In three playoff games, the Golden Knights top six have been outstanding. Between the two lines they have 11 goals, and 14 assists. However, after a winning night that featured Mark Stone’s hat trick and the second line’s offensive explosion, Gerard Gallant took time to praise a different line. The so-called fourth line.
For me tonight, they were as good as their top line, for the role they play on our hockey team. -Gallant
The trio of Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Ryan Reaves, and William Carrier averaged 10 minutes of ice time, generated four shots on net, had three takeaways, three blocked shots and won 75% of faceoffs.
They are momentum guys. They finish checks, they take very few penalties and play the game the right way. -Gallant
Playing the game the right way means pushing the puck towards the offensive zone, pouncing on loose pucks and winning board battles. Sure, it’s a bunch of cliches but for anyone that watched Game 3, they noticed the impact the fourth line had in their 10+ minutes played.
When you cause turnovers, when you’re skating hard that’s a big part of it… I’ve talked about forecheck for a year and a half, two years. When we’re forechecking well and moving our feet well we’re a good team. -Gallant
(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Jason Pothier)
Earlier last week Golden Knights defensemen Shea Theodore talked about what the team learned from last year’s second round series against the San Jose Sharks.
It was our first playoff run as a team and we learned a lot from each series. (The Sharks) are good with their sticks around the net. When you look at Pavelski, the amount of goals he’s tipped in right around low. Kane’s another guy, Hertl’s a guy, Couture, they’ve got a lot of guys that play really well in tight and around the net. -Theodore
One of the elements to the Sharks game last season was to crowd the open space in front of goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, and boy did they ever do it again in Game 1. As Theodore mentioned, Tomas Hertl, Joe Pavelski, Evander Kane and Logan Couture were, and still are, tough to handle. San Jose tried circling around and camping out in front of Fleury, but thankfully for Golden Knights fans, the Golden Flower was superb.
On Wednesday night, the tables were turned. Sharks players spent a majority of the night camped out in front of Fleury and the Golden Knights couldn’t clear players out of the “bubble.” The area from the crease and extended out a few feet has to be locked down if Vegas wants to keep the Sharks off the board as the series continues.
Coach Gerard Gallant spoke about the Sharks tight down low-pressure yesterday at his daily press conference.
We gave them too much time there. They came out they were physical and they forechecked real good. You got to be physical, you have to be strong. They spent too much time in our zone against our D. -Gallant
So, what’s the adjustment for Game 2?
I think you have to be aware of where they are. When they add that fourth guy in the rush as d-men we have to be talking to our forwards on who to pick up. That’s when it can become really deadly. -Theodore
While we all watched Fleury make amazing saves series after series last season it’s tough to expect him to do it again. He’ll need less traffic and double parked Sharks in his zone. If his teammates can do a better job of sealing up the bubble in Game 2 they’ll have a great chance to even the series.
Ryan Reaves is well aware of the line. The line that he doesn’t cross often. Sure we just watched him serve a goofy 10-minute jousting misconduct with Joe Thornton but overall as a Golden Knight he’s been disciplined. This season Reaves played the second most games (80) in his career and had the second least penalty minutes (74). And, of those 74 minutes, just 24 came on minor penalties, meaning Reaves is rarely the reason for an opposing power play. But, can he amp up the physicality in the playoffs and continue to stay out of the sin bin?
I know how to do that. That’s a big reason why I’m still in this league. I play physical but I know how to stay within the limits of the game and not take penalties and hurt the team. Otherwise, I think I’d be out of the league by now. -Ryan Reaves
In the postseason, checking gets questionably cleaner but definitely more impactful. Reaves can become more valuable in the postseason by his forward pressure. If #75 can stay clean and remain out of the box, it’ll allow more offensively skilled teammates the ability to clean up his line’s forechecking crumbs.
I think it’s a little of both. Penalties aren’t called as much but at the same time penalties are magnified. You need to know when to pick your spots and make those clean hits. The ones that are maybe a little bit from behind you don’t go for those ones. Those might be called for boarding. One penalty can change the momentum of the series really quickly. -Reaves
Another way Reaves can impact a series is his continuous wearing down of opponents. In a long series his vicious body checks, out-muscling players, and bruising puck battles along the boards will eventually start to add up.
It’s definitely not going to slow down. This is exactly what I live for. This is the type of game I live for. These physical games that you play a team over and over and those physical games can wear on a team. You keep running their d-men, well they’re going to get sore eventually. I expect it to amp up if anything. -Reaves
In 46 career postseason games, Reaves has accrued only 41 PIMs. Last year, Reaves’ PIM number ballooned in the playoffs as he spent 18 minutes off the ice. However, 10 of them came from a misconduct call with less than a minute left in a Cup Final game the Golden Knights trailed by 4.
It’s tough to stay in the league and it’s tough to stay in the lineup, especially in the playoffs if you’re taking a bunch of penalties. Especially, when you’re not a top goal scorer. -Reaves
While it’s a cute, made for TV type storyline, Reaves will not be circling the ice searching for Brent Burns or Evander Kane’s blood. Nor is he told to protect his team from a physical guy like Michael Haley, should he play. No, Reaves is prepared to effectively check any opponent off the puck, create turnovers and hopefully score. He is told to play his game.
And in Reaves’ mind, his game is made for the postseason.
From 2012-2014, the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins played eight times in the regular season. Max Pacioretty’s Canadiens went 6-2-0 as Montreal clearly had the edge on Boston for two seasons and it carried over into the postseason. In 2014 the Habs met the Bruins in the second round of the playoffs and continued their control over Boston winning the series in seven.
It’s all about momentum. It’s about players being at their best at the right time. It’s about bounces and the team sticking together. -Max Pacioretty
That’s one example of Pacioretty being on team that had gotten the better of their playoff opponent, like his current team’s success over the San Jose Sharks.
Try and predict every playoff series and you’ll be amazed at how many you get wrong. What’s happened in the past has nothing to do with the future. -Pacioretty
Pacioretty has played in seven playoff series over his 11-year career. It’s not as many as he’d like but the veteran has seen enough to understand the intensity on the second season.
Henrik Lundqvist use to skip playing in the Bell Centre against us because he thought there were ghosts in there that had his number. And then we played them in the playoffs and he stood on his head in the Bell Centre and completely stole the series. He was dominant and totally took over the series. All bets are off in the playoffs. -Pacioretty
The 30-year-old scoring winger averages 0.5 points per game and 4.5 shots per game in the postseason. Vegas will need him to do more than that over the next month or two. There’s no doubt that come next week Pacioretty and his teammates will bring the intensity they’ve been lacking for the past couple of weeks.
We’ve all seen it over the past two seasons, the Golden Knights have the San Jose Sharks number. In their 14 matchups, Vegas is 9-2-3 against San Jose in the regular season and postseason combined. I know the team won’t come out and say it but I will, the Golden Knights own the Sharks. Both teams know it, both fanbases know it.
One guy that doesn’t care about anything from the past is Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant.
To be totally honest with you, it doesn’t matter what we’ve done against them the last year and a half. It’s going to be a brand new series. It’s going to be two real good teams battling for a chance to move on in the playoffs. I don’t care. They’re a really talented hockey team and they’re better than they were last year. I think we’re better than we were last year. It should be a great series and the past means nothing to us. -Gallant
Gallant is very good at downplaying but he’s well aware of the advantage his team has over San Jose. He correctly rattled off his team’s record against the Sharks in Tuesday’s press conference. The players are well aware of their success against San Jose too. But will Vegas’ confidence get in the way? And how will the Golden Knights keep from being overconfident heading into their first round series against San Jose.
We are hoping to use that to our advantage and be confident against them. We believe we can dominate them. Go into their building and play well like we’ve proven that we can do. Historically, it’s a tough place to play but I think we’ve done a good job in that building. We’ve kind of gotten them off their game and getting into our game quickly. We’re going to try and stay confident and believe in ourselves. -Jon Merrill
Confidence aside Merrill isn’t concerned what’s going on in the Sharks locker room. The focus is all about his team, and his locker room.
We worry about ourselves. We focus on what we need to do. We’re a tight group and our success is going to come from here. -Merrill
Shea Theodore has turned into a bonafide top-four defenseman this season, and not just his skills on the ice. Theodore transitioned from a young prospect and becoming a well-paid veteran. He recognizes his team’s success and isn’t afraid to boast about it.
The games that we’ve played against them they’ve been intense, they’ve been physical. They’re a good team but when we play our style, I think we’re getting into their heads. We got Reavo and he does a pretty good job running around and chirping guys… It definitely gets us going. -Shea Theodore
Theodore wasn’t being cocky or trying to send bulletin board material for San Jose. The Sharks don’t need that, they have enough already.
Yeah, things change. It’ll be something we’ll feel and see how it goes. -Theodore
Bottom line, Vegas has gotten the better of San Jose over two seasons and they have the opportunity to continue their dominance in the first round. The question is, can San Jose do anything to stop it?
It’s been inevitable for a while, but now it’s really inevitable, we’re going to see another Vegas/San Jose postseason series. With four games to go, Vegas and San Jose are locked into 2nd and 3rd with the Sharks desperately trying to hang on to home ice advantage. The only thing up for grabs now is the location of the first (and more importantly the seventh) game of the series between the Golden Knights and the Sharks set to begin on April 10th or 11th.
Golden Knights when playing at SAP Center Regular Season Record: 2-1-1 Postseason Record: 2-1 Regular Season Goals Per Game: 2.95 Postseason Goals Per Game: 2.5
If we could poll both fan bases, one would feel much more confident in their team advancing. Even though both clubs have struggled down the stretch. Vegas fans are hoping they see the Sharks, not the same feeling from Bay Area fans. There’s a bit of a lopsided history between the two clubs.
2017-18: Vegas vs. San Jose November 24, 2017 @ VGK: Vegas wins 5-4 in OT February 8, 2018 @ SJ: Vegas wins 5-3 March 22, 2018 @ SJ: San Jose wins 2-1 in OT March 31, 2018 @ VGK: Vegas wins 3-2
2017-18 Postseason: Vegas vs. San Jose April 26, 2018 @ VGK: Vegas wins 7-0 April 18, 2018 @ VGK: San Jose wins 4-3 in Double OT April 30, 2018 @ SJ: Vegas wins 4-3 May 2, 2018 @ SJ: San Jose wins 4-0 May 4, 2018 @ VGK: Vegas wins 5-3 May 6, 2018 @ SJ: Vegas wins 3-0
2018-19: Vegas vs. San Jose November 24, 2018 @ VGK: Vegas wins 6-0 January 10, 2019 @ SJ: San Jose wins 3-2 March 18, 2019 @ SJ: Vegas wins 7-3 March 30, 2018 @ VGK: TBD
In their thirteen game history, the Golden Knights are 9-2-2 averaging 3.8 goals per game. Vegas scored a total of 48 goals, +20 in goal differential and chased goaltender Martin Jones four times.
First there were concerns Marc-Andre Fleury was playing too much, now some are worried he’s been resting for too long. As we patiently wait for Fleury to make his return between the pipes, the question of how he will look when he gets back in there must be asked.
The 34-year-old goaltender has been in net eight times over the last 15, and none of the last six. Last season, Fleury played 16 out of Vegas’ last 20 and was unbelievable in the Golden Knights goal throughout the playoffs.
Over the past four seasons, Fleury has had various percentages of starts down the stretch and all show signs of consistency in the playoffs.
In 2016-17, Fleury played eight of the last 20 games splitting time with Matt Murray. That Penguins team, of course, went on to win the Cup. Fleury started the first 15 games winning two series (CBJ-5 games, WAS- 7 games) but was relieved of his duties after Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Pittsburgh went on to win seven of the next 11 games with Murray in net. The light schedule for Fleury didn’t impact his performance for 15 postseason games. He had a .924 save percentage and allowed 2.56 goals per game before getting the hook.
Penguins coach Mike Sullivan was very confident in both goaltenders.
Both of these guys have helped this team win all year long. They’re both high-quality people and they’re high-quality goaltenders. We never take these decisions lightly. They’re extremely difficult decisions. This is the choice that we made for Game 4. –Mike Sullivan
The season prior, Fleury started 12 out of the Penguins last 20 games. He ended the season with 58 games played but his time would come to an end quickly in the postseason. Fleury dropped the first two games of a first round series and was replaced with Murray for the remainder of their Stanley Cup run. Fleury posted a dismal .875 save percentage in those two games.
In 2014-15, Fleury played 16 of the last 20 regular season games. The Penguins lost went on to lose to the New York Rangers in the first round. Fleury was terrific though. He limited the Rangers to just 2.12 goals per game and put up a .927 save percentage.
Since the NHLPA came out with their player polls from around the league I figured I’d add another category. One that I may add is vital. After polling only myself, here is this season’s Golden Knights All-Hair team.
There’s not much to explain. Of course Karlsson has the nicest hair on the Golden Knights. He’s a Swedish blonde, do I need to say more. My wife already says enough. Karlsson has the true definition of a hockey flow. His hair graciously flows while he glides up the ice on the way to embarrassing another goaltender. Karlsson obviously goes to a premier salon and uses high-end conditioners but like his talent, he was born with a beautiful head of hair. Bottom line is chicks dig it.
Forward: Ryan Reaves
It’s as tight as a low fade can get. Reaves must get his hair touched up daily or every other day. Short on top, lined up in front, and sometimes a carved side part. A sleek tapered cut for the NHL. Reaves has that charming badass look that the Vegas Strip has been waiting for since Mike Tyson.
I used to play them in the AHL not too long ago. Saturday, Sunday, you know. It’s something that you try not to think about. The mentality is just to be ready to play and ignore the outcome of the night before. -Subban
The former first round draft pick has recorded solid numbers as a Golden Knight in limited play: 19-11 with a 2.85 Goals Allowed Average. Subban may be the backup to Marc-Andre Fleury, but he practices for an 82 game season like a starting goaltender. He’s in great shape, so 120 minutes played in two days was not much of an isssue for Subban.
Beyond being a younger goaltender he has low mileage in the NHL so naturally his body is fresher than most.
In late June of 2020, Seattle, the 32nd franchise, will have the opportunity to pluck other teams talent at the Expansion Draft like the Golden Knights did on June 21st, 2017. George McPhee and his group masterfully duped 30 other NHL general managers, and whoever is at the helm in Seattle (maybe Kelly McCrimmon) will try to do the same. Okay maybe not all 30, but a good percentage of the league felt slighted, enough that those same general managers may just reach out to McPhee this time so it won’t happen again.
TSN’s Pierre LeBrun was on Montreal radio this week and brought up how teams are very concerned with next year’s expansion draft. Teams aren’t in the business of giving away good players… again.
It’s also created I think a bit of a unique situation… because Vegas doesn’t have to worry about a protection list and all of that jazz. I think they’re going to be a team that some clubs are going to look to as a safety valve in trying to navigate the waters around the Seattle expansion process. -Pierre LeBrun, TSN Radio Montreal
LeBrun explained that the way McPhee and his staff maneuvered the expansion rules has teams running to protect themselves this time around. LeBrun used Nashville as a team that could find themselves in a protection problem and may be forced to expose one really talented defenseman. In the scenario, this is where McPhee gets a call.
It would behoove them to try and send them to Vegas for a first round pick or a top prospect. As opposed to losing them for nothing to Seattle. I don’t know at this juncture how the league feels about that kind of trade. -LeBrun
Another twist to the expansion process is the side drama from other clubs. LeBrun noted several general managers are upset Vegas is protected from the expansion draft and won’t be losing a player.
There are GM’s I think who felt that once Seattle’s start was delayed by a year, that Vegas should be subject to lose a player like everyone else. There are definitely GM’s grumbling behind the scenes. But as Bill Daly said because Vegas is not getting a piece of the pie from Seattle, they’re the only one not getting a check, then they’re not losing a player… so that’s created some tension for obvious reasons. -LeBrun
What makes GM’s mostly worried, with good reason, is that McPhee could take advantage of franchises with protection issues, or get a jump on adding players.
Because Vegas doesn’t have to worry about a protection list they’re more willing too add players during that particular time then any other team. -LeBrun
Bill Daly told league officials not too fret about Vegas abusing their exemption. Other teams want to be reassured that the Golden Knights wont be making unfair trades during that small window before the 2020 Expansion Draft. The league will be keeping an eye on Quick Draw McPhee.
Daly hears that Vegas can’t interfere with the Seattle expansion process. The league will pay close attention to the type of trades the involve Vegas around that… Bill Daly says he’ll know when he sees it as far as something that doesn’t pass the smell test. -LeBrun
One scenario that clearly makes sense for Seattle is hiring Vegas Assistant GM Kelly McCrimmon. Obviously, as McPhee’s right-hand man he’s fully capable of handling the pressure and creativity of an expansion draft. However, if McPhee is whispering to 30 other compadres it’ll make McCrimmon’s job much tougher the second time around. Any other Seattle general manager would be at even more of a disadvantage.
All along we’re always under the assumption that Seattle will have a bit of a tougher time this time around. Teams are more familiar with the rules and the process, saw what happened with a couple of teams overreacting and overpaying on side deals with Vegas. -LeBrun
Teams like Anaheim, Columbus, Dallas, Florida, Minnesota, and Washington gifted Vegas a core to win with immediately. I’m sure most teams would like a redo. Well, they’ll have their chance in the summer of 2020. With McPhee watching on with a bowl full of Crunch ‘n Munch.