A group of five Golden Knights, led by Alex Tuch, have officially opened the first NHL player-owned sports bar in Las Vegas. Deryk Engelland, William Karlsson, Reilly Smith, Shea Theodore, and Tuch took over Wolfgang Puck’s previous place in Downtown Summerlin, and with the help of Puck and his staff, have opened the “Player’s Locker.”
I brought it to a few different guys on the team. It was guys that I saw were going to be here for a long time. Shea Theodore was one of the first ones I went to. We’re really close and I just wanted other guys that really showed interest. I think we have a really good group and I’m really excited about it. -Alex Tuch
The restaurant had its “soft opening” Saturday and has a grand opening in the works soon. It’s a mix of upscale Wolfgang Puck inspired food with a bar food twist. The menu includes one dish named after each player.
It’s not the way anyone envisioned it coming to be, but the 3rd line of William Carrier, Cody Glass, and Alex Tuch was formed three games ago. In those three games, the Golden Knights have earned points in each and won two on the road.
They’ve also received three goals and five assists from that line. They’ve created eight scoring chances in 26 minutes of play and have a 54% Corsi.
But where they’ve been best is in the eye test. Since the Golden Knights have been a franchise, they’ve never had a 3rd line look as good as Carrier, Glass, and Tuch have looked over the past three games. Tuch is driving offense, Glass is controlling the defensive end, and Carrier is winning puck battles helping set up the cycle to spend time in the offensive zone.
Tuch has returned to the right-wing, Glass to his natural center position, and Carrier is playing with the most offensive talent since he’s been a Golden Knight. It’s not the perfect line, but it’s certainly an upgrade on what they’ve gotten throughout this season with Cody Eakin as the center.
Tuch scored just one goal in 10 games with Eakin. He has three with Glass and Carrier. Glass has just three assists in 23 games playing with Eakin. He has two in three games with Tuch and Carrier.
However, the fourth line hasn’t looked quite the same without Carrier. Ryan Reaves has struggled without Carrier recording just five hits in three games while Carrier was on the 3rd line. Tomas Nosek still appears to play better as a center than a winger. And Stephenson scored the goal, but doesn’t quite seem a match for Nosek and Reaves.
Eakin remains out week-to-week with an upper body injury, so the decision on where to put him when he returns is not imminent, but after just three games on the road, it might be time to start considering where else he might fit.
The key question moving forward will become usage. Eakin has averaged about 15 minutes of ice time each season with the Golden Knights. That’s normal for a 3rd line center with penalty-killing duties. But, if he finds himself relegated to the 4th line, his TOI will likely drop under 10 minutes per game as has been the case for Reaves in 66% of games this season. That also means relying more heavily on Glass, something Gerard Gallant has not shown a willingness to do. (He’s played more than 14 minutes in less than half his NHL appearances.)
Vegas has never used an interchanging line system throughout an entire game, but they may want to consider it when Eakin is ready to return. With Glass, Eakin, Carrier, Reaves (or Nosek), Tuch, and Stephenson, there are multiple combinations that can be deployed depending on the situation.
Rather than lay out the standard two lines and roll them over, they could be mixed and matched depending on draw location, score, matchup, and stamina. Here are just a few of the logical trios that could be made out of that group.
Kelly McCrimmon spoke with the media yesterday to formally announce the Chandler Stephenson acquisition. He also mentioned his high expectations for the month of December.
We’re trying to get all little bit of traction. December has for one reason or another traditionally been a really good month for this organization. We’re hopeful we can get a solid footing and play good hockey. -McCrimmon
Vegas’ GM should feel optimistic about the next 13 games in December. A month his players annually shine.
Win Percentage in December 2017: .846 % 2018: .600 % Overall: .714 %
Point Percentage in December 2017: .923 % 2018: .800 % Overall: .857 %
Including last night’s game in New Jersey, the Golden Knights have an exceptional franchise record of 22-4-4 in the month of December. Beginning the month 2-0-0 is a good sign their holiday tradition will continue. Vegas plays 13 more games this month including seven at home and only three are against teams in the top 3 in their division.
December 2017 13 Games: 8 Home/5 Road (11–1-1) Record
Goals For: 49 Total
Goals Against: 33 Total
Win Streak: 7 Games
OT/SO Games: (4-1)
2+ Goal Wins: 5
Pacific Division Points: (8 points)
Wins vs Playoff Teams: 8 (Anaheim x 2, LA, Nashville, Pittsburgh, Tampa, Toronto, Washington)
William Karlsson: 10 Points (7 Goals, 3 Assists) +9
Jonathan Marchessault: 14 Points (5 Goals, 9 Assists) + 9
Alex Tuch, William Karlsson, Deryk Engelland, Reilly Smith and Shea Theodore are teaming up with celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck to create a sports bar called “Wolfgang Puck Players Locker.”
The opportunity to be a partner in the first-ever sports restaurant in Vegas is something I couldn’t pass up. I am very excited to work side by side with one of the greatest chefs in the world, Wolfgang Puck. -Alex Tuch
The restaurant is taking over the old “Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill” in Downtown Summerlin in between California Pizza Kitchen and Shake Shack. There will be a brand new menu including “traditional sports fare”as well as an “innovative new beverage program” which will surely include both Engelland and Ryan Reaves’ beers.
We are thrilled to be partnering with members of the Vegas Golden Knights here in Las Vegas, the new hockey capital of the world. We have created a unique and one-of-a-kind sports dining experience around great food and the best players in the NHL! -Wolfgang Puck
The restaurant is being re-designed around a “floor-to-ceiling display of more than 100 custom glass lockers.” Each of the five Golden Knights will have their own dedicated locker.
There will also be two outdoor patios, one dog-friendly, as well as an expansive bar area, and a private dining room named “The Players Lounge” which is expected to host the five VGK owners consistently.
Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill will remain open until mid-January, at which time it will undergo a brief, one-week remodel before re-opening its doors as the new Wolfgang Puck Players Locker. Additional details will be announced in the coming months. -Press Release
The last time the Golden Knights won at home was 17 days ago. The last time they’ve won two in a row at home was 211 days ago when they won Games 3 and 4 of the series against the Sharks.
Over the course of the first season and a half for the Golden Knights, no matter what else was going on, they could always rely on their ability to win at home. They went an unbelievable 29-10-2 at T-Mobile Arena in 2017-18 and backed it up by starting 16-4-3 at home to start 2018-19. But since, it’s been a bit of a struggle.
They finished last year at 10-6-2 before dropping a crucial Game 6 at home leading to a first-round exit. This year they’ve actually lost more games inside of T-Mobile Arena than they’ve won, posting a 4-3-2 record.
If you dig into the stats, you’ll see they’ve been scoring fewer goals, shooting much less, and for the most part not controlling the flow of the game even close to as often as they used to.
I don’t think it’s anything with personal or the style of play or anything like that. I just honestly think it’s a mentality thing. We’ve got to play a little bit harder, little bit chippier. We’ve got to really want to dominate teams. I think we are going out to just try and win, we want to go out and try to dominate. It makes winning that much easier and I think it makes everyone around us better. -Alex Tuch
Tuch has been watching from the sidelines for all but four periods this season, and he’s seeing exactly what most everyone else is seeing. While he was speaking about the team in general, in my opinion, his comments translate to the team’s play at home even more than on the road.
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.
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.
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.
The Golden Knights power play was much maligned last year. They finished the season 25th in the NHL, converting on just 16.8% of their chances.
To make matters worse, it didn’t improve with the addition of one of the most dangerous power play weapons in team history, Mark Stone. After the deadline, Vegas hit on just 7 of 45 power-play opportunities or 15.6%. They picked it up dramatically in the postseason, running at a 27.5% clip, but it was all against the same team, and it fell off a cliff in Games 6 and 7 when they went 0 for 5 and gave up a shorthanded game-winner.
This year, the Golden Knights have connected on 6 of their 20, 30%, which has them in 6th place in the NHL through 6 games.
Last game in Los Angeles, the power play looked unstoppable, going 3 for 3 and creating opportunities consistently. I set out to figure out what, if any, differences there were on the power play between now and last year (especially in the playoffs when the personnel was most similar).
The first thing to focus on is the entry. Vegas consistently uses a drop pass which leads to a puck carrier with speed brinign the puck through the neutral zone. He then brings it in himself or drops it off to one of the two wingers standings at the blue line. The Golden Knights strayed from this entry for a bit in the playoffs, but returned to it by the end of the series. So, for the most part, that’s completely unchanged.
The units are not far off from what they were against the Sharks in the postseason. The better unit includes Max Pacioretty, Mark Stone, Paul Stastny, Shea Theodore. The other unit includes Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith, and William Karlsson. The difference that Cody Glass in now in for Alex Tuch on the first unit, and Nic Hague and Valentin Zykov are in for Colin Miller and Cody Eakin on the second.
What this has done has created a small difference in the default layout the Golden Knights use once they enter the zone and are completely set up. It’s literally the only difference I can find, but there does seem to be a contrast in how the units operate due to the change.
To illustrate it, we head to the grease board!
Power Play setup last year with Tuch
Power Play setup this year with Glass
As you can see, the only difference is where Glass and Tuch play. Tuch is set up directly in front of the net with the idea of screening the goalie and picking up rebounds, while Glass is under the goal line as an extra passing option.
The main difference is the options that are presented for the two guys in the circles when they have the puck (Pacioretty and Stone).
We are just 21 days away from Opening Night at T-Mobile Arena. Which means, the William Hill mobile sports app is stocked with Golden Knights related bets and props.
Whether you gamble or not, prop bets always give us a rough idea of expectations heading into a new season. This year, William Hill has listed 11 prop bets including eight-player specific bets. Here are my picks on each and every one of them. (Last year I went 6-3.)
Regular Season Points O/U 101.5
The Golden Knights had 109 in Year 1 and 93 in Year 2, this year’s total is smack dab in between the two. The biggest question of whether they’ll get there or not will be health. If the Golden Knights are relatively healthy through a majority of the season, they’ll reach 102 without any issue. But, if they lose one of the centers, Stone, Schmidt, or Fleury, they could see some rough stretches that keep them from the century mark. Think back to last season, the first 20 games, the poo stretch before the trade deadline, the way they limped to the end, a lot went wrong, and they still got to 93. I have to believe this year will be at least a bit smoother.
Pick: OVER 101.5
October Points O/U 17.5
With the season starting on the 2nd, the October schedule is pretty packed. The Golden Knights play 14 games with eight of them being at home. It’s also a nicely laid out schedule with minimal travel and just one back-to-back. In fact, I listed the last two weeks of October as one of the softest stretches in the entire season schedule. The first two games are going to go a long way to determining whether or not they reach this number, but I don’t expect them to lose both which means they’ll need 16 points in 12 games. The opponents aren’t exactly easy as a whole, but the Golden Knights should come out motivated and that will lead them to a solid 18+ point month.
Cody Glass just wants to play. He’s told us for three straight summers now, his goal is to play in the NHL. ASAP.
The question is, where would he play?
It’s the NHL, I’ll play anywhere. I’ll play defense if I have to. -Glass
Earlier this summer, Glass said he’s grown, and he’s ready to make the leap from juniors/minors to the NHL. However, in his third NHL training camp, his age, size, nor maturity will decide his path. It will be up to the Golden Knights management to choose between an established NHL body and giving their young center a chance to flourish.
But again, where will he play?
To be anywhere on the Vegas roster it would be unbelievable. You need to find that role and you need to play it. So, if they want me to be a checking forward, I’ll do my best to be a checking forward. -Glass
You have to love Glass’ eagerness to make the club, but let’s be serious, Vegas didn’t draft a center sixth overall to be a checking forward. That role is best filled by guys like Tomas Nosek, or William Carrier. The Golden Knights have higher expectations for a two-way, top ten drafted center.
Last season, Golden Knights forward Ryan Reaves fought four times and was voted the victor in each by the fans. Three regular season scraps and one postseason go-around with Evander Kane was a light schedule for Reaves, who normally averages seven fights per year.
Evander Kane vs Ryan Reaves from the San Jose Sharks at Vegas Golden Knights game on Apr 14, 2019 https://t.co/u4kdnF1ev0
“I don’t think we’re ever going to boomerang back. I think we’re going to see decline, after decline, after decline, to the point now that we have new historic lows across the board in hockey fighting.”- Greg Wyshynski, ESPN NHL Reporter
Player safety has been a big reason for the drop off but it’s also becoming difficult to carry fists in a salary cap world. Love him or hate him, Reaves is unique. He has stood the test of time and is preparing for his tenth NHL season.
He’s arguably the toughest guy in the league, but the fact he can play the game and contribute that’s what makes him valuable. That’s where the game is nowadays. There were a lot of players that were pushed out, he was not one of them. Rightfully so. He can contribute to the game and not just for what we’re known for doing. -Shawn Thornton, Former NHL Player
Thornton spoke with me in late February, after the Golden Knights hosted the Florida Panthers. Overall, the retired NHL heavyweight was glad to see the decline in fighting.
In my opinion, intimidation is a part of life. When you’re in an arena that’s two hundred by eighty-five with no out of bounds, it’s amplified. I think there will always be a space in hockey. Sometimes it’s a pressure cooker and a fight will be the thing that pops the top off… but there’s no more room in the league for a one-dimensional guy, and I’m actually very okay with that. -Thornton