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Backup Advice Is Part Of The Culture In Vegas

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NHL coaches like to use their entire roster. Even though a coach can only play 19 players at a time, there are 20 players suited up each game when you include the backup goaltender. Former coaches have fessed up to seeking regular advice from their backups. Hoping the sitting goalie notices something different that they can relay to the players, coaches, but more importantly the starter.

There’s a lot of validity to that because we see things so differently. To me actually, that’s a mark of a really inquisitive coach doing all of his homework. -Mike McKenna, Retired NHL goaltender and VGK TV analyst

Vegas’ Marc-Andre Fleury was a spectator last week when Malcolm Subban got the nod against St. Louis. It was a wild, multiple lead changing game that the Golden Knights came from behind to win. With the night off, Fleury was able to watch the 6-5 goal fest from a chair, wearing his snapback hat.

I think you get a different perspective when you sit there and see the whole play develop. It’s different when you’re just watching the puck when you’re in net. You think ‘I should’ve had that one, and that one’ but other times guys get good chances with some time, or on the back door. So, it’s good to have a better view of the game. -Marc Andre Fleury

The conversation goes both ways in Vegas. When he’s in net, Fleury often chats with Subban and goalie coach Dave Prior about certain plays, goals or saves. The open discussion offers the starting goaltender a view outside of himself, and from people they trust.

Yeah, we talk a little bit. Even when I play too we usually always have a little talk about goals, little plays, weird plays. Stuff like that. -Fleury

McKenna spent plenty of time viewing the game from the bench. He felt offering information to the starter was an important part of his job, being part confidante, coach, and shrink.

By the time I was in my late 20’s I realized I was in a role that realistically I was being a goalie coach in some ways too. They would bounce things off of me a lot but I would never cross that line of providing information the player was thinking or feeling. -McKenna

That was an area that McKenna stressed over and over. The advice or information needs to be asked for and accepted. Since most goalies are rare birds, it was important to recognize early on how each individual goaltender felt about discussions in between periods. McKenna was overly careful making sure his insight was wanted.

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Goalie Rotation Plans Changing Due To Standings

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This year they vowed to be different. From the head coach (the old one) to the front office to The Creator himself, the Golden Knights said they knew they needed to use a bit more of a goalie rotation than they have in the past.

You are going to see more of Subban this year, you will. George and Kelly and the coaches have it figured out and they have games identified for Subban and you are going to see him more. It’s part of what needs to happen. We want to make sure Flower is really ready for the playoffs. –The Creator on Sportsbook Radio in October 2019

After running Marc-Andre Fleury out for 61 games last season the Golden Knights were headed for a much lighter workload this season, especially after Fleury missed a few weeks following the death of his father.

However, that plan appears to be out the window now as the playoff spot everyone expected Vegas would have isn’t as secure as they would like.

We’re in the sprint to the finish here and we’re fighting for our playoff spot. We’re going to put the best lineup and the best starter out there to give us a chance to win every night. This isn’t preseason planning where you can map out, we want so many games for this guy or so many games for that guy. That’s in the rearview mirror. -Pete DeBoer on Tuesday

This was yesterday (Tuesday) before the game in Minnesota. On Monday, appearing on the Jim Rome Show, he was asked about “load management” and his answer was a bit different.

We’ve got Marc-Andre Fleury here in net in Vegas. You know he’s a 35-year-old goaltender that’s our starter. We talk about load management with him, both about starts and in practice time. We aren’t at the NBA point where we’re scratching players yet but it’s definitely in our conversations as far as practice days and off days. -DeBoer on Jim Rome Show

Fleury has started eight of the nine games under DeBoer and has been in the goal for 15 of the last 17, with one of the two being the game he missed due to suspension. He’s now started 41 of the team’s 58 games.

The Golden Knights did not have both goalies available for much for the start season so their rotation was somewhat dictated to them through the first few months.

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What To Do With Marc-Andre Fleury While He’s Not At His Best

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Something’s not quite right with Marc-Andre Fleury. Over the past 20 games or so it’s impossible to argue anything other.

He’s allowed four or more goals in three straight and 10 of his last 19 starts. His save percentage in the last 20 games is .894, a mark he’s never hit for an entire season. He’s posted just one shutout in his last 22 games, and maybe most importantly he’s allowing at least one goal pretty much every night that we say “he should have stopped that one.”

The passing of Fleury’s father undoubtedly has something to do with the decline in recent performance, but no one, including Fleury himself, would be able to explain how long it will affect him. Clearly, based on early-season performance (he was selected as an All Star), age is not the issue, which leads most to believe that this rut is temporary.

The question now is how long will it last and what should the Golden Knights do while it’s going on.

This is one that no one has a correct answer for as it’s uncharted waters for everyone involved. So, instead of making a suggestion, here are the pros and cons of a few of the potential options the Golden Knights have.

Stick to the original plan
Continue playing Fleury 4 of every 5 or so and rest him on back-to-backs

Pro: Often times the best way to overcome something is to attempt to return to normalcy. To this point, it hasn’t quite happened for Fleury, but with a player as talented as him, it’s fair to expect him to bounce back to form at some point. Staying with the original plan shows confidence in him and sends the message that there’s full belief from the organization that he’ll bounce back.

Con: How long can you stick with normalcy before admitting to a problem? Since returning on December 10th, Fleury has allowed 37 goals in 11 games and posted a save percentage of .887. 20 games? 30 games? Any time a change is made, it’s easier to compare results. If no change is made and the results continue, the issue becomes wasted time. Maybe things will work themselves out without any drastic measures being taken, but if they don’t, games and days will be lost.

Fight it head-on
Keeping playing Fleury every game

Pro: Every goalie says the same thing when it comes to playing their best, “the more I play the more comfortable I get.” So, the idea would be to completely ignore the results and simply believe that he’ll eventually overcome it and get back to his normal dominant self. Playing him every night is the fastest solution and it’s likely the one with the highest probability of success.

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The Golden Knights Are Not Using The Right Goalie Combo On Back-To-Backs

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The Golden Knights are set to close out their 6th back-to-back of the 2019-20 season and 31st in franchise history.

They actually fare pretty well as a whole when playing games on back to back nights.

Overall – 31-23-6 (.567)
1st End – 16-11-3 (.583)
2nd End – 15-12-3 (.550)

Historically, they’ve been swept (losing both) in 10 of the 30 back-to-backs, but they’ve only exited without getting at least one point in six of those 10. All six are when both games are being played on the road.

However, this isn’t meant to be an article about how Vegas plays in back-to-backs (that will probably come later as they have a bunch of them coming up.) Instead, it’s meant to take a look at goalie selection in regards to back-to-backs.

Yesterday, Dom Luszczyszyn of The Athletic posted an article challenging the norm of switching goalies on back-to-backs.

For the past six years, every team in the league has quickly adopted the same method to managing goalie starts on back-to-backs: splitting starts between their two goalies. That was based on data, data that created a rule each team learned to follow. Six years later, that same data has changed with the effect size being significantly smaller than initially thought. It might be time to break that rule. -Dom Luszczyszyn, The Athletic

I wondered if the Golden Knights were seeing the same effect.

The Golden Knights have actually been one of the most aggressive teams in using the same goalie for both games of a back-to-back. In 2017-18 the same goalie played both games in 5.1% of NHL games, 2018-19 saw the number decrease to 4.2%, while this season it’s a paltry 2.6%.

However, Vegas has used the same goalie in 11 of their 30 back-to-backs (37%). They’ve done it twice this season with Fleury playing against Calgary and Los Angeles early in the year and Subban playing against the New York Rangers and New Jersey last week.

Of course, both of those instances were forced upon the Golden Knights. Subban was injured for Fleury’s and Fleury was away with the passing of his father for Subban’s. Of the 11 times the Golden Knights have done it, I consider eight of the 11 to be “forced.”

That being said, the numbers indicate the Golden Knights should actually be using this strategy way more often, on purpose, every time they have the chance.

Of the 11 times, the Golden Knights have won both games in six. They’ve gotten at least two points in eight of the 11, and they’ve only been swept in regulation just one time!

Marc-Andre Fleury is an incredible 7-1-2 when playing in both games of a back-to-back. Malcolm Subban is a fantastic 6-1-1 as well. Max Lagace’s 0-3-1 pulls down the average. So, with either Subban or Fleury playing both games, Vegas is 13-2-3!

Same Goalie In Both: 13-2-3 (.801)
Switch Goalies: 18-21-3 (.464)

Clearly, the Golden Knights need to be using the same goalie in both games of back-to-backs every single time. But, let’s just try to be fair and say that’s not possible due to the need for rest. Look at these numbers.

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Expecting Another Golden December

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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.

Historical Breakdown

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
  • Reilly Smith: 11 Points (3 Goals, 8 Assists) +10
  • Alex Tuch: 8 Points (3 Goals, 5 Assists) +3
  • Marc-Andre Fleury: (4-0-1) 1.56 GAA, .948 Save%, 8 Goals Allowed
  • Malcolm Subban: (6-0) 2.25 GAA, .920 Save%, 14 Goals Allowed

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Marc-Andre Fleury Saves The Day With One Of The Best Saves Of His Illustrious Career




It was fun. A little lucky because I didn’t stop the first one it was off the crossbar right? It’s cool when you get those second chances to redeem yourself and yeah it was a lot of fun. -Marc-Andre Fleury

I just enjoy it, have a little giggle, a little smile. I’m just happy it didn’t go in. -Fleury

As a goalie, those are the saves that make you feel like a player when they score a goal. Those are the saves I love to play for. -Fleury

Lots of emotions because he beat me with the first shot so I wasn’t happy. Then I heard the post and I thought, oh yeah maybe it’s not in and then I found the puck and I had to dive for it and I got a piece so it was good. -Fleury

I don’t think the guy shot it as hard as he wanted to so I had a little time to react to it I think. -Fleury

I didn’t know how he saved it, he just threw his body across the crease. It was like a save you see in mini-sticks or something and he ended up just pulling it off. -Cody Glass

Yeah, he does it all the time. It’s good to see him be that unbelievable. -Shea Theodore

It kind of took a weird bounce off the ref or the corner and the guy got some good wood on it but Flower is juuuusssst a little bit quicker. -Theodore

I feel like he’s done that so many times, but yeah that’s incredible. He’s one of the best for a reason and that’s one of the reasons right there. -Jon Merrill

Probably pretty similar to everyone in the building. Just draw dropping, just in awe of him. What came to my mind right away is he’s worth the price of admission every night for sure. -Merrill

I was like, ‘wow, like what’s going on.’ He was unbelievable again tonight and he saved our ass again. -Tomas Nosek

He’s pretty incredible when he makes saves like that. As a coach you’ve come to expect that from him. He makes those saves, he’s acrobatic, he never gives up on a puck and it was a big save obviously. -Gerard Gallant

I thought it was a goal, when I looked at it. That’s Marc, he just never gives up. -Gallant

It was obviously a great save, and took away a good opportunity… He made it tough. -John Tavares

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Golden Knights Award Campaigns

I was watching TV last night when I saw an ad for a candidate running for President in 2020.  That got me thinking. We’re already a month into the NHL season, should we start the campaign for Golden Knights to win individual awards?

I was still lukewarm on the idea, seeing as Vegas has only played 13 games and the awards show is seven months away. But then, my mind was instantly changed.

A second ad for Tom Steyer!

I figured if Tom is already trying to get my vote in November of 2020, it’s fair for me to start talking/writing about Mark Stone winning the Hart, Cody Glass for Calder, or Valentin Zykov for Masterton (he’s got about as much a chance as Tom 2020, right?)

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Hart Trophy – Most Valuable Player
VGK Candidate: Mark Stone

Stone currently sits in 9th place in both goals and points through the first month of the season. Of course, in order to win the Hart, he’ll need to jump into the top five at the very least, but a 100+ point effort from one of the league’s best defensive forwards would definitely warrant consideration. If Stone can keep on this pace, he’ll be pushing the century mark and he’ll likely be doing it for a team that’s running away with the Pacific Division by March. Honestly, it will probably take an injury or two to a few of the main candidates, but the longer Stone stays in the top 10 in points, the stronger the candidacy will get.

Vezina Trophy – Top Goaltender
VGK Candidate: Marc-Andre Fleury

Fleury currently leads the league in wins, minutes, saves, and point shares for goalies. He’s posted a .928 save percentage and 2.30 goals against average, both of which are better than the numbers Andrei Vasilevskiy put up en route to his Vezina last year. Fleury has made a countless number of incredible saves and is the main reason the Golden Knights are 8-5-0 rather than 5-8-0. Vegas seems once again primed to run him out there 60+ times this season which means he should be at or near the top in every statistical category for goalies when the season is over. It’s literally the only thing he hasn’t done in his career. Hopefully this is the year.

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“More Of Subban This Year”

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For the first time this season, Malcolm Subban will be in between the pipes for the Golden Knights tonight against the Arizona Coyotes.

Last year, Subban played 21 games, starting 20 of them. Max Lagace got one game which left 61 for Marc-Andre Fleury. That includes a nine-game stretch at the end of the season where Fleury was out with an injury. If not for that run, Fleury likely would have played 65 or more games.

The prevailing thought around the NHL is 65 is too many, heck most believe (including Jason and I) that 60 is even too many.

Of the 13 starting goaltenders that have hoisted Lord Stanley’s Cup since the beginning of the salary cap era in 2005, none played more than 70 games in the regular season. In fact, only two of the 13 played more than 60 games. –Jesse Granger, The Athletic

The Golden Knights, at least what they stated publicly, were pretty stubborn last year in their comments about not holding Fleury back to a certain number. This year, the thinking may have changed.

You are going to see more of Subban this year, you will. George and Kelly and the coaches have it figured out and they have games identified for Subban and you are going to see him more. It’s part of what needs to happen. –The Creator on Sportsbook Radio

Tonight’s game is not a back-to-back, the Golden Knights are not in the midst of a hectic week schedule-wise, and there wasn’t much travel involved. It simply seems like load management for Fleury.

We want to make sure Flower is really ready for the playoffs. He doesn’t want to do it, he wants to play every night, he’s such a competitor. –The Creator on Sportsbook Radio

Subban played two to three games a month for the first five months of the season last year. This year, that number will probably be closer to four to five a month, and the Golden Knights will be better off for it… even if Subban doesn’t play as well as Fleury can.

Vegas Has History Of Clinching Games In The Opening Minutes Vs SJS

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In their first two games of the 2019-2020 season, the Golden Knights have scored three goals in the opening ten minutes. It was a point of emphasis for the opponent after the opening night matchup against San Jose.

The key in this building is getting through the first ten minutes. And we didn’t do that.-Pete DeBoer, Sharks Head Coach

It’s not just this season, it dates back to the inaugural 2017-18 campaign. Under Gerard Gallant, the Golden Knights have a track record of taking quick control of the game, especially against the Sharks. Just look at how Vegas handles San Jose at T-Mobile Arena. The Golden Knights have a clear advantage in the opening ten minutes.

11/24/17: VGK 5 SJ 4
Shea Theodore Goal At 2:33 1st Period
James Neal Goal At 11:16 1st Period

3/31/18: VGK 3 SJ 2
Shea Theodore Goal At 2:21 1st Period

4/26/18: Game 1- VGK 7 SJ 0
Cody Eakin Goal At 4:31 1st Period
Erik Haula Goal At 4:57 1st Period
Jon Marchessault Goal At 6:02 1st Period
Alex Tuch Goal At 11:43 1st Period

11/24/18: VGK 6 SJ 0
William Karlsson Goal At 0:14 1st Period
Colin Miller Goal At 4:40 1st Period
Max Pacioretty Goal At 9:29 1st Period

01/10/19: SJ 3 VGK 2
Tomas Nosek Goal At 1:34 1st Period

04/14/19: Game 3- VGK 6 SJ 3
Mark Stone Goal At 0:14 1st Period
Max Pacioretty Goal At 12:43 1st Period

04/16/19: Game 4- VGK 5 SJ 0
Max Pacioretty Goal At 1:11 1st Period

10/02/19: VGK 4 SJ 1
Mark Stone Goal At 3:46 1st Period
Reilly Smith Goal At 5:21 1st Period

VGK/SJ History Totals:

VGK is 7-1-0 against San Jose when they score in the opening 10 minutes of a game
VGK scored 16 Goals against San Jose in the opening 13 minutes
VGK scored two or more goals in 5 separate games

Is it as simple as having a ‘race out of the gate’ mentality? Or is it the atmosphere at the T-Mobile Arena?

I think it’s a little bit of both. -Marc Andre Fleury

And nobody benefits more from the quick starts than the goalie.

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The Golden Knights Must Reduce Fleury’s Workload

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TSN’s Travis Yost wrote an article this week that suggests more and more NHL teams are using a two goaltender system. Franchises are searching for steady backups to win some games while giving their starters a chance to recharge.

Behaviourally, we’ve seen teams start to shift some of the minutes onto their second goaltender. Last season, the average NHL team used their No. 1 goalie in about 60 percent of the total minutes: down almost 10 percent from where it was a decade or so ago. -Travis Yost, TSN

Last season goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury started 74% of regular-season games for the Golden Knights. He played 3635 minutes, also 74%. Fleury registered the fourth-most minutes in the league and was tied for the fifth-most starts.

Minutes

Carey Price – 3880
Devan Dubnyk – 3855
Connor Hellebuyck – 3704
Marc-Andre Fleury – 3635
Jacob Markstrom – 3599

Starts

Devan Dubnyk – 66
Carey Price – 64
Connor Hellebuyck – 62
Martin Jones – 62
Marc-Andre Fleury – 61
Sergei Bobrovsky – 61
Frederik Anderson – 60
Jacob Markstrom – 60

Yost found that goaltenders ten years ago were starting 8% more games on average. However, in 2019 Fleury was still in the crease more than the average goaltender in 2009. As most clubs were trending towards more rest for their starters, the Golden Knights relied heavily on their trusty ole backstop.

The position has changed. Teams are still on the hunt for superstar goaltenders, but teams are also becoming increasingly conscious about workload, burnout rates and the heightened risk of injuries for their primary puck stoppers. Add that to an increased understanding that goaltenders struggle when playing in back-to-back situations – the NHL schedule still sees a dozen or more of these per team each year – and you have a real incentive for strategic rest.-Yost, TSN

The question going forward is how will Vegas handle Fleury’s workload in 2019-20?

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