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Mark Stone/Jonathan Marchessault Combo Dominating In Slovakia

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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

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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

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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”

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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.”

VGK’s First Line Owns San Jose

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20 goals, 37 assists, and a +35 rating in 14 games. Those are the combined numbers for William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, and Reilly Smith against the San Jose Sharks since joining the Vegas Golden Knights.

In the playoff series last year, the Golden Knights top line went off, scoring eight goals and racking up a total of 25 points. One of the three scored a goal in every game of the series save for Game 4 when Vegas was shut out. They all posted a 54% Corsi at even strength, owned 55% of the scoring chances while playing against the Sharks top players, and scored six goals while allowing just one.

Nothing has changed this season either. Karlsson has scored three times in four games against the Sharks, Smith has a goal and six assists, Marchessault has two goals, and all three are at least a +4.

All in all, the Golden Knights top line have averaged 1.43 goals, 2.64 assists, and +2.5 per game against San Jose.

This must continue as we head into the first round series with the Sharks. San Jose has one of the most balanced forward units in the NHL, but what they don’t have is a truly dominant first line, either offensively or defensively. Therefore, Karlsson, Marchessault, and Smith should have a favorable matchup each and every time they step on the ice.

Well, I mean, we wanna be there every night producing, right? That’s a challenge, I think. San Jose is a great team so we gotta be there every single night and every game counts. -William Karlsson

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Since the Trade Deadline, when the Golden Knights added Mark Stone and the Sharks picked up Gustav Nyquist, the Sharks have deployed Nyquist (with Timo Meier and Logan Couture) primarily against Karlsson, Marchessault, and Smith. It has not gone well for the Sharks… to say the least.

In about seven and a half minutes against the Golden Knights top line, Nyquist has been on the ice for five goals while scoring just one, his Corsi is 33%, and his team has landed just three shots with him on the ice. It’s not much better for Meier or Couture either as both have also been on the ice for at least three goals against as well.

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Golden Knights’ “Top” Line Playing Like It – Just In Time

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s twice-weekly column publishes every Wednesday and Sunday during the Golden Knights season.** 

For the first couple of weeks of March, you were sure the world had flipped upside down.

Paul Stastny, Max Pacioretty and the recently acquired Mark Stone were the Golden Knights’ top line. They were competing. They were scoring. They were dominating at both ends of the ice.

It made you wonder what was going on with William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith, the Knights’ regular No. 1 unit. They had been running hot and cold most of the year and if you were the opposing team’s coach, you had greater concerns for the Stastny line.

But as we have seen the past week, Karlsson, Marchessault, and Smith are playing like the top line they should be. And could the timing be better?

We’re in the final push to the playoffs. The Knights, who are likely to remain in third place in the Pacific Division, have 41 wins and 87 points with nine games to play, seven behind second-place San Jose and nine in front of Arizona, which is batting for the final wild card spot.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

And while it’s easy for us to look ahead to the second week of April and the Stanley Cup Playoffs, if you’re Karlsson, Marchessault and Smith, these final 2 1/2 weeks, beginning Thursday at T-Mobile Arena against Winnipeg, are critical in building momentum and confidence. You want to go into the postseason playing your best hockey and we’re seeing signs of that from the line.

Here’s the way things have broken down over the last five games, which saw the Knights go 4-1 as part of their current 9-1 run:

Marchessault — 4 goals, 3 assists, 7 points
Smith — 2 goals, 6 assists, 8 points
Karlsson — 1 goal, 4 assists, 5 points

That’s a combined seven goals and 13 assists for 20 points, an average of four points a game for the line. Any coach would take that kind of productivity.

So what changed?

Part of it is Smith is 100 percent healthy and he has remained on the line after Gerard Gallant moved him around after he returned to the ice after he missed nearly a month in early January with an injury. When he’s right and playing his game, Smith is arguably the best two-way winger on the Knights, though some may point to Stone and say he has supplanted Smith in that role.

Marchessault? His thing is putting the puck in the net. And with back-to-back two-goal games, he may be finding his groove. Granted, he beat a sieve of a goalie Sunday in Edmonton’s Mikko Koskinen, who could have the worst glove I’ve seen from an NHL goalie in years. But think about all the times we’ve seen Marchessault look up to the heavens after hitting a crossbar, missing an open net or getting robbed by the other team’s goalie? Things tend to even themselves out in hockey and if you’re a goal-scorer like Marchessault, your puck luck ultimately finds its level.

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Time To Break Up The Top Six

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Last night was an eye-opener for the 2018-19 Golden Knights. After a tough loss against the Arizona Coyotes, the fourth straight at home, Gerard Gallant delivered a strong message in the locker room following the game. The team followed it up with a lengthy, competitive practice on Friday and then went without morning skate on Saturday. It appeared they had hit rock bottom and appeared primed to start the turnaround.

Last year’s team had its moments too, but every time they would come back, play great, and win. This team didn’t.

Instead, this team got outmanned in a game they simply came up short in the talent department. The foursome of Auston Matthews, John Tavares, William Nyander, and Mitch Marner scored three goals and tallied seven points while the entire Golden Knights top six (Karlsson, Marchessault, Smith, Stastny, Tuch, and Pacioretty) had two goals and four points with half of that damage coming on a shorthanded goal.

The VGK 2nd line was a combined -8 and the 1st line put up a miserable 25% Corsi For percentage as a group. Matthews’ line ate up Stastny, Pacioretty and Tuch scoring twice and posting seven scoring chances to Vegas’ one. All in all the Golden Knights top six played 20 of the 36 minutes of even strength action and accounted for one goal while allowing three and created just seven scoring chances compared to Toronto’s 17 while they were on the ice.

Here’s the good news. Despite all of it, and while playing the worst hockey in franchise history, the Golden Knights were right there. They had a lead in the 2nd, tied the game in the 3rd, and had a power play chance to take the lead inside of 15 minutes remaining in the game. This is still the same team that posted 60 points in their first 48 games and positioned themselves safely in the playoff picture.

With just four games before the trade deadline, it’s time the Golden Knights look in the mirror and realize they have to win with balance. No longer is their first line so dominant that they can be relied upon to not only shut down the oppositions top line but score while they’re at it. They can’t expect their 2nd line to pick up the slack left behind by the inevitable regression of that 1st line. They need to return to what became their identity last year and what was at times earlier this season. A balanced attack that never stops applying pressure.

The best way to do that, break up the top six.

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A Memorable Off Day That May Change The Golden Knights Season

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s Super Bowl Sunday. You have the day off at a five-star oceanside resort in Fort Lauderdale. It’s a beautiful 80 degrees and sunny. Plus, a bunch of your co-workers/friends are there with you. So, what do you do?

Beach day!

We all spent our time together. We went to breakfast and then we met at the beach, played volleyball, a big tournament. Then we went and watched the Super Bowl, it was just the perfect day for our team. -Jonathan Marchessault

Last week after the Saturday game in Florida, nearly the entire team gathered for a meal, put on the swim trunks, and hit the sandy beaches of the Atlantic Ocean. It was unscheduled, it was completely voluntary, and apparently, it was a blast.

I think me and Reilly (Smith) were like, we need to go play volleyball that day, it’ll be fun. I think we played for 3 or 4 hours. -Marchessault

There are a few moments where you can really tell how close a group was, but with this, it was not mandatory, and everybody showed up, everybody came, it says a lot. Guys were free to do whatever they wanted (that day), but guys wanted to come and wanted to enjoy a day with the boys. -Pierre-Edouard Bellemare

Get some Vitamin D, get in the ocean, pretty good workout, yeah it was good. We all just ended up in the same place and had a good time. -Max Pacioretty

It was the only true off day during the longest remaining road trip of the season. The Golden Knights had just taken frustrating losses in back-to-back nights in Carolina and Florida and were mired in the worst losing streak in franchise history. All eyes back in Vegas were on a Tuesday showdown with the best team in hockey, the Tampa Bay Lighting, but amid the panic at home, the Golden Knights had a different focus, a better one.

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Top Line Reboot

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Heading into this season the Golden Knights top line of Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson, and Reilly Smith were expected to lead the charge. A combined +116 with 92 goals a year ago between just the three had them as one of the best lines in all of hockey.

The chemistry they had in the regular season extended into the playoffs. It picked right back up when the trio was reunited in preseason to start this year. 20+ games in, the numbers weren’t quite as staggering as a year ago, but there was no question Marchessault, Karlsson, and Smith were the best line the Golden Knights had and remained a force to be reckoned with.

But recently, it’s hit the skids. Prior to the game in Detroit, the last time Marchessault, Karlsson, and Smith all had a point in the same game was on December 14th (a stretch of 12 games playing together and 23 total). Smith’s injury put a halt to the line altogether, but even before it, the previous 10 games they were together, they managed just 10 total points and only five goals. As importantly, the defense appeared to be slipping as well.

During Smith’s absence, it did not improve for Marchessault and Karlsson, instead it got much worse. The pair combined for five goals in nine games (four of which were scored in the same game), just four assists, and they posted a miserable -17 over the three-week span.

Yet, when Smith was ready, he wasn’t put back on the line with Marchessault and Karlsson, instead, Gallant gave them Valentin Zykov for a couple games, and there was a level of success. However, midway through the game in Detroit, following a penalty kill, Marchessault, Karlsson, and Smith found themselves on the ice together once again, and it looked like the old days again.

They were a combined +5 in Thursday’s game, scored three goals and had five points, but more importantly, their shifts were dominant almost every time they touched the ice.

It wasn’t really a plan, I didn’t think the line was going as good as it could have, so sometimes you shake things up a little bit and piss people off a little bit maybe. It works sometimes. -Gerard Gallant

I’m not sure who Gallant was trying to “piss off” but it appeared to work… at least for one night.

It feels like a reboot and sometimes that’s just what a line needs. A fresh start, which they now have.

They’ve been real good. They’re finding some life there a little bit and I thought the last game was excellent. It’s all about timing, and I expect them to be good for the next 25 games. -Gallant

Tonight is a tough test against a terrific defensive team in the Blue Jackets. The last two times Vegas has faced Columbus, the Golden Knights scored a total of one goal.

However, the time before, the only trip Columbus has made to T-Mobile Arena, Vegas dropped six on them, including two from Karlsson and a pair of assists from Marchessault.

The Golden Knights need Marchessault, Karlsson, and Smith to produce, whether they’re playing together or not. For now, they’re reunited. Hopefully, it keeps feeling as good as it did Thursday night in Detroit.

Is Jonathan Marchessault Out Of His Slump?

**Steve Carp’s twice-weekly column publishes every Wednesday and Sunday during the Golden Knights season.** 

January has not been particularly kind to Jonathan Marchessault.

The Golden Knights’ right wing had spent most of the month frustrated and being thwarted by opposing goaltenders and the net which they protect.

Great saves. Hit posts and crossbars. Missed opportunities. They all contributed to a stretch that saw Marchessault kept off the scoresheet for six of the team’s first seven games in the opening month of 2019.

You could see the frustration on his face. But to his credit, Marchessault never stopped working, never stopped shooting. The good ones never do. He’s like a basketball player whose jump shot eluded him but he doesn’t stop taking jumpers. Eventually, they’re going to go in.

And that’s what is happening to Marchessault. He had a hat trick last Saturday in the 7-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Monday, he picked up an assist in the 4-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild. That’s four points in his last two games.

So, is Marchy out of his slump?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

We’ll get a better idea tonight when the Knights host Nashville at T-Mobile Arena in what is a very important game heading into the All-Star break. Marchessault may be reunited with linemate Reilly Smith, who has been out since Jan. 8. He has been skating with Brandon Pirri the last couple of games and that may have had something to do with his getting back on the scoresheet.

But getting Smith back would be big, not just for Marchessault and William Karlsson, the other member of the team’s top line, but for the Knights themselves.

You saw what defenseman Colin Miller’s return has meant to the team. Getting Smith back improves the power play, improves the penalty kill and make the other lines stronger. It also helps get the Knights closer to normalcy in terms of having the roster they envisioned at the start of the season.

Marchessault has not missed any time in 2018-19. He is one of four Knights to have played all 51 games to date (Karlsson, Brayden McNabb and Nick Holden are the others). Despite the early January drought, he still leads the team in goals with 17 and is second on the team in overall points to Alex Tuch with 35.

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