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Author: Steve Carp Page 1 of 9

Carp: Focus On The Big Picture

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2021 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**

Give the NHL this — it is willing to think outside the box when it comes to staging these outdoor hockey events.

Unfortunately, Mother Nature, like the coronavirus, doesn’t give a damn about aesthetic beauty, the NHL, or NBC. The sun was determined to shine and thus destroyed what was going to be an uplifting occasion for hockey fans everywhere.

So the Golden Knights and Avalanche started, stopped, then started again well into Saturday night in an attempt to complete a game and hand out the two points that came with it to the winner, which was Colorado, 3-2. Let’s not forget that amid the fabulous scenery of Lake Tahoe, these are two teams that are battling for the top spot in the West Division and are among the favorites to win the Stanley Cup come July. The outcome mattered. Just like Monday’s outcome at Ball Arena in Denver will matter.

When the Knights show up in Colorado Monday night, they do so with their first taste of adversity this year as they are dealing with their first losing streak of the season. It’s only two games, but they don’t want it to manifest itself beyond that.

Points have been garnering my attention since this four-game series between the Knights and the Nordiques, er, Avalanche was announced. Everyone has had their eyes on this matchup and the fact that the Knights had won Tuesday and should’ve come away with a point Thursday tells you how closely matched these teams are and how likely they are on a collision course to meet in the playoffs.

These are games that are easy for players to get up for. It’s best vs. best in the division and when the sheet is fast, as was the case at the Fortress earlier in the week and will likely be quick in Denver on Monday, the quality of play goes up a few notches.

Right now, Colorado is the better team.

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Carp: Follow The Percentages

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2021 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**

As another strange week in the NHL ends, it is time for a math lesson. This is a simple one, so don’t panic. And no, there won’t be a quiz at the end.

The NHL was hoping to play a 56-game schedule and have all 31 teams complete that number. But as the coronavirus pandemic rages on and more games are lost, the league may be quickly coming to the realization that playing 56 games by each team may not be feasible.

This isn’t baseball where you could play doubleheaders. You can’t play four or five straight nights either trying to make up the postponed contests. You can’t continue to overhaul the schedule and try and find vacant dates to make up all of the lost games.

So the NHL may wind up reverting back to its plan a year ago. That was to base the standings and the postseason participants on win percentage.

That means a team that plays fewer games but wins more of the ones it participated in could find itself in a better position than another which played all of its games. The playoffs could be determined by percentage points rather than wins and regular points.

Is that fair? No. But these continue to be unprecedented times and the NHL has no one to blame but itself. The league opted to start the season a month ago even though COVID-19 was not going anywhere. In fact, the trend was going the wrong way as different, more potent strains and variants were making their way to the U.S. and Canada.

If there had been random cases that caused a single player to be out short-term, everyone can handle that. You call up a guy from the taxi squad and it’s business as usual. But the reality is, virtually every NHL team in the U.S. has been touched by COVID-19 and it has wreaked havoc on the schedule.

The Golden Knights have already been hit by the virus with Alex Pietrangelo and coach Peter DeBoer having to miss games. Tuesday, Tomas Nosek left the game with Anaheim after the 2nd period following a positive test. The fact the league allowed the game to continue was incredulous. As was the case with Pietrangelo and St. Louis, the Ducks are fortunate no one was positive after Tuesday’s game given their players had been exposed to Nosek.

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Carp: A Blessing In Disguise

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2021 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**

Sometimes, good things emerge out of adversity.

In the case of the Golden Knights, they might have more depth on the blue line than they originally thought.

With Alex Pietrangelo in COVID protocol and Brayden McNabb on Long Term IR with a lower-body injury, coach Pete DeBoer was forced to shuffle his defensive deck over the weekend against Los Angeles.

He knew what he had in veteran Nick Holden, so putting him back on the ice was easy. DeBoer wasn’t quite sure what he’d get from Dylan Coghlan, and, to a lesser extent, Nicolas Hague.

What he got was pleasantly surprising.

Hague looks extremely comfortable playing alongside another youngster — Zach Whitecloud. He put Coghlan with Holden and the two seemed to click. The other D-pair — Shea Theodore and Alec Martinez — moved up to the No. 1 unit.

Understand that in this weird, bizarre year, things are going to crop up periodically. How your team responds is what likely determines whether you’ll be playing in mid-May and make a run at the Stanley Cup. In the Knights’ case, there has to be a rise in the overall comfort level knowing the young guys can step in and contribute, that they don’t need to be skating up the street at the Orleans Arena with the Henderson Silver Knights.

It’s safe to say Whitecloud isn’t leaving the lineup anytime soon. He continues to display the kind of poise usually reserved for someone with far more NHL experience. He may be the most pleasant surprise of this young season so far.
He’s running DeBoer’s system perfectly, supporting the attack and getting involved offensively. Such was the case with his first goal of the season Sunday. He cruised into the open space, unnoticed by the Kings, then got the puck and ripped one past Calvin Petersen.

Defensively, he’s growing more steady and confident. The turnovers don’t come as frequently and he’s settling in and not having to worry that if he makes a mistake or two he’ll find himself a member of the taxi squad, or worse, wearing a Silver Knights uniform.

Hague is also proving to be worthy of DeBoer’s trust. He is using his size effectively and like Whitecloud, is integrating himself in the attack. The fact his skating has improved so much the past four years is a credit to Hague’s hard work as well as listening to the organization’s coaches.

Coghlan was the wild card. He made his NHL debut Friday against the Kings and paired with the experienced Holden, who could cover his back, Coghlan did a good job overall in the Knights’ 5-2 win. Playing with Marc-Andre Fleury in net didn’t hurt his cause either.

We all know Pietrangelo is important to the team’s Cup hopes. He will likely be back Tuesday against Anaheim at T-Mobile Arena. And that’s a good thing. Yes, Pietrangelo may not be off to a scorching start. But for him, this is like preseason, trying to learn a new system, playing with new teammates, and adjusting his family’s day-to-day life in a new city.

He will get better as he gets more comfortable. He has shown glimpses of that. So I’m not worried about him.

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Carp: Welcome To The Weirdest Week Ever!

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2021 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**

How bizarre was this week?

First, a member of the Golden Knights coaching staff may have been exposed to the coronavirus and as a precaution, they were kept away from the rink. Then it turned out one of them actually tested positive.

Then the team goes ahead and plays St. Louis Tuesday with general manager Kelly McCrimmon behind the bench as acting head coach assisted by Silver Knights coach Manny Viveiros and members of his staff.

The Knights spot the Blues two two-goal leads, rally behind Max Pacioretty’s hat trick only to lose 5-4 in a shootout as St. Louis beats Robin Lehner twice in the skills competition.

The following day, a player tests positive and it’s none other than Alex Pietrangelo, the former Blues captain. Thursday’s game is postponed to be made up at a later date. The facility gets shut. No practice. No media availability. Everything in Knightsville goes dark.

Then it’s announced that multiple coaches tested positive and the team’s games against San Jose in Arizona Monday and Wednesday are postponed, leaving the Knights without a game until Friday, Feb. 5.

Viveiros and his staff were unable to be on the bench for the Silver Knights’ two preseason games because they were with the Golden Knights Tuesday. Former Golden Knight Deryk Engelland was recruited to be the bench coach for the Silver Knights vs. San Jose with the real coaches in a suite at Orleans Arena and Engelland wins both games, the second of which was abruptly ended due to COVID-19 protocols involving the Barracuda with the Silver Knights leading 1-0 after two periods.

Oh, and the team’s whacky salary cap situation may have finally worked itself out with defensemen Brayden McNabb going on long-term injured reserve according to CapFriendly.com, with an unknown injury. Or, maybe it hasn’t. The current roster shows 13 forwards, five defensemen, and two goalies, and still just $31,000 in cap space. Pietrangelo is likely out for a little while, so is McNabb, so more moves are coming but they still may not be able to get Glass and Hague in the same lineup.

Does it get any stranger than this?

It doesn’t. Which begs a couple of questions:

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Carp: Keep Cody Glass In The Lineup

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2021 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**

You didn’t think they were going 56-0, did you?

The Golden Knights have their warts, just like the other 30 NHL teams. Sometimes they are camouflaged, sometimes they’re on full display.

Such was the case Friday in Glendale where the Knights continue to get caught in odd-man rushes, fail to account for themselves in their own end, and remain dismal when having a man advantage. So it shouldn’t have come as a surprise they lost to the Arizona Coyotes, 5-2.

I’ve not been a fan of playing five defensemen and I’d like to think management will do something to address the team’s salary cap situation sooner than later instead of waiting until someone has to go on LTIR. However, I’m glad Cody Glass is in the lineup. It’s time, once and for all, to see if he can be an impact player at the NHL level.

Glass scored Friday and in nearly 15 minutes of ice time, he posted a productive stat line, not the least of which was going 8-2 on faceoffs. He said afterward he has worked hard on improving at the dot and working in the corners. Both were on display in the loss.

We see glimpses of this in Glass’ game. He can produce given the right opportunity and matched with productive wingers. Alex Tuch certainly fits that bill. Many think Tuch is a top-six forward and while he’s currently a third-liner, that doesn’t mean he can’t remain productive. Tuch has been getting to the front of the net with more regularity and if he and Glass along with Nicolas Roy can bolster their puck possession time, the Keegan Kolesar experiment may be nothing but a distant memory.

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Carp: It’s More Than Just About The Bottom Line

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2021 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**

As everyone goes about their business this Sunday, you do so knowing your favorite team is 2-0-0 and in first place.

On the surface, that’s great. And pragmatically speaking, the Golden Knights’ start is what everyone was hoping for. You’re at home, playing a team that is offensively challenged and is in rebuild mode and you’re supposedly stronger than you finished last season in terms of your own roster.

So why did Saturday’s 2-1 overtime win over Anaheim feel so uncomfortable?

There’s a number of factors, not the least of which we’re seeing early in this weird NHL season that there’s going to be a lot of pushback from the team which loses the first of these back-to-back games on the schedule. Look around the league and that was the case virtually everywhere. Only the Knights, Washington, Minnesota, Tampa Bay, Nashville, and Philadelphia swept their opponent in the B2B scenario. And for good portions of Saturday, it looked like a split was going to happen at the Fortress, which definitely feels weird without 18,000 fans inside it. The Ducks had survived a 1st period onslaught by the Knights, who were debuting their snazzy gold jerseys, to keep the game 0-0 and went ahead off a 3-on-1 to take a 1-0 lead in the second stanza.

Then they clamped down defensively, clogging the neutral zone and not allowing the Knights to freewheel out of their own end. And had it not been for some great goaltending from Marc-Andre Fleury, the outcome could have been far different. But the veteran and future Hall of Famer looked sharp and kept his team in it until William Karlsson could tie it with 1:22 remaining after the Knights pulled the goalie, and Max Pacioretty would win it seven seconds into overtime.

It was far from a stellar team effort. Yet in his postgame Zoom conference with reporters, Peter DeBoer said he thought his team’s overall performance exceeded Thursday’s, which was a 5-2 win.

Say what?

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Carp: It’s Good To Be Back!

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2021 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**

I missed you folks.

When the NHL season paused last March, my column for SinBin also went on hiatus. But unlike the league, which resumed play in July, I remained sidelined. I felt like Drew Doughty. Or Jack Eichel.

But thanks to Ken, Jason, and especially Las Vegas attorney Jim Jimmerson, who is sponsoring this column once again, it’s back to work for what will be a most fascinating season. And it starts tonight at T-Mobile Arena where no fans will be admitted inside to watch the Golden Knights host Anaheim.

Fifty-six games. A restructured and renamed division. A captain for the first time. Arguably the best goaltending tandem in the league. New faces on the scene. Old ones having departed. All sorts of strange scenarios playing out.

That’s what we have to look forward to over the coming months. Interesting? Hell yes. Unpredictable? Absolutely. Frustrating at times? Count on it.

Welcome to the 2021 season.

For me, the Golden Knights are built to make the playoffs and make a long run, similar to the Edmonton bubble as they advanced to the Western Conference Final. Are they good enough to play for and win the Stanley Cup the way they’re currently constructed? Perhaps. But I have some concerns.

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Carp: A Hockey Season Without Spectators?

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2019-20 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**

Let me give you a scenario and see if you could live with it.

The NHL decides it is safe for its players to resume playing, but not necessarily O.K. for fans to enter arenas to watch. Instead, the league opts to essentially turn their sport into a television studio event, like a soap opera.

You can watch, but there’s no studio audience as would be the case with, say, a game show. You can’t come inside. You can’t interact with the players. No signs asking for pucks. No dancing for the video board above center ice. No music to groove to.

How about this? The NHL hosts regional playoffs at neutral site cities. The Eastern Conference’s first and second rounds are played in Ottawa, the Western Conference plays in Minneapolis-St. Paul. But you still wouldn’t be able to attend.

Would you take either of those options? Or would you insist that no hockey be played until everyone could once again partake of the entire experience and be allowed inside their home team’s building?

I know what my answer would be. Give me the studio version of the NHL, including the playoffs. As long as every team’s game is shown for free in some fashion, I’m in.

Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly gave a frank assessment of the situation the other day when he told NHL.com the league is monitoring the coronavirus situation on a daily basis with medical and health officials and it will not resume the season until it is safe for the players, coaches, and officials to participate. Even the medical and science experts can’t predict when things will take a turn for the better.

Social distancing doesn’t exist on the ice. Players are engaged in a contact sport. This isn’t like a Public Service Announcement I saw the other day in which New York Rangers legend and Hall of Famer Rod Gilbert told New Yorkers to keep a hockey stick’s length from each other as a way to properly socially distance themselves from each other. Frankly, I thought Gilbert should have borrowed Zdeno Chara’s stick for the PSA. It would have been a more effective visual.

Nonetheless, that’s not realistic in any kind of hockey game. Even a group of Mites playing are going to make contact with each other. So the NHL is absolutely right to make sure it’s safe for the players to compete against each other before it resumes its season.

The fans are a different story. You can play hockey games without people in the stands. And that’s why the NHL might want to rethink the idea of going right back into its arenas while the coronavirus is impacting the country.

Thursday, radio host Brian Blessing and I talked on his show Vegas Hockey Hotline about the idea of playing games in practice facilities until it’s safe to let people inside the arenas. Many teams have very nice places to practice, with the Golden Knights’ City National Arena arguably the NHL’s best. There are places to set up television cameras, the Knights already have their locker room. The visiting team’s quarters could be UNLV’s locker room. It would be spartan by NHL standards but when the Knights went to the other team’s place, they would deal with it too.

As for the rink itself, it reminds me of the scene in the movie Hoosiers when Gene Hackman took out the tape measure at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis and told his team, “You’ll find these are the exact same measurements as our gym back home.” The ice at CNA is the exact same size as T-Mobile Arena — 200 by 85 feet. And if it means playing in July, the quality of the ice stands a better chance of holding up in a smaller building with fewer people inside it.

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Carp: Ready For The Future

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2019-20 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**

At some point, the hockey world will return to normal. When that point will be, nobody can say with any certainty as the coronavirus pandemic maintains its grip on the world.

But that time is coming, and when it does, it means charting a course for the future. We’re talking entry draft. We’re talking free agency. We’re talking salary cap. We’re talking scouting plans for 2020-21, both pro and amateur.

Right now, everything is at a standstill. There’s no junior hockey being played. There’s no minor league hockey. There’s no college hockey. There’s no KHL, and most of the other European professional leagues have either finished or canceled the remainder of their seasons.

The Golden Knights are no different from the other 30 NHL teams. They can’t travel which is fine because there’s nothing to travel to. They are going to have to rely on the work their hockey ops and scouting staffs have been doing since last August.

The good news? They have more time to analyze the information they have gleaned. There’s no rush to make a hard decision on a player. The majority of their work is already completed.

The NHL has not decided whether to delay the draft, which is currently scheduled for June 26-27 in Montreal. In all likelihood, the draft will get pushed back. How long? Again, that remains to be seen.

But George McPhee and Kelly McCrimmon have an opportunity to use the data at their disposal to really hone in on a particular player and see what the pros and cons are. Scouts can go through their reports, rewatch video of a player and either confirm their analysis or perhaps alter a couple of things.

McCrimmon is up at his cottage in Manitoba and he remains in communication with McPhee along with his hockey staff.

The bottom line is the Golden Knights should be better prepared for the 2020 draft than they were for the first three they participated in. McCrimmon said Saturday the work continues despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

The amateur scouting staff is an obvious area where we’d be the most impacted. We’d normally be getting our final readings on most players in competitive settings. But I think we’ll prepare very well. Our guys have been all over the world doing their work and we’re prepared. It’s hard to speculate. First, the world has to get healthy. We don’t know how the dates will fall in line. -McCrimmon

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Carp: Coronavirus Potentially Puts NHL Season On The Brink

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2019-20 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**

I got a chill Saturday morning, and not just because I was up in Reno.

The NHL is considering closing its locker rooms to the media because of the coronavirus and it hit me like a hard slap in the face. It made me wonder if more extreme measures are coming, like putting the current season on hold, or worse, canceling the rest of the year.

On the surface, closing the room to the media seems like an extreme move. Those conversations between players and reporters are important to the game. It helps connect the fans to hockey.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

But when you think about it, it’s about player safety. Granted, you would like to think that those of us who cover the league would be smart enough to stay out of the locker room if we’re under the weather. But when you have pressure from editors to get stories and you’re facing stiff competition on the beat, you usually put your health second and forge ahead.

That’s obviously not the smart thing to do but that’s the way it usually works. It’s the competitive nature of the journalism business.

Frankly, if I was a player, I probably wouldn’t want a TV guy with the flu next to me. And nobody knows who has or doesn’t have the coronavirus since you can’t get tested because there aren’t enough kits available and there’s no vaccine to immunize you from it. You may have it and not even know it. Or you could be sick as a dog with similar symptoms and not have the coronavirus and it could be just a regular bout of flu.

The NHL can’t roll the dice when it comes to the unknown. It has to protect its investment, which is the players and the game itself. But I’m not sure a “mixed zone” environment where reporters and athletes are separated by a rope in conducting postgame business would be any safer. Your proximity to the athlete is virtually the same as if you were inside the locker room gathered at his stall.

Some teams have instituted a closed room policy. Others are having a wait-and-see attitude. I imagine the NHL will have a blanket policy in place regarding locker room access, perhaps as early as today.

But make no mistake about it, it’s going to impact how teams are covered, how news is reported and what you read here at SinBin. Ken and Jason are daily visitors to City National Arena, me, a little less frequently. The amazing work they and the rest of the media group which covers the Golden Knights do will be hampered by this edict.

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