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On A Set Play Vegas Comes Through In The Clutch

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It was the play of the game, if not one of the biggest plays of the season (feels like we’ve said that a lot, hopefully this one actually sticks). Having given up a 3-1 lead, Vegas could have easily skated out the period and secured at least a point in Carolina. However, the Hurricanes gave the Golden Knights one more chance to come away with a win. And that’s exactly what they did.

The late-game power play allowed Vegas to execute a perfectly set up game-winning goal. The beautifully designed tic-tac-toe sequence by Shea Theodore, Paul Statsny and Alex Tuch clinched a wild game for the Golden Knights. Not only was it a big goal for Tuch, but for the new coaching staff as well.

It was a good play by Theo and Stas, something we were kind of looking to do and we were able to execute. I just put my stick on the ice and made sure I hit the net. -Alex Tuch

The play began with a faceoff won by Stastny, purposely to his left, which Mark Stone jumped on and fed out to Theodore. Instead of taking his own shot, giving the puck back to Stone or Max Pacioretty to his right, the defenseman walked the blue line with the puck, opened up the seam and then used a little shot pass to feed the puck through an incredibly tight window to Stastny.

Theodore’s stutter-step/fake shot shifted the defense and goaltender just enough to find an open passing lane to Stastny who was waiting on one side of the net.

Knowing the puck was coming to him, he quickly directed the pass across the crease and on to the stick of Tuch, who tapped in the game-winner.

From the initial pass by Stone, to Theodore’s shot fake, to Stastny’s quick touch pass, each player knew exactly where the others would be. You’ll even notice Pacioretty charging in behind Tuch ready to scoop up any rebounds in case the puck was blocked. Or perhaps as a secondary option. Either way, all five players did their job and the execution paid off.

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Tuch, Engelland, Karlsson, Smith, Theodore Owned “Player’s Locker” Officially Open In Downtown Summer

(Photo Credit: @tomkaplan on Twitter)

First, they took over your TV’s. Then they took over your local tavern. Now, they are taking over a local restaurant.

A group of five Golden Knights, led by Alex Tuch, have officially opened the first NHL player-owned sports bar in Las Vegas. Deryk Engelland, William Karlsson, Reilly Smith, Shea Theodore, and Tuch took over Wolfgang Puck’s previous place in Downtown Summerlin, and with the help of Puck and his staff, have opened the “Player’s Locker.”

I brought it to a few different guys on the team. It was guys that I saw were going to be here for a long time. Shea Theodore was one of the first ones I went to. We’re really close and I just wanted other guys that really showed interest. I think we have a really good group and I’m really excited about it. -Alex Tuch

The restaurant had its “soft opening” Saturday and has a grand opening in the works soon. It’s a mix of upscale Wolfgang Puck inspired food with a bar food twist. The menu includes one dish named after each player.

  • Tuch’s Reuben Sandwich (pastrami, swiss cheese & coleslaw on rye, chips)
  • Engelland’s Fish & Chips (tartar sauce, malt vinegar)
  • Karlsson’s Vegan Burger (“beyond meat” vegan patty, vegan cheese & fixins)
  • Reilly’s Cheese Curds (fry sauce)
  • Shea’s Gooey Deluxe (salted caramel chocolate chip cookie, vanilla ice cream)

The full menu also includes Wolfgang Puck favorites like spicy brick chicken (my personal favorite), filet mignon steak frites, salmon en papillote, taco pizza, and house-made meatballs.

https://twitter.com/clarkdumont1/status/1221584014080823297

Tuch hasn’t stopped raving about his item since the first moment the news of the restaurant went public.

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Is Shea Theodore The Next Defensive Workhorse For Pete DeBoer?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

When Pete DeBoer was hired by the Golden Knights many of us had questions. One in particular was; will Shea Theodore’s role (higher TOI, tougher assignments, heavier workload, etc.) increase?

Thankfully, David Schoen of the RJ asked DeBoer yesterday after practice in Boston following Theodore’s heavy workload on Saturday.

https://twitter.com/DavidSchoenLVRJ/status/1219421411518898176

With a small sample size of only two games, it’s still premature to read into Theodore’s game logs too deeply, however his ice time was higher. Albeit, one ended in overtime.

Shea Theodore Average Time on Ice per Game

  • Games 1-49: 21:13 ATOI
  • Games 50-51: 25:44 ATOI

Remember, while coaching in San Jose, DeBoer relied heavily on his two talented mobile defensemen. In all situations.

Brent Burns averages 2018-2020:

  • 24:58 TOI
  • 18:55 Even-Strength
  • 2:51 Power Play
  • 2:31 Shorthanded

Karlsson averages: 2018-2020

  • 24:30 TOI
  • 19:02 Even-Strength
  • 3:07 Power Play
  • 2:41 Shorthanded

Of course, they’re established All-Star defenseman, but Theodore has the ability to log heavy minutes and play the workhorse role for his new coach.

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Golden Knights Utilizing Zone Starts To Deploy Right Defenseman At Right Time

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

One of the most overlooked stats in hockey is zone starts. NHL coaches go to great lengths to get the correct players on the ice at the right times, but when examining stats, very rarely will you see a nod to a player’s zone starts.

When judging defense we like to use stats like +/-, Corsi, goal percentage, and defensive point shares. However, it’s important to consider deployment when taking all of this into account.

It’s become especially crucial when breaking down the statistical seasons of the Golden Knights blue liners. Looking at the numbers without zone starts involved it appears as though Shea Theodore has emerged as Vegas’ best defenseman. He leads all defensemen in goals, assists, points, shots, offensive point shares, defensive point shares, Corsi, Corsi relative, expected goals, expected goals percentage, and expected +/-.

There’s no question that Theodore has become the Golden Knights’ most effective offensive weapon from the blue line. That’s why the coaching staff have used him in a role much different than that of Nate Schmidt and Brayden McNabb.

The Golden Knights are 2nd in the NHL in percentage of faceoffs in the offensive zone. In Golden Knights games this season, 35.6% of draws have been in the offensive zone, 32.7% in the neutral zone and just 31.7% in the D-zone. Vegas has taken 648 offensive zone draws to only 577 in the defensive zone. That means the Golden Knights baseline zone start percentage is 52.9%.

In other words, any player getting less than 53% offensive zone starts is being deployed in a defensive role, while anyone above is in an offensive role. Here are the Golden Knights primary defensemen’s offensive zone start numbers this season.

oZS%
Hague 65.5%
Theodore 58.0%
Engelland 54.9%
Merrill 51.8%
Holden 49.8%
Schmidt 47.7%
McNabb 47.3%

The difference between the top of that list and the bottom is massive. Hague and Theodore are drawing offensive zone shifts more than 6% more than the team average while McNabb and Schmidt are finding themselves starting in the D-zone around 6% less than the average.

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Five Golden Knights Players Opening New Restaurant With Wolfgang Puck In January

Alex Tuch, William Karlsson, Deryk Engelland, Reilly Smith and Shea Theodore are teaming up with celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck to create a sports bar called “Wolfgang Puck Players Locker.”

The opportunity to be a partner in the first-ever sports restaurant in Vegas is something I couldn’t pass up. I am very excited to work side by side with one of the greatest chefs in the world, Wolfgang Puck. -Alex Tuch

The restaurant is taking over the old “Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill” in Downtown Summerlin in between California Pizza Kitchen and Shake Shack. There will be a brand new menu including “traditional sports fare”as well as an “innovative new beverage program” which will surely include both Engelland and Ryan Reaves’ beers.

We are thrilled to be partnering with members of the Vegas Golden Knights here in Las Vegas, the new hockey capital of the world. We have created a unique and one-of-a-kind sports dining experience around great food and the best players in the NHL! -Wolfgang Puck

The restaurant is being re-designed around a “floor-to-ceiling display of more than 100 custom glass lockers.” Each of the five Golden Knights will have their own dedicated locker.

There will also be two outdoor patios, one dog-friendly, as well as an expansive bar area, and a private dining room named “The Players Lounge” which is expected to host the five VGK owners consistently.

Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill will remain open until mid-January, at which time it will undergo a brief, one-week remodel before re-opening its doors as the new Wolfgang Puck Players Locker. Additional details will be announced in the coming months. -Press Release

Return Of Schmidt Should Mean Return Of Theodore’s Offense

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It didn’t happen for even one game last year, but tonight appears to be the night for the Golden Knights. Vegas will head into tonight’s Halloween game without a single player on the IR and not a single player missing with an injury.

Nate Schmidt is expected to resume his role as the team’s #1 defenseman and Alex Tuch will get a try with a pair of Cody’s, Eakin and Glass.

Each return from injury has a chance to have a significant effect on the team, but Schmidt’s return does more in regards to changing the lineup. It means at least two new D-pairs and more importantly, it means fewer minutes and less responsibility for guys like Shea Theodore, Nick Holden, Deryk Engelland, and Jon Merrill.

Nate’s a good player and he’s been one of our top players for two plus years and he’s going to make a big difference in our group. He’s important and he puts everybody where they belong. -Gerard Gallant

There are two different likely lineup options for the Golden Knights defense heading into this game. Either Holden and Merrill stick together and Theodore swaps sides to play with Engelland, or they return to the opening day pairs which had Merrill and Theodore together and Holden with Engelland.

Either way, the top pair minutes will now be handed to Schmidt as opposed to Theodore. That’s what Gallant is talking about when he says “puts everybody where they belong,” and the result of that should be a more noticeable impact on the game for Theodore.

We were worried about winning games, we weren’t worried about Shea’s (offense). He was playing big minutes against top players and that might change a little bit now so it’s going to help him, but in the long run it makes him a better player. -Gallant

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Gallant Says Schmidt And Theodore Play Best On Right Side; Where’s That Leave Coghlan And Whitecloud?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

When the Golden Knights traded Colin Miller it appeared to leave a massive void in right-handed defensemen. With Miller in Buffalo, it left the Golden Knights with just one right-handed defenseman on the NHL roster, Deryk Engelland. Nate Schmidt, Shea Theodore, Brayden McNabb, Jon Merrill, and Nick Holden all shoot with their left hand.

However, that’s not to say the Golden Knights don’t have players who can play on the right side. In fact, Gerard Gallant confirmed a pair of them he likes on that side.

From what I remember (Schmidt) played real good on the right side last year so that’s where he’s going to play again this year. When he plays good over there that’s where you want him to play, where he plays his best hockey, similar to Shea Theodore. -Gallant

He did leave a bit of room for leeway though.

But I’m not saying they can’t play the left side in some situations. Just in case that happens I don’t want you to come back to me and say “why are you playing him over there?” It changes, but they both play well on their off-side. -Gallant

Here’s where things get tricky. The two best rookie defenseman through two weeks of camp have been Dylan Coghlan and Zach Whitecloud. Both are right-handed and both play primarily on the right side.

Last year, Engelland played 72 of 72 games on the right. Schmidt played 40 of his 62 on the right while Theodore played just 21 of his 80. But, late in the year, Gallant made the switch pairing Theodore with McNabb and Schmidt with Engelland swapping Nate and Shea. His comments on Monday indicated that he likes both on that side, leaving just three left-side spots available.

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Pick A Pair: The Best D-Pair Match For Every VGK Defenseman

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

When the Golden Knights take the ice on October 2nd there will likely only be one change along the blue line. Out went Colin Miller and in comes the winner of the rookie defenseman battle between Jimmy Schuldt, Nic Hague, Zach Whitecloud, Jake Bischoff, and Dylan Coghlan.

However, the way they line up may have to change with the new makeup of the defense. With Miller in Buffalo, the Golden Knights are left with just one right-handed defenseman among the guaranteed mix. That leaves plenty of options in how Gerard Gallant and Ryan McGill will set the pairs.

Here’s an attempt to breakdown what each defenseman does best and who they might match up best with.

(Each player is listed with their best match as a partner, other options they could succeed with, and players to avoid. The match is to maximize that player’s skills, it is not necessarily to create the best pair. Other options are ranked in order from best option to worst. Players to avoid are listed in no particular order.)

Nate Schmidt

Schmidt is the swiss-army knife of the Golden Knights defense. He really does it all and it allows for him to be partnered with pretty much anyone. As a mobile puck-mover, he can be paired with a stay-at-home player or he can be put with another puck-mover to create a dynamic pair. Schmidt is able to contribute offense, but he’s also one of the most reliable players the Golden Knights have in their own end. Schmidt has played on both sides, and played with Engelland and McNabb for the majority of last season. However, they have paired him with Theodore on multiple occasions, including in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final. It’s never really gone well, but there’s been a willingness to try it.
Best Match: McNabb
Other Options: Schuldt, Engelland, Merrill, Theodore, Hague, Whitecloud, Coghlan, Bischoff, Holden
Avoid: None

Brayden McNabb

The defensive stallwart, McNabb almost has to play with a skater. That being said, McNabb has really been at his best with Schmidt as his partner. Late in the year last season, they put him with Theodore, and while Shea thrived it often led to McNabb being caught in vulnerable defensive positions which was highlighted by the OT goal that ended Vegas’ season. Throughout the two year history, the Golden Knights have really only used McNabb with Theodore, Schmidt, and Engelland and one of those pairs was a nightmare. McNabb has spent the entirety of his Golden Knights career playing on the left side.
Best Match: Schmidt
Other Options: Theodore, Schuldt, Coghlan, Whitecloud, Hague,
Avoid: Engelland, Bischoff, Merrill, Holden

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Will Deryk Engelland’s Role Be Reduced in 2019-2020?

Now that the wait is over and fan favorite Deryk Engelland signed his new contract to stay in Las Vegas, it’s time to discuss his future impact. First off, let’s note that Engelland will receive less money in 2019-2020 but will have a chance to make up for it.

At 37-years-old you’d assume his overall presence would begin to drop off. After all, his time on ice dwindled from 20:17 ATOI in 2017-18, to 19:53 ATOI in 2018-19. I’m being sarcastic, that’s not much of a difference. Same can be said for his penalty kill minutes, it’s virtually equal to VGK’s first season and I could argue he was as good if not better in 2018-19.

Just take a look at Engelland’s 2019 Postseason penalty killing performance.

Game 1: 4:26 PK Minutes (Game Leader), 1 Goal/5 San Jose Power Plays

Game 2: 9:19 PK Minutes (Game Leader), 1 Goal/8 San Jose Power Plays

Game 3: 4:16 PK Minutes (Team Leader), 1 Goal/3 Power Plays

Game 4: 4:31 PK Minutes, 0 Goals/4 San Jose Power Plays

Game 5: 3:15 PK Minutes (Game Leader), 1 Goal/3 San Jose Power Plays

Game 6: 2:45 PK Minutes, 0 Goals/2 San Jose Power Plays

Game 7: 7:56 PK Minutes (Game Leader), *4 Goals/9 San Jose Power Plays

Total: 36:28 PK Minutes, 5 Goals/34 Power Plays, 0.13 San Jose PPG when Engelland was on the ice.

*You all know why there’s an asterisk

So just on defensive special teams alone, Engelland’s return is a positive one. However, the issue could be on even-strength. How will the Golden Knights coaching staff deploy the elder statesmen this season? Is it possible Jon Merrill, Nick Holden(if still on the roster), or Rookie d-men see more time on 5v5 than in 2018-19. That direction would balance Engelland’s minutes under 18-19 minutes a game. Which could be more beneficial for the team.

A big part of my game is killing penalties-Deryk Engelland

Another element to Engelland’s 2019-2020 usage will be who he is paired up with. Over the past two seasons, it’s been a consistent dose of Engelland and Shea Theodore. I’d assume with the uncertainty of the younger defenseman, that pairing would remain the same to start training camp and the season. That doesn’t mean it will stay that way, and frankly I don’t think it will. With the possibility of a rookie in the lineup nightly, Vegas may want to break in the young blueliner with an experienced, reliable defenseman like Engelland. It worked for Theodore.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

In a perfect world, Engelland would see less even-strength minutes and continue to be a rock on the penalty kill. Keep in mind the Golden Knights paid him less money to stay which could be a sign the organization sees Engelland playing a lesser role this season. Or it’s just another shrewd business move by the front office.

Either way, subtracting 5v5 minutes means fresher legs on the PK. It’s an easy, obvious approach to distribute minutes and get the most out of the 37-year-old in 2019-2020. It’s almost too obvious if a half-wit like me can figure it out. Clearly he’s valued and trusted on the ice by the coaching staff which would lead you to believe they expect the same #5 out there. And how can you fault them after two successful seasons with Vegas?

Golden Knights Agree They’ll Have To Protect Their “Bubble” Better

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Jason Pothier)

Earlier last week Golden Knights defensemen Shea Theodore talked about what the team learned from last year’s second round series against the San Jose Sharks.

It was our first playoff run as a team and we learned a lot from each series. (The Sharks) are good with their sticks around the net. When you look at Pavelski, the amount of goals he’s tipped in right around low. Kane’s another guy, Hertl’s a guy, Couture, they’ve got a lot of guys that play really well in tight and around the net. -Theodore

One of the elements to the Sharks game last season was to crowd the open space in front of goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, and boy did they ever do it again in Game 1. As Theodore mentioned, Tomas Hertl, Joe Pavelski, Evander Kane and Logan Couture were, and still are, tough to handle. San Jose tried circling around and camping out in front of Fleury, but thankfully for Golden Knights fans, the Golden Flower was superb.

On Wednesday night, the tables were turned. Sharks players spent a majority of the night camped out in front of Fleury and the Golden Knights couldn’t clear players out of the “bubble.” The area from the crease and extended out a few feet has to be locked down if Vegas wants to keep the Sharks off the board as the series continues.

Coach Gerard Gallant spoke about the Sharks tight down low-pressure yesterday at his daily press conference.

We gave them too much time there. They came out they were physical and they forechecked real good. You got to be physical, you have to be strong. They spent too much time in our zone against our D. -Gallant

So, what’s the adjustment for Game 2?

I think you have to be aware of where they are. When they add that fourth guy in the rush as d-men we have to be talking to our forwards on who to pick up. That’s when it can become really deadly. -Theodore

While we all watched Fleury make amazing saves series after series last season it’s tough to expect him to do it again. He’ll need less traffic and double parked Sharks in his zone. If his teammates can do a better job of sealing up the bubble in Game 2 they’ll have a great chance to even the series.

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