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Families Add Extra Motivation For Vegas To Reach Finals

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NHL players don’t need any extra motivation when competing for the Stanley Cup. The childhood dream of skating a lap with the Cup is enough for professional hockey players. However, there’s one thing that comes first.

With the release of the NHL’s new protocol agreement, it was clear the players were concerned about being away from their families. Within league rules, not only will families be taken care of back home, but if the chips fall right, they’ll be joining their husbands, boyfriends, and dads in Edmonton for the Western Conference and Stanley Cup Finals.

Player families are not permitted in the Phase 4 Secure Zone until the Conference Finals and the Stanley Cup Final , at which time the Players will be permitted to invite their immediate family members to stay in the Phase 4 Secure Zone. Immediate family members include a Player’s spouse or partner, and his children. -NHL Phase 4 Protocols

When the players began discussing the return to play plan, it was uncertain if families would be allowed inside the bubble. Vegas is one of the older clubs in the league, so it had to be a major burden for the many fathers on the team. Marc-Andre Fleury, Jonathan Marchessault, Ryan Reaves, and Deryk Engelland all have young children. Tomas Nosek and William Carrier have infants at home. Max Pacioretty has four sons, and a daughter on the way. It’s hard to be away from loved ones for an extended time, but if the Golden Knights play well they won’t have to.

Can a family reunion act as extra motivation for the Golden Knights, or any team for that matter? I believe it can. It’s an added incentive that could generate a mental boost after playing two exhausting playoff series. Lets face it, the only way for players to see their families sooner is if they failed to make it out of the first two rounds. And if that were the case, there’s a chance they’d be no fun to be around for a week or two. Or however long it takes to get over a series loss.

Another indication showing the players’ apprehension was the NHL’s policy to assist the families back home.

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Western Conference Hub Hosting Cup Final Could Benefit Western Conference Champ

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Now that playing at home appears to be on the fritz, the Golden Knights will turn their attention to playing in Western Canada, where it appears they’ll stay if they have success early in the playoffs.

Vegas will have the ability to set up shop in Alberta and stay for the entirety of the postseason, or however long they last. That shouldn’t be an advantage considering the oddities surrounding this format, but the raw numbers suggest staying west could benefit the Golden Knights.

Overall, the Golden Knights proved for a third straight season that they were a Western Conference challenger. Unsurprisingly, when on the road, they’re at their best when playing inside Pacific Division buildings.

VGK at Pacific Division
19-20: 7-3-1 (.682)
18-19: 9-5-1 (.633)
17:18 – 10-3-2 (.733)
Total: 26-11-4 (.683)

VGK at Central Division
19-20: 3-4-0 (.429)
18-19: 4-6-0 (.400)
17-18: 4-5-1 (.450)
Total: 11-15-1 (.426)

VGK at Eastern Conference
19-20: 7-6-3 (.531)
18-19: 6-9-1 (.406)
17-18: 8-6-2 (.563)
Total: 21-21-6 (.500)

The numbers really skew against the Golden Knights when you take into account who they were playing. Most of the wins were against the below-average Eastern conference teams as seven of the nine losses came at the hands of East playoff teams.

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Pacioretty Unleashed His Wrist Shot In 2019-20

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Golden Knights winger Max Pacioretty was one of three players to accumulate 300+ shots in the regular season. The two other players were Nathan McKinnon and Alexander Ovechkin; prestigious company. However, when you break it down by types of shot, Pacioretty led the entire league with 192 wrist shots. A shot in which #67 is known for.

Pacioretty must’ve come into the season focused on letting his wrist shot go more often than he did 2018-19. In his second year with the Golden Knights, the 31-year-old forward released 94 more wrist shots. Which worked out nicely for his club.

Not only did his wrist shot release go up but so did its effectiveness. Pacioretty added nine more wrist shot goals in 2019-20 and ended up having statistically one of his better seasons. His 0.93 points per game was a career-high for the 12-year veteran.

2018-19: 66 Games, 98 Wrist Shots, 12 Wrist Shot Goals
2019-20: 71 Games, 192 Wrist Shots, 21 Wrist Shot Goals

Pacioretty totaled 30 SOG in last season’s playoffs series against San Jose, scoring five goals in seven games. Unsurprisingly, 23 of 30 were wrist shots, and four of his five goals were from wrist shots. Any goalie should know what to expect from Pacioretty, the problem is whether they can save it or not.

Pacioretty’s pinpoint lasers create challenges for opposing goaltenders, especially when they’re being screened. His goal in Game 4 against the Sharks’ Martin Jones illustrates exactly how nasty and nearly impossible his wrister is to stop.

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Potential Realignment Shouldn’t Affect Golden Knights

The NHL pause has become the newest, most addicting daily soap opera. Every morning fans wake up to read the latest news on the NHL’s plans to restart the season. Yesterday, Commissioner Gary Bettman shared his optimism with the NHL network.

We have a great deal of flexibility in terms of when we can start. There’s no magic for next season of starting in October as we traditionally do. If we have to start in November or December, that’s something that will be under consideration. We’re going to try and make good, prudent, careful judgments. This isn’t a race to be first back. When we come back, we want it to be at the right time, for the right reasons, under the right circumstances. -Gary Bettman, NHL Commissioner

Now that the players and owners are engaging in daily conversations it shows the effort to recover the season from both sides. One scenario NHL officials have mulled over was originally conceived by Major League Baseball.

MLB is considering a three-division, 10-team plan in which teams play only within their division – a concept gaining support among owners and executives. It would abolish the traditional American and National Leagues, and realign the divisions based on geography.

The plan, pending approval of medical experts and providing that COVID-19 testing is available to the public, would eliminate the need for players to be in isolation and allow them to still play at their home ballparks while severely reducing travel. -USA Today

TSN’s Bob McKenzie weighed on the possibility of the NHL taking the realignment approach, specifically reducing travel which allows players to play in locations closer to their homes and families.

If they get four sites, and we kind of assumed it would try to be done divisionally if they try to get the 19-20 season finished up. Four NHL sites, one for each division. There is the possibility that they would just say ‘well the Atlantic division is going to based out of Toronto. We’re not going to do can’t that, Florida and Tampa Bay can’t get from Florida up to Toronto. We’ll put them with some of the Metro teams, and move one of those Metro teams.’ You could do some mixing and matching on geographical lines versus divisions. -Bob McKenzie, TSN Analyst

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Could Las Vegas Host Several Playoff Series At Once?

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Picture this, Mayor Goodman gets her wish to open casinos prematurely but only certain groups of people are allowed in. A block of rooms would be booked, and only the high-limit tables would be open. Call it a soft opening. Those guests, or tenants, would be NHL players.

TSN’s Frank Seravalli proposed four NHL cities that are well suited to host postseason series. Dallas, Edmonton, Pittsburgh and Toronto were the locations suggested. His criteria were logical and based on areas that would be safe and accessible.

The plan could include regular-season play, a traditional 16-team playoff, or even an “expanded” playoff.

Teams might be grouped by division, but not necessarily, Bettman said. Sources indicated that the NHL could have teams playing at sites outside of their usual geographic area, such as two groups of eight teams at two sites in the West – circumstances that would be dictated by which localities have eased restrictions.

“We’re just constantly trying to figure out what our alternatives will be,” Bettman said.

Bettman’s stated requirements for host sites are:

– “The location could be anywhere besides a [COVID-19] hot spot.”

– “We need a lot of ice. There does need to be practice facilities.”

– “We need four NHL-calibre locker rooms. Because if you’re going to play three games in one day, you’ve got to be moving things around, and you’ve got to make sure that we’re taking the proper sanitizing procedures.”

Sources indicate the league is keeping a running list of up to 10 NHL cities that could suitably host in the event of a centralized restart.- Frank Seravalli, TSN

At first glance Las Vegas seems to be a perfect location to host multiple series. Thanks to the shutdown and social-distancing, Southern Nevada is not a hot spot for Covid-19, which is cardinal rule #1 for Commissioner Bettman. T-Mobile Arena has many rooms that can convert into NHL-Caliber lockerrooms. Army, Cornell, Providence, and Ohio State all fit comfortably during the Fortress Invitational even with an NHL game taking place on the same day.

But, there’s one massive reason why Las Vegas can’t be one of the initial four hosts when if the league does indeed use this plan. That reason is a shortage of ice.

The city of Las Vegas currently only has three sheets of ice that meet NHL standards; one at T-Mobile and two at City National Arena. A year from now there will be two more at Lifeguard Arena in Henderson, then in a few years another one at the AHL rink in Henderson, but as for now, you can’t reasonably make NHL teams vying for a playoff spot practice at the Ice Center or Sobe Arena. Not to mention, with everyone housed on the Strip, transporting players and equipment for SEVEN teams back and forth the 17 miles to Summerlin, only to be crammed into City National Arena simply isn’t logical.

Las Vegas is just not suitable for eight teams. So scrap that idea.

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Five Sports Illustrated Experts Pick Vegas To Play For The Cup (Plus Our Picks)

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As we continue holding out for some level of hope for the NHL season to resume, some outlets are continuing the tradition of making their annual Stanley Cup predictions. This year Tampa Bay and Vegas were the two teams most picked to play in the Cup finals by Sports Illustrated.

Five SI experts chose the Golden Knights to participate in the Final if the season were to continue play. Unfortunately, four out of the five picked the Golden Knights to lose in the Stanley Cup Final.

Matt Larkin: Lightning over Golden Knights in six

Sam McCaig: Lightning over Golden Knights in five

Edward Fraser: Lightning over Golden Knights in six

Ryan Kennedy: Lightning over Golden Knights in six

Each prediction had Vegas losing to Tampa in six games or less. Ouch, not even one deciding game. The lone SI expert that awarded Lord Stanley’s cup to the Golden Knights left Tampa out of the Final completely. Here’s his explanation of why he chose VGK as the 2020 NHL champions.

Dan Falkenheim: Golden Knights over Bruins in six

Since Jan. 15, no team has a higher share of expected goals (58.5%). Robin Lehner’s arrival ensured Vegas would enter the playoffs with the NHL’s best netminding situation. And all the sudden, with Max Pacioretty turning back the clock, the Golden Knights looked like the West’s top team before the pause.

Much less drama for the Bruins, some 2,700 miles away. Save for a mediocre 4-5-6 stretch running from early December into the New Year, Boston has been the league’s most consistent team throughout the season. Tuukka Rask’s emergence as the Vezina frontrunner helped the Bruins carve out an eight-point lead in the Atlantic Division and serves as a reminder that he can carry a team as far as he wants to. Both Boston and Vegas are built to withstand the rigors of postseason hockey—each has reached the finals within the last three years—but the Golden Knights are the team that comes out on top in a matchup between recent Stanley Cup losers. -Dan Falkenheim, SI.com

It’s an intriguing matchup, to say the least. The last two Stanley Cup runner-ups battling to end their finals losing streaks. Both teams are recognized for elite-level skill and fantastic goaltending. Plus after the pause, Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone will be fresh and fully healthy for Vegas and Boston’s older veterans will get some much needed extra rest for their pursuit.

Although SI went heavy on Tampa, they’re not the team I selected to win the cup. Nor to come out of the East. Here are our predictions for this year’s Stanley Cup finals.

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Playoff Participation Plan Diminishes Vegas’ First Place Finish

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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

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Out Of Shape Already?

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It’s been two and a half weeks since the Golden Knights last suited up. Their 3-2 overtime victory in Edmonton was their final game before the league pause.

You miss two weeks without doing anything, your wind goes, your legs go. They’re not nearly the same. Not like an NHL player needs to be. Two weeks is probably the most they can miss, and then it becomes a real hard struggle to get back in a hurry. -Pierre McGuire, TSN Montreal

Established players hit camp around the second week of September, and their first game isn’t until early October. That allows them plenty of time to get the rust off, build endurance, strength, and prepare for a lengthy 82-game season. Most, if not all, are ready to get back to work by camp because they’ve been training and playing scrimmages with other NHL’ers. I’m sure you’ve heard of Da Beauty League or the Comm Ave Classic.

Outside of injuries, players rarely spend two weeks or more off the ice during a normal NHL season. So why is it that easy for players to lose their condition after all of the hard work they put in the offseason and regular season?

Two weeks if they haven’t done anything. A lot of guys will tell you if you miss five days it’s tough to get it back right away. It takes two or three (games). Usually after two weeks players start to lose whatever they had built up to this point during the regular season. It becomes really difficult to get it back on the track. -McGuire

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Will New Playoff Pucks Effect Vegas’ Run?

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When Major League Baseball began its 2019 postseason, there were rumors that the league introduced new baseballs. Not just out of the box new, but a new “non-juiced” ball. However, MLB claimed the balls were the same as the balls used in the regular season. Well, the National Hockey League decided they won’t be hiding anything from the public, and admitted that the pucks used in the upcoming Stanley Cup playoffs will be different.

The new playoff pucks are made from the same material as the puck used today in NHL arenas. The only difference is the new rubber biscuits will have six sensors built-in to begin the future of player/puck tracking.

Our partners have been trying to make sure that this thing looks and feels and performs as close to the real thing we have today as possible… Key players have been playing with it during practices and the feedback has been minimal. -Steve McArdle, NHL’s vice-president of digital media and strategic planning

TSN’s Pierre LeBrun was in Boca Raton, FL for the GM meetings and attended the league’s presentation about their plan to launch the new tracking puck in the first round of the playoffs. LeBrun reported the NHL is highly confident that the puck will not impact the postseason, and it’s possible the players won’t even notice.

They’ve done a ton of testing. The league is extremely confident that the puck they’ve tested there will be no difference. In fact it’s been used and Bettman said today that 24 games this year without teams even knowing. There was no feedback.- Pierre LeBrun

TSN’s Frank Seravalli questioned the league’s decision to christen the hi-tech puck in the postseason. After all, it is the playoffs and there’s a lot on the line.

With that comes a fear for the new puck’s integrity that will probably keep NHL executives awake at night.

Imagine a scenario in which the new puck explodes into three pieces after ricocheting off the crossbar on a scoring play in the Stanley Cup Final.

Gulp.

-Frank Seravalli, TSN

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Vegas Needs To Score 3 Or More, Allow 3 Or Less

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This season the Golden Knights are allowing 3.04 goals per game. Which places them 15th in the NHL. On the flip side Vegas is 17th, scoring 3.04 per game. The exact amount of goals that they let in. That’s a problem.

Over an 82-game season, a team holding opponents to under 3 goals a game will have a good chance for future success. Likewise, teams scoring 3+ goals per game have a strong chance of clinching a playoff berth.

Top 10: Goals Scored Per Game

  1. Florida 3.67- Playoff Position
  2. Colorado 3.65- Playoff Position
  3. Tampa 3.60- Playoff Position
  4. Toronto 3.57- Playoff Position
  5. Washington 3.55- Playoff Position
  6. Boston 3.31- Playoff Position
  7. Pittsburgh 3.30- Playoff Position
  8. Nashville 3.30- Out of Playoffs
  9. NY Rangers 3.29- Out of Playoffs
  10. Vancouver 3.24- Out of Playoffs

***17th Vegas 3.04- Playoff Position***

Vegas is averaging just below the league average of 3.05 goals scored per game. Only three other Western conference teams projected to participate in the playoffs score less. However, all three have a better win% and give up less than Vegas.

  • Vegas 3.04 Goals For/3.04 Goals Against
  • Arizona 2.76 Goals For/2.65 Goals Against
  • Calgary 2.60 Goals For/2.94 Goals Against
  • Dallas 2.56 Goals For/2.46 Goals Against

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