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Bottom Six; What’s The Right Combination?

Step right up, pick three, any three!

The Golden Knights have hit a bit of a rough patch injury-wise, especially when it comes to the third and fourth lines. Over the course of the last month or so we’ve seen pretty much everyone play with everyone else.

Now, Tomas Nosek is set to return, which means for the first time in a while All Star head coach Gerrard Gallant will have to make decisions along the bottom six.

The plan for tonight is to run out the lines of Alex Tuch/Cody Eakin/Oscar Lindberg and Ryan Carpenter/Pierre-Edouard Bellemare/Tomas Nosek. Thus breaking up the recently successful Tuch/Bellemare/Carpenter line.

Everyone has their own opinions on who should be playing with whom, so we decided it’s time to put some numbers to the opinions. Have fun with this one…

 TOICF%SF%GFGASCF%
13456:0049.2350.30191851.12
21641:5547.9650.54212749.22
24536:4350.4851.92131952.69
4073:1353.7953.163655.56
41432:2253.0552.30131455.61
89530:3750.2551.43191653.06
92361:1350.4750.26111453.83
13 w/ 21314:1349.1950.88111450.00
13 w/ 2465:4246.2745.452442.03
13 w/ 400:550.000.00000.00
13 w/ 4129:5150.8550.002055.17
13 w/ 9224:2845.8327.270057.14
21 w/ 24170:1650.1754.612749.14
21 w/ 403:3954.5533.330042.86
21 w/ 4120:0640.9147.621045.00
21 w/ 9227:4846.6747.060051.61
24 w/ 4011:4650.0063.640060.00
24 w/ 41173:4056.8860.484462.25
24 w/ 92115:0450.4554.243556.31
40 w/ 4158:1957.8055.933459.62
40 w/ 928:51 52.1761.540054.55
41 w/ 92301:4052.7752.0191056.76
13 w/ 21 w/ 89245:5150.3152.8191052.85
13 w/ 21 w/ 2447:2743.4842.591430.95
40 w/ 41 w/ 8930:5164.5273.533171.43
21 w/ 24 w/ 89104:3653.2561.841258.82
24 w/ 41 w/ 9294:4254.0259.302363.29

Numerically, the most successful line offensively is the Tuch/Bellemare/Carpenter line, but the sample size is rather small. That being said, the line Gallant is going with, Tuch/Eakin/Lindberg has been very good in possession, but the scoring has yet to come (just one goal in 104:36).

This will be the first time Nosek, Carpenter, and Bellemare have been together, but any time Nosek and Bellemare have been very good, especially considering a majority of their zone starts are in the neutral or defensive zone.

Play around with that chart, and see what you can find. Personally, I’d like to see Tuch/Bellemare/Carpenter and Lindberg/Eakin/Nosek, but what do I know, I’m not the front-runner for the Jack Adams award.

Depth Scoring Major Factor In VGK Offensive Success

There are many reasons for the Golden Knights offensive success. Let’s start with the number of Vegas players having career years (it’s basically all of them). Secondly, younger players are quickly blossoming with more ice time and room to grow (see Karlsson, Tuch, Haula, Theodore, Schmidt, Miller, etc). Lastly, the Golden Knights are one of few teams getting help from their bottom six forwards, something we call “depth scoring.”

The goals aren’t all coming from Wild Bill, and that’s one of the big reasons why this team is good. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

In 48 games, Vegas has scored the third most goals (162) this season. Even more impressive is VGK’s (3.38) goals per game, which is also ranked third behind Tampa Bay (3.53) and the NY Islanders (3.39).

All Star coach Gerard Gallant is blessed to have the depth scoring his team has. Nine Golden Knights have more than 20 points. Only nine other NHL teams can claim that.

NY Rangers (11) Players
Nashville: (10) Players
Tampa: (10) Players
Toronto: (10) Players
Winnipeg: (10) Players
Vegas: (9) Players
Boston: (9) Players
Dallas: (9) Players
San Jose: (9) Players

To go even deeper, the Golden Knights have 16 players with 10+ Points. Only Chicago, Colorado, New Jersey, New York Islanders, Toronto, Washington, and Winnipeg can claim that.

Of course, we’re all aware of the offensive success from their top two lines. Erik Haula, James Neal and David Perron have done their job scoring 50 this season. VGK’s second top trio of William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, and Reilly Smith have totaled a remarkable 56 goals. The other 56 tallies were scored by defensemen and bottom line forwards.

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Goals Of The Year – 5 Most Important Goals & 5 Prettiest Goals Of 2017-18 So Far

This goal didn’t make the cut, but Engelland scoring in the home opener needed to be represented somehow. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Inspired by the beauties by David Perron and James Neal over the past two games we’ve decided there’s no better time than now to take a look back on the Golden Knights “Goals of the Year.”

These are separated into two groups, first are the most important goals. These are based on a few criteria but mainly the impact the goal had on the Golden Knights season. The second group are the prettiest goals, graded mostly by skill and difficulty. Time of goal, score, and impact on the game are not considered for these goals.

Most Important Goals

#5 – Erik Haula vs. Nashville Predators – December 8th, 2017 – 3rd Period (19:20) – VGK 3 NSH 3

File this one in the “these guys are for real” category. After playing a great game the Golden Knights found themselves down a goal with the clock ticking down. They had chance after chance with the goalie pulled but just couldn’t beat Pekka Rinne. Then, off the magical 3rd period stick of Erik Haula the Golden Knights had their equalizer and eventually won the game in OT. It was a statement to the Predators, a statement to the NHL.

#4 – William Karlsson vs. St. Louis Blues – October 21st, 2017 – OT (4:36) – VGK 3 STL 2

This goal gave the Golden Knights their 6th win of the year, but more importantly it was the first win against a truly excellent opponent. Vegas was down to their third goalie after Fleury was hurt in game four and Subban earlier in this game, and yet still they found a way to get it done. Also, this goal might have been the birth of the madness that is the home crowd at T-Mobile Arena. The place was an absolute zoo and it was the first of many times the aisles would be filled with losing fans filing out with their tails between their legs. Oh, and it’s also William Karlsson’s first as a Golden Knight, the flood gates haven’t closed since.

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Forechecking: One Of The Many Reasons Vegas Is Good At Hockey

Forechecking also helps defensemen get in good position… like this. Take that Sid. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It wasn’t that long ago that just hearing the word forecheck made my head spin. It’s one of those words the high brow hockey fan uses just to prove they are smarter than you. Believe me, I’ve done it myself at times to test people. But the team you cheer for (I’m assuming since you are reading this right now) is so good at forechecking that it’s time you man up, stop being scared of this terrifying word, and enlighten yourself to how and why the Vegas Golden Knights are so darn good at it.

Forechecking simply means playing aggressive defense in your own attacking zone. In other words, when the Golden Knights are near the goal they want to score on, but do not have the puck, they play ferocious defense to try and get it back before the opposing team breaks out. Watch, here’s an example from the last game.

Jonathan Marchessault (#81) carries it into the zone. He takes a shot and then there’s a bit of a scramble for the rebound. Vegas does not get possession of the puck, but William Karlsson (#71) and Marchessault are relentless to get it back. The puck ends up being kicked out to Reilly Smith (#19) who gets a shot on goal.

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Finding Alex Tuch The Right Linemates Crucial For Golden Knights

When the Expansion Draft ended there was a lot to look at. There were well-known veteran names, there were up-and-coming goal scorers, there were puck-moving defensemen, and there was a heaping pile of bonus draft picks.

Then there was Alex Tuch.

Give me Leipsic or give me death! (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

One of just two players the Golden Knights gave up an asset to acquire (the other was Reilly Smith), and a prospect that was unlike anything else in the Golden Knights system. A big strong forward with good speed and an innate ability to put the puck in the net. Oh, and he’s 21-years-old, an age that was difficult for the Golden Knights to find players due to the expansion draft rules.

Despite not participating in any previous NHL Entry Drafts, Alex Tuch became a Golden Knights first round pick. Having given up a pick and letting the Wild “escape” the Expansion Draft (didn’t really work for Minnesota), George McPhee put a lot of stock in Tuch. Unlike Shea Theodore, who had just finished up dominating the NHL playoffs, Tuch was unproven at the NHL level. He was a true prospect, and he had/has to be good.

Showing his commitment, Tuch showed up to Development Camp, he came back early for Rookie Camp, and he was always one of the last guys on the ice during full Training Camp. He was putting in the work, his talent was showing, and he appeared to have a spot on the Golden Knights roster.

He didn’t.

Due to what was called “a numbers decision” Tuch was sent to the AHL to begin the year. Four games later a pair of injuries opened the door and Tuch was ready to make his Golden Knights debut. In his first game, he scored and tallied an assist, and Vegas won. Since his recall, the Golden Knights have not lost a game at home.

But when the team went on the road, and Tuch wasn’t playing nearly as well. There was a change in his line as Erik Haula was moved away and Cody Eakin came in with Tuch and Oscar Lindberg.

I think with Lindberg we had a good line, we just weren’t finding the right chemistry. I don’t think I was playing well. -Alex Tuch

Recently, Brendan Leipsic was added to the line to replace Lindberg, and since, the results have been astounding.

Last night while playing together that line created 17 shot attempts while allowing just five. They were also on the ice together for two of the Golden Knights four goals. But more importantly than just the statistics, Leipsic’s addition to the line has brought back the Tuch we got used to in his first few appearances and the preseason.

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Golden Knights Aren’t Big, But They Aren’t Afraid Either

We may be little, but we live in front of the net. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights are built differently than most teams in the Pacific division. For example, the Kings were ranked 2nd in average height (6’1), and 3rd in team weight (207 lbs) last season. The Golden Knights have 11 players weighing in at 200 pounds or more, and just seven players heavier than LA’s 207 pound team average. The Kings have 18 players 200+ lbs and 11 that weigh more than 207. On to height, Vegas has five players 6’3 or taller. LA has eight players 6’3 or bigger. I could keep going. Anaheim, Calgary, Edmonton, LA, and Vancouver are all designed to handle the heavy load in front of their own goal.

Net presence isn’t always determined by strength. When there’s room to take advantage of, size doesn’t matter. Vegas may not be a big, physical team but they proved to be strong around Vancouver’s net.

David Perron‘s deep slot goal in the first period was a gorgeous display of his typically velvety hands (the only real way to describe his hands) but Nate Schmidt‘s net presence helped create an open lane. Vancouver’s defense was so busy clearing out the VGK defenseman, they got in the way of goaltender Jacob Markstrom‘s vision. Once James Neal passed the puck it was all target practice from there. The distraction in front by Schmidt, and a patient Perron got Vegas on the board first.

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Alex Tuch Is An Upper Deck Young Gun

Took a minute, but finally, the Golden Knights are starting to appear on trading cards.

Our friends at Upper Deck sent us a preview of VGK forward Alex Tuch’s newest trading cards. Tuch is featured on one of Upper Deck’s Young Guns insert cards. Nico Hischier, Brock Boeser, Josh Ho-Sang, Charlie McAvoy, Alexander Nylander, and Adrian Kempe are some of the other young players with UD Series 1 cards, which release on November 9th. Check out Tuch’s cards.

Upper Deck may print more VGK cards this season, but we’ll find out later this season when UD Series 2 is released. Earlier UD revealed a Marc-Andre Fleury card that’s now available.

If you notice, Brendan Leipsic made a cameo in one of Tuch’s cards, which technically means three Golden Knights are on new Upper Deck cards. This is what you’ve made us do Upper Deck. We want more, we want more!

These two are pretty sweet though.

Too Much Of A Good Thing?

Like a lot of things with the Golden Knights, too many guys playing well was not a concern we expected to be an issue. However, five games in, that’s the exact spot Geroge McPhee, Gerard Gallant, and the Golden Knights have found themselves in.

Hey everyone, look how great we’re all playing! (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

After leaving Vadim Shipachyov, Alex Tuch, and Shea Theodore off the opening day roster due to “numbers decisions,” Vegas started the season 3-0 using the same 20 players in all three games.

Then the injuries and a loss came. Erik Haula and Jonathan Marchessault were put on IR which freed up spots for Shipachyov and Tuch, and Gallant decided to mix up his healthy scratches following the loss as he inserted Brad Hunt and Jon Merrill for Jason Garrison and Brayden McNabb.

All four “new” players had a major impact on the game Sunday night, and it’s left Vegas with an abundance of players and not enough roster spots to keep them all.

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GOLDEN KNIGHTS PLACE MARC-ANDRE FLEURY (G) AND JONATHAN MARCHESSAULT (F) ON IR; RECALL MAXIME LAGACE (G) AND ALEX TUCH (F) FROM AHL

VGK’s Young Stars Dominate In Wolves Debut

As fun as it was to watch the Golden Knights stun the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center, the game down the road in Austin, TX was probably a better indication of the direction the Golden Knights future is heading.

In the first game as the AHL affiliate for the Golden Knights, the Chicago Wolves got a hat trick from Alex Tuch and some guy named Shea Theodore put up a goal and two assists as well. Sound familiar?

Watch the highlights, it’s basically a window into Golden Knights future, and boy is it bright.

The full box score is all sorts of glorious for Tuch, Theodore, Pulkkinen, and even the newest Golden Knight Brandon Pirri.

This season is going to feel long at times for the NHL club cause let’s be real, they ain’t all going to go like that one y’all. (Sorry, this whole Texas thing is getting to me) But this season is about more than the Golden Knights on the ice at T-Mobile, and catching a Wolves game every now and then might be a nice pick me up.

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