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Praise Be To Foley, Vegas Golden Knights Hockey Website

Author: Jason Pothier Page 2 of 56

Scratch Yesterday, Playoff Mode Begins On Wednesday

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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.

Pacioretty: We All Thought We Were Capologists

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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.

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Proper Rest Crucial For The Golden Knights

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

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.

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Vegas Reveals Successful Template In Anaheim

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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.

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Vegas Will Need More From Pietrangelo In The Postseason

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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.

Tocchet’s Honesty Says It All About Matchups With Golden Knights

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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?

Will Defensive Scoring Continue Into The Postseason

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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.

2021 VGK Defensive Scoring

Theodore: 29 Points (6 Goals, 23 Assists)
Martinez: 22 Points (7 Goals, 15 Assists)
Hague: 14 Points (5 Goals, 9 Assists)
Pietrangelo: 11 Points (2 Goals, 9 Assists)
Whitecloud: 8 Points (2 Goals, 6 Assists)
Coghlan: 5 Points (3 Goals, 2 Assists)
McNabb: 3 Points (1 Goal, 2 Assists)
Holden: 2 Points (2 Assists)
Total Defensive Points: 94 Points (26 G, 68 A)

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.

VGK Defensemen Previous Career Highs

Pietrangelo: 16 Goals (54 Points)
Theodore: 13 Goals (46 Points)
Martinez: 11 Goals (39 Points)
McNabb: 5 Goals (24 Points)
Hague: 1 Goal (11 Points)
Whitecloud: 0 Points
Coghlan: 0 Points
VGK Defensemen in 2021: 26 Goals (0.68 PPG)
Combined Career Highs: 46 Goals (0.56 PPG)

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.

VGK Defensemen Postseason Points Per Game

Theodore: 0.67 PPG (67 Games)
Pietrangelo: 0.55 PPG (92 Games)
Martinez: 0.28 PPG (84 Games)
Holden: 0.25 PPG (40 Games)
McNabb: 0.17 PPG (52 Games)
Whitecloud: 0.15 PPG (20 Games)
Combined Postseason Average: 0.345 PPG

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.

Ask Alec, that’s how the Stanley Cup is won.

Golden Knights Need To Rely On Others For More Offense

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

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.

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Golden Knights Have Helped Keep The Integrity Of The Game

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Before the announcement of the Golden Knights in 2016, professional sports seemed like a long shot in Las Vegas. Baseless theories of legal, local gambling influencing the outcome of games were used as excuses. When in reality, the thought of millionaire athletes risking their careers and future contracts to fix one game is, and was always, far-fetched.

Rewind five years, surprising to some the NHL took the risk and became the first league to crack the Las Vegas market. However, as revealed by Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman the NHL is still concerned with gambling and the integrity of the game but has nothing to do with Nevada. The league proved that last week when they harshly punished veteran official Tim Peel. The last thing the NHL could afford was a corrupt official like infamous NBA referee Tim Donaghy.

There were deep conversations about how damaging it is to your league during a crisis of consumer confidence. The CBA between the NHL and its officials now contains specific code-of-conduct references: ‘Each official agrees to abstain from habits of intemperance, gambling, immorality or other conduct likely to bring himself and/or the NHL and/or the game of Hockey into disrepute or which results in the impairment of public confidence in the honest and orderly conduct of NHL games or the integrity and good character of its officials.’ -Elliotte Friedman, 31 Thoughts on Sportsnet

Last week the NHL quickly nipped a potential controversy in the bud when the official’s hot mic became a major story.

Initially, the story had absolutely nothing to do with gambling, but because of past issues in other sports, the NHL made a tough stand to ensure fans their product is genuine. Without transparency, gambling on hockey could be eliminated, and sadly to say, the interest in the sport would decrease significantly, not to mention millions in lost endorsement money for the league.

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No Need To Measure The Next Two Games Against Colorado

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As expected, the Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche are proving to be the two best teams in the West Division. Both crossed the 30 game mark this week and both sit comfortably in a playoff position with more than 40 points apiece. It’s not shocking, at least not in a below-average division like the West.

West Division Team Points %/NHL Rank
Vegas .750 (2nd)
Colorado .694 (6th)
Minnesota .661 (8th)
St. Louis .578 (15th)
Los Angeles .500 (20th)
Arizona .500 (20th)
San Jose .484 (23rd)
Anaheim .353 (30th)

In a sense, the Avalanche and Golden Knights should be thankful for one another. It’s the only real competition each will face in the regular season. There’s an argument that Minnesota deserves more credit, but in my opinion, this is a two-team division. And the top two franchises are playing lights out right now. Colorado has collected points in eight straight and Vegas is 7-3-0 in their last 10 games. This means one will cool off tonight.

It was fair to call the first four matchups between the Golden Knights and Avalanche measuring stick-type games. The next two games not so much.

There are several elements that need to be considered for tonight’s night’s face-off in Denver. The Golden Knights are without two major pieces to their roster. If Max Pacioretty is unavailable then the offense is less potent. The same goes for Alex Pietrangelo. While he hasn’t been as effective as expected in his limited time on the ice, the veteran defenseman was brought in to help Vegas beat quality opponents like Colorado.

The next factor is the goaltender rotation. Last time when these two clubs met up, Marc-Andre Fleury started all four games. This go around expect to see Fleury and a healthy Robin Lehner in the Vegas nets. Vegas is trying to integrate Lehner back in the lineup and prove they can beat Colorado with either netminder.

By the next time these two teams meet, one, if not both, could look different. Their last two matchups come weeks after the trade deadline. It’s possible both front offices will try and upgrade their rosters. Heck, maybe these next two games will influence those decisions.

Neither team needs to prove anything at this point. So rest, lineup experimentation, and adjustments could be part of this two-game series to almost hide their secrets for the inevitable playoff series in May.

We can gain some knowledge from the upcoming two-game set though. Vegas could be without their best goal scorer, and certainly their $8.8M defenseman who will both play vital roles if Vegas were to eliminate Colorado in the postseason. In a case where the two teams split the next couple of games then there’s possibly more to uncover. Will the team to lose first come out and correct their mistakes or will there be a letdown?

It’s possible both clubs walk away feeling good about themselves. Win or lose, there’s something to learn about your team. This is a quiz. Important, yes, but there’s still plenty of time to study up for the final.

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