With the trade deadline fast approaching, the buzz around the Golden Knights is almost squarely focused on the third line. It’s a line with only one stable piece, the center, Cody Eakin, and filled with imperfect wingers such as Brandon Pirri, Valentin Zykov, Tomas Nosek, Ryan Carpenter, and Oscar Lindberg.
Most, including all three who write on this website, believe for the Golden Knights to reach the top of the mountain, something needs to change with that line. Whether it’s an addition from within, a piece added at the deadline, or reinforcements from the current top six, here at SinBin.vegas, we see the third line as the primary weakness for the Golden Knights.
The head coach, who happens to be the reigning Jack Adams award winner, does not agree.
I want them to keep doing what they are doing. People make a big deal of it that supposedly they don’t score enough. I don’t. We’ve got guys who can put the puck in the back of the net. Those guys have to come out and play their roles. I love a lot about our hockey team, I’m not too concerned at all. -Gerard Gallant
The emergence of scoring wizard Brandon Pirri, coupled with injuries to Colin Miller and Max Pacioretty, and the waiver claim of Valentin Zykov has left the Golden Knights in a roster pickle, with 25 players and only 23 available spots.
There are a few questions on just about every Golden Knights fan’s mind and we’ll attempt to answer every single one in this article. Read on.
As of this moment, the Golden Knights roster stands at 23 with Colin Miller and Max Pacioretty on IR.
Pacioretty skated with the team in practice yesterday, is expected to do so again, and will likely play either tomorrow or Sunday. Miller skated before practice yesterday, will likely do so again today, and shouldn’t be much more than a week or so away from making his return to the Golden Knights lineup.
Valentin Zykov was claimed on waivers from the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday. Per NHL rules, if the Golden Knights want to keep Zykov, he must remain on the NHL roster for the remainder of the season.
Brandon Pirri has scored six goals in seven games with the Golden Knights and has played on the 2nd line with Alex Tuch and Paul Stastny in all seven games. Per NHL rules, Pirri is allowed to be sent back to the AHL without clearing waivers if he does not play in 10 games OR is on the active roster for fewer than 30 days. Thus, if he plays three more games or is on the roster for another 15 days, he would have to once again clear waivers to be sent back to the AHL.
Through 43 games, Oscar Lindberg, Ryan Carpenter, Tomas Nosek, Pierre-Edouard-Bellemare, Max Pacioretty and Ryan Reaves are the only forwards on the roster to have been scratched by Gerard Gallant without being on IR. Reaves, Pacioretty, and Bellemare were each scratched once and they all are believed to be injury or family/medical related. Carpenter has been scratched three times, Nosek has been scratched four times, and Lindberg has been scratched 23 times. However, in the past six games that Gallant has had to choose two of those three, he has scratched each one of them two times. The most recent player to be scratched was Nosek.
Reading Into It
I was specifically warned against doing this, but what’s the point of the Internet if not to do things people tell you not to and make them angry (Sorry, I’m not sorry Turk).
Let’s start with Zykov as he’s the biggest unknown of all of this. The Golden Knights could instantly clear one spot on their roster by immediately putting Zykov back on waivers. That would allow either Pacioretty or Miller to come off IR and the roster remain at 23.
However, Gallant made a comment in a recent press conference that he started watching film on Zykov “the first time he went on waivers” which indicates that Vegas may have wanted him originally. They did not have priority so he went to Edmonton, then when he hit waivers again, Vegas claimed him and got him. Thus, it makes sense that this is not a short-term rental that won’t be given a chance, but instead that McPhee/Gallant see something they like and they want to give him a shot.
He’s expected to finally make it into the country today after having some immigration issues. He’ll probably practice a few times with the team before getting in a game, but if he remains on the roster when Pacioretty comes back, it should be expected that he gets at least some game action with the Golden Knights.
So, let’s say we expect him to stay, at least for a little while. When Pacioretty comes off IR someone is going to have to be taken off the roster to comply to the 23 man limit.
The easiest option would be for another injured player to be placed on IR. At the moment, the Golden Knights do not have any other players we believe to be injured. In January of last season, when VGK was in a similar bind, Jon Merrill was placed on IR with what was described as an “undisclosed injury,” to make room for Luca Sbisa who came off IR. Clearly, it is against the rules to declare a player that is not injured, injured, however, don’t be completely stunned if there’s a surprise injury that we were unaware of that leads to an IR stint which opens a roster spot for Pacioretty.
If that were not to happen, then McPhee would have to choose one player to be sent back to Chicago. The most likely options are the three forwards previously mentioned (Carpenter, Lindberg, or Nosek), one of the commonly scratched defensemen (Merrill or Hunt) or Brandon Pirri. Before we move on, let’s address Pirri.
Can you really send Pirri back to the AHL?
The short answer is yes, they absolutely can, and the reason is not that he’s not good enough to be on this team. The main reason is that if he doesn’t hit that 10th game, he’s the only guy on the roster (aside from Tuch and we know that’s not happening) that can go to the AHL without risk of being lost on waivers.
We promise something new on SinBin.vegas every day of the year (except Sundays) no matter whether the team is on the ice or it’s the middle of summer. Normally we pick one topic and throw everything we can possibly jam into one article at you and call it a day, but today we’re going to change it up a bit. Nothing really warranted a full story, so instead, we present you with “quick hitters.”
Single Game Tickets On Sale Today
If you are following @GoldenKnights on Twitter, you’re probably already aware of this as they’ve found about 47 differentcreativewaystoremindyou, but if not, single game VGK seats go on sale at noon today.
With the 135th overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, the Golden Knights selected Brandon Kruse from Bowling Green State University. BGSU just so happens to be GM George McPhee’s alma mater, however, in an interview with FloHockey.tv, he says that had no impact on his decision to draft Kruse.
It’s a coincidence. I leave our drafting up to our scouts. I’m happy that they drafted him because he’s a terrific player, and I’m glad that they weren’t influenced by me; there’s no bias involved, they took the best player available, who happened to play at Bowling Green. I’m excited that it provides another reason to get to Bowling Green this year and watch them play. -McPhee
100 Point Projection
The creator of Corsica.hockey released a projection for every team and had the Golden Knights once again eclipsing the century mark.
This model is widely regarded as one of the most accurate out there. Unlike most who had the Golden Knights in the 60’s or 70’s last season, Perry projected Vegas at 82, one of the highest we found. Hopefully, he’s 25 points short again.
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.
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.
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)
After last night’s victory in Philadelphia, the Golden Knights are 6-4-0 without 40-point producing forward James Neal. At times during the 10-game intermittent stretch, Vegas has struggled to put the puck in the net. For instance, the Golden Knights have been shutout or held to one goal nine games this season, three of them have been in Neal’s absence.
Carpy Deuces chipped in with a big one last night. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)
Without Neal, the Golden Knights have scored 31 goals in those 10 games. Forwards Alex Tuch, Ryan Carpenter and Cody Eakin stepped up offensively for Vegas. Plus, all three Tomas’s lit the lamp, and the blue line added some help on the scoreboard as well over this span.
VGK “Bottom-6″/Defenseman Goals During Neal’s Absence
02/19: Lost 2-0 vs. Anaheim
02/21: Won 7-3 vs. Calgary Goals by Ryan Carpenter, Alex Tuch, Luca Sbisa, Tomas Nosek, Cody Eakin
02/23: Won 6-3 vs. Vancouver Goals by Tomas Hyka, Tomas Nosek
02/27: Lost 4-1 vs. LA
03/02: Lost 5-4 vs. Ottawa Goals by Colin Miller, Carpenter
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…
13 w/ 21
13 w/ 24
13 w/ 40
13 w/ 41
13 w/ 92
21 w/ 24
21 w/ 40
21 w/ 41
21 w/ 92
24 w/ 40
24 w/ 41
24 w/ 92
40 w/ 41
40 w/ 92
41 w/ 92
13 w/ 21 w/ 89
13 w/ 21 w/ 24
40 w/ 41 w/ 89
21 w/ 24 w/ 89
24 w/ 41 w/ 92
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.
The last time the Vegas Golden Knights lost a hockey game was on December 12th, 21 days ago. The last time they lost in regulation was December 1st, 31 days ago. That’s awesome news… unless you are a Golden Knights healthy scratch waiting for your chance to get back into the lineup.
It’s not done on a daily basis but I talked to some of those players a couple days ago and I talked to Sbisa today. They understand, they are true pros and that’s why our team has been so good. We have a bunch of good leaders and character guys. They all want to play, they are all ready to play. That’s the toughest decision I have to make every day. When you are winning games your players understand. It’s hard to go out there and say well we are going to switch it up. Sometimes you have to do that but right now the way things are going we are pretty comfortable with our lineup. Everybody understands, and that’s what I like about our team. They aren’t happy about it, but they understand. -Gerard Gallant
Luca Sbisa got injured against Carolina (12/12), he hasn’t played since. Brad Hunt has been a healthy scratch in every game since the win at Dallas (12/9). William Carrier was hurt in Arizona (11/25) and he hasn’t come off the IR despite practicing every day for nearly a month, and Ryan Carpenter who was picked up on waivers on December 13th has yet to put on a Golden Knights jersey.
None of these decisions are because they are bad players. In fact, Hunt was playing great in his time in the lineup, Carrier played most games on the excellent “fourth” line, and Sbisa was a member of the top defensive pairing. It’s simply because the Golden Knights refuse to lose.
We don’t want them to lose though either. The boys are playing great and you understand it’s all part of it. You’ve got to be great teammates and make sure we are ready when we do get a chance. -Brad Hunt
Then there’s Carpenter. The Golden Knights went out of their way to claim him on waivers three weeks ago, yet he remains on the shelf waiting for that first opportunity.
Turk has talked to all of us but it’s pretty obvious in pro hockey, if you are winning and everyone is playing well you don’t change it up. If I were in the lineup and we were playing like that I wouldn’t want to be taken out. You are on the first place team in the division, so there’s absolutely no part of me that feels entitled to play. -Ryan Carpenter
The Golden Knights seven game winning streak did happen to begin the moment Carpenter walked in the building.
Do you think you deserve any credit for the winning streak? -SinBin.vegas
Absolutely not. -Carpenter
So here we are tonight, January 2nd, with another home game against the Nashville Predators and yet again, Hunt, Sbisa, Carrier, and Carpenter will sit out. It’s a small price to pay to keep up the winning ways, luckily they all seem to be just fine with it.
That white stick is gonna look nice with the white gloves. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas)
Carpenter is a right-handed winger/ center who was waived by the San Jose Sharks. He was one of the seven forwards protected by the Sharks in the Expansion Draft but after only recording one point in 16 games he was placed on waivers.
The Golden Knights now have 24 men on the roster, so they will have to make a corresponding move today. That will likely be Stefan Matteau being placed on waivers and sent back to Chicago. (Update: As of 11:03 AM, Matteau has been removed from the Golden Knights roster on the team’s site.)
Carpenter will join the team at practice today or tomorrow and is eligible to play for the Golden Knights Thursday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.