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The Golden Knights Identity; What Is It? What Is It Supposed To Be?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

When Pete DeBoer was first hired a common term he would use in talking about his new team was “identity.” He said it in a number of ways but the refrain was always the same, that the team had a great identity and when they played with it they were almost unbeatable, but recently it had been lost and they were playing without it.

Here’s one example from five days after he was hired.

I think for me just playing aggressive, and dictating games and wearing teams down with our depth because we have the ability to roll four lines and be really hard to play against. I think we want to get back to that. Not that that slipped totally off the table but that’s something this team did better than anybody in the league for a long time and we want to try and get that type of identity back. -DeBoer on 1/20/20

I have to admit, it’s a term that’s always troubled me. Identity. I don’t even really know what it means. Everyone uses it, heck I’ve even used it, but if you pinned me down to explain exactly how it relates to a hockey team, I can’t do it. So to hear it over and over again from the new head coach as basically the primary focus on how to solve the issues the Golden Knights had been having, I couldn’t help but tilt my head the way Wiglaf and Rupert do when I ask them if they want a piece of cheese.

What is the Golden Knights identity? What’s it supposed to be? Has it changed?

I’ve spent the last three weeks pondering all of this and finally had a chance to ask a few players, and the coach, specifically about it. Take a listen to it all, in its raw form. First is Jonathan Marchessault, then Nate Schmidt, Paul Stastny, and it ends with Pete DeBoer.

I’ve listened to each of those four interviews about 10 teams apiece and I still have no clue how to define the Golden Knights identity.

It’s just a bunch of buzzwords that apply to every hockey team.

Relentless. Heavy. Fast. Aggressive. Play as a unit. Hard to play against.

Put that aside for a second though, I’ll get back to it.

However anyone defines it, it seems to have shifted. Well, sorta shifted. Actually, no it hasn’t shifted at all. It’s exactly the same, it just looks a little different because this team is more skilled, or to use a simpler term, better.

But it’s not. Or at least it hasn’t been when counting wins.

Both teams have the ability to check off all the buzzwords. The makeup of the team really isn’t that different aside from adding a new buzzword, “heavy,” which really just means “we have Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty now.”

So why aren’t they playing the same way? Why are they going through all these problems? Why was the identity lost in the middle of the third season?

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Jonathan Marchessault’s New Stick Helping In More Ways Than One

Marchessault’s new stick. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The stick for a hockey player is like the car for a taxi driver, a knife for a chef, or a phone for a blogger legitimate journalist. If the tool is not operating at peak performance the person using it can’t either.

Late last year Jonathan Marchessault felt his stick wasn’t living up to expectations. So, about two weeks before the playoffs he made a change. Swapping out the CCM brand for a Bauer.

For me, it’s all about the lightest stick and the Bauer is the lightest for me and I love it. -Marchessault

He kept that stick throughout the Sharks series (where he scored what should have been the biggest goal in team history, until it wasn’t), through the preseason, and well into this season.

But a month ago, Marchessault felt that his stick was starting to let him down again. With just five goals in his first 29 games, you’d think it was because he wasn’t putting the puck in the net,

My shot has always been good, it’s just a matter of sometimes you just get lucky. -Marchessault

Or in his case, unlucky. Instead, it was a different aspect of the game he was trying to sure up in changing sticks once again mid-season.

It’s not because of my shot but because of the stick battles that I would lose. When you go in a battle and your stick is soft, it whips. -Marchessault

He still uses the same Bauer stick, but he has upgraded the flex and the grip on his stick to make it stiffer. It seems to be working.

I’m winning more puck battles, trying to get more steals. The NHL now is all about turnovers and the way your forecheck so this is helping with that. -Marchessault

Marchessault’s old stick. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

He’s risen to 5th on the team in takeaways with 18 and his defensive point shares number has jumped above the likes of Paul Stastny, Cody Eakin, and Tomas Nosek.

Whether it was intended or not, the goals have started to come with it as well. Marchessault has four in his last four games along with six points in his last six. Plus, he just looks like a more confident player on the ice. He’s taking better care of the puck and his forechecking has been as ferocious as ever.

It’s a little thing, changing the flex on your stick, but it can have a huge impact, even in areas it wasn’t supposed to help.

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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Veterans Embracing Opportunity To Help Along Talented Rookies

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s been a productive preseason for the Golden Knights. The team is undefeated in four exhibition games while using a mix of reliable veterans and rising rookies. Jonathan Marchessault, Max Pacioretty, and Brandon Pirri have all skated on lines with younger players eager to make a mark. It can be a challenge at times due to their inexperience, but for the most part, the veterans seem to embrace their role in helping rookies take the next step.

I don’t think it’s a challenge, I think it’s fun. I’ve noticed that a few of the younger guys, this year they’re playing with more confidence and they’re playing better. Which helps their confidence a lot.-Brandon Pirri

Pirri formed a strong relationship with the young defenseman during his time with the Chicago Wolves last year. He says the deep AHL playoff run made a world of difference in the development of guys like Zach Whitecloud, Nic Hague, Dylan Coghlan, and Jake Bischoff.

They are very mature. They were doing NHL things in the American Hockey League. In the American League it’s more like preseason hockey, but towards the end it’s real hockey. -Pirri

Marchessault understands the pressure young prospects can feel during camp and preseason games having been in their shoes many times during his career.

It’s all about helping them. Ultimately, they want to make the team so you go out there and try to make them look good. You try and give your best effort, talk to them, and build their confidence. I know what it’s like. -Marchessault

Max Pacioretty has four preseason goals, two of them were assisted by Cody Glass. #67 enjoys playing with prospects and tries to organically help them along the way.

It needs to be genuine. If you see something that can help, rather than saying something to say something, it goes a long way. They’re good hockey players at this level. There’s things they can teach me. -Pacioretty

Overall it seems to be quite enjoyable for all of the established players. Playing on lines with players from the pipeline reminds them of their first camp experiences, and allows them an opportunity to give advice and show leadership.

Golden Knights Veterans Share Stories From Their First NHL Camps

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights won their first preseason game of the 2019-2020 campaign with a mix of veterans and rookies. Vets like Max Pacioretty and Reilly Smith took the game over mid-first period and led the Knights to an easy 6-2 victory.

Things weren’t always that easy for Pacioretty, Smith or other VGK players. Just like their younger teammates, they had to adjust to the speed and the high competition level at their first NHL camps.

I was in New York, and it was tough. -Jonathan Marchessault

Marchessault participated in several NHL team camps but his first was with the New York Rangers. Where he got to share the ice with one of his favorite NHL players.

Marian Gaborik. I remember I was playing on a line with him. Hell of a player. Growing up he was one of my favorite players. It was fun to see him out there.- Marchessault

 

When Pacioretty attended his first NHL camp, it was like the Wild West.

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William Hill Props, SinBin.vegas Picks – 2019-20

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

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.

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Mark Stone/Jonathan Marchessault Combo Dominating In Slovakia

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

This morning in Slovakia, Mark Stone scored a hat trick for Team Canada at the IIHF World Championships. He has five goals in five games and his linemate, Jonathan Marchessault, has put up two goals and four assists of his own. Simply put, the Golden Knights duo has been shredding defenses for Team Canada.

Their success together has led to a pretty obvious question, should that pair be a part of a line when they get back to Vegas?

Any time I consider the possibility of a new line combination the first thing I do is check how they’ve done while playing together. In the case of Marchessault and Stone, it’s been almost all on line changes when one gets stuck out on the ice with the other. In the regular season and playoffs combined, that happened for a total of 20:15 at 5-on-5.

In those 20 minutes, the Golden Knights scored twice and generated 12 shots on goal. They also created 10 scoring chances with five coming in high danger areas. Pretty darn good for a pair that doesn’t actually play together.

So, if it were to happen, who would play in between them?

Well, that could go one of two ways, either with Paul Stastny or William Karlsson. Here’s how I’d project it with each player in between Marchessault and Stone.

Marchessault-Karlsson-Stone
Pacioretty-Stastny-Smith
Gusev-Haula-Tuch
Nosek/Carpenter-Eakin-Reaves/Carrier

Marchessault-Stastny-Stone
Gusev-Karlsson-Smith
Pacioretty-Haula-Tuch
Nosek/Carpenter-Eakin-Reaves/Carrier

Both options look pretty good, but the third line on that second option is downright scary. The idea of replacing Marchessault with Gusev makes a lot of sense as they play a similar style of game. Also, Gusev’s defensive deficiencies (which we aren’t even sure if they are real yet), would be covered up by Karlsson and Smith. Of course, this is assuming Haula does indeed take a center spot, which may not happen.

Either way, the options are going to be there for Gerard Gallant when the Golden Knights return to Vegas for training camp in September. It will be interesting to see how much tinkering he does with his new glut of highly skilled forwards.

The Golden Knights have seven preseason games. You’d have to think Stone and Marchessault find their way on a line together in one of them, it’ll be up to them to make it as successful here as it’s been in Slovakia.

Locker Room Clean-Out Day Highlights

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

In the final media availability of the season nearly every Golden Knights player spoke to the media. We also had extended press conferences with The Creator, George McPhee, and Gerard Gallant.

Of course, there will probably be 50 stories on this site based off many of the comments on this day, but we wanted to share some of the highlights from the day.

(If you would like to listen to every second of the nearly 2 hours and 15 minutes of locker room interviews that we participated in, go here or to our podcast feed.)

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Game 7 Mentality For Game 6 Reality

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights are one win away from advancing to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Although it’s not an elimination game for Vegas, many players are mentally preparing as if tonight’s contest is a series-deciding Game 7.

We’ve got to play like it’s our last one.-Cody Eakin

Yesterday, several Golden Knights expressed having a Game 7 mindset. Jonathan Marchessault has been a part of every clinching game in franchise history. The forward knows how crucial it is advancing in less than seven games. Something Vegas never faced during last season’s Cup chase.

This has to be the biggest game of the series. We need to close it out. It’s hard to do but we need to want it more than them. -Jonathan Marchessault

Golden Knights veteran Max Pacioretty has played in a handful of deep series over his eleven-year career. His focus for tonight’s game is the same as if it were an elimination game.

There’s really no excuse when you come home and you have a day off, and then a practice day the next day. No matter what, you should feel one hundred percent. You get a day off you really need to use it to your advantage. Sure, both teams have it but at the same time we feel that being at home in front of our crowd… we’ve found ways to get them to be the difference maker in home games. -Max Pacioretty

Eakin is only concerned about winning because he’s aware of the edge San Jose would gain if they were to force a Game 7.

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Marchessault: “Maybe They Should Start Giving Out Fines And Guys Will Think Twice About It”

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

With the exception of last night’s Game 5, at the end of games in this first-round series I catch myself having the same thought, how do players have the energy to beat each other up after a playing a grueling 60-minute playoff game?

Come to find out Golden Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault has had the same concern.

Yeah we were actually talking about this. I think the league should start giving out fines when games are out of hand… it’s just stupid stuff that happens. It’s not only our series. -Marchessault

Of course we can’t let the Golden Knights off the hook but San Jose was out of control up until last night. Evander Kane, Timo Meier, Marcus Sorensen and others have created several barroom brawls at the end of their three losses. Causing multiple game misconducts, and unnecessary injuries. Vegas got a quick scare when Cody Eakin was bloodied up wrestling with Meier after Game 3.

With little consequence why would a losing team stop instigating when the game is out of hand? If a penalty is assessed it won’t matter to an angry player because penalties don’t carry over. In a strange way, physical scrums late in one-sided games can benefit the losing team.

There’s a time and a place for it. When you’re up 5-0 last thing you want to do is give them any advantage. That’s all extra stuff. At the end of the day, you just want to win games. That’s what we’re all here for. -Brayden McNabb

Mucking it up after the whistle is one thing, but intent to injure another player when a game gets out of hand is beyond the code.

Maybe they should start giving out fines and maybe guys will think twice about it. They had Meier clearing the puck on Miller on purpose. It’s just stupid. We don’t need this. You really want to injure a guy? I think it’s something they should look into.”-Marchessault

Last night’s game was tight down the stretch so neither team could risk a minor or a severe penalty. Both teams played more disciplined and kept it clean after the horn. With two elimination games left I’d expect Vegas and San Jose to control their emotions and focus solely on winning, but if a game gets out of hand in the third, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if the extracurricular stuff comes back.

That being said, don’t worry about the end of series handshake line, both teams respect the game and their opponent enough to forgive the insults, elbows and left-hooks.

In the immortal words of Omar Little, “A man must have a code.”

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