Blockbuster trades are exciting and Vegas is always rumored to be an interested party. It’s looking like that’ll be the case once again on March 3rd.
I don’t want to connect names to the Golden Knights but you lose a piece like Mark Stone for an indefinite period, we don’t know what that means. There’s so much uncertainty. I know that Vegas felt they would likely add a forward before the Mark Stone situation. I can’t imagine Kelly McCrimmon, George McPhee and Bill Foley, who’s as hungry as an owner as there is in NHL, not going to swing for the fences one more time. -Darren Dreger on TSN 690 Montreal
While many expect the Golden Knights to be in the mix, there’s no indication which direction the front office will go. With the devastating news of Mark Stone’s indefinite absence, which impact winger is Vegas targeting? Who are the in-demand players are the front office willing to risk picks and prospects for?
So who is that? I think it’s all of the above. Vegas is being real careful. I think for sure Vegas could be a big player here. -Dreger on TSN 690 Montreal
Former NHL’er and Spittin’ Chiclets star Ryan Whitney simply noted Vegas’ latest struggles and the fanbase sounded off in his replies. Some fans blamed the players, others blamed specific players. Several questioned the coaching staff and many were frustrated by the front office’s vision. The responses were passionate and the judgments were evenly distributed among the organization.
There are likely a dozen reasons why the Golden Knights are currently a little better than a bubble team with scoring issues. Injuries, chemistry, and lost leadership are some to name but other problems are deeper than that. Especially, on the offensive side of the ice. So, who’s to blame for the current skid?
Here’s a defense for the parties that were most blamed in Whitney’s replies. How much is shared and who should be let off the hook?
Last night the Golden Knights lost a gut-wrenching 3-2 overtime final to the New Jersey Devils. However, there’s an argument to be made that the game was lost with 10:26 in the 3rd period. Up to that point, the Golden Knights were leading 2-1 and controlled the game with strong 5-on-5 play. With ten minutes to go, New Jersey’s Brendan Smith spoiled the flow by hooking Jack Eichel and sending Vegas to the power play.
Five-on-five we did a lot of what we asked. What let us down today was probably our power play. We didn’t generate nearly enough in terms of extending the lead. We have to find a way to generate more. That’s where I thought we could have grabbed another goal for comfort. -Bruce Cassidy
Had the Golden Knights scored on their lone 3rd period power play the outcome likely would’ve changed. Cassidy’s team failed to extend their lead and barely challenged goaltender Vitek Vanecek. Instead of closing the door on New Jersey, Vegas mustered two low-percentage shots during a crucial 3rd period power play. Not only did the score remain the same but VGK’s listless PP gave life back to a dangerous Devils offense.
New Jersey coach Lindy Ruff had a sense his team would get another chance after Vegas’ ill-fated man advantage.
You have to stay around in games. You look for that opportunity. You know you are going to get two or three opportunities. If you stay with the program, you’re looking for the opportunities. In a 2-1 game we got rewarded by a 6-on-5 goal and then we finally got our power play opportunity in overtime. -Lindy Ruff, NJD coach
All combined, Vegas recorded three shots on net in four power play minutes. To make it worse, none of those attempts came from power play specialists Jack Eichel, Phil Kessel, Alex Pietrangelo, or Chandler Stephenson. Vegas generated just six total shot attempts in their six minutes of power play time and mustered up just 0.63 expected goals.
We gave up some big chances on some careless puck play. We could’ve developed more speed. We weren’t crisp with some of our passing and some of our rush execution. We turned some pucks over in our zone that we’ve been good with. Those were plays were Vitek had to make some huge saves for us. -Ruff, NJD coach
An additional moment Cassidy left out was the poorly timed tripping penalty committed by Ben Hutton in the overtime. Unfortunately, those are the risks a team faces when forced to shift a depth defenseman in a 3-on-3 situation. Don’t get me wrong, Hutton’s 2nd period dart earned him more ice time. However, he was overmatched in overtime.
Last shot was PK coverage. We thought we had a loose puck situation so we left the good ice and it squirts out. -Cassidy
Overall, the Golden Knights missed out on a golden opportunity but the team can take some positives away from their OT loss. Vegas overcame a 2nd period deficit, earned a point against a quality opponent, and thankfully gifted a point to an out-of-conference team. At this stage in the season every point exchange matters.
The Golden Knights haven’t been as crisp lately as they were in their first 30+ games. On December 15th, Vegas held a first-place advantage by eight standings points. By New Year’s Eve, that lead was cut in half. After last night’s 3-2 loss to Detroit, the Golden Knights are no longer leading the Pacific Division. Local fans are well aware of the adversity the Golden Knights have faced over the past month but fans and media outside of the market haven’t been as understanding.
This week, national outlets updated their NHL Power Rankings, and not all of them were friendly towards Vegas.
Overall, the consensus is that Vegas has lost love from several publications. The Golden Knights’ average position in five separate power rankings was 10th. Tenth would likely place VGK out of winning the Western Conference and perhaps the Pacific Division. The positive news, however, most outlets feel comfortable that the Golden Knights are still a postseason club. Over time, the severity of Mark Stone’s injury setback may change some of their minds.
So, let’s take a look at how the outside hockey world perceives the Golden Knights today.
The Golden Knights only got into two games last week, beating the Panthers before dropping a Saturday night game against the Oilers. Playing at about the same level as the Stars drops them down a spot as a result, and the fact that the Golden Knights 5-on-5 play hasn’t been good lately has hurt them as well. -Scott Maxwell, Daily Faceoff
Sports Illustrated: VGK (8th)
SI isn’t panicking like some others. Sure, the Stone situation impacted their decision enough to drop VGK three spots but they still rank the Golden Knights higher than three other outlets. Not surprisingly, SI listed two Western Conference teams; DAL (6th) and WPG (7th), ahead of Vegas, which is difficult to argue against. Also, Seattle (9th) and LA (10th) were ranked right behind the Golden Knights by Sports Illustrated.
This season the Golden Knights are 5-7-2 against the Pacific Division. They’ve lost six straight and have dropped eight of the last nine. Yet when asked about why Vegas has struggled so much against the division, it still remains a mystery.
After VGK’s fast start, divisional clubs are feverishly trying to catch up in the standings. It could be desperation, familiarity, or simply clubs in the Pacific can straight up score on Vegas.
VGK Goals Allowed vs Pacific Division
vs ANA: 1.50 Per Game (1-0-1)
vs. CAL: 3.00 Per Game (0-1-0)
vs. EDM: 4.00 Per Game (0-1-1)
vs. LAK: 4.00 Per Game (1-2-0)
vs. SJ: 3.50 Per Game (1-1-0)
vs. SEA: 3.00 Per Game (1-1-0)
vs. VAN: 4.50 Per Game (1-1-0)
Even VGK coach Bruce Cassidy seems puzzled by the difficulties his players are having against divisional opponents.
It’s new to me this year. Some of the division rivalries, I’m asking about. Having said that, I still know this was an important hockey game. I don’t have to know the history. We will have to emphasize it more clearly. But if I have to emphasize that we’re playing a division team, then shame on the guys and the leadership group for not recognizing that. -Cassidy
Cassidy is well aware of the importance of affiliate matchups and based off his own words, his players haven’t taken them seriously enough.
Consumer Reports consider Honda as one of the most reliable brands of vehicles on the market. In fact, the popular publication estimates the average life of a Honda is around 200,000 miles. Not bad right? Chances are Consumer Reports would likely say the same thing about Vegas defenseman Alex Pietrangelo. Both engines run effectively and efficiently for years. It’s no wonder the two partnered up in 2021.
Since his arrival in Las Vegas, Pietrangelo has been heavily relied on by two coaches. Under Pete DeBoer, the veteran defenseman averaged 24:34 of ice time per game. Current coach Bruce Cassidy relies on Pietrangelo for roughly the same amount. In three seasons with Vegas, the Golden Knights’ alternate captain has led all skaters in average ice time per game. No surprise for a player that’s recorded a lifetime ATOI of 24:37.
Pietrangelo’s Time On Ice Since 2017-18
Total TOI – 9195:14 (12th)
Average TOI – 24:39 (7th)
When the Golden Knights introduced themselves to the NHL in October of 2017, Pietrangelo was leading the St. Louis Blues. Starting with that inaugural 2017-18 season, the three-time All-Star has been in the Top 25 for ice time, shifts, and situational usage. Compared with other defensemen, Pietrangelo’s engine revs now as well as it did six years ago.
Pietrangelo TOI/Shift Breakdown Since 2017-18
7336:38 EV TOI (17th)
19:40 EV Time Per Game (16th)
1031:10 PP TOI (14th)
2:47 PP Time Per Game (22nd)
122:24 OT TOI (12th)
10,406 Shifts (18th)
27.9 Shifts Per Game (14th)
Should there be a slight concern that everyday wear and tear will catch up to the right-handed defenseman? Of course, especially with the soon-to-be 33-year-old continues playing his ATOI per night. It’ll be interesting to watch how Cassidy handles Pietrangelo’s minutes down the stretch. With a likely playoff bid ahead, will the coach hold back his workhorse to freshen up for the postseason? Based on where they are in the standings by April, Cassidy could elect to use Pietrangelo and Mark Stone less frequently. It could make a difference if Vegas gets caught up in a long series.
Some of Pietrangelo’s teammates also deserve mentions for their sturdiness over this period as well. Since 2017-18, William Karlsson is ranked 23rd among centers in total ice time (7287:22) and time on ice (0:51) per shift. Defenseman Brayden McNabb has racked up the 7th most shorthanded minutes (1039:17) and is 22nd in shorthanded minutes (2:44) per contest. Lastly, and it’s no surprise, Jack Eichel averages the 18th most power play minutes (3:32) per game and the 7th most overtime minutes (1:45) per occasion.
Now to be more accurate, Pietrangelo is paid more like an Aston Martin but represents the dependability and durability of a Honda. Like his Honda Odyssey, there are a lot of miles on both but experts rarely question their reliability.
On Thursday, the NHL named Golden Knights goaltender Logan Thompson a league All-Star. Thompson was publicly invited to the annual festivity spotlighting the NHL’s biggest stars and players on the rise. Vegas’ #1 goaltender is the seventh different VGK player to be elected to the All Star Game.
In 2018, former Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and James Neal were the Golden Knights’ first-ever representatives. In 2019, Fleury returned for the 4th time. A year later, Fleury passed and Max Pacioretty filled in participating in his 1st ASG. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the league to cancel the 2021 All-Star weekend, but it returned in 2022, hosted by the City of Las Vegas. The Golden Knights were deservedly awarded three spots on the Pacific’s roster. Jonathan Marchessault, Alex Pietrangelo, and Mark Stone were participants in the skills competition and the three-on-three tournament.
What does it mean to be selected? Well, most players always mention it as one of their goals when they reached the big leagues. Obviously, winning a Stanley Cup is the ultimate objective on their hockey bucket list. Thompson expressed his excitement on Friday.
I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. I wasn’t really expecting it, but I’m happy to be mentioned and I’m looking forward to it. It’s definitely special but at the end of the day I think the goal is to win the Stanley Cup. That’s my goal. -Thompson
Monday was an example of two NHL powerhouses at limited capacity. Several key weapons were missing in the Western conference battle, including the Golden Knights highly-skilled center and the Avalanche’s heart and soul. Nevertheless, one injured collection defeated another in an entertaining one-goal affair.
It’s a good hockey team we played. Effort was there. We had a lot of good looks in the third, really buzzing, which is a good sign. There’s no quit in our room, which is a good thing. Moving forward, we just need to get healthy, we just need to get healthy. Guys are battling but it’s tough. – Nathan MacKinnon, COL center
This season, both contenders have had players in and out of their lineups due to injury. At this point, the Golden Knights have adjusted quicker than their counterpart. Certainly, it’s worth noting there are various reasons for the Avalanche’s slow starts including injuries, chemistry, and possibly a championship hangover to boot.
Without impact players Jack Eichel, Jonathan Marchessault, and Shea Theodore the Golden Knights beat the reigning NHL champs with role players stepping up. Vegas received all three goals from depth players rising to the occasion. Elevated forward Michael Amadio evened the score in the 1st period continuing his current pace for the best offensive season in his NHL career. Versatile center Nic Roy added the game-tying and game-winning goals in the middle period, proving again the Golden Knights can win without their stars.
There aren’t many head coaches as familiar with the Golden Knights as LA’s Todd McLellan. Last night represented the 23rd time McLellan faced Vegas in their six-year franchise history.
I was impressed with our group the way we played early. We were fast, we executed well, our passing was crisp, we worked into position. Let’s call it what it is, [coming out of a break] it’s usually pretty or ugly and you have your fingers crossed that pretty shows up and that was the case for us in the first period. If you recall a year ago coming back, it was ugly against Vegas, so maybe somewhere in the back of their minds they remembered that. -Todd McLellan, LAK Coach
Since being hired in LA, McLellan is 8-10-0 against Vegas. With the exception of the shortened 56-game season, the Kings have had some level of success against the Golden Knights under their current coach. Vegas took six of eight from Los Angeles in 2020-21, but are a combined 4-5-1 outside of that NCAA-style schedule.
Also, as coach of the Edmonton Oilers, the veteran bench boss posted a 3-2-0 record against the Golden Knights. Last night, McLellan joined Jared Bednar, Craig Berube, and Bruce Boudreau as the only four to beat the Golden Knights under all three coaches in team history. To say he has experience coaching against Vegas would be an understatement.
Yeah, I think we played great. I think we started the game well, we were all over them at the start and I think that was that was good and the team kept it going. -Victor Arvidsson, LAK Forward
Last night Vegas missed out on a golden opportunity to stash away more money in the bank before their busy season begins. So what, they lost to Buffalo. It’s only one game and a win tomorrow would keep Vegas on pace to cross the 50-point mark by year-end. We’ll get into January later, but for right now the Golden Knights have four more games to focus on in 2022.
Starting tomorrow night, the Golden Knights are set to play statistically some of the league’s worst defenses and offenses. Putting it lightly, the remaining schedule is as soft as Santa’s beard.
Some would argue that St. Louis and LA aren’t walkovers and they tend to get up for games against Vegas. However, both are struggling to keep the puck out of their own nets and have two of the worst penalty kill units in the league. The Golden Knights will likely attack the net knowing there are holes in each team’s defense. If it plays out, Vegas should be in a position to expose weaknesses in LA & St. Louis’ special teams. Both clubs are manageable but it won’t be as easy as the Golden Knights other two opponents.
"He was fine. I didn't like the 4th goal, he'll tell you the same thing. But I'm not putting it on Jonathan Quick. It was just like, it's not your night so let's get LB in there. We were not very good in front of him." -Cassidy on pulling Quick