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Praise Be To Foley, Vegas Golden Knights Hockey Website

Author: Jason Pothier Page 2 of 54

Golden Knights Buck The Trend Against The Wild

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The Minnesota Wild came into last night’s matchup with the Golden Knights winning six straight games. Their streak ended when Max Pacioretty scored the game-winner for Vegas in overtime. The victory at home and in front of 2,600 fans was dramatic but also a rarity for the Golden Knights. It was only the third time Vegas beat Minnesota in nine tries. Maybe the tides have changed after last night’s heroics.

It seems like every time you play in Vegas whether you have the lead or they have the lead they come out in the 3rd. They really come at you and it’s tough to play against them. -Nick Bjugstad, MIN forward

Since the inaugural 2017-18 season, no other Western Conference team has given the Golden Knights more of a headache than the Wild. In nine meetings, Vegas has lost six and won twice in overtime or a shootout. The Golden Knights had struggled so much that their second-worst points percentage (.333) in team history came against the Wild.

What makes Minnesota such a difficult opponent for Vegas?

I think they got caught up in the rush game to a certain extent. It went both directions. Minnesota had chances, Vegas had chances. The difference was that Minnesota was still able to play well in their defensive zone when it called for it. Vegas was not really tight in the 2nd period. -Mike McKenna, AT&T Sports Analyst

Maybe, it was the pace of the game. The Wild can really move and they make quick decisions. From accurate stretch passes to their ability to collect and convert rebounds, Minnesota presents a problem for Vegas. Last night’s 2nd period was the perfect example. The Golden Knights were challenged with pressure and speed in their own zone, and couldn’t hold on to the puck in the Wild’s zone for very long.

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Possibility Vegas Could Win Their First Cup On Neutral Ice

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It’s still a long way away but it’s possible the Golden Knights hoist their first Stanley Cup on neutral ice. If the Canadian and American governments cannot broker a COVID-19 travel agreement by the postseason we could be looking at another Cup Final not on home ice.

As Vegas and the rest of the NHL teams gradually allow fans inside NHL arenas, the league is also keeping an eye on decreasing infection rates and percentages of vaccinated citizens. If the strict Canadian quarantine rules still exist this summer, the North Division winner will have no choice but to travel and try their luck at destiny in the US. Depending on if restrictions are lifted or not, Vegas would welcome any scenario that kept them in the States throughout the postseason.

Normally, the Canadian influencers in the league would get their way though. Last year, when the league was scouting locations for a playoff bubble they ended up settling on two Canadian locations. No surprise. However, this time around the suits in Toronto won’t have a choice. If their government continues with quarantine protocols the league will be forced to send the North Division winner down south. Remember, it’s three against one this year.

So what does this mean for Vegas? On TSN’s Insider Trading segment, Frank Seravalli ran down a scenario where a Canadian team is forced to finish their playoff run in the United States. He added that to avoid an unfair home-ice advantage, some games could be played at a neutral site. However, Seravalli didn’t confirm if the entire series would be played in one location, or split in American arenas. It’s almost certain the league would want the Golden Knights to host their home playoff games at T-Mobile Arena, but would there be fans allowed in a neutral site game “hosting” a Canadian team?

Another question that has to be asked is what time zone will the neutral location be in? If the Golden Knights get matched up with Toronto or Montreal, would the site be in the Eastern time zone? If so, that could mean a lot of unexpected travel for Vegas.

Normally, they wouldn’t travel far for the first few rounds but this postseason, the mileage could pile up. The Golden Knights could possibly play two teams already from the East. It’s realistic the path to the Cup for Vegas is Minnesota (1,650 miles), Denver (750 miles), Boston (2,700 miles), and then Toronto (2,200 miles). Moving a Canadian team down to the States could cut it down, no matter what, Vegas’ travel will end up looking more like year one when they took a trip to DC for the Cup finals.

Beyond not having to cross the border, another positive for Vegas is the possibility of hosting postseason games in their home arena with fans in the building. The player’s union assured their constituents that they would not accept another playoff bubble. This more than likely means if there will be a neutral site, it’ll only be used for the Canadian champions’ home games, and if they follow the MLB model, fans could potentially be allowed in to watch.

No matter where Vegas plays their road games in the third round or finals, we know they’ll be fans in the building screaming “Knight” during the American anthem.

Fleury Flourishes On Extended Start Streaks

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At some point, Marc-Andre Fleury will need a break. He’s in the midst of a seven-game start streak, his fifth-longest regular season consecutive game stretch as a Golden Knight. With Vegas though, Fleury tends to thrive in these situations. When the 36-year-old is given the reins for an extended amount of time he’s been extremely reliable.

Since 2017-18, Fleury has started seven-straight games or more six separate times. His combined point percentage is .666 in those 57 contests and has a losing record just once.

Seven+ Game Start Streaks

2021: 7 Straight Starts (4-3)
2019-20: 9 Straight Starts (6-3)
2018-19: 13 Straight Starts (10-2-1)
2018-19: 7 Straight Starts (3-4)
2017-18: 11 Straight Starts (7-3-1)
2017-18: 10 Straight Starts (6-4)

Combined Winning Percentage: .631%
Combined Points Percentage: .666%

Fleury’s current streak is mostly out of necessity. Going into the season, the veteran goalie was expected to split most of the games with Robin Lehner. With Lehner unavailable, Fleury has played 11 out of 16 games this season and is on pace to start 38. Much more than the coaching staff had planned.

Last night’s performance was a great example of Fleury’s capability. After playing 11 straight periods against Colorado, the 36-year-old was making acrobatic saves late in the game to preserve his third shutout of the year. Even against the same high-powered Avalanche team he faced in four consecutive games, Fleury seemed the least tired player out there.

Now that the Golden Knights have finished their four-game series against Colorado, the upcoming schedule allows some opportunities to rest Fleury. On Thursday night, Vegas will travel to San Jose, a team that struggles to keep the puck out of their own net. Maybe that’s a game coach Pete DeBoer can comfortably rest his netminder. Also, with there being two days in between games, Fleury could have four days of rest before his next start.

As the schedule creeps towards March, the heavy competition goes away for a few weeks. The next eight matchups are against the Sharks, Ducks, and Wild. The Golden Knights are significantly better than all three and the coaching staff should look to use their schedule to spell Fleury some starts, even if Lehner isn’t ready to come back. Vegas will need what we can now confidently say is their number one goaltender fresh for when they face St. Louis and Colorado later in March.

With his third shutout of the season in his pocket, we all know the 17-year veteran will want to play the bulk of the remaining games. Who can blame him? Fleury’s having an All-Star type season, wants to be in the Vezina discussion and prove to his bosses they were wrong. I say let him compete for trophies, just as long as he can take a few games off here and there. DeBoer can save Fleury’s 28 consecutive start streak for the postseason.

Vegas And Colorado Preparing For Inevitable Postseason Showdown

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After last night’s 3-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche, the Golden Knights have played a total of 15 games in the 2021 shortened season. Their overall record is an outstanding 10-3-1 but Vegas’ measuring tape record is 1-1-0.

In six periods against the Avalanche, the pace, style, and quality of hockey was noticeably different. Cliché or not, the last two contests between the heavyweights in the West felt like playoff games. The Golden Knights hadn’t seen the power, skill and speed of Nathan MacKinnon and his talented teammates. Same goes for the Avalanche. In the 13 games Colorado played, only Vegas has a winning percentage of .569 or higher.

You get a real good goaltender like Fleury that is an active player in the net. He’s an aggressive guy. This is a team that checks real well. Their numbers on the analytics side of it is they’re not giving up a lot of scoring chances and you have to earn those chances. -Jared Bednar, Colorado coach

With six matchups left between one another, the Golden Knights and Avalanche will have to do some soul searching. In all likelihood, the winner of the West Division will be one of these two clubs. If that’s the case, both front offices will examine their clubs and ask themselves if the current roster is good enough to beat the other in a long playoff series. To advance it might come down to taking advantage of trade deadline or feeling confident and standing pat.

It might sound simple, but both the Avalanche and Golden Knights should look at each other as their only roadblock to the Stanley Cup Finals. Whether it’s a waiver pickup, a deadline trade, or the elevation of internal depth, any and all acquisitions should be aimed at outlasting the other in a seven-game series. Perhaps Vegas looks to add speed or depth scoring at the deadline to help neutralize Colorado’s pace and power. Or maybe Colorado looks to add some girth and toughness to challenge Vegas’ strength.

There’s no doubt the speed and level of play has been higher than any point we’ve seen. -Pete DeBoer

Last year at the deadline each team added to their offense. Colorado traded for Vladislav Namestnikov and the former 1st rounder scored four goals in the postseason. Vegas acquired depth for three positions. Alec Martinez was brought in to sure up the defense and he’s been in the lineup ever since. Offensively, the Golden Knights supplied the bottom-six with Nick Cousins. And of course, Vegas flip-flopped Malcolm Subban (and in a way Marc-Andre Fleury) for Robin Lehner.

Both teams tend to be active around the deadline, making deals in three straight years. Expect involvement again this year but like Vegas, Colorado has cap issues. It could come down to which front office can be more creative opening up room for more salary.

From what we saw in the last two games, the Golden Knights and Avalanche are evenly matched, despite each playing without key pieces. Both are elite and capable of winning the Cup, but can’t do so without getting through the other.

We all know it, Vegas and Colorado are destined to play in the second round of the postseason and it has the potential of being one hell of series. Best start preparing now.

Vegas Taking Advantage Of Early Schedule

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Give the Ducks credit because last night’s 1-0 victory over the Golden Knights was a rare occurrence. Through 11 games it’s clear, the NHL (and a COVID pause) presented Vegas with a golden opportunity to start off strong.

The Golden Knights have largely preyed on weaker opponents. Their overall opponents’ combined record is 23-21-9. If you subtract the single game with St. Louis, the record drops to a sluggish 16-17-7.

The 5-4 win over Anaheim on Tuesday earned Vegas their 17th point of the season. Ten of those points, or 70% were earned by beating the same two bad teams.

vs. Anaheim & LA
VGK (5-1-0) 10 Points
VGK Goal Differential 21-13
VGK 3.5 Goals Scored Per
VGK 2.1 Goals Allowed Per

There’s also the home-ice factor. Of course, without fans, that is surely muted at least a little bit, but the rigors of traveling in the COVID landscape offer some challenges to the road teams.

The Golden Knights have traveled just one time the entire season and they suffered one of their two losses on that trip. In the two road games, they scored just three total goals.

At 8-2-1, Vegas has succeeded by dominating periods, getting hot goaltending and playing a lighter schedule. It’s not a knock on the Golden Knights, take em where you can get em. They play in a below-average division and as long as they clinch a playoff berth, it doesn’t matter who they beat or where they beat them. It was important for Vegas to jump out and build a cushion in the standings against easier competition and they’ve done just that.

Despite last night’s 1-0 loss to Anaheim, history tends to repeats itself when a Southern Californian team faces Vegas. Going back to the inaugural 2017-18, the Golden Knights have a combined total of 42 points in 31 games against the Ducks and Kings. Vegas has earned points in 22 of 31 games. It’s been a lopsided affair to say the least.

Vegas vs. Anaheim & LA History

vs. Ducks
16 Games Played
13-3 Record
26 Of A Possible 32 Points
55-29 Goal Differential
.843 Win%

vs. Kings
15 Games Played
7-6-2 Record (4-0 in Postseason)
16 Of A Possible 30 Points
42-46 Goal Differential
.533 Win%

Vegas will play Anaheim and LA 10 more times this season. Historical data projects the Golden Knights will earn around 13 points in their remaining games against the Ducks and Kings. If the forecast is accurate, Vegas will collect a whopping 23 of 32 points against the SoCal duo.

It’s possible the Golden Knights can build their path to the postseason from these two opponents alone. That success sets Vegas up nicely even if they happen to fall to better competition.

COVID Protocols Continue To Lack Consistency

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It’s been a season of trial and error, which was expected. After news broke that the Golden Knights were notified during Tuesday’s game that Tomas Nosek tested positive for COVID-19, many wondered how the league would handle Vegas’ latest case. Also, how and why the results were delivered so late allowing for an infected player to dress and play. Would Vegas have to shut down and delay operations or carry on without their fourth-line center?

Tomorrow night’s game in Las Vegas between the Golden Knights and Ducks remains scheduled to be played at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT. Rapid PCR Point of Care tests will be administered to all Players and staff on both teams in advance of that game (in addition to the daily lab-based PCR testing) and any decision regarding potential postponement will be made by the League’s, NHLPA’s and Clubs’ medical officials, following all COVID Protocols and local and federal regulations.-NHL

Up until now, a player being pulled from a game had only happened in the AHL, one played right here in Vegas. So, I’m sure the NHL’s judgment had to surprise even the Golden Knights organization.

Earlier this month, Vegas GM Kelly McCrimmon was asked about that exact situation, and you can’t blame him for not really having an answer. His only frame of reference was a similar situation that occurred when a player from the San Jose Barracuda tested positive during a contest against the Henderson Silver Knights.

I don’t know what type of testing they were using. The NHL protocols are PCR testing everyday. I don’t know what exactly San Jose was doing, I can’t speak to any of that. So, I really don’t know the answer to that question. The situation you referred to, to my knowledge hasn’t happened at the National League level. I’m not 100% sure about that but I haven’t heard if it has.-Kelly McCrimmon on February 1st, 2021

One of the uncertainties the league should address is testing on gamedays. As we watched on Tuesday night, Nosek played two periods before the team was alerted. The 28-year-old center’s last shift was the final 10 seconds to close out the 2nd period. It was clear neither Nosek or the coaching staff were aware of the situation brewing behind the scenes.

As it turns out, gameday testing results aren’t delivered in a timely manner. According to McCrimmon, results are returned later to the team and the league that same day. Now we come to realize the outcome could come as late as 9 PM PT.

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Power Play Improvement Could Turn VGK From Great To Elite

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The Golden Knights are regarded as one of the better teams in the league. They’ve been described as elite, highly-skilled and loaded. Vegas backs that up with the third best points percentage (.786) in the NHL. However, there is one glaringly obvious area the first place Golden Knights will need to improve.

Since the start of the shortened 2019-20 season, the Golden Knights are 19th in the league with 40 5-on-4 goals. When coach Pete DeBoer took over on January 16th, 2020, Vegas dropped even lower to 28th. In that timespan the Golden Knights squeaked out an underwhelming 12 5-on-4 goals in 79 opportunities.

The 2021 Golden Knights have only scored three times on the power play, the second least in the league. One on a two-man advantage, and two on a 5-on-4. Overall, Vegas’ power play efficiency is 11.5% good for 28th in the NHL.

2021 VGK Man-Advantage Breakdown

27 Man Advantage Opportunities
Power Play Goals (3)
5-on-4 Goals (2)
5-on-3 Goals (1)
6-on-5 Goals (1)

On the other hand, signs show that Vegas’ deficiencies won’t hurt them in the long run. Under DeBoer, the Golden Knights have the third-highest points percentage (.741) behind only Boston (.774) and Philadelphia (.750). Impressively enough, Their inability to score in 5-on-4 situations rarely cost them regular season points.

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Postponements Bail Out Reeling Sharks

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By now all Golden Knights fans know the NHL announced there are four members from the organization that are isolating and complying with the league’s COVID-19 protocol. Due to the unfortunate circumstances, Vegas was forced to postpone at least three games.

The National Hockey League announced today that the games currently scheduled for February 1 and February 3 between the Vegas Golden Knights and the San Jose Sharks have been postponed and will be rescheduled for later in the season in San Jose. -NHL PR

It’s news Golden Knights fans were dreading but knew was always realistic possibility this season. Now, Vegas is without an opponent for another week, when they hope to host the LA Kings on February 5th. The club the Golden Knights were supposed to play beforehand quietly doesn’t mind.

The San Jose Sharks have had an up and down season, and may have seriously lucked out. Lately, they can’t keep the puck out of the net giving up 17 goals in their last four games. Dropping the two more games to the Golden Knights might have been devastating for the Sharks.

Vegas vs San Jose Regular Season History
VGK .792 Winning %
VGK (8-1-3) 19 Points
VGK Goal Differential +19

This season the Sharks haven’t won two consecutive games and are allowing the third-most goals in the league. In the past, the Golden Knights have devoured San Jose in those conditions. That could’ve been the case this week.

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Supplemental Discipline Not Likely, Nor Necessary, For Mark Stone’s Hit

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It was called a dirty play, an unnecessary hit, and not very smart. That is how the St. Louis Blues viewed Mark Stone’s 2nd period open-ice check on Tyler Bozak. Stone was forced into a fight, meanwhile, Bozak didn’t return to the game.

Questionable. We’ll look at him tomorrow.- Craig Berube, Blues coach

Stone was given a two-minute interference penalty for the mid-ice collision and the Blues were awarded their third power play of the night. After the penalty expired, Vegas’ captain dropped gloves with St. Louis defenseman Justin Faulk. It was an uneventful fight but it looked as if both parties were satisfied. St. Louis sent their message, Stone complied.

We got into kind of a battle in the corner and his elbow came up on me. Then we just jostled coming up the ice and I slammed on the brakes to get in his way. I didn’t expect to fight afterwards. He came after me and we fought. -Mark Stone

It seemed the bad blood was left on the ice, until Stone’s check was brought up several times after the game by St. Louis coach Craig Berube and his players. It’s possible the Blues were letting off some steam fresh from watching the replay, and learning their teammate was questionable to play next game. Either way, it was clear none of them liked it.

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Vegas’ Cup Contending Offense On Display Last Night

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No matter how many games an NHL regular season has, no game’s are alike. Sure, the first few games had similarities, Vegas won all three but didn’t look good doing it.

Something had to break.

We were talking before the game that we hadn’t really pitched in too much… It’s kind of convenient that we did tonight, and I thought it definitely helped our overall game. -Shea Theodore

With the exception of the first few minutes, the Golden Knights put together their best attack of the season and were handsomely rewarded from it. Ten players collected points in Vegas’ 5-2 victory against Arizona and not a single one of them were cheap empty-net points either.

All five goals were examples of how dangerous this club can be. Alex Tuch scored Vegas’ first power play goal of the season, Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty paired up once again, and the star defensemen found the net three times.

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