It hadn’t happened in 11 years, and it probably won’t happen for 11 more. The Golden Knights’ decision to only dress 15 skaters on Monday night in a critical game against the Colorado Avalanche was a bit of a shock. General Manager Kelly McCrimmon explained the situation and pointed towards unexpected injuries to several players at the same time. This left the organization without enough cap space to call up a player in time for Monday’s game. However, the explanation didn’t sit well with some in the hockey world.
Immediately after McCrimmon’s last minute Zoom conference, TSN’s Frank Seravalli challenged Vegas’ reasoning.
On February 24th, 2020, the Golden Knights front office made a decision to address their goaltender of the future. That was reiterated last summer, when coach Pete DeBoer “announced” (via actions) Robin Lehner as the postseason starter. A move that shocked fans, media, and the Golden Knights players as well. It was a choice that put the organization in a bit of a conundrum.
DeBoer’s decision to go with Lehner created an unexpected firestorm. Marc-Andre Fleury’s agent and loyal supporter Allan Walsh went to social media and loudly voiced his anger. We all remember what happened from there so we won’t rehash. Looking back, the controversy was avoidable if communication had been more clear.
Based on how this season played out, DeBoer will have to make another tough choice. Let’s face it, he’s in a tough spot. No matter who he names as Game 1 starter some faction of Golden Knights universe will be disappointed. This is why it’s time for the Golden Knights head coach to announce his postseason starting goaltender.
If there’s any concern DeBoer’s net decision will cause another controversy then let it out of the bag now. Once the announcement is made, no matter how it’s taken, it will need time to settle. Doing it now would allow the players to get over their preferences, and solely focus on the postseason, not to mention instilling a level of public confidence for the eventual #1 goalie. But the real reason why now is the right time for DeBoer to publicly announce his starting goaltender is Fleury’s agent.
Say Lehner is named the starting goaltender, we can only assume Walsh will make noise. To combat that, the Golden Knights can get it out of the way now. Let the power agent and other Fleury supporters in the locker room sulk for a few days. It will happen, it’s human nature. Why risk tension in playoffs like last season?
It’s highly unlikely but it’s possible DeBoer hasn’t made up his mind yet. Maybe he needs the final three games to sway his decision. Vegas’ coach might also be planning on continuing with the goalie rotation. If that’s the case, it could be beneficial to announce that to the public. There’s nothing wrong with being more transparent.
Opening up doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a competitive disadvantage,in fact, in this case, it would probably mean a competitive advantage for the Golden Knights.
There hasn’t been much for Golden Knights fans to complain about this season. Their favorite team is currently in first place, and have the second most standing points in the league. Overall, it’s been an outstanding 2021 campaign for Vegas. However, it’s understandable if last night’s stumble against the Wild concerned some VGK faithful.
Sometimes it’s a blessing this happens now before the playoffs that you can take a look at things, players, goalies so we can see what we need to sharpen up -Robin Lehner
The Wild weren’t the better team last night, nor were they ever in control of the game. None of that mattered. In the end, the team that played 60 minutes won and walked away with an important late-season victory. It wasn’t just about the Wild picking up two points, it was also the opportunity to steal them away from the Golden Knights.
In a race like this it’s huge to deny them points. -Nick Bonino, Wild forward
Minnesota understands the likelihood of facing either Vegas, Colorado, or both to advance to the final four. It’s possible the Golden Knights will have a similar path if they don’t secure first place in the division. There’s no argument which roster is more equipped to win now, but facing Minnesota in the first round is a risk the Golden Knights would rather avoid.
The rosters or the way they play isn’t a mismatch, it’s just a team is in another team’s head mentally and for us you’ve got to fight through that. -Pete DeBoer
The biggest area of concern was the Golden Knights’ inability to finish off a two-goal 3rd period lead. Last night Minnesota severely outmatched Vegas’ intensity in the 3rd. Team defense and goaltending weren’t at their best but we’ve seen DeBoer’s club adjust and win despite sloppy play in their own zone. In a long series, the Golden Knights’ size and strength alone could wear down the Wild regardless of which end the puck is in.
Surprisingly, Minnesota physically fought back and it clearly bothered the Golden Knights. After the game, captain Mark Stone mentioned getting Ryan Reaves back from injury to further intimidate the Wild.
It’d be nice to have Reavo back. I don’t think there’d be as much chirping if 75 was out there. -Mark Stone
Much like the next game after a playoff loss, Vegas will respond. However, they can’t let up until the game clock expires. Or else that pesky Wild team will make life a living hell for two weeks starting in late May.
Golden Knights goal leader Max Pacioretty opened up this week when he joined former NHL’er Ray Ferraro and NHL reporter Darren Dreger on the Ray and Dregs podcast. The forward that recently crossed 600 career points and 800 career games touched on the competitive culture in Vegas, his bromance with Mark Stone, and trying to resolve the Golden Knights salary cap issues.
It’s a pretty volatile league right now and we have been steady. A lot of that has been our depth. We have run into salary cap problems where we couldn’t dress enough players and on some nights even two. Currently, we have a D-man stepping in the forward position. I think all of that adversity and all of those different situations brought us together a little bit closer as a group. I think everyone has felt a little more important about their role on the team. –Max Pacioretty on Ray and Dregs Podcast
When word got out that the Golden Knights organization would have to juggle the lineup in order to be cap compliant, the locker room stepped up. However, it didn’t take long for the players to realize they weren’t qualified.
It was wild because we all thought we were capologists. ‘Why don’t we this and do that? We could’ve played that guy.’ Nobody knew the rule that you have to miss one game and then call up an emergency. We were so out of touch with what the rules were. It was funny at first. Everyone was trying to figure out a solution and it just never came. The fact that everybody has had the right mind set in those situations it’s let our team play differently on some nights and being able to adjust that and being able to win hockey games ultimately while doing so. –Pacioretty on Ray and Dregs Podcast
Maneuvering through murky cap waters was just one example proving Vegas’ dedication towards their future endeavors. It became apparent to Pacioretty how driven the players and front office were when arrived in the summer of 2018.
The 13-year veteran also came to realize how many of the NHL’s top players want to play in Vegas, and the organization was willing to acquire them. The Golden Knights win-first culture is no secret around the league.
With their current two-day break the Golden Knights are using this valuable time off to rest their bodies from the heavy wear and tear they’ve successfully played through this season. The Golden Knights just finished up playing 31 in 56 days. That’s an average of 1.8 days between contests.
Even the best athletes in the world need rest and recovery. There’s not a lot of time for that when you’re playing pretty much every other day. The biggest fear that I have is that you’re going to get a lot of overuse injuries. You’re more worried about people pulling muscles, having injuries that we normally wouldn’t see as common in hockey because they usually do get breaks built into the schedule. -Dr. Brian Schultz, Anaheim Ducks team doctor
Coaches and more importantly team doctors are concerned with potential injuries as we head down the stretch. Anaheim’s team physician publicly gave his medical opinion about the stress a crammed schedule will have on NHL players.
We checked in with our medical expert, Vegas Sports Doc, Dr. Caleb Pinegar. Is Dr. Pinegar as concerned as NHL coaches and team doctors about a demanding schedule like the Golden Knights are facing this season?
Almost every sport has required or recommended breaks. The pitcher doesn’t throw consecutive days, football players get 5 to 7 days between games. They even talk about having a Sunday game followed by a Thursday game and the short break being concerning about being ready for the next game. -Dr. Caleb Pinegar, Crovetti Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine
Rest to work ratio is an important component to keeping professional athletes healthy and in ideal playing shape. With a shortened season the schedule doesn’t allow the proper resting period for any team. It’s tough to expect the Golden Knights to bring a consistent level of energy every game. And yet they’ve won nine in a row.
As we watched over the weekend, the Golden Knights easily dominated the basement-dwelling Anaheim Ducks in two straight games. It’s clear Vegas is the much, much better team. This season the Golden Knights are 6-1-0 against the Ducks and have dictated the season series except for an earlier 1-0 defeat.
They’ve done the same against pretty much every other inferior team in the division as well. It’s been that type of campaign for the Golden Knights. They mop up on inferior opponents, winning games by an average of 1.5 goals per game.
VGK vs. ANA, ARI, LA, SJ, STL (Combined record: 87-104-28) 119 Goals Scored 69 Goals Allowed 3.71 Goals For Per 60 2.15 Goals Allowed Per 60 48 Goal Differential 53 out of 64 Points (26-5-1, .828)
It’s no secret the Golden Knights have had an easy path to a postseason berth. Same goes for the Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild. All three have built strong records by defeating the teams they should. So, it’s unfair to solely mock the Golden Knights for their weak schedule.
Points Percentage vs West Division Teams Colorado .744 PTS% Vegas .727 PTS% Minnesota .663 PTS%
Realistically, that’s what contending teams need to do. Vegas, Colorado, and Minnesota were all handed a light schedule before the season began and have done their job gathering as many points as possible. It shouldn’t matter what level of competition they face. There’s no secret formula for beating and taking advantage of lesser opponents. However, that’ll end in early May when the regular season concludes and they have to exclusively play each other.
Before Alex Pietrangelo suited up for the Golden Knights he was a 0.59 point per game player. In a COVID, injury-hampered season the defenseman has only been able to contribute 13 points in 27 games (0.48). It hasn’t just been his lack of offense that’s been concerning though. Last night in LA, NBC Sports analyst Jim Fox was perplexed by a shift from Pietrangelo that led to the King’s second goal.
Alex Pietrangelo was all over the place. Look at number seven, he’s at the red line. He’s a defenseman. I was watching Pietrangelo the whole shift, he was lost and out of position. -Jim Fox, NBCSN analyst
Overall, it’s been an up-and-down first season for the 31-year-old, but there’s still time to redeem himself.
Pietrangelo is heavily leaned on by coach Pete DeBoer. He leads the team with 25:18 of ice time per 60, is second in power play minutes, and third in shorthanded TOI. Last week in St. Louis the alternate captain skated for 31:00 minutes against his former team. Currently, Pietrangelo ranks 5th in the NHL in average time on ice but 46th in points per game for a defenseman. Clearly, he’s getting the opportunity to return back to form, it just hasn’t quite happened yet.
The workload paid off last night when Pietrangelo flipped one past LA goaltender Cal Peterson. The puck was deflected by a Kings player but it was a great example of the defenseman generating offense. Also, in the 2nd period Pietrangelo calmly controlled the puck in the offensive zone and ripped a shot on net. The puck was blocked out of play but he recognized a quality scoring chance and snapped a shot without hesitation. The $8.8 million dollar man needs to factor in nightly, especially when facing Cup contenders. The production concerns of an expensive player can easily wash away if he performs in the postseason.
In 92 postseason games, Pietrangelo has accrued 51 points (8 goals, 43 assists), which averages out to be 0.55 points per game. When the former Blue led his team to a Stanley Cup championship he totaled the most assists of any player in the playoffs.
The veteran was expected to be that final piece to the puzzle and he still can be. If the defenseman returns back to the offensive threat he has been in years past, the Golden Knights will be extremely tough to defend. As long as Pietrangelo is creating offense and defending top lines Vegas will have a much better chance of advancing.
If he doesn’t, there will be a lot of puzzled looks coming his way.
The Golden Knights had one of their best periods of the season last night and it wasn’t shocking that it came against the Arizona Coyotes. Vegas outworked, outshot and bullied Arizona up and down the ice in the opening twenty minutes. Being down four goals early wasn’t a surprise to Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet.
They have more talent than us, we get it. I just didn’t like some of our guys push early on. It looked like they were just deer in the headlights.-Rick Tocchet, ARI coach
Occasionally, Arizona has competed with the Golden Knights and did for half of a period last night. For the most part it’s been a one-sided contest with Vegas walking away with the majority of points.
Certain elements that the Golden Knights possess, the Coyotes simply don’t have an answer for. Arizona is much smaller and younger team. Vegas scares them and their coach echoed that. The advantage of size, skill and veteran IQ are the reasons why it’s mostly been a lopsided affair.
You know you’re playing against the big boys and I’m disappointed some guys couldn’t match. Couldn’t get in the forecheck, couldn’t hold on to a puck. When you’re playing the big guys you got to make sure you know what you’re doing.-Rick Tocchet, ARI coach
At times last night it almost looked like a scrimmage between the JV and Varsity teams. In the first period the Golden Knights bullied their way to four goals in nine minutes. The game was essentially over at that point. Sure, Arizona made a late push but that will happen when one team is trying to kill the clock with 51 minutes remaining in the game.
There’s a chance Vegas and Arizona will face eachother in the first round of the playoffs so it’ll be interesting if the Coyotes will play a different style or attack the Golden Knights with their speed an offensive weapons they have.
Vegas when they smell blood they’re going to give it to you.-Rick Tocchet, ARI coach
Before I declare a matchup with Arizona another easy path it’s hard not to think about last year’s postseason. Vancouver admitted to be intimidated by Vegas but learned how to absorb hits, adjust and force a deciding game seven. Could the Coyotes do the same?
If I told you before the season the Golden Knights defensemen would score a total of 29 goals in 38 games you’d be pleasantly surprised. If I then told you they were scoring 0.68 goals per game and only two from Alex Pietrangelo you’d call me a loony.
Since this season is 26 games shorter, offensive numbers from defensemen stand out a little more. Not only are goals from defensemen necessary, but assisting and generating them as well. This season the Golden Knights are getting it all from their blueline.
Most of the eight defensemen to suit up this season are far beyond their pace for career years. All but two have eclipsed their points per game average. If this were a normal 82-game season it’s plausible the majority of the Golden Knights defense would cruise past their previous high campaigns.
When you add the total goals from each defensemen’s best offensive season the number is just 20 goals short of what they’ve amassed in only 38 games played this year. Lately, Vegas D-men have been so effective it’s made up for the slump Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone are currently in. Which is good sign for postseason droughts. Especially, when youngsters Zach Whitecloud, Nic Hague, and Dylan Coghlan are getting involved offensively.
Currently, the Golden Knights defensive unit is the highest-scoring in the NHL. When the Golden Knights get contributions from the blue line or bottom-six it softens the pressure around the stars. Which allows them to get to work and do their jobs. Also, it makes Vegas a much more potent club in the postseason.
Scoring 0.68 goals per game from the blue line will help win many regular season games, but that additional offense is even more vital in the playoffs when games tend to tighten up. It’s unrealistic to rely on Vegas defensemen to score at their regular season pace. They might bail out the top six on certain nights but Vegas can’t survive if the defense is relied upon for three or four postseason games.
Only Pietrangelo and Shea Theodore average more than 0.30 points per playoff game. Sure, Alec Martinez has one of the most memorable Cup-clinching shots of all time but he’s never been relied on to produce offensively. That’s not his role.
The best-case scenario would be Pacioretty, Stone, and other top-six forwards consistently driving offense in the postseason. In that situation, any point from the blue line would be an added bonus. Momentum changing, insurance type goals or series clinchers.
Last month was a big one for two of the Golden Knights’ most reliable forwards. Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone really made an impact in March, combining for an impressive 43 points in 31 days. The club benefited from the two top compilers and posted a 12-5-0 record over the month. Unfortunately, March ended and the Golden Knights began April with a shootout loss against the Minnesota Wild.
Of course, it’s only one game and Vegas picked up a point in the process so there’s no much to gripe about. Last night’s SO loss was only the Golden Knights’ 11th defeat through 35 games this season. The club has set themselves up nicely for a postseason position. However, the loss to Minnesota carried over a trend that should make Vegas fans a bit uneasy.
The Golden Knights rely so much on Pacioretty and Stone to produce offensively that when they don’t, the team struggles to score. In their 11 regulation, overtime, or shootout losses, the top two forwards have scored in just three of those games. Without Pacioretty and Stone’s one-two punch, the Golden Knights average an anemic 1.27 goals per loss.
Especially, in a division featuring a Colorado team that just scored nine in a game and a pesky Minnesota group that averages close to three goals per 60. For Vegas to eliminate both in the postseason, they’ll need to rely on more than just the top line.
Pacioretty & Stone Postseason Production Per Game
Pacioretty: 0.82 Postseason Points Per w/ VGK 0.62 Career Postseason Points Per
Stone: 1.07 Postseason Points Per w/ VGK 0.77 Career Postseason Points Per
The issue for the Golden Knights isn’t just a problem in the regular season. Going back to their first postseason series as Golden Knights in 2018, when Pacioretty and Stone’s offense dried up the team crumbled. Against the San Jose Sharks the pair tallied ten goals in the first four games of that series. Game’s 5-7, the two veterans combined for one goal. One.
Foley says he's very concerned about health heading into the playoffs.
Mentioned Martinez has been dealing with a lower-body injury for a while and it finally got to a point where he couldn't play. Pacioretty is an upper body injury that is worse than they initially expected.
We’re starting to do work w our friends at @shakeshack. Tomorrow, 5/11, the entire day, if you mention: “Donation” at the Shake Shack in Downtown Summerlin, NV (where our #SameHere buddy @RobinLehner has a big game tonight) 25% of your order goes to help us implement MH programs.