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Author: Ken Boehlke Page 1 of 179

An Idea On How To Deploy The Bottom Six When Cody Eakin Returns

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s not the way anyone envisioned it coming to be, but the 3rd line of William Carrier, Cody Glass, and Alex Tuch was formed three games ago. In those three games, the Golden Knights have earned points in each and won two on the road.

They’ve also received three goals and five assists from that line. They’ve created eight scoring chances in 26 minutes of play and have a 54% Corsi.

But where they’ve been best is in the eye test. Since the Golden Knights have been a franchise, they’ve never had a 3rd line look as good as Carrier, Glass, and Tuch have looked over the past three games. Tuch is driving offense, Glass is controlling the defensive end, and Carrier is winning puck battles helping set up the cycle to spend time in the offensive zone.

Tuch has returned to the right-wing, Glass to his natural center position, and Carrier is playing with the most offensive talent since he’s been a Golden Knight. It’s not the perfect line, but it’s certainly an upgrade on what they’ve gotten throughout this season with Cody Eakin as the center.

Tuch scored just one goal in 10 games with Eakin. He has three with Glass and Carrier. Glass has just three assists in 23 games playing with Eakin. He has two in three games with Tuch and Carrier.

However, the fourth line hasn’t looked quite the same without Carrier. Ryan Reaves has struggled without Carrier recording just five hits in three games while Carrier was on the 3rd line. Tomas Nosek still appears to play better as a center than a winger. And Stephenson scored the goal, but doesn’t quite seem a match for Nosek and Reaves.

Eakin remains out week-to-week with an upper body injury, so the decision on where to put him when he returns is not imminent, but after just three games on the road, it might be time to start considering where else he might fit.

The key question moving forward will become usage. Eakin has averaged about 15 minutes of ice time each season with the Golden Knights. That’s normal for a 3rd line center with penalty-killing duties. But, if he finds himself relegated to the 4th line, his TOI will likely drop under 10 minutes per game as has been the case for Reaves in 66% of games this season. That also means relying more heavily on Glass, something Gerard Gallant has not shown a willingness to do. (He’s played more than 14 minutes in less than half his NHL appearances.)

Vegas has never used an interchanging line system throughout an entire game, but they may want to consider it when Eakin is ready to return. With Glass, Eakin, Carrier, Reaves (or Nosek), Tuch, and Stephenson, there are multiple combinations that can be deployed depending on the situation.

Rather than lay out the standard two lines and roll them over, they could be mixed and matched depending on draw location, score, matchup, and stamina. Here are just a few of the logical trios that could be made out of that group.

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NEW YORK ISLANDERS 3 VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 2 (15-11-5 35 PTS) – OT

Recap: Malcolm Subban got his fourth straight start in net for Vegas, hoping to help his team sweep their three game road trip. Subban and the Golden Knights did a great job of keeping the Islanders off the board in the 1st period. Both teams went scoreless after the first period.

The Islanders opened up the scoring in the 2nd period on an odd-man rush resulting in a 1-0 NY lead. Vegas would fight back, picking up the pressure in the Islanders zone. Alex Tuch tied the game scoring his third goal of the road trip. The second period ended 1-1.

New York would break the tie early in the period and take the lead 2-1. The Islanders locked down defensively for most of the 3rd period but Vegas didn’t give up. With under five minutes remaining in the game, Jonathan Marchessault tied the game 2-2 adding his fourth goal in his last two games. The Golden Knights hard work forced an overtime period.

The Islanders offense forced a late overtime 4-on-3 power play. Seconds later NY would beat Subban and take the game 3-2.

Vegas’ record drops to 15-11-5 snapping their four-game win streak. However, they finish their road trip picking up solid 5 out 6 points. The team will travel back to Vegas for a quick two-game homestand. Vegas will host the NY Rangers on Sunday. Game time is scheduled for 4PM. (Recap by Jason)

Analysis: The Golden Knights kind of fed into what the Islanders wanted to do playing them to a defensive struggle. New York was certainly the better team but Vegas did well enough in their own zone to limit dangerous chances and take advantage of a few the other way. Overtime remains a struggle where this time they not only struggled with possession, but also took a penalty.  (Analysis by Ken)


Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights at New York Islanders at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum

  • The 3rd line is good, should be here to stay.

Ken’s Three VGK Stars
*** Alex Tuch
** Nate Schmidt
* Cody Glass

Stephenson Helps, But VGK Still Short On Depth Scoring Options

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights have been fortunate thus far this season in regards to injuries. At any given time they’ve never been without more than two forwards, missing only Alex Tuch and Cody Eakin at various times.

Of course, health is important for any team, but it’s especially crucial for the Golden Knights due to their lack of depth in the minor leagues.

Thus far, just three forwards have made both NHL and AHL appearances in the Vegas system. Brandon Pirri, Valentin Zykov, and Nic Roy have only six points despite racking up 25 combined games. Between the entire trio, they’ve yet to find the back of the net in the NHL.

Meanwhile, at the AHL level, those same three forwards have tallied six goals and 12 assists for 18 points in just 22 total games. And, aside from 20-year-old Lucas Elvenes, Pirri and Zykov rank as the top scorers on the Chicago Wolves, and Roy comes in 6th. They are the best the system has, and we’ve already seen what they can (or can’t) do at the NHL level.

I raised this concern during the offseason after the Golden Knights watched four of their top-six AHL scorers leave for other teams or leagues.

Luckily, it’s yet to bite Vegas as they haven’t been forced to dip into that depth. Of course, the addition of Chandler Stephenson pushes everyone down one rung on the ladder, but it’s still a serious issue.

Brandon Pirri had a hot run with the Golden Knights last season and certainly stands as a the best fill-in option, but beyond him, there’s not much there Vegas can rely on.

Elvenes is playing in his first professional season in North America, and is thriving, but he’s likely not cut out for the NHL grind yet. Zykov is playing with Chicago now, but the chances he ever returns to Vegas remain slim after his PED suspension. Then there are Gage Quinney, Curtis McKenzie, Tye McGinn, and Nic Roy. Roy was the clear front-runner of the group, and in his seven-game stint with the Golden Knights, offense wasn’t a word that came to mind.

35% into the season, it hasn’t mattered. Hopefully, it doesn’t in the remaining 65% either.

VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 4 NEW JERSEY DEVILS 3 (15-11-4 34 PTS)

Recap: The Golden Knights took on the New Jersey Devils on a back to back, and with a new player in their lineup. Vegas would be forced to stop and block a barrage of New Jersey shots in the 1st period. The Devils would take advantage of a poor line change by the Golden Knights and take the 1-0 lead.

The newest Golden Knight would get Vegas right back in the game early in the 2nd period. Chandler Stephenson scored his 4th of the season and his 1st as a Golden Knight tying the game 1-1. The Devils would regain the lead later in the period giving his team a 2-1 edge.

Jonathan Marchessault took over the game himself and scored a third period hat trick, giving his team the lead 4-3. Vegas fought off a 6-on-5 empty net situation and picked up their second win on the road trip.

Vegas’ record improves to 15-11-4 and extend their winning streak to four games. The Golden Knights will finish off their road trip on Thursday against the New York Islanders. Game time is scheduled for 4PM. (Recap by Jason)

Analysis: A far from perfect effort from Golden Knights was good enough to beat the lowly Devils. Vegas came out flat in the first period and couldn’t establish much of any offense. Defensively they hung in there despite allowing 17 shots. As the game went on they got better and better with the best performance of the season from Jonathan Marchessault. Subban played well in his fifth straight game and the new guy Chandler Stephenson was solid for his debut. (Analysis by Ken)


Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights at New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center

  • VGK December dominance

Ken’s Three VGK Stars
*** Chandler Stephenson
** Alex Tuch
* Jonathan Marchessault

 

Kelly McCrimmon And Chandler Stephenson Meet With Media Following Trade

GM Kelly McCrimmon met with the Vegas media at Prudential Center in New Jersey to discuss the acquisition of Chandler Stephenson. Also, Stephenson chats about the crazy day he’s had getting traded from Washington to Vegas.

Chandler Stephenson Add Is All About Depth

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Last night the Golden Knights shipped out a 2021 5th round pick to add 25-year-old center Chandler Stephenson from the Washington Capitals.

Stephenson is a bit of a swiss-army knife type forward who is versatile enough to play all over the lineup and in all situations. With Washington, he was primarily deployed on the fourth line, but throughout his 168 games, he saw time on all four lines including a quick stint with Alex Ovechkin on the top line.

What Stephenson is known most for is his penalty killing. In that regard, he’s close to elite.

There are 89 centers in the NHL with at least 30 minutes of penalty-killing time on ice this season, and Stephenson’s numbers are very good. He ranks first in that entire group in high danger chances allowed per 60 minutes with only 1.74. He also ranks in the top-three in the NHL in Corsi against (66.06), scoring chances allowed (31.29) and expected goals allowed (3.6) on the penalty kill. He’s 13th amongst all centers in goals against per 60 at 3.48. –Jesse Granger, The Athletic

The add isn’t just about penalty killing though.

It’s also about replacing Cody Eakin during the injury. It’s also about finding a new center to push Nic Roy back to the AHL where he may belong at the moment. It’s also about adding versatility to the roster. It’s about all of it.

Let me break it down group by group.

Centers
Karlsson, Stastny, Eakin, Nosek, Glass, Roy, Stephenson

As opposed to teams of VGK’s past, this team is not loaded with centers playing wing. Most of the Golden Knights wingers, especially when Eakin is out, are natural wingers, while every center is playing center. There’s a lack of versatility that both Gallant and the front office like to have on their roster. By adding Stephenson, who has played a lot of center and a lot of wing, they get a guaranteed NHL caliber player (something Roy is not yet) who can fill in at center when needed, or play on the wing if necessary. He’s an insurance policy for three different guys. For Cody Eakin if he’s hurt for a while, for Cody Glass if he isn’t physically strong enough to play center yet, and for Nic Roy if he’s just not quite ready to be a full-time NHLer.

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GOLDEN KNIGHTS HAVE ACQUIRED CHANDLER STEPHENSON (F) VIA TRADE

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights have acquired Chandler Stephenson from the Washington Capitals for a 2021 5th round pick. Stephenson is a 25-year-old forward who was drafted by George McPhee in the 3rd round of the 2012 NHL Draft.

Stephenson’s best season was in 2017-18 when he scored 18 points (6G, 12A) in 67 games. He is a bottom-six type player who kills penalties and plays about 10 minutes a night.

Stephenson has one year left on his contract at $1,050,000. He is an RFA with arbitration rights this summer.

Darren Dreger reports the Golden Knights have given up a 5th round pick in exchange for Stephenson.

VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 4 NEW YORK RANGERS 1 (14-11-4 32 PTS)

Recap: The Vegas Golden Knights came in the historic Madison Garden looking to take care of business. NY native Alex Tuch got things going immediately for the Golden Knights, scoring two goals in the first 3:50 of the game.

Reilly Smith continued Vegas’ offensive attack early in the 2nd period with a nasty backhand over Henrik Lundqvist, making it 3-0. Max Pacioretty have Vegas a four goal lead a minute and a half later. After the first 30 minutes of the game, the Golden Knights had two even-strengthened goals, and two power play goals. The Rangers would get on the board but Vegas would hold a firm 4-1 lead after 40 minutes of action.

The Golden Knights defended and secured their three goal lead in the 3rd period. Vegas only shot four times on net but fought off a handful of Ranger power plays. The Golden Knights finished of New York 4-1.

Vegas improves their record to 14-11-4 with their first victory of a three game road trip. The Golden Knights get right back on the ice tomorrow against the New Jersey Devils. Puck drop is scheduled for 4P. (Recap by Jason)

Analysis: The Golden Knights came out on fire to start this one. Alex Tuch was an absolute monster playing in his natural right-wing position and William Carrier and Cody Glass looked much better on that line as well. The defensive system was far from perfect, but Subban and a bunch of missed chances by the Rangers kept the game at bay. Overall, it was the kind of game the Golden Knights needed for their confidence. They jumped out to an early lead, and despite taking a bunch of penalties were able to coast to the finish. Not sure I would call it dominant, but it was absolutely a good enough effort to beat an average team.  (Analysis by Ken)


Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights at New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden

  • More on the acquisition of Chandler Stephenson

Ken’s Three VGK Stars
*** Malcolm Subban
** William Carrier
* Alex Tuch

 

Clearing Rebounds Should Be Easier And Better In New System, But Also More Important

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

VGKD 2.0 is 2-0-0 with a pair of thrilling victories that went beyond regulation. Against Arizona, Vegas allowed just one goal and it came from an incredible shot by a defenseman who fooled Malcolm Subban by even shooting it in the first place.

The difference in how the Golden Knights now defend is only six periods old, but it sure looks like it is making a major difference… even if the head coach doesn’t want to admit.

What new system? -Gerard Gallant

Obviously, we’ll be keeping a close eye on it during this road trip against a trio of teams that play three majorly different styles. After two games though, one particular pro of the system has jumped off the ice, and that’s clearing rebounds.

Against the Coyotes, Vegas was terrific controlling second chance opportunities in the slot. No matter where the first shot came from, the Golden Knights had two or three bodies around the rebound and quickly removed the puck from danger before any Coyote could get a second look at net.

If there’s a shot from the outside we want to make sure there’s not a second shot, a second chance. We’ve always talked about it, even in the old system, winning those net-front battles and making sure we tie up sticks and keeping those chances to the outside so they don’t get two, three, or four whacks at it in front. -Nic Hague

According to NaturalStatTrick.com, the Golden Knights allowed just four rebound chances the entire game against Arizona. Only one was a truly dangerous chance. It happened to come in the waning seconds of the game and could have been a disaster had it found its way past Subban, but all in all Vegas was excellent in finding loose pucks and sending them to safety.

Our team cleared them really well. That’s an important thing for us. Give up shots from the outside and then do what you can on the rebounds. -Malcolm Subban

Even though Gallant doesn’t want to make a big deal of the change, he was very complimentary of his team’s work in front of their own net.

I think anytime you can box guys out and keep them from second and third chances in front of your net, it is going to help your team win games. A lot of teams are going through stuff like that, and if you can keep them on the outside you have a better chance to win and keep the puck out of your net. -Gallant

Every Golden Knight I’ve talked to about the new system has mentioned that they expect it to get better and better as they get more games and more practices under their belt. Yesterday they had a full practice at the Prudential Center (where they are playing tomorrow) and Gallant specifically mentioned working on “d-zone coverages.”

The Golden Knights have stacked two wins in a row four times prior to these last two, but have gone 0-3-1 in their attempts to win a third straight. They’ll have that chance again tonight, and if VGKD 2.0 works as well at MSG as it did at T-Mobile Arena on Saturday, they should be able to get it done.

SinBin.vegas Podcast #178: System Activation

Live from the T-Mobile Store on the Strip we chat about the Coyotes game, the new defensive system, and the road ahead for the Golden Knights. Hosted by Ken Boehlke and Jason Pothier.

  • The effects of the new system
  • Are the Golden Knights scoring enough
  • Malcolm Subban’s on a winning streak
  • The next turn in the Zykov saga
  • Is Taylor Hall realistic?

And much more…

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