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Gallant Is Protecting Pirri, Allowing Him To Thrive

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Through seven games and 97:22 of ice time, the Golden Knights have not allowed a goal with Brandon Pirri on the ice. In that same span, Vegas has a 64% Corsi For, created 67 scoring chances, and have scored 11 times.

In short, when Pirri is on the ice, good things happen.

That’s my role, that’s why I signed and that’s why they signed me here. I’ve got to stick to my strengths. Turk’s put me in a fantastic position to succeed, playing with two really skilled guys. Stas finds me and Tuchy creates space. -Brandon Pirri

That middle part interested me when I heard it, “put me in a fantastic position to succeed.” Pirri went on to mention his linemates, but the in-game situations he’s found himself in are even more telling than his linemates. Pirri has been on the ice for 83 faceoffs, only 17 of them have been taken inside of the Golden Knights zone.

That equates to a 74.4% offensive zone draw percentage (Offensive zone draws divided by Offensive+Defensive zone draws). The next closest player is Brad Hunt at 67.8%, then there’s not another player on the team at over 66%. Pirri’s linemates, Alex Tuch and Paul Stastny are at 65.1% and 54.0% respectively.

Also, late in games, Gallant has decided not to use Pirri. In Pirri’s seven games, five of them have seen the score within one goal in the last 10 minutes of regulation. In those five games, Pirri has played in 84 shifts, only 10 of them have occurred in the final 10 minutes of the game, and only once did he play more than one regular shift (at least 40 seconds) at the end of a game.

Bellemare is a specialty in that situation. If we’re down a goal, Pirri will be on the ice. When we’re up a goal, you put four defensive guys out there and Bellemare and those type of players deserve to be on the ice at that time of the game. -Gerard Gallant

I asked specifically about the most recent game, a win over Los Angeles, in which Pirri played a total of :52 in the final eight minutes of action.

I mean we scored, made it one-nothing and they had a great chance right after that on the breakaway but you usually get down to six or seven minutes and I want certain guys on the ice and the guys know that so we shorten it a little bit and guys go out there and do their jobs. -Gallant

I looked through a number of games last season, and couldn’t find an example of Gallant removing one of his top six (Marchessault, Karlsson, Smith, Haula, Neal, Perron) at the end of a game as he has with Pirri. In fact, there’s almost the exact same scenario in a game on January 7th, 2018 against the Rangers as we saw on January 1st, 2019 against the Kings.

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Three Theories On What’s Happening With Max Pacioretty And Why Gallant/VGK Offered Contrasting Messages

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

After 67 days being out with a lower body injury, the Golden Knights are finally getting Paul Stastny back in the lineup. It appeared as though this would be the game in which the re-built second line of Stastny, Alex Tuch, and Max Pacioretty would finally all be on the ice together.

Then, morning skate in New Jersey happened and it became clear that was not to be.

Instead, Pacioretty would be kept out of the lineup completely, but the coach and front office had different reasons as to why when each was asked.

Timeline (as reported by David Schoen, Las Vegas Review-Journal)

11:30 AM EST – Golden Knights take to the ice at Prudential Center for morning skate

11:38 AM EST – Max Pacioretty skates as an extra on the fourth line with Reaves, Bellemare, and Carrier. Stastny takes line rush with Tuch and Lindberg and Eakin with Carpenter and Nosek.

11:50 AM EST – Pacioretty does not participate in normal power play drill. Instead, Karlsson takes his place and Stastny fills the role on the second unit.

12:24 PM EST – Gallant confirms Stastny will play and will be on the second line with Alex Tuch and Oscar Lindberg. Is also asked about Pacioretty…

Is there anything wrong with Max Pacioretty? -Schoen

Well not that I know of. Why? -Gallant

He was taking different line rushes and wasn’t working with the number one power play unit… -Schoen

No. Nothing wrong with Max. You’ve got to scratch somebody tonight and we’ll decide tonight after warmups… We’ll know before warmups but… he’s fine. -Gallant

1:16 EST PM – The Golden Knights, via a team spokesperson, confirm Pacioretty does have a “minor injury.”

The team feels it is best for him to miss one game rather than six. (It) is management’s decision to hold him out tonight. -Golden Knights team spokesperson


So here we are. Is Pacioretty hurt? Is he a healthy scratch? Did something else happen that they don’t want to tell us about? What in the world is going on?

Of course, we can only read/listen to what we are being told, so there certainly could be more information that could change all of this, but from what we know there are really only three possibilities of what could be happening in this situation.

Here are each of the three narratives and the logic behind fitting every piece of information we have into that particular story. After writing them all out, I can honestly say that I don’t really have an opinion as to which it might be. They all make sense, but they all have parts that make you shake your head and say, how could this happen? So, instead of guessing myself, I’ll simply present them and let you be the judge.

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Alex Tuch Is The Driving Force Behind Max Pacioretty’s Offensive Awakening

Without Tuch’s help, Pacioretty has yet to find the net. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Max Pacioretty has been red-hot over the past two weeks. His seven-game point streak just concluded, he’s scored eight goals, and has tallied multiple points in three of the last four Golden Knights games. Finally, Pacioretty is breaking through and displaying the skills and production that was expected of him when he was acquired for Tomas Tatar, Nick Suzuki, and a 2nd round pick.

However, as we do on every goal in the hockey, we need to award an assist for Pacioretty’s turn-around, and it goes to Alex Tuch. A single stat illustrates it best, so we’ll start there.

 TOIGoals ScoredGoals Allowed
67 w/ 89173:36118
67 w/o 89139:0107
89 w/o 6799:0162

The table shows how many goals were scored and how many goals were allowed, at 5-on-5, when Pacioretty and Tuch are on the ice together, and when each has been on the ice without the other. As you can see, there is a significant amount of time on ice for each of the three situations.

Max Pacioretty has not been on the ice for a single Golden Knights goal, at 5-on-5, when Alex Tuch was not also on the ice. However, Tuch has been out there for six without Pacioretty. Also, Max has allowed seven without Tuch, while Tuch has only allowed two without Pacioretty.

Of course, Cody Eakin has had a positive impact on the line as well, but not nearly as much as Tuch. It’s a small sample, but in the 15:31 Pacioretty played with Eakin and not Tuch, the Golden Knights allowed two goals and didn’t score any.

 TOIGoals ScoredGoals Allowed
67 w/ 89173:36118
67 w/o 89139:0107
89 w/o 6799:0162
67 w/ 21 w/o 8915:3102
67 w/ 89 w/ 21141:13106
67 w/o 21 w/o 89123:3105

Sometimes stats are misleading though, especially “on ice” stats that are credited simply for a player being on the ice and not necessarily involved in the play. So, I decided to go through every 5-on-5 goal scored by Pacioretty to see what impact Tuch had on the play. (You can see them all at the end of this article.)

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Pothier: Stastny Should Return To Second Line Immediately

It still may be a couple weeks, but it’s starting to look like Stastny is getting ready to return. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

With the promising news we uncovered yesterday about Paul Stastny, the question that seems to be on everyone’s mind is the same. When he comes back, where does reigning Jack Adams award winning coach Gerard Gallant place him in the lineup when he’s ready to come back?

It’s an age-old question in sports, should a player lose his position because of an injury? Keeping in mind how well his replacement is playing, in most cases, the answer is no.

Injured center Paul Stastny was signed in the offseason to anchor a brand new second line, yet they haven’t played one shift together. Alex Tuch was to graduate to the top-six and play alongside Americans Stastny and Max Pacioretty. The three could’ve been dubbed the “Freedom” line, but unfortunately, injuries got in the way.

The Golden Knights stand at 29 points, and in the middle of the mess that is known as the Pacific Division. Since Stastny’s injury in Game 3 of the season, the team has played roughly .500 (13-12–1) hockey without him. However, the second line has been extremely effective as of late. Since bumping third line center Cody Eakin up in early November due to Erik Haula’s lower-body injury, the Eakin-Tuch-Pacioretty line has 35 points. The second line was arguably one of the biggest factors in Vegas’ late November five-game win streak.

Tough to break-up, I get it.

Eakin’s strong play brings us back to the organization’s vision for this season. He was expected to center the third line again, and make it more consistent than it was last season. That was GM George McPhee’s plan. And so was upgrading their second line center with a talented veteran like Stastny. Injuries essentially delayed the offseason remodel.

Bottom line is, Stastny is valued by this team as their second line center. They paid him as such, and made a high-risk move trading for Pacioretty to compliment his play. The connecting moves were projected to juice up team offense, and still could once Stastny is cleared to play. This was the team’s vision. They told us.

We wanted to try improve our team. That’s why we signed Paul Stastny as a free agent. Why trading for Max Pacioretty was really important for us. -Kelly McCrimmon, Assistant GM, on 11/19/18

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The Second Line That Saved Christmas

It took a little while to get going, but Alex Tuch, Max Pacioretty, and Cody Eakin are on fire now. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

When the holiday season began, Vegas Golden Knights fans didn’t have much to be thankful for, or so it seemed.

On Halloween, things were starting to get scary. Vegas was 5-6-1, with only 11 points and five spots out of the playoffs. Early season trends were beginning to look like the worst could come true. Remember the panic on November 1st?

NHL teams four or more points out of a playoff spot by 11/01, have roughly an 18% chance of making the postseason. Since 2005-06, 47 of 58 teams that were 4+ points out of the postseason spot by November 1st, missed the playoffs. That’s a whopping 82% of teams that their fate was determined by the beginning of November. –SinBin.vegas article on 11/05/18

And then came the East Coast trip that brutalized the Golden Knights. Vegas lost three of four on the road and came back home in seventh place in the division. Ken was losing his mind, many fans were on board with him, and legitimate concern was starting to creep in that maybe this team just isn’t that good.

Things looked bleak. Up until the second line began to warm up.

November 14: Vegas 5-0 vs Anaheim

  • Second line w/ 6 points (3 goals, 3 assists)
  • Eakin: Even-strength goal, Shorthanded goal
  • Tuch scores 1st Period Game-winning PP goal
  • Pacioretty assists Tuch’s GWG

November 18: Vegas 6-3 at Edmonton

  • Second line w/ 3 points (2 goals, 1 Assist)
  • Eakin scored shorthanded goal
  • Pacioretty with second period Go-ahead goal
  • Tuch assists Pacioretty’s Go-ahead goal

November 19: Vegas 3-2 @ Arizona

  • Second line w/ 4 points (2 goals, 2 assists)
  • Pacioretty scored 2nd Period Go-ahead goal, and OT winner
  • Tuch and Eakin assist Pacioretty’s Go-ahead goal

November 23: Vegas 2-0 vs. Calgary

  • Second line w/ 4 points (1 goal, 3 assists)
  • Tuch scored 1st Period Game-wining goal
  • Eakin and Pacioretty assist on Tuch’s GWG

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Golden Knights Used Insane Schedule To Find Consistency

Who would have ever thought five games in seven days would be a blessing rather than a curse? (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen) 

It was a weird quirk in the schedule. Five games in seven days including three road games and two back-to-backs. And the Golden Knights came into it with just 19 points in their first 21 games.

To put it politely, this past week had a realistic chance of breaking the Golden Knights. Instead, they won four of the five games, which were all division games, and went from seventh place to third in the Pacific Division.

We talked about it, I mean like you said it was five games in seven days and the guys need a lot of rest so there wasn’t much practice time, very little if any. The biggest thing we did was we knew we had to win these hockey games. We knew we had to get back in this race and start to competing and playing real well and I think our game’s back right now. We played excellent hockey in four of the five games and that’s why we got a little streak here so we just have to continue to play the way we are playing and like I said guys are starting to get some confidence and feel good with their game. -Gerard Gallant

Rather than the Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday marathon that was last week killing the Golden Knights, instead it may have jumped started them.

It was the perfect time, when you are feeling good about playing your game, to play often. When you like the way things are going you don’t want to sit back and think about how great you are you want to put on the gear and go play a game. -Max Pacioretty

The Golden Knights had been mired in inconsistency used a tough schedule to their advantage and even despite laying a complete egg in one game, they may have played their most consistent five-game stretch of the year.

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McPhee On Injuries: “We Aren’t Deep Enough Yet To Not Have Everybody In”

Gerard Gallant confirmed this morning Haula is considered “month-to-month.” (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Injuries are a major part of hockey. Every team goes through them at various times and for various stretches of the season. For the Golden Knights, it’s come early and it’s come in the form of high-end forwards.

Alex Tuch missed the first eight games of the year and Max Pacioretty missed four games at the end of October. Both Pacioretty and Tuch have returned to the lineup, but the two guys they’ve played with on the Vegas second line haven’t been as fortunate. Paul Stastny went out in Game 3 and isn’t expected to return until late December at the earliest, and Erik Haula appears to be out for at least the balance of the calendar year.

Then there’s the suspension which has kept Nate Schmidt out for the first 20 games of the season. All in all, the Golden Knights have yet to play a game with anything resembling a full lineup, and the GM is frustrated.

I’d like to get healthy, for one game. just to see what we are. We just haven’t been. You know we rebuilt our second line and I think they’ve played two and half games together. Stastny’s been out most of the year, Pacioretty was out, Haula’s out, Tuch’s been out. We aren’t deep enough yet to not have everybody in. -George McPhee on Sportsnet 590 in Toronto

All in all, they’ve missed 39 games due to injury and 18 going on 20 due to suspension.

Nate Schmidt – 18 missed (100%)
Paul Stastny – 15 missed (83%)
Alex Tuch – 8 missed (44.%)
Deryk Engelland – 5 missed (28%)
Max Pacioretty – 4 missed (22%)
Erik Haula – 3 missed (17%)
Cody Eakin – 4 missed (22%)
Ryan Carpenter – 1 missed (6%)

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Max Pacioretty Is Back; Timing Couldn’t Be Better

Welcome back Max. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Key offseason acquisition Max Pacioretty has missed the last four games with an upper-body injury sustained on a pretty nasty hit. He didn’t travel with the team to Nashville and St. Louis and only re-joined practice the day of the Carolina home game. Now, on this trip East, he’s ready to re-join the lineup.

Obviously, any time would be good to get a player like Pacioretty back in the lineup, but a November game against Toronto is literally as good as it gets for Max.

 Goals per GameAssists per GamePoints per Game
October.31.25.56
November.36.37.73
December.26.30.56
January.46.28.75
February.36.39.75
March.34.41.75
April.47.561.03

For some reason, October and December are not great months for Pacioretty. In every other month, he’s about a .75 point per game player and he scores once every 3rd game. 

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Pacioretty Frustrated He’s Struggling To Find Chemistry On 2nd Line

It’s tough to understand the amount of pressure professional hockey players take on throughout an entire season. It’s a grueling 82 games and if a player or team is struggling they get bombarded with negative questions picking on every little detail. Sounds stressful right? Now triple that for players in feverish markets like Toronto, New York, Boston and Montreal. That’s been Max Pacioretty’s life for the past decade, so after seven contests and only goal scored it’s not surprising he’s feeling the frustration.

Our line has been struggling, so we have to find that chemistry a bit more. We need to make life easier on each other out there. It’s frustrating, because we haven’t produced at all… but we’ll get it going. -Max Pacioretty

Part of the problem is the plan of who Pacioretty was supposed to play with hasn’t exactly been followed.

My two linemates (Paul Stastny and Alex Tuch) got injured right at the start of the year and that makes it hard. I haven’t found that chemistry yet.”-Max Pacioretty

Haula and Pacioretty have been skating together since Tuch’s injury on September 30th, yet it still hasn’t clicked. When might it?

Never been in this position. Played ten years in one spot, so this is all new to me. -Pacioretty

The veteran winger knows he’s a dangerous weapon and if he’s not scoring, in his eyes he’s not doing his job. Which requires him playing consistent minutes. That didn’t happen for Pacioretty or the second line against Buffalo.

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Training Camp Day 1 Quotes

New guys are fitting in quickly. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

A team that plays a high paced game like we do I think it’s important to do a lot of skating and to do a lot of up-tempo drills so that when it comes to games you are kind of used to that. -Paul Stastny

It’s hard to see any positive in losing the Final, but after a few weeks or months you start to understand what you did right and what you did wrong and make sure you don’t do it again, so there is always something you can take from any negative situation. -Pierre-Edouard Bellemare

(Having a child) is still the best accomplishment we’ve ever done. He’s so cute, it’s impossible to be that cute. He has a hockey stick, he doesn’t know what it is, but he has one. -Bellemare

We had the meeting to go over our systems and it was very very similar to what we did in Montreal. I was able to sit in that meeting and kind of know what to expect. Then I went out on the ice and was able to not think on the first day because I’m so used to our breakouts and our system when we go back for pucks. It’s a system I’ve had a lot of success with and I look to pick up where I left off with it. -Max Pacioretty

It’s important to make sure everyone knows that just because there’s a lot of hype around here it doesn’t mean anything. It starts with what we did in the summer, it starts with what we do today and constantly building as a team on and off the ice to repeat that success from last year and take that next step. -Stastny

First and foremost their unbelievable guys (Stastny and Pacioretty). I’ve been talking to them and I sat next to them at the team dinner and we were cracking jokes and they are just great guys. They’ve been around the block for a while and they’re really experienced and it’ll be fun to be on the same team as them this year and I’m going to try to learn as much as I can from them too. -Alex Tuch

I still think we have some doubters that we won’t do it again, that it was almost like a lucky Cup run. That’s the mentality that we have going in that we still have a lot to prove and we still want to be that elite team that’s making a Cup run and we are all in, all of us are. -Tuch

We have some new guys, we have some different situations than last year in a way but I think every individual, just make sure you stay healthy, make sure you put the work in. Hopefully everyone did put the work in during the Summer, that’s the expectation when we left here. -Erik Haula

Just individually try to get better, and having a little internal competition is good. Just keep pushing each other and that ultimately makes all of us better. -Haula

It’s a little bit different (than last year), we’re so comfortable with each other, we’re a really tight group, but I don’t think the prove it mentality is gone and I think that’s really good. We’re still building towards something and we want to be a really good team for a long time. -Haula

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