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Category: Game Analysis (Page 1 of 9)

“I’m Not Too Scared Of Anybody”

Even when he’s bragging he’s humble. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Last night wasn’t the perfect game for the Golden Knights, rarely are they, but it was a game in which Vegas played its preferred style and pace and ended up running away with a 7-3 win.

Confidence is powerful in the game of hockey. Individually, it’s why a player like William Karlsson can go from 15 goals in 162 games to 31 in 60, or Ryan Carpenter can be waived in December and then go on a streak of six goals in nine games. As a team, it’s even more impactful as it breeds a belief that no matter the score or situation someone will step up and lead the team to victory.

We have confidence in this room that if we focus on ourselves and play 60 minutes, we can beat any team in this league. -Luca Sbisa

But sometimes ability doesn’t match the confidence in a locker room, and it turns a confident bunch into a frustrated one. It often happens when a team plays what they believe is a good game and do not come out on top. It takes away that feeling of invincibility great teams have.

If we play well, we will win.

That should be the belief in every locker room of every team, and it probably was at some point in the season, but as the year rolls along and that mantra doesn’t hold up, it chips away at a team’s confidence.

Then there’s the Golden Knights, who are probably the most confident team in the NHL. Why, because they’ve never experienced disbelief. When they play well, no matter who they play against, they’ve won. Not most of the time, every time. It hasn’t mattered where the games are played, who’s in the goal, or the talent on the other bench, if the Golden Knights play the way they are capable of, they will win the game, every time.

I don’t want to brag or anything but I’m really confident in our team. I like the way we’re playing right now. So yeah, I’m not too scared of anybody. -Marc-Andre Fleury

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Power Ranking Index; VGK #1 In Two Of Nine

Remember when Jon Merrill scored that game-winner? That was awesome. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights became the first team in the Western Conference, and joined the Tampa Bay Lighting as the only teams in the NHL, to reach 80 points. Vegas maintained its 10 point lead in the Pacific Division and continue chugging along towards not just a playoff berth, but possibly home-ice advantage throughout.

With the consistent, sustainable, success the Golden Knights have finally appeared to have broken through the glass ceiling of national media belief. Check out the latest power rankings from around the US and Canada.

ESPN – #1
Sports Illustrated – #1 – #2
USA Today – #2
CBS Sports – #3
Sportsnet – #5
NBC Sports – #6
The Hockey News – #6
Yahoo – #8

Viva Vegas! We love that you are making us all look like fools and giving us a fun story to write about. -Luke Fox, Sportsnet

Then there’s Yahoo…

In the last month, Vegas is 7-5-2 and needed a few miracles to get that far. They’ve also won just one of their last four home games. If you’re wondering about anyone having developed a cure for the Vegas Flu, that seems fair and reasonable. -Ryan Lambert, Yahoo

Right, the team stinks now because they had a 14 game stretch of point per game hockey. Guess there always has to be one outlier.

Nonetheless, two top spots, two more second places, and every single ranking in the top eight is pretty darn impressive.

We just can’t wait for playoff time to see what they’re really about. -Cody Benjamin,

What they’re really about… (Eye roll emoji)

Gallant Has A Plan To Slow McDavid, But It’s Easier To Say Than Implement

Connor McDavid is fast, so fast that it feels like he has the ability to turn on the video game turbo button when no one else can. By my count, in two games against the Golden Knights, McDavid created nine scoring chances, including five directly in front of the net… on his own. Literally, no one else had to do anything but skate to the front of the goal, McDavid did the rest.

He’s ridiculously fast. We’ve got to manage our players. When they go out on the ice against him they’ve got to try and keep his speed away. Try and pick him up early, try and deny him the puck, but every coach says the same thing, it’s tough to do. -Gerard Gallant

Raise your right hand if you think you can stop Connor McDavid. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

One of the biggest reasons stopping McDavid is such a challenge is the incredible amount of time he spends on the ice. In the last game at T-Mobile Arena, McDavid logged 25:22 of ice time. No Golden Knight forward crossed 22 minutes and Shea Theodore, a defenseman, led the team with 24:01, nearly a minute and half less than McDavid.

McDavid averages 21:28 of ice time per game. The Golden Knights leader, again, a defenseman, Nate Schmidt comes in at 22:21. Vegas’ top forward, William Karlsson, averages 18:26, a solid four to five shifts fewer than McDavid.

McDavid’s elite speed and skill have to be matched carefully, you can’t just throw anyone out there against him. All Star head coach Gerard Gallant loves to roll his four lines in order as often as possible, but against Edmonton and McDavid, that’s simply not possible.

There’s probably two lines I like to have against him most of the time or as much as possible and there’s four defensemen I like to have against him. But sometimes it doesn’t happen like that, they’ll throw him out every second shift or third shift. But every player in the NHL can play against those guys. -Gallant

He’s talking about Marchessault/Karlsson/Smith and probably Carpenter/Bellemare/Nosek (though Perron/Haula/Neal played more time against McDavid in the last game), and the defensive pairings of Schmidt/McNabb and Theodore/Engelland.

But here in lies the problem, and likely the reason the Golden Knights have struggled with the Oilers; Gallant admits that it doesn’t always work that way. In the OT victory on January 13th, McDavid’s line went scoreless against the Golden Knights top line, yet he was still on the ice for a pair of goals, the two even-strength goals Edmonton scored in the game. Marchessault, Karlsson, and Smith may shut him down, but that doesn’t mean he’s down and out of the game completely.

It’s a conundrum that every team in the league deals with when they play Edmonton. This year, most have solved the riddle. To this point the Golden Knights have not.

They’ve got another shot at it tonight, and if they do, they’ll become the first team in the Western Conference to reach 80 points, but as Turk implied, it’s easier said than done.

The Golden Knights Have A Healthy Habit Of Stringing Goals Together Quickly

It’s somewhat of an unexplainable phenomenon in sports, specifically in hockey, but it happens and happens a lot for good teams.

Sometimes bounces don’t go your way. Through the first two periods, we had our chances but the puck didn’t cross the line. Then suddenly in the 3rd period, I don’t really know what happened, but boom, we got all of them. -Pierre-Edouard Bellemare

Three goals in a matter of less than five minutes. A deficit to a commanding lead. So what did happen?

I don’t know, maybe altitude change? -Nate Schmidt

He was joking (sort of) about how the training facility at Downtown Summerlin is 1,000 feet higher elevation than T-Mobile Arena. His teammates, and I, thought that concept was nuts, but that’s not uncommon when it comes to Nate.

Moments later though, he offered a much more believable justification, one that was echoed in the locker room.

Once our crowd gets into it and we score right away, it’s really hard for other teams to get back in. It’s kind of a like a hamster wheel it’s hard to stop it once it starts rolling. -Nate Schmidt

Obviously (the home crowd plays a major factor). When you have the crowd yelling at every single chance it makes you want to go on the ice and make something happen and hear those people yelling. They’ve been unbelievable all season, it’s amazing that it looks like this the first year. -Bellemare

It’s entirely possible Schmidt was being serious about the altitude thing. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s not out the norm for this team. At home, the Golden Knights have scored goals within five minutes of each other 22 different times this season. They’ve done it in 14 of their 26 home games, and in those 14 games, they’re are 13-1-0. They’ve also scored within two minutes of another goal 12 different times and within 91 seconds three times at T-Mobile Arena this year.

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Bottom Six; What’s The Right Combination?

Step right up, pick three, any three!

The Golden Knights have hit a bit of a rough patch injury-wise, especially when it comes to the third and fourth lines. Over the course of the last month or so we’ve seen pretty much everyone play with everyone else.

Now, Tomas Nosek is set to return, which means for the first time in a while All Star head coach Gerrard Gallant will have to make decisions along the bottom six.

The plan for tonight is to run out the lines of Alex Tuch/Cody Eakin/Oscar Lindberg and Ryan Carpenter/Pierre-Edouard Bellemare/Tomas Nosek. Thus breaking up the recently successful Tuch/Bellemare/Carpenter line.

Everyone has their own opinions on who should be playing with whom, so we decided it’s time to put some numbers to the opinions. Have fun with this one…

13 w/ 21314:1349.1950.88111450.00
13 w/ 2465:4246.2745.452442.03
13 w/ 400:550.000.00000.00
13 w/ 4129:5150.8550.002055.17
13 w/ 9224:2845.8327.270057.14
21 w/ 24170:1650.1754.612749.14
21 w/ 403:3954.5533.330042.86
21 w/ 4120:0640.9147.621045.00
21 w/ 9227:4846.6747.060051.61
24 w/ 4011:4650.0063.640060.00
24 w/ 41173:4056.8860.484462.25
24 w/ 92115:0450.4554.243556.31
40 w/ 4158:1957.8055.933459.62
40 w/ 928:51 52.1761.540054.55
41 w/ 92301:4052.7752.0191056.76
13 w/ 21 w/ 89245:5150.3152.8191052.85
13 w/ 21 w/ 2447:2743.4842.591430.95
40 w/ 41 w/ 8930:5164.5273.533171.43
21 w/ 24 w/ 89104:3653.2561.841258.82
24 w/ 41 w/ 9294:4254.0259.302363.29

Numerically, the most successful line offensively is the Tuch/Bellemare/Carpenter line, but the sample size is rather small. That being said, the line Gallant is going with, Tuch/Eakin/Lindberg has been very good in possession, but the scoring has yet to come (just one goal in 104:36).

This will be the first time Nosek, Carpenter, and Bellemare have been together, but any time Nosek and Bellemare have been very good, especially considering a majority of their zone starts are in the neutral or defensive zone.

Play around with that chart, and see what you can find. Personally, I’d like to see Tuch/Bellemare/Carpenter and Lindberg/Eakin/Nosek, but what do I know, I’m not the front-runner for the Jack Adams award.

Flyers Used Icings To Slow Down The Golden Knights, And It Worked

“Coach said they were icing it so much they should open a bakery.” -Probably what Cody Eakin was thinking (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

What did the Flyers do with the puck when the Golden Knights offensively pressured last night? They iced it.

I don’t think the icings were effecting us. When we were all on the same page and we know what we’re doing, guys are out of position it’s easier to ice it. Get back into position and start from scratch. -Radko Gudas, Flyers Defenseman

In the second period alone, Philadelphia iced the puck six times including three within a  :30 second span. The Flyers dumped the puck from their own zone to slow down a heavy attack by the Golden Knights.

There was a lot of icing, a lot more than usual… I thought the second was a bad period for us and the third, they were protecting the lead and they did a great job protecting it. We didn’t get many good chances. -Gerard Gallant

Flyers captain Claude Giroux echoed his teammates comments, that icing the puck allowed some breathing room.

I think first period we came out and it was pretty hard. They were making plays that not a lot of teams make. For us, it was just to regroup and make sure we’re on the same page out there. When we had our chances, we were able to put them in. -Claude Giroux, Flyers Captain

Icing the puck is usually looked at as a bad decision or a mistake. Philadelphia used it to their advantage, and took the opportunity to disrupt the Golden Knights momentum. At times, it looked as if the icing stoppage was frustrating Vegas.

Yeah for sure. When we were playing in our zone and they were all over us, sometimes we were able to take a breather and readjust. It wasn’t our game plan to ice the puck as much as we did but I think we did in times when we had to. It helped us weather the storm. -Gudas

The two Golden Knights we asked, Pierre-Eduoard Bellemare and William Karlsson claimed it didn’t have an effect on the game. All Star head coach Gerard Gallant agreed with his players. The Flyers head coach agreed with his opponents. 

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Best Against The Best

They are also 1-1 against these guys, the back-to-back champs, but they didn’t come close to the cut-off with their .571 points percentage. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights have been masterful against the entire NHL this season, but equally as successful against the league’s elite. In fact, they’ve actually been better against the good teams than they have against the not-so-good teams.

For the purpose of making this article look as impressive as possible, we made the cut-off for a good team a .600 points percentage. Nine teams other than Vegas (.704) qualify, all are currently sitting in a playoff position.

Tampa Bay (.713)
Boston (.712)
Nashville (.689)
Winnipeg (.664)
Washington (.639)
Dallas (.625)
St. Louis (.623)
Toronto (.616)
Los Angeles (.602)

Let’s start at the top, like the very top. The Golden Knights have earned six out of eight points against Boston and Tampa Bay.

VGK vs. Teams with .700+ Points %
.750 Point Percentage
3-1-0 Record
4 Games
6 Points
2-0 vs. Tampa Bay
1-1 vs. Boston

When you add in other league contenders the Golden Knights point percentage drops a bit, but it still would qualify them as the best team in the NHL. Marc-Andre Fleury and James Neal are still haunting Tampa, Washington, Dallas, Nashville and Winnipeg.

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Incredibly Difficult Road Trip Continues To Prove Golden Knights Resolve

On January 25th the clock struck 00:00 and the Golden Knights had dropped just their fifth home game of the season, again to a team in blue and orange. No one seemed particularly concerned, but just around the corner was a road trip that had all the makings of derailing what’s been a storybook season.

First the Golden Knights would get four days off for the All Star break. Then they were set to hit the road for a trip that was to span more than 7,000 miles, across three different time zones, over the course of just 10 days. To make matters worse, the six game trip featured six teams in playoff position and five teams either in first or second in their respective divisions. (You can make the argument it’s all six because technically both Calgary and San Jose were in second when the games took place).

Nothing seems to be able to stop the Golden Knights train. Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

This is a trip that is supposed to suck the life out of even the best teams. There was a back-to-back early. There was a game with a 9:30 AM Pacific start time. There was the highly emotional return of Marc-Andre Fleury to Pittsburgh. There was snow, ice, rain, and outside temps ranging from -10 to 82. Oh, and did I mention more than 7,000 miles of travel. Seven effing thousand, in a week and a half.

It was without question the most challenging portion of the Golden Knights schedule both on the ice and off it.

Yet what did the Golden Knights do with it? They went out and won four of the six games, beat three of the four teams in the Western Conference, and took eight points from a trip in which four wouldn’t have even been considered a letdown.

They used a magical comeback to kick off the trip in Calgary, followed it up with an OT win in a game between the two top teams in the Western Conference, once again knocked off the reigning President’s Trophy winners, and then put a stamp on the trip by winning their 13th division game out of 15 and maintaining a perfect record in the state of California.

Now, it’s over and the schedule looks like an absolute dream. Nine of the next 10, and 17 of the final 28 will be played at T-Mobile Arena. 10 of the last 28 feature teams with fewer points than games played (there are only seven teams that fall into that category). 17 are against teams outside of the playoffs, and finally, no team in the NHL has more home games or fewer road games left on their schedule than the Golden Knights.

And it’s all because they not only survived but thrived on one of the toughest trips any team in the NHL will take all season.

This team has been doing unprecedented things for an expansion team since they played their first game, but if the final 28 resemble the first 54, we’re going to be talking real records and real banners, not just inaugural season ones.

“Every Team Goes Through A Losing Streak, Except For Vegas Apparently”

TSN’s Bob McKenzie was kind of joking, but inside of his little quip, he pretty clearly called the Golden Knights the most consistent team in he NHL.

All they do is win. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

McKenzie was discussing the ebbs and flows of the regular season, and how all teams have dark periods. He used Tampa Bay as an example of a top team that found some mid-season struggles. In fact, it began after the Lightning lost in Las Vegas with 2.3 seconds left in the game. Tampa Bay went on to lose seven of their next 14 games, with two and three-game losing streaks thrown in. The Bolts had only lost two-games in a row once before their December skid.

Every team in this league except Vegas it seems, goes through a period where you’re not as good as you were. And you lose a little bit more than you win. -Bob McKenzie, TSN

McKenzie was simply implying that it’s a long season, and even the better teams play a stinker now and then. He amusingly noted the Golden Knights could be the one team not affected by the NHL midseason flu.

And as I said, Vegas seems to be immune from that so far. I keep going on radio stations across Canada and saying, oh they’ll hit a losing sometime. It’s just a matter of when. -McKenzie

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Leipsic-Eakin-Lindberg… Never Again

Due to a rash of injuries to “fourth” line players like William Carrier and Tomas Nosek, coupled with injuries in the AHL to Tomas Hyka and Brandon Pirri, the Golden Knights were forced to create some abnormal lines for last night’s game in Pittsburgh.

With six available forwards to fill out the bottom two lines, All Star head coach Gerard Gallant chose to play Cody Eakin with Oscar Lindberg and Brendan Leipsic. That left Pierre-Edouard Bellemare with wingers Ryan Carpenter and Alex Tuch.

He may not be finding the net, but at least he’s been creating chances with Tuch. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Bellemare line fared just fine against the Penguins, but the supposed third line which racked up a total of 6:28 of ice time as a unit, was nothing short of a disaster.

First off, the Leipsic-Eakin-Lindberg line took five draws as a group, three in the offensive zone, one in the neutral zone, and one in the defensive zone. This is an indicator that Gallant saw the line as more of an attacking threat.

In the seven shifts over those six and a half minutes, the Golden Knights gave up one goal (and another mid-change), were outshot 8-2, and gave up seven scoring chances (four “high danger”) while creating just one of their own. They spent a majority of their time on ice inside of their own zone and were usually forced to change when they finally exited the zone creating a defensive zone start for whichever line followed them.

The worst part of their shifts together is that a majority of them took place with the Penguins fourth line on the ice against them. More than 50% of the time Leipsic, Eakin, and Lindberg were on the ice together, Ryan Reaves and Zachary Aston-Reese were on the ice with them. Aston-Reese is a rookie who was playing in his second career NHL game, and Reaves is an enforcer who’s career possession metrics are among the lowest in the NHL. Between the two of them (who were playing with a mixed third player due to in-game injuries) they have a career 30 goals in 473 games, yet Reaves scored with the Golden Knights third line on the ice.

It just didn’t work together, but it’s no fault of any one of the pieces. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Now, it’s not time to start throwing around hyperbole asking for all three players to be waived tomorrow. A lot of this comes down to chemistry and fit between the styles of play of each individual guy. They just don’t mesh together. If anyone should understand this concept, it should be Golden Knights fans who have watched numerous players bud into stars due to being placed in different circumstances in Vegas than with their former team.

The line of Eakin, Leipsic, and Lindberg isn’t particularly adept at any one skill, but even worse, it really doesn’t fit with the style of play the Golden Knights employ. They are not particularly good in transition, their forechecking is average, and their ability to break out of their own zone is not great… when playing together.

Simply put, that group of three did not work, at all, and Gallant need to recognize it and make the adjustment heading into tomorrow night’s game in San Jose. Offensively a bit will likely be lost taking Tuch away from Carpenter and Bellemare, but two balanced lines outweighs an okay one and a nightmare. Tuch, Eakin, and Leipsic on one line, and Carpenter, Bellemare, and Lindberg on the other, it’s really the only option.

Hopefully Turk agrees.

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