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Christmas Break Odds And Ends

The Golden Knights have the next three days completely off, meaning no games, practice, and no media availability. They currently sit in 3rd place in the Pacific Division with 44 points in 39 games. That’s one point behind the 2nd place Sharks and one ahead of the 4th place Ducks.

There are a few topics I wanted to discuss but none of them garnered a full article. So, we cram them all into one and call it a day. Here we go.

Brandon Pirri Re-Assigned to AHL

Gone now, but for how long? (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Following the overtime loss to the Kings last night the Golden Knights re-assigned Brandon Pirri to the Chicago Wolves. In doing so they also took Max Pacioretty off IR.

Just looking at the moves, this would lead most to believe that Pacioretty will return Thursday and will be slotted back into his normal place in the lineup. That may happen, but it also may not, and Pirri might wind up right back on the 2nd line despite being re-assigned a few days earlier.

Per NHL rules, if a player clears waivers, which Pirri did on October 4th, they must play 10 games or be on the active NHL roster for 30 days before they are eligible for waivers again. Pirri was recalled to the Golden Knights on December 18th and played in games on the 20th, 22nd, and 23rd before being re-assigned on the 23rd. Thus, he’s played three games and spent five days on the roster.

By optioning him back to the Wolves during this three-day break, the Golden Knights still have six available games and 24 days before he must re-clear waivers. The clock is cumulative, so even if this stint with the Golden Knights is over, it restarts if he is called back up again.

What all of this is trying to say is that there’s a practical reason to send Pirri down to the AHL even if VGK intends to play him on Thursday. It may or may not happen, but unlike most situations when a player is returned to the AHL, this one does not necessarily mean his time with the Golden Knights is up.

Struggles Without Main Defensemen

It was well-documented how much the Golden Knights missed Nate Schmidt during his 20 game suspension. They went just 8-11-1 and were much closer to the basement of the Pacific than they were the top.

VGK proving they can’t be without 6 or 88. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Over the past two games, they’ve gone 0-0-2 at home while missing Colin Miller due to an upper-body injury.

Deryk Engelland has missed six games this season, the Golden Knights are 3-2-1 in those games.

Brayden McNabb, Shea Theodore, and Nick Holden have played in all 39 games

When Miller and Schmidt are both in the lineup, Vegas is 12-4-1. When one or the other is missing they are 8-11-3.

Defensive depth is clearly an issue that needs to be addressed, whether that be via trade or by giving some of the young AHL prospects a chance. Either way, something needs to be done because no team makes it through the playoffs with just six defensemen.

Long Shifts

Vegas has 13 players, including nine forwards that average 0:50 or more per shift. There are only 118 NHL skaters that average 0:50 or more

The Golden Knights have 10 players in the top 100 in the NHL in this category.

Jonathan Marchessault and Alex Tuch lead the team with 0:56 average per shift while Max Pacioretty, Reilly Smith, Paul Stastny, and William Karlsson all average at least 0:53.

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Stop Worrying About Fleury, Trust Him Instead

Lay off, #29’s got this. (Photo by Brandon Andreasen)

Marc-Andre Fleury has played 10 straight games for the Golden Knights including two back-to-backs. He leads the NHL in minutes, games played, and ranks in the top four in saves and goals allowed. Fleury has played in 28 of the team’s 32 games and only one goalie is within 200 minutes of the time he’s played.

However, in those past 10 games, Fleury has led the Golden Knights to their best 10 game stretch of the season at 8-2-0 and he’s recorded two shutouts. In the span, he’s allowed just 23 goals and has posted a .920 save percentage. Plus, he’s the current NHL leader in wins and shutouts and has been as big a reason as anyone that the Golden Knights currently sit in a playoff position.

Simply put, nearly 40% of the way through the season, Fleury has played a tremendous amount hockey.

He is playing great. He is giving us a chance to win all the time and he is playing great. Like I said the other day, we aren’t in first place like we were last year, and we are trying to catch teams. When a guy plays that good, he is going to play. -Gerard Gallant

But it’s not necessarily about the here and now. The voices of concern for Fleury’s long-term fitness are becoming deafening. The numbers will always back up the Golden Knights unwillingness to use a back-up but fears of a wilted Flower come March, April, and even May and June are certainly fair.

It’s concerning, there’s no question, and no one should disagree that the Golden Knights eventually have to find a place to get Fleury some time off. Heck, even the reigning Jack Adams award winner agrees, but the main piece of the puzzle seems to be missing from the minds of most dissenting the decision to keep riding Fleury’s coattails. And that’s the man himself. Marc-Andre Fleury.

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Fleury’s Appearance On History Channel’s Counting Cars

Hard to tell who was more excited to meet who. (Photo Credit: History Channel’s Counting Cars)

Marc-Andre Fleury LOVES cars. He’s had Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Maseratis and now he’s in the market for his first muscle car. Luckily, one of the most popular car reality shows is set in Las Vegas.

Fleury drives his Ferrari into the shop. (Photo Credit: History Chanel’s Counting Cars)

Count’s Kustoms owner Danny Koker’s show Counting Cars aired the episode featuring Fleury yesterday in which he got to see his next car. The car is a customized 1972 Chevelle Convertible.

I just thought it would look cool, so this is the perfect opportunity for me to try it. -Marc-Andre Fleury

Here’s what the car looks like when they were done with it.

500 horsepower! (Photo Credit: History Channel’s Counting Cars)

Fleury says he’s anxiously waiting to get the car as they are still “breaking it in” for him.

All we ask now is you put a big giant Cup in the back seat of her. -Danny Koker

You can see the whole episode here.

Two Golden Knights Say VGK Played Well, Two Others Completely Disagree; The Divide Is Not Ideal

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

The Golden Knights are now 1-3-0 in their first four games of the season. Two points in four games is not going to make anyone happy. However, there is a bit of a sense that Vegas has been playing a little better than the scores have indicated at times.

Specifically, last night in Washington, the Golden Knights created plenty of goal scoring chances and got bit by the post a few times. To me, it was a well-played game for Vegas on the road against the best team in hockey. On most nights, especially at home, that level of play will win games, even with the few mistakes that were made. One Golden Knight and the Jack Adams award winner agree.

Maybe the score wasn’t relative to the game that was shown. We had a lot of posts, maybe three or four. We had the puck a lot. I thought it was probably one of our better games so far. It’s a good sign. We are getting chances, we are getting pucks to the net. We’re going to score at some point. -Marc-Andre Fleury

I thought we played a real good game 5-on-5, we got lots of scoring chances, their goalie played real well, so I liked a lot of our game but we gave them too many odd-man rushes and too many power plays. -Gerard Gallant

However, that sentiment was not shared by everyone in the locker room.

I don’t think this was our best game. We played like a team with no identity and if we are going to try and trade chances with the Capitals we aren’t going to win. It wasn’t our best and there are some things we can tighten up and I think awareness is something we can do a much better job with. -Reilly Smith

I just think as a whole we aren’t playing our game. We are taking too many penalties. It’s a long year but we have to figure out things quick. Our goal from this road trip is to be a .500 team and when we are playing like this, that’s not going to happen. We definitely have to work some things out and find our game. -Shea Theodore

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Zero Golden Knights Among NHL 19 Top 50 Players

Following a season in which the Golden Knights had 12 players hit career highs in points, 10 set career highs in goals, and as a team made a run to the Stanley Cup Final you would think individuals from one of the best story in sports would start getting some recognition.

No respect at all I tell ya. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The geniuses at EA Sports don’t agree. They released their top 50 ranked players for the upcoming NHL 19 game, and there’s not a single Golden Knight to be found.

No William Karlsson, who finished 10th in MVP voting. No Jonathan Marchessault, who scored eight goals and tallied more than a point per game in the postseason. No Nate Schmidt, who was the key cog in helping the Golden Knights stifle the Kings, Sharks, and Jets in succession. And worst of all, no Marc-Andre Fleury, a three-time Stanley Cup winner, that put together the best season of his career and carried an expansion team to the Final.

Instead, players like Jakub Voracek, Ryan Suter, Jonathan Toews, and Frederik Andersen made the list.

In fact, 10 goalies ranked higher than Marc-Andre Fleury. Ten!

The game drops on September 14th, when we’ll learn the ratings of all Vegas players, but until then, we leave you with the one Golden Knight who did have his NHL 19 rating revealed.

You’re not alone Nick, the disrespect for the Western Conference Champions is real.

Pacific Division Goaltender Rankings

ESPNNNNNNN’s Greg Wyshynski spoke with TSN Edmonton this week about the Pacific Division and Jon Gibson’s eight-year extension goaltender with the Anaheim Ducks.

He’s a solid goalie. He’s a workhorse, it’s a position you don’t have to worry about. They’re a contender. Gibson is going to give them a chance and make them a contender for a bit. -Greg Wyshynski, ESPN

Just like Vegas, the Ducks re-upped their goalie but have many questions elsewhere on the ice. While Gibson may help Anaheim compete, at this moment Fleury is in a better spot to win.

So, with that in mind, let’s rank the goaltenders 1-8 in the Pacific Division. We charted top centers earlier this week, so let’s do the same with the PAC-8’s goaltenders.

The Elite

Jonathan Quick
2017–18: 33-28-3 Record, 5 Shutouts, 2.44 GAA, .921 Save %, 37 Quality Starts
Career: 293-195-56 Record, 49 Shutouts, 2.28 GAA, .916 Save %, 305 Quality Starts

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

In six separate seasons, Quick finished in the top ten for most wins and goals against average, including last season. LA’s goaltender was ninth with 33 wins, and tenth posting a 2.40 GAA. The 2012 Conn Smythe award winner’s 49 career shutouts are fourth among active goaltenders, one ahead of Marc-Andre Fleury. Quick steps his game up in the playoffs posting a 2.23 career postseason GAA and a .922 career postseason save percentage. The Golden Knights swept the Kings in the first round but LA couldn’t put the blame on their goaltender, who posted four consecutive quality starts. Without Quick in net, the series would’ve been a two-game mercy rule.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Marc-Andre Fleury
2017–18: 29-13-5 Record, 4 Shutouts, 2.24 GAA, .927 Save %, 31 Quality Starts
Career: 404-229-72 Record, 48 Shutouts, 2.56 GAA, .913 Save %, 319 Quality Starts

What more could I possibly say about Fleury? Golden Knights fans witnessed a star reborn and lead their team to the Stanley Cup finals. Fleury amazed start after start… remember he started 20 out of 21 games down the stretch? Fleury had a renaissance season becoming an All-Star for the first time since 2015, finishing fifth in the Vezina award voting, and passing 400 career wins. To top off a near-perfect season, the 33-year-old morphed into a flying brick wall in the postseason. In 20 playoff games, Fleury allowed just 47 goals, and registered 12 quality starts. Sure, I gave Quick the slight edge, but it’s clear which goalie Vegas fans would rather in net.

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4 Golden Knights In Top 100 Of Corsica Player Ratings

Corsica Hockey is one of the best advanced stats websites on the web. They’ve produced a metric that combines stats like Game Score, WAR, and others to make for what they call the “best single number representation of a player’s quality.”

727 NHL players were ranked with 24 Golden Knights making the cut. The top five are Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and Alex Ovechkin.

#81 and #71 are #17 and #54 (Photo by Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights have four players in the top 100 including Jonathan Marchessault (#17/#6LW), Marc-Andre Fleury (#48/#4G), William Karlsson (#54/#18C), and Reilly Smith (#64/#9RW).

The top-rated defenseman for Vegas is Colin Miller coming in at #136 followed by Nate Schmidt and Shea Theodore tied at #153.

The next highest Golden Knights after the first line is Paul Stastny at #145. Erik Haula (#214), Alex Tuch (#232), and Tomas Tatar (#313) all rank outside of the top 200.

Malcolm Subban (#726) is the second to last player in the entire rankings ahead of just Blackhawks goalie Anton Forsberg.

Newly acquired Curtis McKenzie came in at #276, the 11th highest ranked Golden Knight. Daniel Carr (#556) also ranks above five Golden Knights skaters, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (#567), Cody Eakin (#608), Jon Merrill (#618), Ryan Reaves (#628), and William Carrier (#652). The other new player, Nick Holden, tied Deryk Engelland at #356.

For those still waiting on the blockbuster Erik Karlsson trade, the Swedish defenseman came in at #25, the third-rated defenseman behind Brent Burns and Kris Letang. Oh, and the disaster that is Bobby Ryan ranked #295, which would be good for 12th place on the Golden Knights.

Fleury’s Idols Proved Success Into Late 30’s Is Not Impossible

If Fleury really is elite, he’ll continue being great well into his 30’s. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

During Golden Knights training camp last season, Marc-Andre Fleury told SinBin.vegas about players that influenced him growing up. The 33-year-old idolized and eventually studied the careers of Patrick Roy, Ed Belfour, and Martin Brodeur. All three Hall of Fame goaltenders had wildly successful careers and played well into their thirties. Fleury’s new contract extension suggests the Golden Knights believe he’ll retire a decorated Hall of Fame goaltender like the three above.

When Patrick Roy retired in 2003 at the age of 37, he left the league as the all-time wins leader with 551. At that time, Brodeur was 30 and was far behind. He remarkably retired 11 seasons later at the age of 42, passing Roy by 140 wins. Both goalies were consistently successful throughout their careers and continued to have major success after the age of 33.

Belfour was another outstanding goaltender that got better with age. After the age of 32, Eddie the Eagle posted 30 or more wins in six of his last nine seasons. He led the Stars to back-to-back Cup finals in 1999 and 2000 at the age of 34 and 35. Dallas won their only Stanley Cup in ’99 behind Belfour, who posted a ridiculous 1.67 postseason GAA.

Check out the success Roy, Brodeur and Belfour had after Fleury’s current age. Vegas fans should feel even more confident about their newly extended 33-year-old goaltender.

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MARC-ANDRE FLEURY (G) SIGNS 3 YEAR EXTENSION AT $7M AAV

Offseason Outlook: Goaltenders

Never could anyone have imagined the Golden Knights goalie depth would be tested the way it was. Five goalies used in the first 17 games gave George McPhee a pretty solid look at the present and the future of the most important position on the ice.

It would seem not much needs to happen between the pipes for the Golden Knights with Marc-Andre Fleury the clear starter, Malcolm Subban a solid backup and Oscar Dansk plus Maxime Lagace manning the crease in the AHL. However, it’s not that simple, and in fact, McPhee has plenty of decisions in the net not only this offseason but moving forward.

Marc-Andre Fleury

It’s a bit of a shame Fleury will not win any awards after that incredible season. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

After posting Vezina quality numbers in the regular season and then racing out to become the Conn Smythe favorite before the final series of the playoffs, it appears Fleury’s days as a full-time starter aren’t as numbered as they appeared during the last days in Pittsburgh.

He’s mentioned playing for many more years and recently said he wants to finish his career in Vegas. Fleury has one more season left on his contract scheduled to pay him $5.75 million. Then he would become an unrestricted free agent, something the Golden Knights probably aren’t interested in letting happen.

Things do get a bit tricky though when dealing with the long-term future of a 33-year-old goalie. While it certainly appears his age isn’t getting in the way at this point, that could change at any moment. Signing Fleury to a four or five year deal is risky as his production could slip at any moment, but letting him constantly play on expiring deals keeps the control in the hands of the player rather than the organization.

If Fleury is being completely honest that he wants to finish his career with the Golden Knights, they should play the short-term contract game with him on a gentleman’s agreement that he’ll get a new deal every time he wants one and the price will be fair. There aren’t many players who any GM would be willing to go down that road with, but if there’s one, it’s probably Fleury.

There’s one concern there though, and that’s Pittsburgh. What if they come calling at some point? It’s easy to say he wants to finish his career in Vegas while sitting on stage in the same building as the Campbell Bowl, but if the idea of going back to the Penguins ever became a realistic possibility, he’d likely want to hear it out.

The best course of action for the Golden Knights is likely to keep him one year away from free agency at all times. Extend his contract each offseason so he feels comfortable, while also protecting the organization against the inevitable father time induced decline.

Malcolm Subban, Oscar Dansk, Max Lagace

Only one of these three players currently has a contract with the Golden Knights and that’s Subban. Dansk remains under Golden Knights control as he’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. Lagace is an unrestricted free agent set to hit the open market on July 1st if he doesn’t reach a deal with Vegas before then.

Subban still seems to be the clear #2 behind Fleury, but his injury-riddled season has to bring pause to the organization’s desire to commit to him as the heir-apparent. Subban was hurt once during a game early in the year and then found himself unavailable two more times due to injuries that occurred during practice. Subban missed a majority of the postseason and the team opted to use Lagace as the backup over Dansk.

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