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Carp: Keep Cody Glass In The Lineup

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to for the 2021 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**

You didn’t think they were going 56-0, did you?

The Golden Knights have their warts, just like the other 30 NHL teams. Sometimes they are camouflaged, sometimes they’re on full display.

Such was the case Friday in Glendale where the Knights continue to get caught in odd-man rushes, fail to account for themselves in their own end, and remain dismal when having a man advantage. So it shouldn’t have come as a surprise they lost to the Arizona Coyotes, 5-2.

I’ve not been a fan of playing five defensemen and I’d like to think management will do something to address the team’s salary cap situation sooner than later instead of waiting until someone has to go on LTIR. However, I’m glad Cody Glass is in the lineup. It’s time, once and for all, to see if he can be an impact player at the NHL level.

Glass scored Friday and in nearly 15 minutes of ice time, he posted a productive stat line, not the least of which was going 8-2 on faceoffs. He said afterward he has worked hard on improving at the dot and working in the corners. Both were on display in the loss.

We see glimpses of this in Glass’ game. He can produce given the right opportunity and matched with productive wingers. Alex Tuch certainly fits that bill. Many think Tuch is a top-six forward and while he’s currently a third-liner, that doesn’t mean he can’t remain productive. Tuch has been getting to the front of the net with more regularity and if he and Glass along with Nicolas Roy can bolster their puck possession time, the Keegan Kolesar experiment may be nothing but a distant memory.

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Carp: It’s More Than Just About The Bottom Line

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to for the 2021 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**

As everyone goes about their business this Sunday, you do so knowing your favorite team is 2-0-0 and in first place.

On the surface, that’s great. And pragmatically speaking, the Golden Knights’ start is what everyone was hoping for. You’re at home, playing a team that is offensively challenged and is in rebuild mode and you’re supposedly stronger than you finished last season in terms of your own roster.

So why did Saturday’s 2-1 overtime win over Anaheim feel so uncomfortable?

There’s a number of factors, not the least of which we’re seeing early in this weird NHL season that there’s going to be a lot of pushback from the team which loses the first of these back-to-back games on the schedule. Look around the league and that was the case virtually everywhere. Only the Knights, Washington, Minnesota, Tampa Bay, Nashville, and Philadelphia swept their opponent in the B2B scenario. And for good portions of Saturday, it looked like a split was going to happen at the Fortress, which definitely feels weird without 18,000 fans inside it. The Ducks had survived a 1st period onslaught by the Knights, who were debuting their snazzy gold jerseys, to keep the game 0-0 and went ahead off a 3-on-1 to take a 1-0 lead in the second stanza.

Then they clamped down defensively, clogging the neutral zone and not allowing the Knights to freewheel out of their own end. And had it not been for some great goaltending from Marc-Andre Fleury, the outcome could have been far different. But the veteran and future Hall of Famer looked sharp and kept his team in it until William Karlsson could tie it with 1:22 remaining after the Knights pulled the goalie, and Max Pacioretty would win it seven seconds into overtime.

It was far from a stellar team effort. Yet in his postgame Zoom conference with reporters, Peter DeBoer said he thought his team’s overall performance exceeded Thursday’s, which was a 5-2 win.

Say what?

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Underestimating The Pace Of A Real Game

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

We all watched with our own eyes on Thursday night. Vegas’ 5-2 victory over Anaheim got off to a quick but hectic start. In the opening eight minutes of the 2021 season, the two teams totaled four early goals. We know what happened later in the game, but let’s focus on the first eight minutes of the game.

If you’re playing in a normal season, and we get up two nothing like that the building is rocking. We got to learn to continue to push, we kind of let our foot off the gas after going up two nothing. -Mark Stone

In the initial 2:13 of the 1st period it looked like Vegas had turned the game into a one-sided contest. Jonathan Marchessault and Tomas Nosek nabbed their first goals of the season, temporarily giving the feel of a normal Golden Knights drubbing of the Ducks. Minutes later things quickly changed.

With their backs against the wall, Anaheim battled back and scored two of their own. Like the Golden Knights, the Ducks netted two in a matter of minutes.

The first eight minutes were messy but that wasn’t a shock to the players or coaches involved.

With no preseason you have to evaluate your game. We had some breakdowns a little too much in front of our own net. Some mental breakdowns but we also battled back. We gave up two goals early and we were able to respond the way we wanted to. -Ryan Getzlaf, Ducks captain

After a long time off the ice and a short training camp, it was expected both teams would come out rusty. However, both offenses came out hot and surprised the defense and goaltenders right from the opening faceoff. According to Anaheim’s head coach Dallas Eakins, the early flow of the game was sort of a reality check.

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DeBoer Hopeful Center-less Power Play Unit Won’t Become An Issue

The Golden Knights had just one power play in their first game, but those two minutes were the perfect illustration of the challenge facing the coaching staff in creating their power play units this season.

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

With two elite power play quarterbacks on the team, the Golden Knights knew they needed to find a way to ice two units both stocked with scoring talent.

The first looks like a normal dominant #1 power play unit. Alex Pietrangelo is the lone defenseman with Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, William Karlsson, and PP wunderkind Cody Glass. It’s the kind of stuff that gives opposing teams’ penalty kill nightmares.

It’s the second unit where things get interesting. Shea Theodore plays alongside Alec Martinez with a trio of forwards including Alex Tuch, Jonathan Marchessault, and Reilly Smith. It has the potential to be a great unit, but for one issue, there’s no one to take the draws.

Well, I don’t know if we’re comfortable (not having a center on the unit). It’s not the optimum situation obviously. Right now we’re trying to put our two best units together. We love the feel of the two units when they get the puck and get set up so we’re willing to give up a little in the faceoff department to get started. -Pete DeBoer

On that single power play last night, the concern came to the forefront immediately. After a strong 45 seconds by the first unit including a few shot attempts from Pietrangelo, the second group came out for an offensive zone faceoff. Tuch lost the draw and the Ducks quickly cleared the zone. The Golden Knights took a bit of time trying to re-enter the zone, never fully did on three tries, and an offside call forced another draw outside of the zone.

At that moment, with 30 seconds left on the PP clock, the Golden Knights flipped right back to the first unit.

It was an area of emphasis for us in the offseason and adding Pietrangelo definitely gave us the option of having two elite quarterbacks, two units, rather than a 1A and 1B. It’s critical, especially the deeper you go in the playoffs and the better the opponent those little details, the special teams, faceoffs, separate the teams at that point. -DeBoer

The Golden Knights have two bonafide #1 units, but without a reliable option to win faceoffs, it’s likely they will be forced into situations similar to the one they faced last night where they have to default back to the first unit on any draw.

In practice today, the second unit was moving the puck around with ease, even scoring one of the nicest tic-tac-toe goals you’ll ever see. So, clearly, when they have the puck, they have a real chance to be dangerous. But, how long will DeBoer put up with it if they don’t?

We’re hopeful the faceoff situation, guys will dig in, guys will help each other, some guys will become better at it and it won’t become an issue but it’s something that if we can’t get fixed with the personnel we have we might have to look at some different options. -Deboer

Maximizing the power play talents of both Theodore and Pietrangelo will be crucial in the long-term success of the Golden Knights this season.

There’s reason to believe these units could offer just that, but there’s also reason for concern that they won’t.

Golden Knights OK With “Low-Event Hockey”; Should They Be?

Through the first three games of the series, the Golden Knights have tallied five goals total with just three coming at even-strength. While Vegas leads on the even-strength shot tally in the series 71-62, the scoring chance numbers per actually show Dallas ahead 60-48.

Following Game 1, a game in which Vegas was bullied a bit early, Pete DeBoer used a phrase he had previously been known for in his time in New Jersey to describe the series-opening loss.

I don’t know what the chances were but it was a low-event game both ways. I didn’t think their offense gave us a lot of difficulty. -DeBoer

When DeBoer was behind the Devils bench from 2011-2015 the brand of hockey his teams were known for was often described as “low-event.” That means the shot numbers, chance numbers, and hopefully, the goal numbers are down. It’s a brand of hockey that has worked for many teams over the course of the past decade but one the Golden Knights have always viewed as the nemesis.

When the Golden Knights are at their best, they are creating chances in bunches. They tilt the ice in their favor and they impose their will on the other team. That’s how they overwhelmed Chicago, how they eventually cracked Thatcher Demko and the Canucks, and how they made their way out of the round-robin as the #1 seed. Going back further, that was the brand they played when DeBoer first arrived and it’s how they played for the entire Gallant era as well.

In Game 1, Vegas created just 14 scoring chances in the game at even-strength and only racked up seven through the first 2 periods. In Game 2, they tallied nine in the 1st period alone and finished the game off with 19 despite playing six fewer minutes of even-strength time. Then, in Game 3, they were back to struggling to create chances, totalling 17 but just 10 through two periods.

 Even-Strength TOIScoring ChancesChances/Min
VGK Game 154:52140.25
VGK Game 246:45190.41
VGK Game 352:15170.32
DAL Game 154:52270.51
DAL Game 246:45170.37
DAL Game 352:15200.38

Meanwhile, Dallas has stayed fairly consistent. They had a breakout period in the 2nd of Game 1, but aside from that, they’ve created about the same number of chances per minute in every other period of the series.

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Optimistic Vs. Pessimistic Looks At Series Tying Game 2

(Photo Credit: Playoff “Photographer” @BadSportsArt)

You ever read one of those “choose your own adventure” books? Well, I’m not smart enough to write one of those, but this article is a lot like it. There’s an optimistic route and a pessimistic route and at this moment neither is right nor wrong. So, I’m going to present both and let you choose the narrative you want to believe. Ready? Here we go.

We start with the main concept. Despite winning an absolutely crucial game, the Golden Knights have a lot more to give than they put forth in Game 2.

The Optimist: In a game they had to have, the Golden Knights didn’t even play their best, and still won 3-0. There was a marked improvement from Games 1 to 2 which means they will continue to find their way into the series. Once they get to truly playing their best, Dallas won’t be able to handle it.

The Pessimist: We’re two games in and thus far the Stars have proven they can stymie the Golden Knights. If Vegas doesn’t ramp up its game and they all look like versions of Game 1 or 2, the Golden Knights are in trouble.

The main takeaway from Game 2 will likely be Vegas breaking through and finally putting some offense on the board. When re-watching the game, and truly examining the chances both teams had, it was fairly close to even. The 1st period was a wash with each side having a few good chances. Then in the 2nd, Vegas struck on an excellent transition play. They scored again on a power play goal, then put together one of the niftiest 3-on-1 breaks we’ve seen in franchise history. In the 3rd, Dallas started to create a few more chances but couldn’t stick one in.

The Optimist: The drought needed to end, and it ended with two beautiful team goals followed by one on the power play. The normal VGK style of offense wasn’t even fully on display and Vegas was still able to score three. Now that the dam is broken, when the gritty, playoff-style goals return, the offensive problem will be completely considered a thing of the past. If Vegas is scoring, Dallas is hopeless.

The Pessimist: On the first goal a Dallas Stars defenseman fell down allowing Pacioretty an inordinate amount of time and space to pick out the play. On the second goal, Anton Khudobin seemed to forget how to play goalie and turned a shot that should have hit him in the chest into a goal. And on the final goal the Stars cheated in the offensive zone and gifted Vegas a 3-on-1 rush. The 1st period was more of the same that we had been seeing from the past four games. The power play scored just once and it was handed to them, and the rush chance is not likely replicable as Tyler Seguin shouldn’t be expected to make a boneheaded play more than once a series. Sure, there are three on the board, but only one was truly born out of excellent play by the Golden Knights and even on that one a Stars player ate s**t.

The Golden Knights also scored a goal that was waved off from a goalie interference challenge and they rang the post twice.

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Vegas Not The Only Bullies On The Ice This Round

In the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Golden Knights were known as the schoolyard bully. Whether it was a big hit by Ryan Reaves, Max Pacioretty slashing Chicago’s Alex DeBrincat late in a game, or Vegas’ bench calling Quinn Hughes a towel boy? The fear tactics worked against those teams, but it won’t make the Dallas Stars flinch.

Vegas may call it playing heavy and physical, but Dallas calls it Stars hockey. They openly invite Vegas to try and bully them around. And by the way, this isn’t a secret to the Golden Knights.

Now that Vegas trails the series 1-0 their approach needs to be clearly focused on hockey. With a slumping offense, finishing hits and behind the play antics shouldn’t be a concern. Of course, there will be after the whistle moments but it’s only worth engaging if the Golden Knights are scoring. With Reaves back in the lineup he’ll add some energy and grit but his big physical force won’t impact the outcome against Dallas. Plus, I’m not sure that’s a road Vegas wants to go down. There are no Antoine Roussel’s on the ice out to take frustrations out on. Sure, Corey Perry is a pest but he’s also 6’3″.

The main reason why the Golden Knights should lighten up with the cheapies and chirps is the Stars discipline, or lack thereof. Among the teams remaining in the postseason, Dallas leads in penalty minutes and penalty minutes per game. They’ve spent 183 minutes in the box, and average 10:45 PIMs per game. Sure, Vegas’ PP is struggling but multiple man-advantages a game allows opportunities to break out of their slump and wear down Dallas’ lineup. It’ll pay off eventually if the Stars begin to unravel.

Both Chicago and Vancouver were comprised of smaller, inexperienced players that were admittedly scared of Vegas’ heavy hitters and shocked by their level of chattiness. As the series went on, the Canucks ignored the after school playground crap and went out and won three games. None of that will exist against the Stars. If it does, it could be the other way around.

There’s no doubting Dallas is a tough team, and tonight Vegas will have to play smart to even up the series. By no means was the physical element the reason why the Golden Knights lost Game 1, it was their offense. Fixing that will change the entire series. Staying composed and taking advantage of Dallas’ undisciplined play will help Vegas get points on the board.

But I’d advise Nick Cousins not to yell a Findlay Chevy “Woooo” the next time he drops Dallas captain Jamie Benn to the ice.

Benn doesn’t seem like the type of guy that would forget.

Golden Knights Break Outs Broke Down In Game 1

When the puck dropped last night the Dallas Stars had a clear initiative and they wasted no time showing it to the Golden Knights. They want to forecheck the Golden Knights as heavily as possible and challenge every single Vegas exit.

In the first two rounds, the Golden Knights looked like they were holding a clinic on how to break the puck out of the zone. It felt like every time Vegas would head back into their own they’d collect the puck, move it once or twice and exit the zone with ease. Then, the Stars entered the picture and Vegas’ clinic turned into something out of the first few scenes of a Mighty Ducks movie before Gordon Bombay works his magic.

Here is the very first shift of the game.

First, Theodore tries to go up the wall and is denied. Then, Martinez throws an aimless pass up the center of the ice that’s picked off for a scoring chance. Pacioretty then gets it and is crunched by two guys keeping him from exiting the puck out of the zone. There’s a puck battle that Vegas loses. Dallas actually clears their own zone for Vegas’ first exit of the game. The Stars reload, send it back in, and immediately McNabb loses a race but still gets it to Schmidt. He sends a no-look pass to Marchessault, which doesn’t connect. And finally, Smith isn’t first on a loose puck off a block.

Seven Golden Knights players are mentioned in that paragraph. Every single one of them either made a poor play or saw the Stars pressure beat them to the play they wanted to make. If you watch that clip multiple times, you’ll honestly forget the game is being played at even-strength. There are white and green jerseys everywhere and the Golden Knights can’t seem to handle it.

They’re chucking pucks around, reaching with their sticks, getting beat up along the boards, and getting outskated, badly.

Here’s another shift just a few minutes later from the same period.

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Learning From VGK vs DAL In The Round-Robin

(Photo Credit: Playoff “Photographer” @BadSportsArt)

It’s only one game and it was a month ago, but in the wacky world of the 2019-20 NHL season, the round-robin game against Dallas on August 3rd gives us our best look into what’s to come in the Western Conference Final.

In that game, the Golden Knights scored on the second shift of the game. A goal by Chandler Stephenson got the ball rolling for Vegas who would hold the lead into the early 2nd. That’s when things went haywire for the Golden Knights as they allowed three straight goals inside of a five-minute span including a power play tally that at the time looked like it might bury VGK’s chances. In the 3rd though, Vegas stormed back with two to tie it, then another to take the lead, and then the empty netter to seal the deal.

It was a wild game that saw both teams carry play for extended periods. Here’s what I learned from that game and how I think it could preview some of what we’re about to see starting tonight.

  • VGK thrived in transition against Dallas

The first Golden Knights goal was actually very similar to one we’ve seen before in a Vegas vs Dallas matchup. In the round-robin, Vegas steamed the puck through the neutral zone to William Karlsson. He carried it into the zone and bought a bit of time as Chandler Stephenson rushed up the ice using his speed to create a Grade A opportunity. In the December game at Dallas, the play to create space for Stephenson was made through the neutral zone by Max Pacioretty. But in both cases, Stephenson’s speed in transition with the help of excellent plays by his linemates created goals seemingly out of nowhere.

The Golden Knights’ next two goals were also born out of transition. A quick up through the neutral zone followed by a nifty play by Nick Cousins set up a goal from Mark Stone. Then a 2017-18 special led to the third Golden Knights goal. The old top line of Karlsson, Smith, and Marchessault took advantage of a broken stick by Dallas to create an odd-man rush. Even though it wasn’t played to perfection, the opportunistic Schmidt jumped in and buried the chance.

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VGK PK Came Alive In Games 5-7, But They Weren’t Without Help

Call it a mulligan. Call it an extra life. Call it whatever you’d like, the Golden Knights got it in Game 7.

After having a season defined by a 5-minute major penalty in which they allowed four goals, the Golden Knights faced the same beast a year later when Ryan Reaves was assessed a match penalty for a hit to the head.

The stakes were actually even higher this time around. Rather than having a cushion, the game was tied with three and a half minutes left in the 2nd. If Vegas faltered again trying to kill off five minutes, their season would be over and the stigma would live with them forever.

Instead, Vegas got to try the “level” again, and this time they passed with it flawlessly, albeit with a lot of help from their opponent.

In the five minutes against the Canucks, the Golden Knights allowed just one shot on goal, foiled seven Canuck entry attempts, blocked multiple shots, and played just  1:36 inside of their own zone.

All in all, on the 11 minutes of power plays for the Canucks in Game 7, they got just two shots on goal, had a measly five scoring chances, had seven shots blocked, miss the net on five more, went 10 for 25 on entry attempts and allowed three shots on goal to the shorthanded Golden Knights.

Vancouver’s power play was without answers. Nothing illustrated that more than the image of Quinn Hughes on an empty bench during the 2nd intermission staring at an iPad searching for a solution.

In the series, the Golden Knights killed 23 of the 26 Canuck power plays including each of the final 14. Vegas was on the kill for 44 minutes in the series and allowed just 30 shots on goal. They consistently stood the Canucks up at the blue line and they took away cross-ice passes with ease. Literally the only place in which Vancouver has success was in the faceoff circle.

Prior to Game 6, after the Golden Knights had killed off three straight penalties in Game 5 and six overall, I asked Pete DeBoer if his penalty kill system was completely where he wanted it to be after taking over mid-season and implenting changes. I was a bit surprised when the answer wasn’t a resounding yes.

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