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.
Before William Carrier was a Golden Knight, he was up and down with the Buffalo Sabres and the AHL’s Rochester Americans. When he did get the call, Carrier would skate with some of the Sabres’ elite. In 2016-17, Carrier had 8 points (5 goals, 3 assists) in 41 games. Two of those goals were assisted by 2019 Conn Smyth winner Ryan O’Reilly. The 24-year-old also shared the ice with league star Jack Eichel for a number of games.
William Carrier has impressed many with his offensive zone awareness, elusiveness, and contribution in his own end this year with the Sabres as well as the Amerks. Carrier notched his first NHL goal on a tip-in past… Marc-André Fleury. Carrier has been put on the Sabres top line and counted on as being the gritty playmaker for Ryan O’Reilly and Kyle Okposo.-Max Marko, Dobbers Prospects 2016
Since his arrival in Vegas, Carrier has been fast, aggressive, and a handful on the ice for opponents. But he’s never been anywhere near the first line, spending every game in a Golden Knights uniform playing on a fourth line with Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Tomas Nosek, and Ryan Reaves. Which made TSN’s Travis Yost ask if Carrier would play a bigger role on another organization. One that wasn’t as deep.
Where do you differentiate between players who are abject drags on performance versus players who might be uniquely challenged playing on otherwise stacked teams?- Travis Yost, TSN.com
Yost’s results show VGK’s goal differential was -0.8 per 60 minutes TOI for Carrier. It essentially theorizes for every 60 minutes combined Carrier plays (equal to about nine games), the Golden Knights allow almost a goal more than they score at even strength. As we’ve watched, those numbers don’t meet what the eye test says about Carrier. He’s not scoring a lot of goals, but he and his fourth line are certainly killing the Golden Knights every time they are out there as these numbers suggest.
In three playoff games, the Golden Knights top six have been outstanding. Between the two lines they have 11 goals, and 14 assists. However, after a winning night that featured Mark Stone’s hat trick and the second line’s offensive explosion, Gerard Gallant took time to praise a different line. The so-called fourth line.
For me tonight, they were as good as their top line, for the role they play on our hockey team. -Gallant
The trio of Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Ryan Reaves, and William Carrier averaged 10 minutes of ice time, generated four shots on net, had three takeaways, three blocked shots and won 75% of faceoffs.
They are momentum guys. They finish checks, they take very few penalties and play the game the right way. -Gallant
Playing the game the right way means pushing the puck towards the offensive zone, pouncing on loose pucks and winning board battles. Sure, it’s a bunch of cliches but for anyone that watched Game 3, they noticed the impact the fourth line had in their 10+ minutes played.
When you cause turnovers, when you’re skating hard that’s a big part of it… I’ve talked about forecheck for a year and a half, two years. When we’re forechecking well and moving our feet well we’re a good team. -Gallant
The Golden Knights used the same strategy against Drew Doughty and the Kings. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)
One of the most dangerous aspects of the San Jose Sharks is their depth of defensemen with offensive abilities. Whether it’s the team leader in points in Brent Burns, or one of the league’s best puck movers in Erik Karlsson, or even the less known players like Brendan Dillon or Justin Braun, the Sharks aren’t lacking offensive production from their defensemen.
This was a major point of emphasis for the Golden Knights against the Sharks a year ago when the two met in the playoffs and will be once again this year. Vegas deploys a somewhat risky strategy in defending the Sharks glut of firepower from their defensemen, something that has not gone unnoticed by the San Jose bench boss.
If they are going to go stand up beside our defensemen up high then the forwards down low are going to have to take advantage of that space. They’ve been consistent with that against us whenever we’ve played them, last year and this year. So we know that’s probably what we are going to get. -Pete DeBoer, Sharks Head Coach
What he’s talking about is how the Golden Knights forwards defend against the Sharks when San Jose has the puck in the Vegas zone. Gallant has instructed his forwards to play as close to the defenseman standing near the blue line as possible to take away time and space and also eliminate shooting lanes.
They play our defensemen high and it ends up with a lot of low play there where you have to take the puck to the net. That’s part of the game when you play them. DeBoer on 3/30 following OT win over VGK
Last year in the playoffs, the Sharks defensemen did not score a single goal at even strength and they managed only a total of 35 shots on goal. The Golden Knights blocked 58 shots from Sharks defensemen in the series.
Over the course of the six playoff games, and even more so in the four games this regular season, the Golden Knights have put an emphasis on not allowing shots from the point. That means taking away Brent Burns’ massive shot, eliminating Erik Karlsson’s shot and passing ability, and limiting every other defenseman’s shot lanes.
You have to get on them quickly. If you give them too much time, they’ll make plays and they’ll create more open ice from that. You have to limit the time and space. That’s pretty much the best answer I can give you. They’re talented players and they’re very creative with the puck. The more opportunities you give them, they’ll make you pay. -Reilly Smith
The other benefit of playing defenseman high at the blue line is in creating turnovers. Any slight bobble of a pass at the Sharks offensive blue line could mean a Golden Knight taking the puck and starting a break the other way. Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith, Alex Tuch, Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, and others will be primary pieces in taking away shots from the point.
**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.
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.
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:
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.
We know they’d rather be on the ice, but the VGK healthy scratches maintain the right attitude. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)
Imagine this. You’ve worked your entire life to become a professional hockey player, make it to the National Hockey League, and to eventually play for the Stanley Cup. Then, your team makes it there, coach brings down the lineup card, and your name is not on it. Rather than play in the game, you are destined to sit in the press box wearing a suit and watch. Sounds like the worst, right? Actually…
It’s awesome. When you’re sitting upstairs and we score a goal guys are jumping and down, hugging each other. That’s what it’s all about. Everyone is a part of the same goal. -Brad Hunt
Hunt hasn’t played since April 7th in Calgary, the Golden Knights last regular season game.
Guys like myself, Jonny (Merrill), and others who haven’t played in awhile, we all want everyone to do so good because we know it’s a chance at something we may never get a chance to do again. It’s been so special. -Hunt
Talking to Hunt, fellow defenseman Jon Merrill, and others, you’d think these guys average 20 minutes a night in the postseason.
I’m honestly more nervous when I’m not playing. When you’re out there playing you’re not thinking about anything, you’re just playing. When you’re upstairs you’re just a fan, you want the boys to win so bad. -Jon Merrill
Could use a little more of this in Game 5. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)
Vegas is a team known for its ability to use all four lines in a game. Prior to the series, we talked about San Jose having the same luxury, and it showed on Wednesday night.
It’s important for us to use everybody and try to save energy. We want to make sure our top guys are fresh. Those are the guys that carry the mail for us. -Eric Fehr, San Jose forward
In Game 4, San Jose’s fourth line of Melker Karlsson, Marcus Sorensen, and Fehr were +3 with 2 points (on an illegal “pick” play). Depth scoring is essential in the postseason, but like Pierre-Edouard Bellemare’s line, San Jose’s fourth isn’t expected to score. Both Coaches expect their depth forwards to clog, pressure, dump, check, eat minutes, and maintain the score.
It was kind of a mix and match. As the game went on we were really just trying to win our matchup with whoever was out there. -Fehr
Fehr logged 12:24 TOI, and created issues for Vegas whenever the center hit the ice. He was four out of five in neutral zone draws, and 70% overall from the faceoff circle. Fehr’s line quieted both third line wingers David Perron and Tomas Tatar. Cody Eakin’s second period shot was the only one on net for the Golden Knights third line the entire night.
We want to do our part when we’re out there chipping in. -Fehr
Fehr sounds like Bellemare after a successful Golden Knights game. Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic couldn’t speak enough about the importance of San Jose’s role players.
It’s our depth that has helped us get this far. The guys that don’t play as much as other guys have stepped up. Played their role and we’re getting contributions from all four lines. Which is what you need in the playoffs. -Marc-Edouard Vlasic, San Jose defenseman
When the Golden Knights get the most out of their fourth line, the game is in VGK’s control. Vegas will deploy the Bellemare-Nosek-Carrier line to win situational matchups throughout the game. When Vegas isn’t getting their normal production from the fourth line it makes Jack Adams finalist Gerard Gallant’s job of balancing lines more difficult. Same goes for the other side.
Well we wouldn’t be here without it. Our guys have recognized the importance of depth and depth scoring for teams that find a way to win. -Pete DeBoer, San Jose head coach
Gallant should expect a bounce back game by his entire team tonight, including Bellamare and the fourth line. Depth can be the difference in this series, and Vegas has the horses to pull it off. It’s just a matter of which team’s fourth line can be more effective, and up in San Jose, it wasn’t the Golden Knights.
Tomas Nosek is secretly one of the most important players on the Golden Knights. He’s so much more than “that guy who scored the first home goal.” (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)
All-Star head coach Gerard Gallant created a few cliches for his team that he’s spent the last six months repeating to the media every chance he’s gotten. Things like “one game at a time,” “work hard and have fun,” and “roll four lines.” They are all obvious for a coach, but usually, they have little actual meaning and are more like those motivational posters supposedly successful people hang in their office.
Every once in a while though one of those sayings manifests itself from a cliche into reality. The Golden Knights won Game 3, and are now ahead 3-0 in the series because of their conditioning, because after a double overtime game in Game 2, Vegas came back and was the fresher team for 60 minutes, and especially the last 20. That’s not because they were taking it one game at a time or that they were working harder than the Kings, it’s because they’ve rolled four lines all season long and it’s allowed them to keep playing the same way, with the same speed and ferocity, even after a 95 minute marathon two days prior.
We’ve never relied on anybody to create all the offense or all the defense. It’s really a great job by Turk (Gallant) to stay the course with that. There were games this year where we were losing and maybe a couple guys wanted more ice time but that’s why he coaches that way so that situations like this happen in the playoffs and we just play the same way. -David Perron
The Golden Knights did not have a single player in the top 50 in total ice time in the regular season. William Karlsson ranked 30th among centers in average time on ice, and Vegas’ first winger to appear in the ATOI rankings was Reilly Smith at 38th among all wingers.
The reason Gallant spread his minutes out all season wasn’t that he had Game 3 of Round 1 in mind, it’s because he could get away with it. Most coaches want to roll four lines and keep everyone fresh, but they can’t because there’s a major drop-off in play from top line to bottom. Most teams, like the Kings, have a group of high-end players and a group of below average players. Not the Golden Knights.
Whatever shifts we got we created those bounces that created those momentum shifts and we know the bench gets excited when we play that way, so it’s not that difficult for us to recreate that. -Pierre-Edouard Bellemare