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Gallant Pulls Perfect Strings To Once Again Unleash The Big Game Golden Knights

A few moves by Gallant and all of a sudden the Golden Knights looked themselves again for the biggest game of the year. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Individual awards in hockey are earned in the regular season. That’s why Gerard Gallant already has the Jack Adams Award sealed up. However, heading into Game 5, the soon-to-be Coach of the Year made some big boy decisions, and boy did they pay off for his Golden Knights.

Gallant inserted three players into his lineup, two of which hadn’t seen the ice in the playoffs, and made a line swap in an attempt to jump-start the 2nd and 3rd lines. 60 minutes of hockey later, and if there was a Coach of the Playoffs award, Gallant’s name could begin to be engraved on that one too.

Just some hungry guys ready to play and I wanted competitive guys in there playing tonight. When you lose a game sometimes you go through with your coaching staff and look around and say Lindberg has been working really good in practice, Carpenter has been a solid player for us all year long and he missed a couple of games, and Sbisa was due to get back in our lineup sooner or later. I thought all of them performed really well tonight and it was a good night for them. -Gerard Gallant

The additions to the lineup and the move to switch David Perron and Alex Tuch were some of the biggest reasons the Golden Knights took the 3-2 lead in the series.

Tuch was unbelievable. Lindy first game of the playoffs, wow, he was great too. Carpy on the 4th line was a big boost. He was all over the ice. -David Perron

Tuch scored twice. Lindberg and Carpenter each got assists, and Perron looked like himself for the first time during the playoffs netting two assists and creating a ton more chances.

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Major Lineup Shuffling Furthers 1st Period Importance

Game 4 was the first time in the eight-game playoff history of the Golden Knights where they were severely outplayed. It ended as a 4-0 beatdown and the Sharks had evened the series.

In response, Jack Adams finalist Gerard Gallant appears to be making a host of lineup changes. Based on morning skate, it seems Ryan Carpenter, Oscar Lindberg, and Luca Sbisa will be placed into the lineup, while Tomas Tatar, Tomas Nosek, and Jon Merrill will all come out.

Last year, Lindberg was tremendous in the playoffs. If he does it tonight, Gallant is going to look like a genius. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

This will be the first game the Golden Knights will be without Nosek since February 11th, and just the 3rd game all year in which Nosek will be a healthy scratch. Oddly enough, the last time Gallant chose to scratch Nosek it was a 5-4 overtime win against the Sharks on November 24th.

If Sbisa returns, it will be his first game action since February 27th. Lindberg would also be making his Vegas playoff debut having been out since the final game of the regular season on April 7th

You do what you have to do. You put your best lineup in that you think gives you the best chance to win that evening. We’ve done it all year, guys come in and play different spots and play different roles, it’s all you can do. You go with your decision, you talk to your coaches, and you do the best you can. -Gerard Gallant

The changes magnify the 1st period, however. With multiple players who have been out for over a month returning to the lineup and potential changes to three of the four forward lines (see below), the Golden Knights are vulnerable early. It often takes players a bit of time to get back into the flow after missing games, but Vegas can’t afford to fall into a hole.

Throughout this entire season, when the Golden Knights have really needed a game, they’ve usually gotten it. But beyond that, they’ve almost always started out those games well. That was the case the last time they had to “flip the switch” back on going from a disastrous loss in Calgary to the playoff opener, but the time before, against the Flames at home, it took a period or so to really get going.

This team has it in them to play a good game tonight, no one is debating that. They just have to do it right away. They can’t play anything but their best from the moment the puck is dropped, and that’s what makes the lineup changes concerning. The Golden Knights have home-ice advantage in a best of three series, now they have to take advantage of it, and they can’t let cold legs and unfamiliarity get in the way.

Projected Game 5 Lineup

Smith-Karlsson-Marchessault
Perron-Haula-Neal
Lindberg-Eakin-Tuch
Carpenter-Bellemare-Carrier

Schmidt-McNabb
Theodore-Engelland
Sbisa-Miller

12th Forward

He was added to give the Golden Knights depth for the playoffs, now that they are here, will he even play? (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Due to the string of injuries down the stretch and a slew of maintenance days over the final week, the All Star head coach Gerard Gallant has never had a full complement of players in which to choose his lineup. However, as the team prepares for a first round matchup with the Los Angeles Kings, it appears the Golden Knights have just about everyone healthy, which means choices for Gallant.

The top six is almost a guarantee to be set as it has for much of the season. A first line of William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, and Reilly Smith, and a second line of Erik Haula, James Neal, and David Perron.

Using our judgment here at SinBin.vegas, we believe Alex Tuch, Cody Eakin, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, and Tomas Nosek are also all guarantees to be in the lineup come Game 1. That leaves two spaces open that need to be filled with a group of 5 players. Those players are Tomas Tatar, Ryan Carpenter, William Carrier, Ryan Reaves, and Oscar Lindberg needing to fill roles as third and fourth line wingers.

At the trade deadline, Geroge McPhee added Tomas Tatar to be the third line winger with Eakin and Tuch. Due to the injuries, he has bounced around lines and his play has never quite lived up to what was to be expected of him. However, now that the playoffs are here and the top six are all expected to be back, Tatar will almost certainly find his way into the position he was brought to play in and draw the start against the Kings.

That leaves us with four guys to fill one vital role for the Golden Knights, fourth line winger. On the other 11 forwards, we’ve got a pretty strong idea, on this one, we’re clueless as to which way Gallant will go. So, we’ve put together a list of pros and cons for each of the potential option and then took our stabs at who each of us believes will draw into the lineup on Wednesday.

Ryan Reaves
36 Playoff games
(1 goal, -1, 7:56 ATOI, 23 PIM)

Pros: We all know what Reaves brings to the ice. Love it or hate it, he can be effective. Over his career, he dressed for 36 of 58 playoff games his teams played in. Last season, he played in all 11 games adding 42 hits, nine blocks and eight penalty minutes. Reaves was brought in just in time for the home and home with LA. Possibly a sign that Gallant could decide to go with Reaves in the first round.

Cons: Lack of speed, finishing ability, and potential to slow down transition game. The Golden Knights high tempo could earn Reaves a scratch or little TOI. His forechecking ability has led to penalties, specifically in the two games in which he played for the Golden Knights against the Kings. He’s considered a playoff type player, but his career record in the playoffs is 15-21.

Oscar Lindberg
14 Playoff games
(3 goals, 4 points, 52.6 FO%, 10:27 ATOI)

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Golden Knights Injury Updates; James Neal, Reilly Smith, Malcolm Subban, Luca Sbisa, William Carrier, Oscar Lindberg

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

James Neal
Injury: Hand/Wrist
Injured on February 26th vs. Kings

Neal has missed 10 of the last 11 games. He played in the Kings game on the road where he left after falling behind the goal, seemingly on the same hand that was injured last year in the playoffs.

He did not travel with the team on the recent five-game road trip, but was seen skating many of the days while the team was away. Neal participated in the most recent morning skate wearing a red no-contact jersey.

James is doing real good. He’s skating today. He’s not playing tonight but we’ll see him in the near future. -Gerard Gallant

Reilly Smith
Injury: Wrist/Shoulder
Injured on March 6th vs. Blue Jackets

Smith left the game after a hit in the 2nd period in Columbus. He remained on the road trip for a short time following the injury before returning to Vegas.

He has not participated in a practice since the injury but was seen putting on skates and pads to take the ice for an individual practice today.

A source indicated to SinBin.vegas that the team initially feared Smith had broken a bone in his hand that could have ended his season, but an MRI confirmed otherwise. The same source put the timeline at about two weeks from the injury following the news of no broken bones.

He is not playing tonight. Day to day. Getting better. -Gallant

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Bottom Six; What’s The Right Combination?

Step right up, pick three, any three!

The Golden Knights have hit a bit of a rough patch injury-wise, especially when it comes to the third and fourth lines. Over the course of the last month or so we’ve seen pretty much everyone play with everyone else.

Now, Tomas Nosek is set to return, which means for the first time in a while All Star head coach Gerrard Gallant will have to make decisions along the bottom six.

The plan for tonight is to run out the lines of Alex Tuch/Cody Eakin/Oscar Lindberg and Ryan Carpenter/Pierre-Edouard Bellemare/Tomas Nosek. Thus breaking up the recently successful Tuch/Bellemare/Carpenter line.

Everyone has their own opinions on who should be playing with whom, so we decided it’s time to put some numbers to the opinions. Have fun with this one…

 TOICF%SF%GFGASCF%
13456:0049.2350.30191851.12
21641:5547.9650.54212749.22
24536:4350.4851.92131952.69
4073:1353.7953.163655.56
41432:2253.0552.30131455.61
89530:3750.2551.43191653.06
92361:1350.4750.26111453.83
13 w/ 21314:1349.1950.88111450.00
13 w/ 2465:4246.2745.452442.03
13 w/ 400:550.000.00000.00
13 w/ 4129:5150.8550.002055.17
13 w/ 9224:2845.8327.270057.14
21 w/ 24170:1650.1754.612749.14
21 w/ 403:3954.5533.330042.86
21 w/ 4120:0640.9147.621045.00
21 w/ 9227:4846.6747.060051.61
24 w/ 4011:4650.0063.640060.00
24 w/ 41173:4056.8860.484462.25
24 w/ 92115:0450.4554.243556.31
40 w/ 4158:1957.8055.933459.62
40 w/ 928:51 52.1761.540054.55
41 w/ 92301:4052.7752.0191056.76
13 w/ 21 w/ 89245:5150.3152.8191052.85
13 w/ 21 w/ 2447:2743.4842.591430.95
40 w/ 41 w/ 8930:5164.5273.533171.43
21 w/ 24 w/ 89104:3653.2561.841258.82
24 w/ 41 w/ 9294:4254.0259.302363.29

Numerically, the most successful line offensively is the Tuch/Bellemare/Carpenter line, but the sample size is rather small. That being said, the line Gallant is going with, Tuch/Eakin/Lindberg has been very good in possession, but the scoring has yet to come (just one goal in 104:36).

This will be the first time Nosek, Carpenter, and Bellemare have been together, but any time Nosek and Bellemare have been very good, especially considering a majority of their zone starts are in the neutral or defensive zone.

Play around with that chart, and see what you can find. Personally, I’d like to see Tuch/Bellemare/Carpenter and Lindberg/Eakin/Nosek, but what do I know, I’m not the front-runner for the Jack Adams award.

Leipsic-Eakin-Lindberg… Never Again

Due to a rash of injuries to “fourth” line players like William Carrier and Tomas Nosek, coupled with injuries in the AHL to Tomas Hyka and Brandon Pirri, the Golden Knights were forced to create some abnormal lines for last night’s game in Pittsburgh.

With six available forwards to fill out the bottom two lines, All Star head coach Gerard Gallant chose to play Cody Eakin with Oscar Lindberg and Brendan Leipsic. That left Pierre-Edouard Bellemare with wingers Ryan Carpenter and Alex Tuch.

He may not be finding the net, but at least he’s been creating chances with Tuch. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Bellemare line fared just fine against the Penguins, but the supposed third line which racked up a total of 6:28 of ice time as a unit, was nothing short of a disaster.

First off, the Leipsic-Eakin-Lindberg line took five draws as a group, three in the offensive zone, one in the neutral zone, and one in the defensive zone. This is an indicator that Gallant saw the line as more of an attacking threat.

In the seven shifts over those six and a half minutes, the Golden Knights gave up one goal (and another mid-change), were outshot 8-2, and gave up seven scoring chances (four “high danger”) while creating just one of their own. They spent a majority of their time on ice inside of their own zone and were usually forced to change when they finally exited the zone creating a defensive zone start for whichever line followed them.

The worst part of their shifts together is that a majority of them took place with the Penguins fourth line on the ice against them. More than 50% of the time Leipsic, Eakin, and Lindberg were on the ice together, Ryan Reaves and Zachary Aston-Reese were on the ice with them. Aston-Reese is a rookie who was playing in his second career NHL game, and Reaves is an enforcer who’s career possession metrics are among the lowest in the NHL. Between the two of them (who were playing with a mixed third player due to in-game injuries) they have a career 30 goals in 473 games, yet Reaves scored with the Golden Knights third line on the ice.

It just didn’t work together, but it’s no fault of any one of the pieces. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Now, it’s not time to start throwing around hyperbole asking for all three players to be waived tomorrow. A lot of this comes down to chemistry and fit between the styles of play of each individual guy. They just don’t mesh together. If anyone should understand this concept, it should be Golden Knights fans who have watched numerous players bud into stars due to being placed in different circumstances in Vegas than with their former team.

The line of Eakin, Leipsic, and Lindberg isn’t particularly adept at any one skill, but even worse, it really doesn’t fit with the style of play the Golden Knights employ. They are not particularly good in transition, their forechecking is average, and their ability to break out of their own zone is not great… when playing together.

Simply put, that group of three did not work, at all, and Gallant need to recognize it and make the adjustment heading into tomorrow night’s game in San Jose. Offensively a bit will likely be lost taking Tuch away from Carpenter and Bellemare, but two balanced lines outweighs an okay one and a nightmare. Tuch, Eakin, and Leipsic on one line, and Carpenter, Bellemare, and Lindberg on the other, it’s really the only option.

Hopefully Turk agrees.

Goals Of The Year – 5 Most Important Goals & 5 Prettiest Goals Of 2017-18 So Far

This goal didn’t make the cut, but Engelland scoring in the home opener needed to be represented somehow. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Inspired by the beauties by David Perron and James Neal over the past two games we’ve decided there’s no better time than now to take a look back on the Golden Knights “Goals of the Year.”

These are separated into two groups, first are the most important goals. These are based on a few criteria but mainly the impact the goal had on the Golden Knights season. The second group are the prettiest goals, graded mostly by skill and difficulty. Time of goal, score, and impact on the game are not considered for these goals.

Most Important Goals

#5 – Erik Haula vs. Nashville Predators – December 8th, 2017 – 3rd Period (19:20) – VGK 3 NSH 3

File this one in the “these guys are for real” category. After playing a great game the Golden Knights found themselves down a goal with the clock ticking down. They had chance after chance with the goalie pulled but just couldn’t beat Pekka Rinne. Then, off the magical 3rd period stick of Erik Haula the Golden Knights had their equalizer and eventually won the game in OT. It was a statement to the Predators, a statement to the NHL.

#4 – William Karlsson vs. St. Louis Blues – October 21st, 2017 – OT (4:36) – VGK 3 STL 2

This goal gave the Golden Knights their 6th win of the year, but more importantly it was the first win against a truly excellent opponent. Vegas was down to their third goalie after Fleury was hurt in game four and Subban earlier in this game, and yet still they found a way to get it done. Also, this goal might have been the birth of the madness that is the home crowd at T-Mobile Arena. The place was an absolute zoo and it was the first of many times the aisles would be filled with losing fans filing out with their tails between their legs. Oh, and it’s also William Karlsson’s first as a Golden Knight, the flood gates haven’t closed since.

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Whose Name Should Be On The Back Of Your Golden Knights Jersey

Right now if you head down to The Armory at T-Mobile Arena, you can become one of the first to pre-order a Golden Knights jersey. The tough part is deciding which name to choose to put on the back. We’re here to help aid in that process.

The Safe Picks
Marc-Andre Fleury and Deryk Engelland

The Flower is already the fan favorite in Vegas, and will almost certainly be starting in net on Opening Night. Engelland is the hometown hero who is the only free agent that decided to join the Golden Knights (I know there were others, but c’mon). Both are safe because we are pretty darn sure neither are going to be traded before the season begins. Short term, these are safe and good options. Long term might be a bit riskier.

Fleury has two years left on his contract and the Golden Knights are already lining up options to take over behind him. Odd are Fleury will be around for the entire inaugural season, but his second season and beyond gets tough. He’s going to be a candidate for a deadline deal in 2019 and will likely not remain with the Golden Knights after he hits free agency. Similarly, Engelland will be in Vegas for this season, but the future beyond 2018 is a major question mark. Really can’t go wrong with either, but chances are, you’ll be needing a replacement sooner than later if you go this route.

The Names You Know
James Neal, David Perron, and Brayden McNabb

You can expect every guy on this list to be on the first 23 man roster the Golden Knights release, but they are all going to be dangled to other teams as the season progresses. Here’s the biggest problem with having a jersey with any of these names on the back of it, the better he plays, the more likely he is to be shipped out. So, you are either stuck with a jersey of a guy playing poorly or a guy playing great (for a bad team) who is probably getting traded. Not exactly ideal for your first Golden Knights jersey.

The OGs
Reid Duke and Vadim Shipachyov

Both are great options but come with major concerns. With Duke, the concern is right away in the fact that he’s probably not going to make the team out of camp (and possibly ever). But, he’ll always be the first Golden Knight, he’s an awesome guy , and everybody loves a good underdog story.

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Better Find A Center, Otherwise The Struggles Will Start And Never End

It’s not hard to see George McPhee believes in strength down the middle. He made that clear by drafting five centers in this year’s NHL Entry Draft. Unfortunately, that talent is undeveloped and unavailable. As for 2017-18, the unit will contain five centers, Vadim Shipachyov, Oscar Lindberg, William Karlsson, Cody Eakin and Jonathan Marchessault. The Golden Knights aren’t expecting much success this season, but for the future, one of those five needs to turn into a top line center.

Shipachov will likely start the year as the top center but currently, he has no NHL experience, and like most KHL imports, is a great unknown. The other possibility is Lindberg. He skates in with 134 games played and just over 850 face-off attempts. The 25-year-old Swede will have the chance to make a serious impact with Vegas.

Oscar loves New York and he loves winning, but he also loves ice time… He’s going to have a great opportunity to play major minutes and a major role in Vegas. Claude Lemieux, Lindberg’s agent

Lindberg’s career TOI average will certainly increase from 11:30 minutes per game. His effectiveness in all three zones will prove his value.

Karlsson’s impressive flow and off-the-puck play could help him climb the charts too.

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GOLDEN KNIGHTS SIGN OSCAR LINDBERG (F) TO 2 YEAR DEAL WORTH $1.7M AAV

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