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3rd Line Desperately Needs A Shakeup

The Golden Knights 3rd line this season has been an absolute disaster.

And that’s putting it politely.

Six games with Pirri-Eakin-Glass. Four games with Pirri-Stastny-Zykov. Three games with Zykov-Eakin-Glass. Three games with Nosek-Eakin-Glass. One game with Pirri-Eakin-Stone.

That’s 17 games, and those 3rd lines amassed a total of one goal. A single goal scored by Cody Glass against the Calgary Flames, which if this were soccer, would have been an own goal credited to Mark Giordano.

Individually, it doesn’t look much better.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Cody Glass – 18 games, 3 goals, 7 points*
Tomas Nosek – 17 games, 3 goals, 4 points**
Cody Eakin – 14 games, 0 goals, 3 points
Brandon Pirri – 10 games, 0 goals, 1 point
Valentin Zykov – 7 games, 0 goals, 2 points

*Glass played four games on the 2nd line. He scored one goal and had two assists in those games
**All three of Nosek’s goals were scored shorthanded or with the 4th line

But they aren’t supposed to be an offensive line. Right? That’s the bill of goods that’s been sold since the Golden Knights installed Eakin as the 3rd line center midway through the 2017-18 season.

Well, they aren’t good defensively either.

Eakin ranks as one of the 15 worst forwards with at least 100 minutes played this season with a 41.3% Corsi. He’s the 21st worst skater in the NHL at shot percentage at 40.8%, and he ranks in at least the 200th worst of 292 NHL forwards in goals against per 60, expected goals against per 60, and scoring chances against per 60. He’s been less than stellar in the faceoff circle winning at just a 46.4% clip, the worst of any Golden Knight with at least 100 draws. He has a -7 +/- rating, the worst of any Golden Knight. He’s one of four VGK skaters with a 0.0 defensive point shares number (the other three are Tuch, Roy and Bischoff who have played a combined 10 games). And, he’s registered just three takeaways, the least of any player with at least eight games played.

Pirri is right there with Eakin in all of the advanced stat numbers with a Corsi of 42.2%, shot percentage of 36.4%, and an expected goals for percentage of 41.8%. He’s been on the ice for just two goals while allowing five, and that’s including his 28:16 of power play time. He’s a -3, and has a -0.2 point share number which means if you simply subtracted Pirri and Eakin from the roster completely stats say they’d be almost half a point better in the standings.

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Golden Knights Getting Production Up And Down The Lineup

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

I’m assuming most Golden Knights fans have a daily routine of checking the latest NHL standings, league leaders and Vegas player stats. Oh, and SinBin.vegas of course. If you’re one of those people then you might notice some unfamiliar point leaders seven games into the season.

Some of Vegas’ depth players are having the fastest starts to their careers. Players that most think are bottom six, PK’ers or checking forwards are pleasantly surprising the coaching staff and fanbase.

Tomas Nosek has four points (3 Goals, 1 Assist) in eight games. Nosek’s career high in goals is eight, so he’s halfway there with 74 games remaining. Last season, Nosek didn’t register his fourth point until November, 27th. His third goal of the 2018-19 wasn’t scored until December, 12th.

William Carrier is on pace for around 15 goals this season, that would almost double his career-best (8 goals), which he set last season. Carrier didn’t score his first or second goals until mid-November of last year. The bruising fourth line forward had a total of nine points (8 goals, 1 assist) in 2018-19, he’s already tied his assist number from last year and is projected to crush his career totals. Hopefully, in games played as well.

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Sorry Cody, You’re Not A Checking Forward

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Cody Glass just wants to play. He’s told us for three straight summers now, his goal is to play in the NHL. ASAP.

The question is, where would he play?

It’s the NHL, I’ll play anywhere. I’ll play defense if I have to. -Glass

Earlier this summer, Glass said he’s grown, and he’s ready to make the leap from juniors/minors to the NHL. However, in his third NHL training camp, his age, size, nor maturity will decide his path. It will be up to the Golden Knights management to choose between an established NHL body and giving their young center a chance to flourish.

But again, where will he play?

To be anywhere on the Vegas roster it would be unbelievable. You need to find that role and you need to play it. So, if they want me to be a checking forward, I’ll do my best to be a checking forward. -Glass

You have to love Glass’ eagerness to make the club, but let’s be serious, Vegas didn’t draft a center sixth overall to be a checking forward. That role is best filled by guys like Tomas Nosek, or William Carrier. The Golden Knights have higher expectations for a two-way, top ten drafted center.

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How Important Were Faceoffs To The 2018-19 Golden Knights?

The importance of winning the faceoff battle has been a three-year reoccurring argument here at SinBin.vegas. In my opinion, it’s all about possession. When a center wins a draw his team has immediate control and should safely get the puck out of their zone. Or create an offensive push towards the opponent’s direction. Whoever wins the possession battle, should dictate the game.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Faceoffs are probably one of the most underrated stats in this league. If you can start off with the puck, your much better off. And you’ll have better scoring chances. – Nate Schmidt

On the other side of the discussion is Europa Ken.

He’s not concerned with a lost draw if Vegas’ forecheck, shooting percentage, and rebound control are positively effective. For the most I agree, but remember a forechecking attack begins with the puck, and there’s a good chance it was possessed by a winning faceoff.

2018-19 Golden Knights Faceoff Percentage Breakdown

  • Record when winning 51% or more Faceoffs: (20-11-2)
  • Record when losing 51% or more Faceoffs: (14-16-3)
  • Record when Faceoff % is 50/50: (9-5-2)

While it’s clear the Golden Knights have a better record when they win more faceoffs, the formula isn’t as simple as you’d think. At first glance the numbers support my argument, but looking deeper, the higher the FO% didn’t guarantee a Vegas victory. In five separate games, Golden Knights’ centers won 60% or more from the dot. Their record was (1-4). Even furthering the madness, Vegas was (2-2) in games they lost more than 60% of draws.

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Fourth Line Could Be Key For Both Teams In First Round

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s twice-weekly column publishes every Wednesday and Sunday during the Golden Knights season.** 

Whenever you attempt to analyze any playoff series in any sport, you’re going to be looking for certain intangibles, the little things that could make the difference between winning and losing.

As the Golden Knights and San Jose Sharks prepare to renew acquaintances in the postseason beginning Wednesday at the SAP Center, this time in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, there’s a couple of words to ponder:

One is “depth.”

The other is “balance.”

Both teams have sufficient quantities of each. The Sharks have managed to compete without Erik Karlsson, their all-star defenseman, for a couple of stretches this season. But he’s back and his presence will undoubtedly be felt.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

San Jose also has the ability to hurt you with all four of its lines. And with that in mind, we are examining the bottom-six depth of both teams’ forwards and the fourth line in particular.

Interestingly, there are a few similarities. The Knights have used different wingers on the left side to work with center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and right wing Ryan Reaves. And whether it has been Ryan Carpenter, William Carrier or Tomas Nosek, the Vegas fourth line hardly misses a beat.

I think everyone’s comfortable with each other. We talk on the ice and on the bench and everyone is on the same page. -Bellemare

The Sharks have also used different people on their fourth line. According to our good friend Sheng Peng who covers the Sharks for FearTheFin.com, Peter DeBoer has used a mix of Barclay Goodrow, Melker Karlsson, Micheal Haley and have also used Joonas Donskoi, Lukas Radil and Dylan Gambrell though it’s doubtful the last two will see action. If Timo Meier’s injured left wrist has improved enough for him to play, he’s likely to be in the mix as well.

Like Gerard Gallant, DeBoer is blessed with some options for his fourth line. For Gallant, he’ll let the players decide who plays.

“‘ve always said that — the players determine who plays, not the coach. Whoever is playing the best will be in the lineup. -Gallant

That’s not going to be as easy as it sounds. Carpenter has played very well. Same for Nosek. Carrier has been his usual self since he came back a couple of weeks ago, throwing his body around and using his speed to help on the forecheck.

We have a great group of guys. Nobody’s going to complain about who plays and who doesn’t. It’s all about winning. -Carpenter.

Of course, Reaves is in the spotlight. When the two teams met on March 30 at SAP Center, he was right in the middle of everything. He will be Public Enemy No. 1 with the Sharks’ fans. But if you think he’s going to be dropping the gloves every game, guess again.

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The Perfect Golden Knights Lineup

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

As we head towards the playoffs the composition of the Golden Knights “perfect” lineup is going to become a major topic of discussion. Assuming full health, and it appears the Golden Knights should have it barring any new injuries, the top six should be locked in as it was prior to Max Pacioretty’s injury. It looks like this:

Marchessault-Karlsson-Smith
Pacioretty-Stastny-Stone

The next obvious pair of pieces are on the third line. Those are center Cody Eakin and right-wing Alex Tuch. Meaning the lineup now looks like this:

Marchessault-Karlsson-Smith
Pacioretty-Stastny-Stone
XXX-Eakin-Tuch

The final obvious piece is the fourth line center, that’s Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. Thus, we’ve got this:

Marchessault-Karlsson-Smith
Pacioretty-Stastny-Stone
XXX-Eakin-Tuch
XXX-Bellemare-XXX

That leaves six players to fill just three spots. Those players are Brandon Pirri, Tomas Nosek, Ryan Reaves, Ryan Carpenter, William Carrier, and Valentin Zykov.

To me, because there are two slots open on one line and only one on the other, the focus should be on creating the best fourth line possible and then using the leftover player to fill out what already should be a promising line of Eakin and Tuch.

Because the Golden Knights prefer to roster a fairly standard fourth line (meaning it’s much more of a checking/possession/don’t give up goals line) Pirri and Zykov aren’t great fits. They’ll come back into play when we consider the final piece on the third line.

Rather than give my opinion on how it should line up, I’d rather use numbers. So, using NaturalStatTrick.com’s “Line Tool,” I’ve gone through each potential option to see how they’ve performed as a trio when together.

LineTOIGFGACorsi %SC%PDO
40/41/7576:033365.2265.71.965
40/41/289:011257.1457.14.914
40/41/925:250062.5040.001.00
92/41/75123:033453.7155.56.979
92/41/75 (17-18)85:461046.2740.981.033
92/41/2818:301068.4270.001.067
92/41/28 (17-18)151:076550.0051.411.025
28/41/75344:3410955.4657.140.993

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Gallant Happy With Third Line; “Want Them To Keep Doing What They Are Doing”

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

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

Gallant, speaking on the VGK Insider Show with Frank Harnish and Ryan The Hockey Guy on Fox Sports 98.9 FM, says he thinks his team is just fine offensively, even with the third line as currently constructed.

Well you know what, I think people overreact a little bit saying ‘oh this line needs to be better’ or ‘you’ve got to make that line better.’

I’m not worried about scoring. I know we’ve got the scoring in there. I’m worried about team chemistry and making sure we’ve got the right players playing at the right time. -Gallant

In fact, he went on to make an even bolder statement, declaring this year’s team as good as last year’s.

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What Should/Will The Golden Knights Do With Brandon Pirri And Their Roster Crunch In The Coming Weeks?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

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.

The Facts

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.

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The Play That Beat The Ducks

The play of the game. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Unlike baseball where there’s one pitch or football where there’s one play, hockey is not a game that is often decided, or even swung, by an individual moment in a game. However, during the game against Anaheim, Tomas Nosek and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare combined to make a play that flipped the course of that game and if all goes well, could end up changing the course of the season.

It came late in a somewhat sloppily played first period. The Golden Knights had taken a penalty and appeared like they could be headed for the all too familiar fate of falling behind early. The penalty kill begins with Bellemare winning the draw,  Brayden McNabb clears the puck, and the Golden Knights stop the first entry. But then, the Ducks maintain possession for 20 more seconds before setting up a shot from the high slot. It’s wired, Bellemare courageously blocks it, he then finds it first and springs Nosek into open ice. Here, give it a watch.

 

Nosek picks up the puck and drives directly toward the goal drawing a penalty, thus killing off the current penalty and earning Vegas a power play. But it’s not just the block and the breakaway, it’s when it happened in the shift. Penalty kill shifts are meant to be as short as possible, :20-:30 is great for forwards. Once you can safely change, you are supposed to do it. The normal play there would have been to send the puck down and get off the ice, but Nosek dug deep into his gas tank, already :50 seconds into the shift, and went straight to the net. 

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TOMAS NOSEK (F) SIGNS 1 YEAR EXTENSION AT $962,500

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