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Golden Knights Adopting Cassidy’s Patented Early Season Success

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Before the Golden Knights hit the ice for the 2022-23 season, the veteran lineup was well-prepared for a great start. Through five games Vegas has outscored their opponents 17-10, outshot the opposition 171-158, and collected eight out of ten points. Their successful beginning shouldn’t be a shock to the players, the organization or the fans considering who is behind the Golden Knights bench.

As we pointed out in the offseason, coach Bruce Cassidy has a track record of early-season success. In Boston, his teams took care of business right out of the gate. As we know, the Bruins qualified for the playoffs in all six seasons with Cassidy in charge.

Earning early points clearly guided the way for rewarding regular seasons in Boston. Through five games the Golden Knights have adopted Cassidy’s preparation.

Cassidy’s Early Season Win %

  • 2017-18 BOS: .618 Pts%
  • 2018-19 BOS: .694 Pts%
  • 2019-20 BOS: .872 Pts%
  • 2020-21 BOS: .722 Pts%
  • 2021-22 BOS: .600 Pts%
  • 2022-23 VGK: .800 Pts%

Dating back to October of last year, after a handful of defeats there was growing concern in Vegas. The Golden Knights were 1-4-0 and looking lost. The team was struggling and the injury bug began spreading. It took 12 appearances to climb above a .500 winning percentage and weeks to catch up in the standings after a taxing start to the season. Fortunately, Vegas calmly made it through the first five game challenge. Instead of dealing with early stress, the Golden Knights are feeling good about having the best record in the Pacific Division, and the most points in the entire league.

Of course, we need to contain the excitement. The Golden Knights are five games into a long 82-game season. There are several challenges ahead on the schedule and an eastern Canadian road trip in early November. However, to conclude with more premature praise, let’s give Cassidy and his team credit for earning four wins in four different fashions. It hasn’t been flawless, even sloppy at times but picking up early points is all that matters. The Golden Knights’ opening weeks could make the difference in a late-season playoff chase.

Power Play Variety Paying Off Early For Vegas

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Through three games the Golden Knights power play is averaging one goal per contest. A success rate that Vegas fans haven’t seen in several seasons. While it’s premature to celebrate, it’s better than shouting obscenities after failed man-advantages like fans had been used to.

You are running through different people including the more accomplished offensive defensemen here, so you may see more action from there. -Bruce Cassidy

We explained in-depth, VGK’s new look power play under coach Bruce Cassidy. One element of the strategy was getting everyone on the ice involved. The Golden Knights have three PP goals and all were scored by a different player. Not only that, seven separate players have a PP point. It’s been a cast of characters contributing on 5-on-4 situations.

VGK Power Play Points
Nic Roy (2 Assists)
Alex Pietrangelo (2 Assists)
William Karlsson (Goal)
Jonathan Marchessault (Goal)
Reilly Smith (Goal)
Jack Eichel (Assist)
Mark Stone (Assist)

Both of Cassidy’s power play units have had success, creating game-tying and go-ahead goals. Against LA, William Karlsson evened the score 3-3 midway through the 3rd period. Up in Seattle, Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly stretched Vegas’ lead on man-advantage opportunities.

Another sign Cassidy’s directions are quickly catching on is the variety of ways each power play goal has been scored. Karlsson’s PPG was a deflection from a superb Alex Pietrangelo shot-pass. The sequence began with Karlsson winning the faceoff and ended with Pietrangelo using his offensive creativity.

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Hall Of Fame Legends Demand A “Massive Year” From Eichel

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In the first intermission of Tuesday’s Golden Knights and Kings game ESPN analyst and hockey legend Mark Messier made some interesting observations after only 20 minutes played into the 2022-23 season. The six-time Stanley Cup winner was critical of Jack Eichel’s patented passive attitude.

I love Jack Eichel, I think he’s one of the most talented players in the league. It’s a massive year for him. I’d like for him to come out and say ‘I want to be the best player in the league and I want to win a Stanley Cup’ and take the assertiveness that the team wants to see on and off the ice. He doesn’t have to be apologetic for saying he wants to be the best player in the league and win a Stanley Cup. Massive year for Jack Eichel. -Mark Messier, Hall of Famer & ESPN analyst

Some would argue Eichel’s mild demeanor is an important element of his success. The 25-year-old has never suited up for a postseason series, and yet he’s done an admirable job of covering up past frustrations. The Messiah believes it is time for Eichel to put that behind him and act more brash and cocky.

Messier made his remarks after Eichel’s intermission interview. Keep in mind, ESPN aired this interview twice to highlight Messier’s pronouncement.

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Sportnet Overlooks The Golden Knights In Opening Power Rankings

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s time to turn down (or maybe turn up) the outside noise. The Golden Knights are certainly not the same team as in years past but there are still expectations. Sure, the club has holes and question marks in several positions, but overall Vegas should be considered a playoff contender.

The doubters are out there, but they are ignoring the Golden Knights’ skilled veterans that are accustomed to playing in the postseason. Vegas is blessed with high-end talent that has the ability to push them over the playoff cut line. However, in many pundits’ opinions, the bar has lowered. Just take a look at Sportsnet’s recent NHL power rankings. The Canadian outlet isn’t expecting much from Vegas this season.

Sportsnet NHL Power Rankings

1. Colorado
2. Tampa
3. Carolina
4. Calgary
5. Toronto
6. Florida
7. Edmonton
8. Minnesota
9. New York Rangers
10. St. Louis
*19. Vegas

Being ranked 19th out of 32 is far from flattering. In fact, it’s a not-so-subtle shot toward the 31st franchise, as many believe the Golden Knights window has closed. With Colorado’s locked-up talent, who can blame the detractors? However, there are silver linings to the low Sportsnet ranking, including the fact that the writer who put them at 19th doesn’t even seem to fully believe it himself.

That Robin Lehner is gone for the year cannot be overlooked, but it does obscure the fact there are reasons to like this team. Jack Eichel is getting his first full rip in the desert and captain Mark Stone is back after an injury-marred season. –Ryan Dixon, Sportsnet.ca

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Bruce Cassidy Not The Only Coach Frustrated With Preseason Defeats

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This weekend the Golden Knights had their worst outing of the preseason. Vegas lost 7-3 to the San Jose Sharks and their head coach was not happy with their effort.

It’s an attention-getter. You’ve played your games you’ve been at Training Camp, we’re not nearly where we need to be so we’ve got to get the hell back to work the next time we reconvene. That to me is the message that will be sent when we get back together. -Bruce Cassidy

In most cases, exhibition games are considered tune-ups and extended tryouts for prospects. However, with the brief time Bruce Cassidy has had with his new club, every shift counts. With only eight days before Vegas opens the 2022-23 season, it’s vital the Golden Knights continue to learn and execute their leader’s instructions.

After three preseason contests Vegas looked as if they had absorbed their coach’s new defensive look. On Friday night it fell apart. So of course Cassidy was frustrated with the results. This weekend, the Golden Knights coach wasn’t the only one to voice his concerns after lopsided defeats.

Tonight, a lot of the pressure in our D-zone we couldn’t handle it. We couldn’t handle their speed. Consequently they get the opportunities. We’re going to get better but it’s just not happening as quickly as I’d like it to be. -Bruce Boudreau, Canucks coach

After a 4-0 shutout, Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan told the media he was reluctant to talk about his team’s effort. In Pennsylvania’s other metropolis, Flyers bench boss John Tortorella was focused on his player’s confidence. In St. Louis, coach Craig Berube was at a loss for words.

Not enough. We didn’t do enough all around. It wasn’t a very good game. We should’ve played better for them, it was a great crowd.-Craig Berube, Blues coach

This very well could be a ploy from Cassidy and other veteran coaches to get their players’ mentally before regular season action. If you ignore the score, there were several positives to take away from Vegas’ fourth exhibition game. Offensively, Jack Eichel looks dangerous and heathy, while Mark Stone flashed his play-making abilities in his return, and Paul Cotter continued his seemingly undeniable run at a roster spot.

Also, it should be noted that Jake Leschyshyn dropped gloves and defended himself after landing a clean but hard hit on a Sharks player. That’s the character and culture stuff that un-frustrates Cassidy and other coaches.

1st Periods Continue To Be A Strength For Golden Knights

(Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke, SinBin.vegas)

So far, the Golden Knights have played three exhibition games and one particular aspect has stood out through their first 181:48 minutes. Under new coach Bruce Cassidy, Vegas has clearly been the better team in the 1st period of all three preseason contests. The Golden Knights have been the aggressor from the opening faceoff, and it’s resulted in early leads.

When the puck is on your stick get moving. When you receive a pass in the O-zone you’re shot ready or pass ready. It’s on your stick, heads up — like that Karlsson goal. It’s a great play. -Bruce Cassidy

While the crisp starts have generated offense, VGK’s defense could be the main reason for their 1st period success.

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VGK Players Undervalued In Fantasy Hockey Rankings

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It goes without saying fantasy sports are not an accurate measurement of how a player or a team will perform. Nonetheless, taking on the challenge of creating a winning lineup is an annual hobby for thousands of NHL fans. Right now, fantasy outlets are releasing their top player lists trying to accurately project the league’s point leaders for the 2022-23 season.

The same names lead the rankings as they have in previous years. Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Auston Matthews, Cale Makar, and Nathan MacKinnon round out the top five best overall players according to NHL.com, ESPN.com, TSN.com, Sportsnet.com, and anyone else with eyes.

Locally, center Jack Eichel is the first name to appear for Vegas (44th) on NHL.com’s list of top 250 NHL players ranked. Mark Stone (45th), recovering from back surgery, is one behind his teammate. Defenseman Shea Theodore (99th) is the only other Golden Knight to be ranked in the top 100. While it may look like the fantasy experts are disrespecting some of VGK’s stars, others are being considered a sleeper pick for 2022-23.

With Robin Lehner on the shelf for the season, Vegas’ No. 1 job is ripe for the taking and at this point, it’s Logan Thompson’s to lose. In 19 appearances last year, 17 of which were starts, the 25-year-old posted a 10-5-3 record to go along with a 2.68 goals-against average, .914 save-percentage, and one shutout. –Nick Alberga, Sportsnet.ca

Although Sportsnet noted the position is officially up for grabs, they feel comfortable suggesting Thompson as VGK’s first goaltender to go in fantasy drafts around Canada and the United States. Of course, there needs to be a ‘buyer beware’ prompt for those interested in any of VGK’s netminders. Experts would tell you to wait until the later rounds.

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All Eyes On Kessel After Yandle’s Retirement

(Photo Credit: @VegasGoldenKnights on Instagram)

NHL defenseman and current Iron Man Keith Yandle retired yesterday after 17 seasons in the league. The 36-year-old holds the record for playing in the most consecutive games (989) in NHL history. Yandle’s stretch lasted from March 26th 2009 until March 29, 2022. As impressive as his Iron Man streak is, it shouldn’t stand as the record for very long.

Just eight games into the 2022-23 season VGK forward Phil Kessel is expected to break Yandle’s streak. On October 24th, Vegas fans will witness history when Kessel ties the record. The next day in San Jose, the newest Golden Knight should play in his 990th consecutive NHL contest.

What’s interesting about Kessel breaking the record in a Golden Knights sweater is the lack of connection to the fans and the city. The right winger played 982 in other uniforms so we’ll see how the Vegas faithful react when Kessel ties and passes Yandle. They may mimic the night Sharks forward Patrick Marleau broke the record for most NHL games played. Some fans at T-Mobile Arena were excited to see league history unfold, others only cared about the score. Much like Marleau’s record, the Iron Man streak isn’t a Golden Knights franchise accomplishment.

You know it towards the end of the year when you’re signing young guys and getting free agents out of college that they’re gonna give them a chance to play. You’ve got to respect that out of the business side of it, what they’re trying to do here. –Keith Yandle, retired NHL defenseman in April 2022

One reasonable question to ask going into this season is how many games will Cassidy give Kessel to extend his record? There may come a point where the new coach considers scratching the veteran for younger bodies. Assuming Kessel’s performance doesn’t dip, we should expect him in the lineup every night. Especially, if the Golden Knights are struggling offensively.

Back to Philly, there was no doubt Yandle hurt the Flyers performance last season. The Philadelphia Inquirer chronicled moments throughout 2021-22 when the organization could/should have sat the struggling defenseman. When the decision was made to bench and end the Iron Man streak some players were upset with management. Others understood that it was time for the team to come first.

I’ve seen it at different times, where sometimes older players can be sort of jealous. I don’t want to say that they are trying to sabotage the young players, but certainly they feel threatened by them. And Keith has been absolutely nothing but supportive, professional with those guys. –Mike Yeo, former Flyers coach in April 2022

Assuming both sides spoke about the Iron Man streak while they were negotiating a contract, Kessel should have plenty of games to pad his stats. Not only will he break the record early on, but the forward’s next goal will also be his 400th. However, there could come a time that Cassidy will need to re-examine his lineup, especially if the team is off course. We have all heard about the coach’s reputation for putting players in their place so it’ll be interesting how Kessel’s minutes or appearances play out. Hopefully, at that point, the team will approach Kessel and have a conversation about the direction of the club.

Heck, that conversation may never happen if Phil the Thrill is tallying a point a game. Either way, we know the Iron Man-to-be will come ready to play.

Stone Shares Laugh With Eichel Over Tight Jeans

Since 2005, league policies mandate NHL players to wear business suits before and after games. Some would argue it’s a dated policy, but the skaters abide and agree to dress as CEO’s on gameday. The Golden Knights have certainly made a fashion impact since their arrival, starting with their custom inaugural season threads several players donned throughout 2017-18. Center William Karlsson infamously accepted his Lady Byng award wearing a jacket lined with the Golden Knights emblem. Only a handful of players could have pulled it off on national TV like the 29-year-old Swede did.

This week at Lifeguard Arena, captain Mark Stone was asked by Sportsnet which teammate was the most fashion-forward on VGK’s roster. In years past, Karlsson, Ryan Reaves, and Alex Tuch were anointed as the freshest in the Golden Knights locker room, but that honor has now been passed down.

Hmm, good question. Got to give it to Eichs. –Mark Stone to Sportsnet

It shouldn’t be surprising to anyone that Jack Eichel has the swankiest suits on the team. After all, the number one center has a high profile around the league and the extra scratch he carries around in his wallet.

He does have the best style. He has the best suits that’s for sure. –Stone to Sportsnet

Beyond the compliments from Stone, you can catch a glimpse of two teammates’ building a connection. For only having played together for a handful of games, the Golden Knights’ two biggest weapons appear to have formed a nice bond. Hopefully, it will set up for success in the regular season and playoffs.

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Can VGK Repeat Blue Line Success From The 2020-21 Season?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

If you look back to the 2020-21 NHL season you’ll recollect just how dangerous the Golden Knights were. They outscored their opponents by 1.21 goals per game and ended the season with a remarkable +63 in scoring differential. Vegas was a legitimate Cup favorite and was destined to face the Colorado Avalanche for Western conference supremacy. One reason why the Golden Knights had so much success throughout the shortened 56-game season was the support they received from the blue line.

With the addition of Alex Pietrangelo, VGK’s defense in 2021 was among the top scoring clubs in the NHL for points from the men who man the points. Between the group, Vegas’ d-men posted 142 points. Lead by Shea Theodore (8 Goals, 34 Assists), several Golden Knights defenders had career highs in points per game.

So, is it possible to duplicate their blue line scoring in the upcoming 2022-23 season?

We’ve broken down how new coach Bruce Cassidy has a slightly different mindset than previous coach Pete DeBoer when it comes to defensive involvement. Of course in Cassidy’s system blue liners will have the opportunity to score but not as much as they did in the past.

2020-21 VGK Defensemen Points
Shea Theodore: 8 Goals, 34 Assists
Alec Martinez: 9 Goals, 23 Assists
Alex Pietrangelo: 7 Goals, 16 Assists
Nic Hague: 5 Goals, 12 Assists
Zach Whitecloud: 2 Goals, 10 Assists
Brayden McNabb: 2 Goals, 6 Assists

14-year veteran Alec Martinez not only registered his highest points per game average (0.60) but was also a dangerous power play weapon. The two-time Stanley Cup winner scored 3 PP goals in 2021, the most he scored in seven previous seasons. Martinez even lead the Golden Knights struggling man-advantage with two PP goals in the 2021 postseason.

Most fans expect Pietrangelo and Shea Theodore to actively help out offensively but can the rest of the defensive unit step up like they did in 2021? With the lack of natural scoring forwards, even under Cassidy, Golden Knights’ defensemen should have ample opportunities to pitch in. To qualify for the postseason VGK may be forced to rely on crucial points from the point.

What’s the saying? Oh right, it takes a village to win a Cup.

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