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Territorial Dominance For Marchessault, Karlsson, And Smith

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Through six games, the Golden Knights top line of Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson, and Reilly Smith have six goals and nine assists. They’ve taken 54 shots and tallied a +5 between the three of them with each of the three averaging around 17 minutes of ice-time per night.

All of these numbers are good and well, but they don’t scream dominant. They aren’t scoring at an outrageous pace, they’ve allowed four goals while on the ice together (which is a lot for them in six games), and I’ve even heard discussions around Golden Knights media and fans asking what’s wrong with them.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that line at the moment. In fact, they’ve been so good, that you can point directly to their success as to why the second and fourth lines have been scoring so much this season.

It starts with who the Vegas top line is playing against. Last night Marchessault, Karlsson, and Smith spent half their night against the Kings top line (Brown, Kopitar, and Iafallo) and the other half against LA’s second line (Toffoli, Carter, and Lizotte). In all of the previous games, literally all five of them, Vegas’ top line took more minutes against the opposing top line than any other line.

What this does is allows the Golden Knights other top line of Stone, Stastny/Glass, and Pacioretty to feast on opposition’s second and third lines. Thus far, in the four even-strength goals scored by Vegas’ “second” line, just one has come against the other team’s top line. Plus, they’ve drawn four penalties, all against non-first lines.

Even more than who they play against though is where they play against them, and how that sets up the next line. In six games, Marchessault, Karlsson, and Smith have posted a 63.7% Corsi (79 shot attempts for, 45 against). They’ve created 41 scoring chances while allowing just 19 (68.3% SCF). And their expected goals for is 4.11 while expected goals against is just 1.44 (74.1% xGF).

Yet, through all of it, they’ve scored four and allowed four. That’s because their PDO is so incredibly brutal through six games. 92.4 is the Vegas PDO number with the top line on the ice, mainly due to the abysmal .833 save percentage that’s been posted with them out there.

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VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 5 LOS ANGELES KINGS 2 (4-2-0 8 PTS)

The Golden Knights came out hot like they did the night before against Calgary. Reilly Smith scored his fourth of the season, and Max Pacioretty tallied his second on a 1st period power play. LA cut the lead in half but couldn’t tie it up before the period expired. Vegas held the 2-1 edge after the opening period.

In the 2nd, Marc-André Fleury made a few game-changing saves to preserve the one goal Golden Knights lead. Paul Stastny gave Vegas extra cushioning with two Golden Knights power-play goals. After 40 minutes of action the Golden Knights led the Kings 4-1.

Vegas gave LA some life in the 3rd period by allowing the Kings to score and get within two. Mark Stone took that life away :17 seconds later with his fourth goal of the season. The Golden Knights convincingly won 5-2 in LA.

Vegas improves their record to 4-2-0 and get a well deserved day off tomorrow. The Golden Knights next take the ice Tuesday against the Nashville Predators (3-2-0). Puck drops at 7PM. (Recap by Jason)


Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights at Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center

  • Marchessault, Karlsson, Smith dominating in possession and it’s trickling down to the rest of the lineup.
  • I’ll take a look at the power play and see if I can find out if there’s anything different going on beyond just personnel. If there is, there will be a story on it.

Ken’s Three VGK Stars
*** Mark Stone
** Marc-Andre Fleury
* Paul Stastny

Carp: Managing Injuries A Tricky Proposition

**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.**

Every hockey team has to deal with injuries. But the successful ones manage theirs better.

The Golden Knights have been tested earlier than most teams. They started this season without forwards Alex Tuch and Cody Eakin, two key components. Then they lost defenseman Nate Schmidt on opening night after he and San Jose’s Logan Couture collided in the 1st period.

And of course, no injury report would be complete without including goaltender Malcom Subban, who got hurt Thursday in Arizona and forcing Marc-Andre Fleury to work on what was supposed to be a night off.

The Knights’ ability to manage their injuries has varied in their brief existence. They somehow were able to survive after Fleury sustained a concussion early in the inaugural season and wound up missing two months. They also lost Subban and Oscar Dansk during that time too.

And they always seem to manage to compensate whenever William Carrier self-destructs and goes on Injured Reserve. Carrier’s style of play lends himself to getting hurt but to ask him to adjust and play it safe would make him ineffective. He was superb Saturday in the 6-2 win over Calgary, registering a goal and an assist in what was the first multi-point game of his career. He has to play the way he does so you live with the consequences.

You could look at Schmidt’s 20 games missed due to suspension last year as an injury because it forced others to fill the gaps, something the defense didn’t do a particularly good job of. The team struggled without him. And with Schmidt out for who knows how long, once again, the defense is under the microscope.

The hope was the youngsters — Nic Hague, Jimmy Schuldt, perhaps Dylan Coghlan or Jake Bischoff would step up and play well enough to solidify things. So far, that hasn’t manifested itself. Coghlan started the season in the minors, Schuldt joined him Friday, Bischoff got recalled from the Wolves, Hague has not distinguished himself and who knows how long Gerard Gallant sticks with him?

There was some good news from the infirmary. Eakin returned to the lineup Saturday against the Flames and the Knights will welcome his ability in the faceoff circle to win draws, to kill penalties and, most important, spearhead a tenacious forecheck and create turnovers.

If there was a common thread in the losses to Boston and Arizona, it was the lack of a strong forecheck game by the Knights’ forwards. When the forecheck is working, the game becomes vastly different. Opposing teams can’t transition as easily from defense to offense. Scoring opportunities suddenly emerge. The ice gets tilted in Vegas’ favor.

Eakin helps provide that with his tenacity.

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VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 6 CALGARY FLAMES 2 (3-2-0 6 PTS)

The Golden Knights hosted the Calgary Flames in a Pacific divisional battle. Both teams were in search of their third victory of the season.
Vegas jumped on the board first 3:24 into the game on Tomas Nosek’s third goal of the season. Both teams would trade power plays but neither would convert. The 1st period ended 1-0 good guys.
In the 2nd Calgary scored two quick goals to take the 2-1 lead. After settling down, Mark Stone tied the game with his third goal of the season. William Carrier and Paul Stastny added two more in the period to give Vegas the 4-2 lead after 40 minutes of action.

Golden Knights forward Ryan Reaves put his team up by three scoring his first goal of the season. All three fourth-line forwards scored for Vegas in their commanding 6-2 victory.
Vegas improves their record to 3-2-0 with a victory over Calgary. The Golden Knights will have a quick turnaround as they travel to LA to face the Kings tomorrow night. Puck drops at 7 PM. (Recap by Jason)


Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs Calgary Flames at T-Mobile Arena

  • Steve Carp’s Sunday article on VGK players rising to the occasion to overcome injuries.

Ken’s Three VGK Stars
*** Ryan Reaves
** Tomas Nosek
* William Carrier

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.

George McPhee Likes “The Threat Of A Fight” In His Lineup

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

When the Golden Knights came out of the Expansion Draft, George McPhee liked the roster. He said they had lots of speed, plenty of scoring, depth on defense, and a great goaltender. But there was one thing missing in his mind, something he went out and fixed at the trade deadline in 2018.

Vegas acquired Ryan Reaves (essentially for free), immediately placed him in the lineup, re-signed him to an overpaid deal in July 2018, and he’s been a mainstay in the lineup ever since.

Speaking to Pierre McGuire in an interview on NBC Sports’ new podcast “Our Line Starts,” McPhee explained why he likes having a player like Reaves on his roster.

I think we all enjoy where the game is right now. I don’t care if I ever see another fight again but I like having the threat of a fight in the game to keep people honest. -George McPhee to Our Line Starts Podcast

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Reaves has been in three fights in his 104 games with the Golden Knights.

However, the Golden Knights as a team have been in just 11 fights in 144 games since acquiring Reaves, where they were in 11 in 70 games prior to his arrival.

It keeps people honest in this game and can sometimes keep the temperature down when you need to keep it down because we’re carrying sticks and it’s a physical game. -McPhee

Gallant took Reaves out of the lineup a bit in the playoffs the first season, but aside from that, he’s been a constant. Hearing this from the GM (or whatever he actually is now) and knowing the head coach’s affinity for big #75, that will probably continue for as long as he’s able to go.

ARIZONA COYOTES 4 VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 1 (2-2-0 4 PTS)

The Golden Knights looked to bounce back in Arizona after losing their first loss off the season on Tuesday.

The Coyotes struck first eight minutes into the 1st period. Arizona would add another with under a minute left. However, Shea Theodore would score with :04 seconds left in the opening period and get his team within one. Plus a poor goalie interference challenge would give the Golden Knights a power play to start the second.

Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury would begin the 2nd period in place of the injured Malcolm Subban. Vegas squandered the power play and Arizona would slip one past Fleury for the 3-1 lead early in the middle frame. The Coyotes would score a fourth with under two minutes to go in the 2nd to stretch the lead 4-1.

The Golden Knights couldn’t get much going to start the 3rd period, as coach Gerard Gallant shuffled the lineup. Unfortunately, Vegas couldn’t generate any offense and would go on to lose their second straight game. Arizona took the first meeting between the two 4-1.

Vegas’ record drops to 2-2-0 and look to snap their skid on Saturday. The Golden Knights return home to face the Calgary Flames. Puck drops at 7 PM. (Recap by Jason)


Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights at Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena

  • McPhee explains why he must have a player like Ryan Reaves on his roster
  • 5 breakaways in 2 periods. What in the world happened? (Will become a full article if the trend continues)

Ken’s Three VGK Stars
*** Reilly Smith
** Jon Merrill
* Malcolm Subban

“More Of Subban This Year”

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

For the first time this season, Malcolm Subban will be in between the pipes for the Golden Knights tonight against the Arizona Coyotes.

Last year, Subban played 21 games, starting 20 of them. Max Lagace got one game which left 61 for Marc-Andre Fleury. That includes a nine-game stretch at the end of the season where Fleury was out with an injury. If not for that run, Fleury likely would have played 65 or more games.

The prevailing thought around the NHL is 65 is too many, heck most believe (including Jason and I) that 60 is even too many.

Of the 13 starting goaltenders that have hoisted Lord Stanley’s Cup since the beginning of the salary cap era in 2005, none played more than 70 games in the regular season. In fact, only two of the 13 played more than 60 games. –Jesse Granger, The Athletic

The Golden Knights, at least what they stated publicly, were pretty stubborn last year in their comments about not holding Fleury back to a certain number. This year, the thinking may have changed.

You are going to see more of Subban this year, you will. George and Kelly and the coaches have it figured out and they have games identified for Subban and you are going to see him more. It’s part of what needs to happen. –The Creator on Sportsbook Radio

Tonight’s game is not a back-to-back, the Golden Knights are not in the midst of a hectic week schedule-wise, and there wasn’t much travel involved. It simply seems like load management for Fleury.

We want to make sure Flower is really ready for the playoffs. He doesn’t want to do it, he wants to play every night, he’s such a competitor. –The Creator on Sportsbook Radio

Subban played two to three games a month for the first five months of the season last year. This year, that number will probably be closer to four to five a month, and the Golden Knights will be better off for it… even if Subban doesn’t play as well as Fleury can.

SinBin.vegas Podcast #171: Injuries With Dr. Pinegar

First we recap a few pressing issues such as Karlsson’s faceoffs, Cody Eakin’s return, and Deryk Engelland’s minutes. Then we welcome the Vegas Sports Doc, Dr. Caleb Pinegar to give opinions on a variety of VGK injury-related topics. Hosted by Ken Boehlke and Jason Pothier.

  • Why play William Karlsson at all if he’s hurt enough to not take draws?
  • Gallant’s odd timeout decision
  • Where does Eakin go when he comes back?
  • Dr. Caleb Pinergar from Crovetti Orthopeadics and Sports Medicine – @VegasSportsDoc on Twitter and VegasSportsDoc.com
  • The best guess as to what happened to Nate Schmidt and Alex Tuch
  • How much should the Golden Knights have known about Erik Haula’s injury when they traded him?

And much more…

We are on iTunesStitcher, Spotify, and Google Play. Subscribe now!

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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