In the shortened 2019-20 regular season the Golden Knights led the NHL with 34.5 shots on goal per game. In fact, since they entered the league Vegas has averaged the second-most shots per game over that three-season span.
Vegas led the entire NHL in 19-20 with 28 victories when they won the SOG battle. That’s 71% of their total wins for the season. The Golden Knights went 28-12-7 (.670), and are now 92-43-13 (.665) in franchise history when they’ve outshot other teams. Compare that to their 11-12-1 (.479) record this year when they were outshot and 35-37-9 (.488) all-time.
In 22 games as Golden Knights coach, DeBoer’s club outscored opponents 19 times, and went a stellar 13-4-2.
The bulk of the shots come mostly from the Golden Knights top-six forwards. Max Pacioretty led the team averaging 4.32 shots per game, followed by Jonathan Marchessault. Shea Theodore and Alex Tuch do their part as well, both creating several scoring chances per night. When DeBoer gets all of his weapons firing on net, opposing goaltenders have to play at their best, or else it’ll likely be a long night.
VGK Shot Leaders
Max Pacioretty: 4.32 S/GP Jonathan Marchessault: 3.56 S/GP Shea Theodore: 3.08 S/GP Mark Stone: 2.58 S/GP Reilly Smith: 2.38 S/GP Alex Tuch: 2.33 S/GP William Karlsson: 2.19 S/GP
If you had a chance to watch SinBin’s Virtual Game Show, you would’ve seen me guess incorrectly which player leads the Golden Knights organization in power play assists. I answered Jonathon Marchessault with 27 PP assists, but was off by one.
Defenseman Shea Theodore leads the franchise with 28 power play assists. Based on games played it was a bit surprising, but when you check his man-advantage time on ice, it clearly makes sense. With over 567 PP minutes served for the Golden Knights, Theodore has become Vegas’ ace in the hole on the power play.
TSN’s Travis Yost argues over the past few years defensemen have been marginalized on the PP. Mostly because a majority of teams use a four forward unit. The Golden Knights have been one of those clubs. Sure, we’ve seen variations of 5-on-4 lines but Theodore is usually the lone defenseman. Which is why he’s gradually become more effective on Vegas’ power play. His PP statistics prove while he’s a valuable asset, blueliners overall are underutilized on offensive special teams.
It’s not a trivial data point. A few years ago, teams started to shift towards a four-forward power play because it yielded more scoring opportunities and, consequently, goals. –Travis Yost, TSN
This season, Theodore had the 17th most power play points in the NHL for a defenseman.
Without a doubt the 24-year-old has become the Golden Knights #1 blueline option on the PP. Theodore’s PP TOI% is 70.6% (5th in the NHL), showing he’s deployed like John Carlson, Torey Krug, Rasmus Dahlin, and Kris Letang.
Since the beginning, the Golden Knights have had 23 captains. Technically, they’ve had about 10 with a variety of players wearing “A’s” through the first three seasons, but the underlying mantra of “23 captains” has been a part of the fabric of the Golden Knights’ locker room since they first got together back in September of 2017.
With the new coach in town, that could be changing in the very near future.
I’m a believer in a captain and I think we have a lot of candidates in that dressing room. I’m still getting to know the group, but that’s something I’ll have to discuss with Bill Foley and George and Kelly and see what their feeling is on it. -Pete DeBoer on VGK Q&A Podcast for season ticket holders
Vegas is one of five teams in the NHL currently without a captain. They are also the only team that has not had a captain in any of the previous three years. No captainless team has won the Stanley Cup since 1972.
In the 30/31 team era (00-18) there were 18 seasons. Only 2 times did all teams have a captain. 7.1% of teams went without a captain. 0% of them won the Cup (0 of 34)
I think the reason we didn’t have a captain in Vegas, to begin with, was the identity of this team, basically coming out of expansion you were getting all these guys that were left unprotected or traded for, was the strength of the team was going to be in the group. -DeBoer
That reason was repeated time and time again by management, coaches, and the players during the Gallant era. DeBoer thinks the time is near that the first “C” is stitched into a Golden Knights jersey.
When, how, or if the NHL season picks back up will probably remain a mystery for a while longer, but every day that ticks off the calendar it becomes clearer and clearer the regular season will not be completed in its entirety.
They may come back and play a few games or they may even eliminate a few games and backdate the season to the 68-game mark to make it even. Either way, the stats on the board currently are likely to be pretty close to what ultimately goes down in the record books for the 2019-20 regular season.
Despite playing 71 games, with most of the rest of the league playing fewer than 70, the Golden Knights have a player listed in the top 10 of just two standard offensive statistical categories. Max Pacioretty’s 307 shots on goal have him ranked 3rd behind Nathan MacKinnon and Alex Ovechkin and Ryan Reaves led the NHL in hits with 316.
But that’s it. No one’s in the top 10 in goals, assists, points, +/-, shooting percentage, PIM, TOI, blocks, faceoff stats, or even point shares.
Here’s a look at the Golden Knights’ highest ranking in each statistical category.
Goals Leader – David Pastrnak: 48 VGK – Max Pacioretty: 32
Assists Leader – Leon Draisaitl: 67 VGK – Mark Stone: 42
Points Leader – Leon Draisaitl: 110 VGK – Max Pacioretty: 66
The prudent answers are “we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” “when it’s safe,” or even “I have no idea.” Player after player after manager after owner, even the commissioner, are non-committal, uninsightful and frankly unassuring.
We’re exploring all options but when we will have an opportunity to return depends on things we have absolutely no control over. –Gary Bettman on CNN
Enter Jonathan Marchessault and Drew Doughty.
Oh, it’s impossible that it’s over. It’s just impossible. Honestly, I don’t play 70 regular season games to not play in the playoffs. I just don’t do that. I think the NHL thinks the same, because that’s why every hockey player is playing. –Marchessault to VegasGoldenKnights.com
Honestly I don’t see how the season is going to return. We’re all kind of just sitting at home obviously hoping to return to the season or hope to watch the playoffs return. I would think the NHL or whoever would make the decision would have to make some kind of decision on that soon. And it seems like it’s going to be pretty tough to return, resume the season or playoffs. –Doughty to The Athletic
Rays of truth. Polar opposites, but truth.
The challenge the NHL is presented is illustrated inside these two quotes.
On one side you have a player whose team is sitting in 1st place in the division and has his eyes set on the Stanley Cup. On the other side, there’s a guy whose season ended long ago and his focus is on 2020-21 when he and his teammates start fresh.
Both broke stride of the hockey norm to actually spew some honesty. Publicly, there won’t be many like these two, there just aren’t enough Drew Doughtys and Jonathan Marchessaults in the world. But privately, every player, every coach, every manager, every executive, every owner, and even every fan has their truth and unfortunately, there’s not a solution to please everyone.
Silly comments from P.K. Subban shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone around the Golden Knights. Remember this?
He knows he bit me. I’m not trying to rip his head off. I’m not that type of player… I don’t know how I walk out of there with four minutes in penalties… It wasn’t explained. They tried to apologize after the fact that they gave me four minutes in penalties. My finger is bleeding. I don’t know what you want me to do.-P.K. Subban accusing Pierre-Edouard Bellemare of biting his finger, 01/23/19
Well P.K. is back, and he’s pushing the idea of a ridiculous 31-team playoff. Subban believes the NHL should allow every club a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup, including his 68 point Devils team. Contenders like the Golden Knights worked hard to position themselves for a Cup run, but none of that matters to the former Norris Trophy winner.
It was kind of floated around… I saw a few things on social media and I like that. For my team specifically, we were pushing to make the playoffs down the stretch. I would like to see our team have an opportunity to compete for the Stanley Cup. I’d love too see a 31-team playoff and give those pesky Devils an opportunity of bringing the Cup back home to New Jersey. I’d love to see that. -PK Subban on ESPN
While it might sound intriguing to certain fanbases, it makes zero sense for any legitimate contender. In fact, the real losers would end up being the Golden Knights and other elite clubs. Why should they be punished for playing strong during the 71-game paused season?
The NHL is not college basketball, or even the World Cup. The Stanley Cup playoffs is not a tournament of rewarded participants, it’s a tournament of winners. So, why would Vegas, St. Louis, Boston or Tampa want to risk playing a team that has nothing to lose, and face losing to a #16th seed? They wouldn’t, and frankly, they’d be wronged if the league forced them too.
If you’re New Jersey, you’re sitting there and you say, ‘okay fair enough we realize below the cut line.’ Then you say but Montreal, sitting with 71 games 71 points. The Devils go ‘whoa, whoa, whoa, time out, we’re three points behind Montreal with two games in hand. Why would you give Montreal a chance?’ The Devils would say ‘well Montreal can’t be a part of any postseason thing because we got a better point percentage then them.’ So, I guess that’s kind of where P.K. was coming from. -Bob McKenzie
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?
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.
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.
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.