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Vegas’ 2nd Line Not Producing On Either End Of The Ice

There hasn’t been enough of this lately. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Heading into Game 3, Erik Haula, James Neal, and David Perron had been fairly flat in the Stanley Cup Final. Then Game 3 happened, and second line struggle has turned to second line disaster.

We have to put pucks in, you have a little bit of time, you think you can make a play, have some room to skate, and then it gets clogged up pretty quick. For us, we have to simplify. It’s something we talked about. But I just think we’re just not there. We’re a second late on pucks. Or support. We’ll fix it. -James Neal

In 180 minutes of hockey, the trio has a combined three points (1 goal, 2 assists), just 10 shots on goal, seven shots blocked, seven missed shots, and a whopping -9 rating. All three are under 45%, they’ve allowed 12 high dangers chances while creating just three, and worst of all, they were on the ice for all three goals in Game 3.

It’s big, obviously the matchups. We did a really good job getting lines out there when we needed to. -Jay Beagle, Washington forward

It was glaringly obvious that the second line was having trouble creating any real threat. Neal’s laser of a goal in Game 2 is the line’s only goal, and it took an incredible individual effort rather than team play to score it. Plus, even that lost its luster after Don Cherry pointed out Neal’s shot was slightly deflected off Washington’s Michal Kempny’s stick.

They’ve had their moments, and yeah, we know they’re going to get chances. The more we can keep them off the scoreboard and frustrate them as much as possible. -John Carlson, Washington defenseman

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2nd Line Shows Out In Game 3 After Critical Self Evaluation Of Games 1 And 2

Whether Ehlers plays or not, VGK’s 2nd line must keep scoring goals and keeping Winnipeg off the board. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Before the series on the SinBin.vegas Podcast I harped on the importance of the 2nd line in the Western Conference Finals against Winnipeg. Then after Game 1 I followed up with another article claiming they had to be better in order to Vegas to win the series.

Well, apparently it wasn’t just me thinking it. In fact, all three players mentioned during their press availability before Game 3 that they needed to play better. Game 3 happened, they did, and to no surprise, the Golden Knights got the result they were looking for.

As a line, we played a lot better. We were able to capitalize on a couple of opportunities. Felt good offensively. I still think we need to be a better defensively. I thought our wall play was a little poor at times, especially myself, so I’ve got to be better. -Alex Tuch

James Neal was on the ice for all three Golden Knights goals, and Erik Haula and Tuch were out there for the second and third. They did not allow a goal while on the ice and the line as a whole put up by far the best advanced stat numbers of the game for Vegas.

I thought tonight they were more involved on the offense. They played really well and had a great two periods and fell off a little bit in the third. -Gerard Gallant

The Vegas 2nd line now has the advantage in every major statistical category on the line of Paul Stastny, Patrik Laine, and Nikolaj Ehlers including the most important one, goals scored. However, the Golden Knights’ 2nd line center still isn’t satisfied.

We look in the mirror every morning and we know when we need to be better. We need to be right up there with Karlsson’s line. -Erik Haula

Haula admitted his line played better, but he appears well aware how crucial they are to the outcome in the series. If the 2nd line gets on the board a couple more times in Game 4, the Golden Knights will probably be heading north of the border looking to claim the Campbell Bowl.

Golden Knights 2nd Line Needed To Win Game 2

Must be more of this in Game 2. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

0 goals. -3 rating. 18:00+ minutes on ice.

That was the output of the Golden Knights 2nd line of Erik Haula, David Perron, and James Neal in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.

To make it even worse, between the three of them they did not record a single shot on goal.

That is not good enough.

Vegas’ 2nd line spent a majority of their time on the ice against the Winnipeg 2nd line of Patrik Laine, Paul Stastny, and Nikolaj Ehlers as well as their 2nd defensive pairing of Dustin Byfuglien and Toby Enstrom.

This matchup will continue to be one of the keys to the series. Not only because the Golden Knights need scoring out of that line but because they must avoid allowing those Jets to score. In Game 1, it was 1-0 Jets when those eight players were on the ice, but the shot attempts, shots on goal, and scoring chances were heavily in favor of the Jets as well.

The Jets 2nd line shut down the Predators 2nd line and it’s a big reason why the Jets are here, while the Golden Knights 2nd line had success against the Sharks. Vegas is best when they are rolling multiple offensive lines, if their 2nd best scoring line disappears, their chances to win this series dimish drastically.

David Perron did not skate this morning while Tomas Tatar skated in his place both in line rushes and on the power play. Whether it’s Perron or Tatar, the Golden Knights need more from the 2nd line. Otherwise, they’re going to be staring at a 2-0 deficit when they board the plane to come back to Las Vegas.

Golden Knights Weren’t Just Off In The First Eight Minutes

Wonder if Gallant makes any changes to the lineup. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

NBC announcers Joe Micheletti and Pierre McGuire used words like panic, upset and frustrated to describe the Golden Knights in Game 1. In the first period, Micheletti even said “Winnipeg is the quicker team” and he wasn’t wrong, at that time. The Jets deserve a ton of credit jumping on Vegas early and winning the series opener.

However, outside of the first twenty minutes of play, the final numbers tell a different story. The Golden Knights average game stats were all out of whack but can take away some positives.

Shots on goal
VGK – 21
WPG – 26

  • Vegas tied their lowest SOG total over the entire regular season and postseason
  • First game this season without a shot from Erik Haula, Colin Miller, James Neal and David Perron
  • First game since 2/21 (loss at Wild) that James Neal failed to register a shot on net
  • Colin Miller now has four postseason games without a shot on net
  • David Perron has three postseason games without a shot on net

Giveaways
VGK – 11
WPG – 14

  • Third highest total of giveaways in a playoff
  • Vegas is 1-3 when they turn the puck over 10+ times in a game

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Nate Schmidt And Erik Haula: A Love Story Made For The Golden Knights

As the gathered media waited in the locker room inside Staples Center each Golden Knights player came in one at a time. Fleury walked through wearing a pair of Euro style tight jeans, Neal appeared in fancy sneakers, and Bellemare walked in wearing spandex that were a little too short for comfort. Then, in walked Nate Schmidt. Like always he was wearing a giant smile and laughing at anyone who wanted to laugh with him. He was also wearing sandals, but they didn’t match, the left foot was his own sandal marked with a little sticker with the number 88 on it, on the other foot was a sandal he “stole” because he couldn’t find his. It was that of his best friend on the team, Erik Haula, and it was an image that couldn’t have been more perfect for the story I was there to write.

There are many strong pairs of friends on this team. Alex Tuch and Shea Theodore live together, and Jonathan Marchessault and David Perron hit it off before training camp and became even closer on 1 October, but there’s not a friendship quite like Haula and Schmidt.

Erik Haula moved from Finland to the U.S. when he was 16. He attended high school in Faribault, Minnesota before going on to college at the University of Minnesota. While there, his roommate was Nate Schmidt.

Haula wound up on the Minnesota Wild while Schmidt ended up in Washington D.C. to begin their NHL careers, but that didn’t mean they didn’t keep in touch.

We had played in college, we played on softball teams together in the Summer, we’d work out in the same gym… although he’d show up a little later than I did. -Nate Schmidt

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Erik Haula’s Game Winning Goal

A look back at Erik Haula’s game winning goal in Game 2 of the first round against the Los Angeles Kings from every angle we were able to capture.

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Golden Knights Face “Pressure” Unlike Any Other Playoff Team

On numerous occasions this year, TSN’s legendary reporter Bob McKenzie has declared the Golden Knights to be the best story he’s ever covered in hockey. For an expansion team that goes on to tally 109 points, never experience a four-game losing streak, dominate the Western Conference, and eventually be crowned champions of the Pacific Division, it’s hard to disagree with him. But every great story needs an ending, and not every ending is as great as the story that led up to it.

When you go into the playoffs you are not going to be satisfied just to be in the playoffs. Right now my expectation is to have a great series and move on to the next round, but I understand that all over the town the expectation is a little more than that because we aren’t going to lie to each other, it’s a cool story, we are a cool story. So when we stop, everyone is going to be like “ahhh, it’s too soon,” for everybody, not just for the players, but for the town. -Pierre-Edouard Bellemare

It’s been a ride that’s captured the hearts of every resident of Las Vegas, most hockey fans, and the sports world in general, but what will the Golden Knights do next?

I think there is a hope. The expectation from the media is “I hope this team goes far” because it’s been a great story and nobody wants it to end. -Bellemare

That hope brings unique expectations on the Golden Knights. Unlike the Predators, Penguins, Capitals, Lightning, Bruins, or any of the other top teams, Vegas isn’t necessarily expected to win the Stanley Cup. But also unlike the Avalanche or Devils, the Golden Knights are not without outside pressure to perform.

I don’t like the word pressure. That word, I just don’t like it. I think it brings negativity in the air. I don’t know what word would be better, but I just don’t like the word pressure. I know the swings that you go through, good and bad. I’ve been down (in series), I’ve been up in series, and you’ve just got to ride those things and you’ve got to stick together as a group, and just have fun with it. This is supposed to be fun and hopefully it lasts a long time. -Erik Haula

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News And Notes From VGK vs CBJ

These two weren’t playing together, but they both played well. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Bounce Back for D

  • Brayden McNabb and Deryk Engelland played a big role shutting down the Devils young, quick forwards.
    • McNabb TOI – 24:55, 11 Hits, 11 Defensive Zone Starts, -1 Rating
    • Engelland TOI – 24:27, 3 Hits, 10 Defensive Zone Starts, +1 Rating, 1 Goal
  • Golden Knights allowed less than 10 “High Danger” scoring chances for the first time in their last six games.

Ending the Losing Streak

The victory ended the Golden Knights three-game skid. Along with eight other teams, Vegas hasn’t dropped four straight games this season. All eight teams are playoff contenders.

Minnesota: (1) 3 game losing streak
Nashville: (1) 3 game losing streak
Tampa: (1) 3 game losing streak
Winnipeg: (1) 3 game losing streak
Washington: (2) 3 game losing streaks
Dallas: (3) 3 game losing streaks
Pittsburgh: (3) 3 game losing streaks
Vegas: (3) 3 game losing streaks

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Third Period’s Haula’s

This is UrbanDictionary.com’s definition of the word clutch.

Exactly what you need, exactly when you need it.

In the last few seconds of a close game, only a player with ‘clutch’ can lead the team to victory. -Urban Dictionary

He doesn’t even really have to try anymore. The other teams are just giving him 3rd period goals now. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Or in other words, Erik Haula.

As we all watched on Tuesday night as Vegas ripped a game away from Calgary, Haula continued to be one of the Golden Knights top third-period performers. In the last frame, the 26-year-old center has three game-winning goals, three game-tying goals, and two empty-net goals. Those are cluth numbers for an entire season, let alone with 34 games to go.

Haula’s Third Period Scoring Summary: 17 Points (13 Goals, 6 Assists)
11/04/17 @ Ottawa: Scores game-winning PP goal (6:47)
11/16/17 @ Vancouver: Scored game-winning goal (6:27)
12/05/17 vs Anaheim: Scored game-tying goal (15:38)
12/08/17 @ Nashville: Scored game-tying goal (19:20)
12/09/17 @ Dallas: Scored empty-net goal (19:17)
12/17/17 vs Florida: Scored game-winning goal (11:40)
12/19/17 vs Tampa Bay: *Assist on Shea Theodore’s game-winning goal (19:57)
1/23/18 vs Columbus: Scored empty-net goal (18:58)
1/30/18 @ Calgary: Scored game-tying goal (18:14)

As much as I’d like to shout “Third Period is Haula’s,” (please, do not ever chant this) he’ll have to share that cheer with teammate Jonathan Marchessault. #81 has one game-winning goal, and three empty-net goals as part of his 22 3rd period points.

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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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