust” mentality every single year.

When most players learned they were headed to Vegas in the Expansion Draft, they didn’t know what to expect. Despite whether the player was established, under-utilized, or had not even broken through into the NHL yet, there was a semblance of hesitation with all of them. They’d heard the stories of barren buildings, unknowledgeable fans, and tons and tons of losses. With Vegas, they didn’t know what to expect and there were plenty of reasons to expect the worst as opposed to the best.

Less than a year later, Vegas became a destination. Following every game players would rave about the building, the atmosphere, and the relentlessness of the team on the ice. The first offseason, James Neal, David Perron, Ryan Reaves, and Luca Sbisa all expressed a genuine desire to stay in Vegas. Paul Stastny inked a deal after Vegas knocked his team out of the playoffs a few months before. And then the big one, the captain of the Montreal Canadiens, Max Pacioretty, agreed to sign a long term deal before even stepping foot in the city allowing the Golden Knights to pull off a blockbuster trade right before the second season began.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Every new player, and especially Pacioretty, ranted about the rest of the league’s growing perception of Las Vegas. In less than a year, it went from an unknown to one of, if not the most, desirable destination in the NHL.

That led to players like William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, Alex Tuch, Shea Theodore, Brayden McNabb, and Nate Schmidt to all take fairly friendly deals to stay. It helped keep Marc-Andre Fleury, who could have gone anywhere he wished, in Vegas for the long haul. And again, it led to another trade and sign of Mark Stone, who hasn’t shut up about how much he loves Vegas since.

Success led to more success which led to expectations and those expectations were what ultimately sent Gallant and Kelly packing.

They were handed a group of players, an empty locker room, and a blank canvas and they spun it into what it is now, a team with legitimate Stanley Cup aspirations year over year. They got the most out of a group of players every other team in the league decided were expendable and in doing it, they allowed the front office to capitalize and add more and more talent to the mix.

Without the success in Year 1, there would be no Pacioretty, no Stone, no Stastny, and probably no Fleury.

The building wouldn’t be known as the most electric in the league.

The locker room wouldn’t be viewed as one every player in the league would gladly accept becoming a part of.

And the worst of all, the job of the head coach wouldn’t be so desirable that a recently fired Pete DeBoer sitting next to a pool in Florida with his family would accept the position so fast that he didn’t even have time to find a suit before getting on the plane to take the job.

Gerard Gallant and Mike Kelly were instrumental in creating a winning culture and lofty expectations. They ultimately ended up becoming the first to pay for it as well.

No matter what comes of the rest of this regular season, the postseason, and the future including this core of players, while credit will be given to just about everyone else first, Gallant and Kelly will always deserve their fair share.

Their names won’t be on the Cup if the Golden Knights ever win it. They won’t be at the parade down Las Vegas Boulevard. But their contributions to the Golden Knights franchise should never be undervalued.

Hockey World Weighs In On Vegas’ Shocking Coaching Change

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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

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Carp: Gallant’s Firing The Knights’ Biggest WTF Moment

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2019-20 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**

I was grocery shopping when the news broke Wednesday morning and my phone started pinging with text messages.

What I thought was unthinkable and improbable had happened. The Golden Knights had fired Gerard Gallant.

What the F***?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. Especially with the news they had hired Peter DeBoer to replace Gallant.

The man everyone knows as Turk was done wrong. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. This was George McPhee’s call and Bill Foley signed off on it. I guess the guy who guided his team to the Stanley Cup Final in 2018 suddenly forgot how to coach.

The Knights claim this was a performance-based decision, not some off-ice situation like Bill Peters or Jim Montgomery. The team has been struggling for stretches since October as injuries and subpar play from certain individuals have contributed to a frustrating season for everyone.

But keep in mind while this team technically started the day on the outside looking in for the playoffs, the Golden Knights are three points out of first place in the Pacific Division. A week ago, they were at the top of the division. So to think this is a knee-jerk reaction by McPhee is ludicrous.

I don’t believe Gallant had lost the locker room. Some of you have indicated on Twitter that the team wasn’t playing hard and the blame for that goes to the head coach. A couple of you think Gallant was too loyal to certain players, one being Cody Eakin.

To me, this has been brewing for a while, not in the last week. McPhee may have had ideas on who should be playing and perhaps Gallant resisted his suggestions. Maybe Misha Donskov and his hockey analytics staff had given Gallant data that he refused to acknowledge and implement, much like he did in Florida which ultimately led to his demise with the Panthers. Maybe Gallant and goaltending coach David Prior didn’t see eye-to-eye. Remember, McPhee hired Prior before he hired Gallant, and that was a move made outside the norm. Perhaps Prior and Gallant never got fully comfortable working together.

Again, this is all speculation on my part. It could be all of the above, or none of it. But from having been around this team since Day One and having gotten to know Gallant pretty well, I know virtually all his players liked playing for him, respected him and wanted to win for him. David Perron, who was on the inaugural team in 2017-18, said as much on Twitter the other day that he loved Turk.

Now maybe there’s a guy or two who if you hooked him up to a polygraph machine might say they didn’t care for Gallant. But the majority loved him, play hard for him and tried to win for him. But there have been protracted slumps that have impacted this team’s performance.

Alex Tuch is having a miserable season. Ditto for Nate Schmidt. William Karlsson is going through a major goal-scoring slump. Eakin has struggled. Cody Glass’ development has been slower than hoped for. Even the goaltending, both from Marc-Andre Fleury and Malcolm Subban, has been inconsistent.

You want to hold Gallant accountable for that? Go ahead. But you can’t sit everyone who is underachieving (especially when you are as cap-strapped as the Golden Knights are.)

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David Perron Takes To Twitter On Contract, VGK Fans, Decision To Sign With STL

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Following the Golden Knights run to the Stanley Cup, they had some decisions to make. Two of their top six scorers were set to become free agents. David Perron had just put up 66 points and remains the only Golden Knights to record a 50 assist season, and James Neal scored 25 goals including instrumental ones every step of the way in the magical first season.

When the clock struck midnight, technically 9 AM on July 1st, 2018, both Perron and Neal walked away from the Golden Knights signing with St. Louis and Calgary respectively.

Both Neal and Perron expressed interest in staying but eventually signed contracts longer and more expensive than what the Golden Knights were comfortable with. Perron signed a four year $16 million ($4M AAV) deal while Neal got a five year $28.75M ($5.75M AAV) contract.

Negotiations are always secretive and often the details never come to light. But yesterday, Perron took to Twitter to give us a little insight into his experience negotiating with George McPhee while under contract with the Golden Knights.

No offer after the trade deadline. In other words, Perron had no choice but to sign elsewhere.

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Carp: Carrier Delivering The Goods

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2019-20 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**

Right now, there’s not a whole lot of positive things happening with the Golden Knights. A three-game losing streak and a sudden lack of offensive productivity will do that to a team.

But I would like to point out one good thing that may be flying under the radar, that being the play of William Carrier.

When Chandler Stephenson was acquired by the Golden Knights last month, he was referred to as a “Swiss Army Knife” due to his versatility. Carrier may not have as many tools as Stephenson, but he has proven to be a versatile cog in the Knights’ machine.

The 25-year-old left wing has displayed some offensive prowess over the first half of the season and is projecting to having a record year scoring-wise. Carrier has five goals and eight assists so far.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

But the number I’m most impressed with? His games played. The Knights have played 48 games to this point. Carrier has been in the lineup for every single one of them. That’s a far cry from his first two seasons in Vegas where injuries forced him to miss significant amounts of time.

His ability to stay in the lineup has been huge. Coach Gerard Gallant is playing him up and down the lineup and wherever Carrier lands, that line seems to perk up, save for Saturday when virtually everyone was a no-show in the 3-0 shutout loss to Columbus.

Every line we put him on seems to be the best line on the team. -Gallant on Jan. 4

Carrier’s still playing his usual physical game, even though his total number of hits are down from a year ago. He’s currently third to Ryan Reaves and Brayden McNabb. He’s still one of, if not the, fastest player on the ice for the Knights. He’s still winning footraces and battles for 50-50 pucks. But he’s being more offensive-minded and his underrated passing skills are starting to gain notice. He had a beautiful backhand pass to Paul Stastny that led to a goal in the 5-4 overtime win over the Blues. His forechecking has helped keep plays alive in the other team’s end and while he may not be garnering assists, Carrier’s value for making plays in the offensive zone should not be overlooked.

That what I used to think of him, seriously. We’ve been with Will for two and a half years but this year he looks more confident. He’s going to the net, he’s carrying the puck and he’s making plays. He’s 25, coming into his own and playing great hockey. … We like what he’s doing, he’s working hard, and he’s got a lot of speed. I don’t think he’s hitting as much as he did in the past but he’s playing great hockey. –Gallant 

The fact he’s involved in fewer collisions no doubt has helped his durability and allowed him to remain in the lineup. Consider his first year with the Knights he was injured twice — in Nashville and at Washington and he appeared in just 37 games. Last year, he got hurt at Anaheim and again against Winnipeg and was limited to 54 games.

Assuming all remains well, he will set a personal high for games played next month when the Knights are in Florida to play the Lightning and the Panthers.

Where does Carrier best fit in? I still like him on the fourth line playing with Reaves and Tomas Nosek. They make things happen and they put pressure on opposing defenses. But from an offensive skillset standpoint, I also like having Carrier play with Stastny, a veteran playmaker who knows how to set up his linemates and provide them with quality scoring chances. They seem to work well together when Gallant pairs them up.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Carrier is still going to take the body, regardless of who he skates with. He’s still going to try and blow by defenders using his speed. It’s a question of how much do his offensive numbers rise playing with more skilled offensive players? And is that the right thing for the team?

Saturday, he played with Keegan Kolesar, who was making his NHL debut, and Stastny. Predictably, they didn’t do much.

No one is saying that Carrier is going to make a run at the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s leading scorer. But with 13 points, he’s even with Tuch and ahead of Cody Eakin, Cody Glass, Nosek and Reaves. Yes, the two Codys missed significant amounts of time. But the fact is Carrier is having a very good season and the fact he hasn’t missed a game all year is a victory, both for him and the Knights.

**Steve Carp is the author of “Vegas Born — The remarkable story of the Golden Knights.” Follow him on Twitter @stevecarp56. All of Steve Carp’s work here on SinBin.vegas is presented to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm. For over twenty-five years, the Jimmerson Law Firm has been widely recognized as one of Las Vegas’s preeminent full-service law firms. Specializing in high stakes business, civil and family litigation, the Jimmerson Law Firm has an unparalleled track record of winning when it matters most. To reach the Jimmerson Law Firm, call (702) 388-7171 and tell them SinBin.vegas sent you.**

Ryan Reaves Responds To David Perron’s “Whining”

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

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

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