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VGK Must Learn To “Get Out Of A Bad Stretch Quicker”

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

One of the hallmarks of the Golden Knights’ run to the Stanley Cup was resiliency. From bouncing back from losses to correcting mistakes to keeping games within touching distance nothing was able to throw the team off the road of achieving their goal.

That continued this year to start the season as the first 12 games of the season were a clinic in keeping games close and grinding out victories. No opponent could string together goals which kept every game close and eventually Vegas’ talent won out.

Recently though, the same cannot be said about the Golden Knights. There’s no better example of it than the previous game in Boston. Vegas arguably were the better team for 40 minutes in a game on the road against an excellent opponent, but a dismal 20 minutes that saw the score snowball was too much to overcome.

We’ve got to get out of a bad stretch quicker. We give up a goal, we’ve got to get back to work. Can the coach call a timeout every time that happens? Yes, but is your team going to grow if you do that? I don’t know. So there’s a little bit of that that’s incumbent on the players. If something bad happens, park it, and let’s go. -Bruce Cassidy

It wasn’t just in Boston either. The Golden Knights have given up consecutive goals 14 times in the last eight games. It’s no surprise the record over that stretch for Vegas is a concerning 2-5-1.

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Return of 19-71-81 Yields Positive Dividends In First Appearance

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Sometimes the answer to the test is in clear sight.

Nothing has been more successful in the history of the Golden Knights than the line of William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, and Reilly Smith. While many have been clamoring for the return of Smith at the trade deadline, the man wearing his old number stepped into the spot on Saturday night and performed as well as he ever has in a VGK sweater.

Brendan Brisson recorded three shots on goal, drew a penalty, and was on the ice for one of Vegas’ two 5-on-5 goals in his first chance playing alongside Karlsson and Marchessault.

The line was consistently threatening, and Brisson fit seamlessly with two of Vegas’ biggest stars. They were on the ice for 12:01 and generated 10 scoring chances. In addition, they finished the game with more attempts, shots, expected goals, high-danger chances, and goals than their opponents.

He’s a smart player. He’s pretty dangerous once he gets the chance to be. I think he complimented us pretty good today. -William Karlsson

As a team at 5-on-5, the Golden Knights generated 2.29 expected goals against the Senators in Ottawa. The trio of Karlsson, Marchessault, and Brisson were directly responsible for 0.72 of them and they were on the ice for just short of 1.0. Thus, the familiar 19-71-81 line generated nearly half of Vegas’ expected goals while playing just 20% of available ice time.

Brisson has bounced around the Vegas lineup during his time in the NHL this year. He’s played in nine games and has been on eight different lines with eight separate linemates.

The last time Vegas played Toronto, Bruce Cassidy opted to play Brisson with Chandler Stephenson and Michael Amadio in an offensive-leaning third line while Karlsson and Marchessault were separated. This time, he’s almost certain to go back to 19-71-81 and hope the old magic continues anew.

Despite Dire Injury Situation, Golden Knights Are Still In Excellent Playoff Position

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights have now lost four consecutive home games and four of the last five games overall. They’ve also posted a record of just 3-4-0 since the All Star break and truthfully haven’t played all that well in any of the seven games.

Mark Stone has been diagnosed with a lacerated spleen which will likely see him out for the remainder of the regular season, Jack Eichel has missed each of the last 15 games and is expected to miss at least a few more, and William Carrier, Pavel Dorofeyev, and Brett Howden are all out of the lineup for the foreseeable future. And on top of all of it, the Golden Knights are about to embark on their longest road trip of the season.

Trust me, I understand how anyone can read all of that and feel like the season is quickly slipping away. But, when you examine what the Golden Knights have left on the schedule and where they currently sit in relation to the rest of the Western Conference, it’s really not that bleak.

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Record-Chasing Oilers Are Not The Same Team VGK Eliminated Last Year

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

When the Edmonton Oilers step on the ice at T-Mobile Arena tomorrow they’ll be chasing history. With a win, they tie the NHL record for most consecutive wins at 17. They also have a chance to make it 15 straight games allowing two or fewer goals. And, they can officially clinch the regular season series against the team that eliminated them from the playoffs last year.

Then, there’s the Golden Knights, who on paper have a lot less to play for, but would love nothing less than to continue tormenting a team that is quickly becoming their most hated rival.

Vegas has to enter this game with plenty of confidence. They are still the reigning champs and there’s not a player on the roster who has forgotten the playoff series from nine months ago.

But, this is not the same Oilers team from last year though. It starts with a systematic change that may have just been inspired by the Golden Knights.

They’ve changed their D-Zone system from last year. It looks very familiar because I’ve coached it for 15 years so I recognize it when I see it. -Bruce Cassidy

Edmonton’s former head coach Jay Woodcroft attributes the system to “the team that had the best record in the NHL last year” but it’s also the same one Cassidy installed the moment he became the head coach of the Golden Knights.

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Roy, Marchessault, Barbashev Making Case To Remain Together

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

With Jack Eichel and William Karlsson out of the lineup, the Golden Knights knew they had to look to Nic Roy to fill some pretty massive shoes at center. The former 4th round pick has deputized up the lineup on multiple occasions, but rarely has he been asked to carry the load as a top-six center.

Bruce Cassidy opted for continuity in keeping Chandler Stephenson with Mark Stone, which meant Roy found himself between Jonathan Marchessault and Ivan Barbashev.

The line got off to a bit of a slow start, failing to score in each of their first two games together (Marchessault scored an empty netter with a different group), but the underlying numbers indicated good things to come. And starting with the home game against the New York Rangers, boy did they come.

In the last six games, the trio has combined for 13 goals, 31 points, and a +18 rating. All three of Roy, Marchessault, and Barbashev are on six-game point streaks and they’ve been on the ice for multiple goals in five of the six games.

The advanced metrics are strong as well. The line has posted a 52% Corsi, 54% shot share, and have outchanced their opponents 59-41 and 26-16 at high danger. These numbers easily outpace the team average and also outpace each player’s average this season.

Success like this will always breed two questions. First, will it continue, and second should they stay together when the injured players return?

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Surviving The 1st Period Key To Success For VGK At MSG

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

As the Golden Knights continue their tricky pre-All Star road trip the focus shifts to a team they smoked at home just eight days ago.

When the Rangers visited T-Mobile Arena the away team got off to a hot start putting massive amounts of pressure on the Vegas net, but Logan Thompson and the VGK defense held strong to keep them off the board. Then, midway through the period the line of Jonathan Marchessault, Ivan Barbashev, and Nic Roy got the Golden Knights on the board not once, but twice, and the Golden Knights were off and running.

Surviving and ultimately thriving in the 1st period has been the recipe for success for the Golden Knights.

We’ve kept ourselves out of trouble early in games and have gotten some leads. In New York the other day we didn’t do much but we didn’t give up much. We got our legs under us and got a goal late so you have a lead going into the 1st intermission and now you’re going and you find your game as it goes along. -Bruce Cassidy

In each of Vegas’ last five games, the result has been directly linked to whether or not the Golden Knights have conceded in the opening frame. In all four wins, VGK entered the locker room after 20 minutes posting a goose egg against. In the one loss, the Golden Knights gave up two late goals to the Devils.

Under Cassidy, the score at the end of the 1st period has been a powerful indicator of how the rest of the game will go. When Vegas leads after one, they are 44-6-2, when they trail the record drops drastically to 10-8-8. In other words, lead after the 1st, and VGK have an 85% chance to win, trail after one and it’s just 38%.

Cassidy says it’s even more important right now considering the lineup.

We’ve had two days off so we should be fine, we should have a better start today. That’s one thing on the road if you can get ahead it’s much easier, for us especially, down some guys who are dynamic players. -Cassidy

The Rangers will surely remember the butt-whipping Vegas put on them last week, so they will likely come out strong. As Cassidy said though, all the Golden Knights need to do is find their way through it without allowing a goal, what they do on the other end doesn’t matter as much.

Vegas should like their chances despite New York’s strong overall record. The Rangers still lead the Metropolitan division, but they’ve won just three of their last 10 games and the cushion has slipped to two points (on January 1st it was 7).

Jack Eichel Among League Leaders In Defensive Impact

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

We dove into it earlier in the season but it’s time to spotlight it again. At this point of the 2023-24 season, Vegas center Jack Eichel has established himself as a confident 200-foot player. Many Golden Knights fans will say they’ve known since that last season, especially after VGK’s successful Stanley Cup run last summer.

However, his performance through 42 games has been balanced, impactful, and pleasantly surprising. As expected, the offensive guru leads the team in points (44), goals (19), power play goals (7) and game-winning goals (5). What wasn’t anticipated was Eichel’s fine defensive on-ice work.

Take for instance last night’s contest against the Boston Bruins. Eichel spent 1:01 on a crucial penalty kill in the latter half of the 3rd period which held the Bruins scoreless through that point of the game. He then followed it up with 1:17 five-on-five shift. Of course, he max-ed out his 3:37 in power play time but also spent 2:18 killing penalties. It hasn’t been the norm for a guy who averaged 0:25 seconds of PK time per 60 before becoming a Golden Knight. Since the addition of Bruce Cassidy in October of 2023, Eichel now averages 1:01 per game.

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