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When Gerard Gallant And The Golden Knights Pull Their Goalie Compared To Rest Of NHL

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Thanks to some awesome data compilation by Meghan Hall (@MeghanMHall) of the Balls and Sticks Podcast we finally have some solid context on goalie pulls and the Golden Knights. (Here’s the website to find all the data, it’s one of the coolest workbooks I’ve seen all year.)

The Golden Knights have pulled the goalie a total of 21 times this season. They’ve been “successful” (at least tying the game) just one time and it happened to be on the first attempt of the season. Since Max Pacioretty’s goal on October 6th, Gerard Gallant has pulled his goalie 20 times and his team has not scored a single goal. In that time they’ve allowed 11 total empty netters, conceding at least one in 10 of the 20 games.

However, this is not horribly uncommon as 10 of the NHL’s 31 teams have just one successful goalie pull this year. Plus, four teams (Arizona, New York Islanders, Dallas, Pittsburgh) have all yet to tie or win a game after pulling their goalie.

That means 45% of the NHL has just one or fewer successful goalie pulls. However, that doesn’t mean the success rate of the goalie pull is poor. Actually, 14.6% of one goal games result in a tie game when the goalie is sent to the bench. Calgary, Minnesota, and New Jersey are the best at it, each successfully tying the game four times.

When down by one goal, the league average of the goalie is pulled is 1:43. Vegas is the fifth most aggressive team when it comes to time, pulling the goalie on average with 1:58 left on the clock. The most aggressive team is Toronto, pulling the goalie on average at around 2:28 left in the game.

The Golden Knights average pulling their goalie with 2:01 left on the clock in all situations. The earliest Gallant has removed the goalie was at the 3:13 mark, in the March 10th game at Calgary (down two), while the latest was with :49 vs. Montreal on November 10th (down one). Just nine of the 21 times has Gallant done it outside of 1:30 to 2:30 left.

Other teams have been far more adventurous. Tampa Bay once pulled the goalie with 9:47 to go, Dallas did it with 7:48, and Nashville recently tried it with 6:09 left. There have been more than 100 instances this season in which a goalie has been pulled earlier than the earliest Gallant has pulled VGK’s goalie.

With the goalie out, Vegas is about average at keeping the puck from going in their own net. They’ve allowed 11 empty net goals in the 21 goalie pulls. That’s good for 14th in the league. Calgary is the best allowing just four, while Dallas is the worst giving up 16.

All in all, pulling the goalie hasn’t been great for the Golden Knights, but you certainly can’t say Gerard Gallant isn’t trying.

San Jose Or Calgary; Who Do You Want First?

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

If the Golden Knights were to achieve the pipe dream of getting into 2nd place, they probably needed to win in Calgary last night. However, even had that happened, the chances of Vegas going on to not only pass the Flames, but also the Sharks, is about as likely as the Golden Knights giving out a detailed injury report.

So, it’s become fairly clear that Vegas’ opponent in the first round will be the Pacific Division runner-up, either Calgary or San Jose.

The Golden Knights have completed their regular season slate against the Flames going 2-2-0 winning the home ones and dropping the away games. Of course, it should be noted that both games Vegas played in Calgary were on the back-end up back-to-backs and Marc-Andre Fleury did not start either.

As for the Sharks, Vegas is 1-1-0 with two road games to play. The Golden Knights dominated San Jose in the first meeting 6-0 before blowing a two-goal lead to lose the second matchup. The next two are on March 18th and 30th.

The question is, which team would Vegas rather play first. Naturally, it shouldn’t matter as the Golden Knights are likely to have to beat both of them to make it back to the Western Conference Final, but still, it’s an interesting debate as the Sharks and Flames go back and forth with the division lead.

Here’s a quick rundown of the two teams and how they stack up against the Golden Knights.

 CalgarySan JoseVegas
Points Percentage.659.662.579
Home Record21-7-523-5-521-10-4
Away Record21-13-218-14-317-17-1
Goals For/Game3.493.622.99
Goals Against/Game2.833.042.77
Shots Against/Game28.828.429.1
5v5 Goals/Game2.122.382.07
Corsi For % (5v5)53.254.754.2
Scoring Chances For/Game (5v5)22.223.424.7
Scoring Chances Against/Game (5v5)20.019.920.1

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The Stone Age Impacts Golden Knights Defense

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s twice-weekly column publishes every Wednesday and Sunday during the Golden Knights season.** 

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — When the Golden Knights acquired Mark Stone at the NHL trade deadline back on Feb. 25, it was assumed the offense would perk up as Stone had 28 goals in the bank from his time in Ottawa.

But who knew the defense would be the unit that has come alive?

Collectively, the Vegas blue line corps is playing some of its best hockey of the year. And while it may be a coincidence that it has come since Stone’s arrival, the changes Gerard Gallant made a few weeks ago, moving Deryk Engelland with Nate Schmidt, playing Shea Theodore with Brayden McNabb and giving Jon Merrill a regular spot in the lineup, seemed to have worked.

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The defense accounted for both goals in Wednesday’s 2-1 win over Calgary at T-Mobile Arena. More important, the Knights have allowed just nine goals in the six games Stone has worn the steel grey No. 61.

Obviously, Marc-Andre Fleury’s play in the crease has been a big part of that. But don’t discount the job his D-men are doing in front of him.

The Knights are winning more battles in their own end. They’re more active in using their sticks to take away the cross-ice pass. They are making smarter decisions in breaking out of their own end. They are pinching in the other team’s end more judiciously and not getting caught in as many odd-man rushes the other way. They continue to block shots at a high rate. They seem to be communicating better.

All of that was again on display Saturday here in Vancouver at Rogers Arena against a Canucks team which Vegas handled a week ago, 3-0, and 6-2 Saturday for their sixth straight win. The Knights scored a franchise-record five first-period goals and there was no looking ahead to tonight’s big game at the Scotiabank Saddledome and the rematch with the Flames.

And as many predicted, Stone finally scored as a Golden Knight as he opened the scoring 1:32 into Saturday’s contest.

Gallant said you never know what’s going to happen when you change your lineup. But these moves appear to have worked so far.

It was just shaking things up. When you’re losing, you’re not happy. So we made a few changes with the D and so far it’s worked. I like the way they’ve been playing. -Gallant

You ask the defensemen what’s turned things around, you get different answers.

I think change can be good sometimes. You get a little stagnant with the way you play. I just think that it’s about trending. If you continue to play well, you want to make sure you keep doing those things that help you win. Colin Miller and Jon Merrill have been playing fantastic for us. When you have that kind of depth on your team, that’s important. -Schmidt

Theodore said the defensemen are reacting better to the puck and making the right play more consistently.

I think we’re just quick to pucks and we’re not giving them as much time and space in the corners. Usually when you give teams with good skill players time down low they’re going to make plays. I think our centers have been coming in and killing those plays and that’s been big for us. -Theodore

Engelland said it has been a collective mindset that has seen the team’s defensive uptick.

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Roles Are Reverse but Vegas’ Veterans Don’t Mind

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Last year there wasn’t a question who the hunted was. The Golden Knights sat comfortably in first place for most of the season. Technically, Vegas was the hunted… but not really. Up until the postseason, there weren’t many times that another Pacific Division team threatened Vegas’ throne. This season the roles have reversed and the hunter resides in Nevada.

Yeah I guess it is a little bit different. We were surprised. I think we had a lot of games where teams maybe took us lightly and didn’t know what to expect. This year we’ve earned their respect and teams know how we play. -Brayden McNabb

This season Vegas is chasing Calgary and San Jose, and find themselves fighting their way to get back in the race. Which was why Wednesday’s victory in a playoff preview against the Flames was a big mental victory. The Golden Knights know every night they’re going to face a team’s best effort, so it was a motivating win against a top team like Calgary.

I think we’re noticing it from pretty much every team. A lot of teams came in last year and didn’t expect much playing against us. This year teams are coming in with a little more urgency. They’re ready for us. -Reilly Smith

Pacific Division Standings this date last year: 03/09/18
Vegas (43-19-5) 91 Points
San Jose (36-22-9) 81 Points
Anaheim (34-23-12) 80 Points
LA (37-25-5) 79 Points
Calgary (34-25-10) 78 Points
Edmonton (29-34-4) 62 Points
Vancouver (25-34-9) 59 Points
Arizona (21-34-11) 53 Points

Pacific Division Standings today: 03/09/19
Calgary (41-20-7) 89 Points
San Jose (40-19-8) 88 Points
Vegas (37-26-5) 79 Points
Arizona (33-29-5) 71 Points
Edmonton (30-30-7) 67Points
Vancouver (28-31-9) 65 Points
Anaheim (27-33-9) 63 Points
LA (24-35-8) 56 Points

Calgary is close to Vegas’ point total pace from a season ago, but their lead is nowhere near the cushion the Golden Knights had back on March 9th, 2018. Thus making it much more difficult for the Flames to win the Pacific Division this season.

The question is, will it matter?

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Gallant Opens Up On Decision Making Process In Shootout

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

As the clock struck 0:00 in overtime it was time for the Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant to make some tough decisions. Per NHL rules, when a game heads into the shootout, the home team is given the choice of shooting first or second.

Somebody told me we were 63% when we go first when Fleury’s in the net. So, I like 63 better than the other odds. Next game I might change it. But truthfully, over my career as a coach, I switch it up. It doesn’t matter to me. Some guys will want to go first all the time, I think most teams do, but I switch it up, I really do. -Gallant

Gallant reiterated that he doesn’t think it really matters, so he kind of just goes off his gut feeling for that night.

If you score there is (an advantage of going first). -Gallant

The Golden Knights have been in four shootouts this season and 11 in franchise history. They’ve gone first four times and won just one of them. They’ve gone second the other seven and have won five.

Four of them occurred at home, where Gallant is given the choice. He’s chosen to go first in three of the four, winning just one, while electing to go second once, which he also lost.

11/6/17 – @TOR – 2nd – Loss – Lagace
12/5/17 – ANA – 1st – Win – Subban
12/8/17 – @NSH – 2nd – Win – Subban
12/12/17 – CAR – 1st – Loss – Fleury
3/10/18 – @BUF – 2nd – Win – Fleury
3/24/18 @COL – 1st – Loss – Fleury
4/3/18 – @VAN – 2nd – Win – Subban

10/6/18 – @MIN – 2nd – Win – Fleury
10/24/ 18 – VAN – 2nd – Loss – Fleury
2/5/19 – @TBL – 2nd – Win – Fleury
2/20/19 – BOS – 1st – Loss – Fleury

(Have to assume the 63% Gallant is talking about is over the course of Fleury’s career. But who has time to look that up? Not me.)

Not sure exactly when this was published, but according to a study, going first or second in the shootout has not been statistically significant in the outcome. At the time of the study. 50.5% of teams that went second went on to win, hardly an advantage at all.

Last night Gallant went with Brandon Pirri, William Karlsson, Alex Tuch, Jonathan Marchessault, Shea Theodore, and Oscar Lindberg as his six shooters.

I’ll let him explain the thought process on that one.

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Added Offense Comes From Mixed Up Defense

Having lost three straight, five in a row at home, and eight of 11, the reigning Jack Adams award winner, Gerard Gallant decided to get a bit radical and change up two forward lines and two defensive pairs.

When you are losing you have got to try new things, right? -Gallant

It didn’t take long to see the change he was looking for. Directly off the opening faceoff, playing with Deryk Engelland, Nate Schmidt took the puck, jumped up into the rush and created a scoring chance for the Golden Knights.

(Nate’s) legs move as quick as his mouth does and he’s at his best when he’s skating. -Deryk Engelland

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Schmidt and Shea Theodore were both put in new positions on Saturday night. Not only playing with new linemates, but they were also each playing on the opposite side of the ice. It was the first time Schmidt has played on the left side while a member of the Golden Knights, and the first time Theodore had ever played the right side while in the NHL.

(In the) offensive zone I think it’s easier to get the puck to the net, but getting the puck D-to-D behind your net (in your own zone), you can’t really look up ice and you don’t really know what’s coming. It’s kind of a pros and cons thing. -Theodore

Re-watching the game, Schmidt and Theodore started a total of eight rushes into the offensive zone by skating the puck either out of their own zone and/or through the neutral zone. It’s not abnormal for either to do it, but five times for Schmidt and three for Theodore is certainly more than the norm.

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Carp: Priority Number One At Deadline For Golden Knights Should Be Mark Stone

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s twice-weekly column publishes every Wednesday and Sunday during the Golden Knights season.** 

The NHL trade deadline is eight days away. So now is as good a time as any to look at what the Golden Knights might do. Or should do.

Don’t be fooled by Saturday’s offensive outburst in their 5-1 win over Nashville which snapped the five-game home losing streak. They need more scoring.

So who should they go after?

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

There’s Artemi Panarin of Columbus who might be available. Philadelphia may be willing to part with Wayne Simmonds. The Rangers could be talked into trading Mats Zuccarello. Ditto for the Devils moving Marcus Johansson, a move Ken endorses (more on this by him tomorrow).

To me, the Knights should have one target at the top of their list — Ottawa’s Mark Stone — assuming, of course, that he’s still on the market. The Senators reportedly are trying to get him to agree to a contract extension and remain in Ottawa.

But let’s play along and go on the basis he is available.

Why identify Stone as Vegas’ primary trade target?

Let’s start with the fact the guy is really good on a really bad team. Ottawa is the NHL’s worst team and is a hot mess, both on, but especially off the ice. A change of scene going to a winning organization would no doubt help Stone.

He’s only 26 years old. He’s on his way to having the best season of his career with 27 goals, 32 assists and 59 points through 58 games. His previous best was in 2015 when he had 26 goals, 38 assists and 64 points with the Senators. He would fit in nicely with Vegas’ up-tempo style of play and skating with better players would likely bolster his productivity.

The downside? Stone is making $7.35 million and will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1. If you’re GMGM, are you positive you can sign Stone to an extension? McPhee is not a big rental guy so you would have to think that if he’s going to deal for Stone, it’s with the understanding he can sign him long-term. Stone is represented by Craig Oster of Newport Sports.

Of course, Vegas isn’t the only team interested in acquiring Stone’s services. Winnipeg, which played and lost to Ottawa in overtime Saturday, is said to be interested. Calgary may also be in the mix to make a run at him.

Assuming Stone was paid the same money to remain in Vegas, he would become the team’s highest paid player. Most likely, he would command a bump up in salary. But no matter what he would make as a Golden Knight, it would be substantially more than what he’s currently putting in the bank in Ottawa.

Remember, there’s no state income tax in Nevada while Stone is paying high national and provincial taxes playing in Canada. That money saved goes into his pocket, not the government’s.

And the quality of life here in Southern Nevada should appeal to him. A chat with any of the Knights’ players will convince him of that.

And then there’s the Kelly McCrimmon connection. McCrimmon coached Stone in juniors with the Brandon Wheat Kings and whether or not McCrimmon remains as Vegas’ assistant GM long-term shouldn’t impact Stone’s comfort level.

I also think Stone would enjoy playing for Gerard Gallant, who is a players’ coach.

Could the Knights afford Stone long-term?

As things stand for next year, Fleury and Max Pacioretty will command the highest salary at $7 million each. Paul Stastny will make $6.5 million. So that’s $20.5 million tied up in three players for 2019-20.

The Knights also have William Karlsson to deal with. Wild Bill is making $5.25 million this season and will be a Restricted Free Agent at season’s end. He’s not putting up the record numbers of a year ago but he is having a solid season. It will be interesting to see how McPhee plays this one.

But there’s room with the team’s salary cap — approximately $16 million — to take on someone with Stone’s salary structure. So money isn’t going to be a major issue.

What would it take to get him?

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Time To Break Up The Top Six

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Last night was an eye-opener for the 2018-19 Golden Knights. After a tough loss against the Arizona Coyotes, the fourth straight at home, Gerard Gallant delivered a strong message in the locker room following the game. The team followed it up with a lengthy, competitive practice on Friday and then went without morning skate on Saturday. It appeared they had hit rock bottom and appeared primed to start the turnaround.

Last year’s team had its moments too, but every time they would come back, play great, and win. This team didn’t.

Instead, this team got outmanned in a game they simply came up short in the talent department. The foursome of Auston Matthews, John Tavares, William Nyander, and Mitch Marner scored three goals and tallied seven points while the entire Golden Knights top six (Karlsson, Marchessault, Smith, Stastny, Tuch, and Pacioretty) had two goals and four points with half of that damage coming on a shorthanded goal.

The VGK 2nd line was a combined -8 and the 1st line put up a miserable 25% Corsi For percentage as a group. Matthews’ line ate up Stastny, Pacioretty and Tuch scoring twice and posting seven scoring chances to Vegas’ one. All in all the Golden Knights top six played 20 of the 36 minutes of even strength action and accounted for one goal while allowing three and created just seven scoring chances compared to Toronto’s 17 while they were on the ice.

Here’s the good news. Despite all of it, and while playing the worst hockey in franchise history, the Golden Knights were right there. They had a lead in the 2nd, tied the game in the 3rd, and had a power play chance to take the lead inside of 15 minutes remaining in the game. This is still the same team that posted 60 points in their first 48 games and positioned themselves safely in the playoff picture.

With just four games before the trade deadline, it’s time the Golden Knights look in the mirror and realize they have to win with balance. No longer is their first line so dominant that they can be relied upon to not only shut down the oppositions top line but score while they’re at it. They can’t expect their 2nd line to pick up the slack left behind by the inevitable regression of that 1st line. They need to return to what became their identity last year and what was at times earlier this season. A balanced attack that never stops applying pressure.

The best way to do that, break up the top six.

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Pacioretty: “There’s No Panic”

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Max Pacioretty has been through it all. In 626 NHL games played, the 30-year-old veteran has seen winning streaks, losing streaks, and overall bad stretches of play. Just last season, his former team, the Montreal Canadiens, started the year losing eight of their first ten games. On top of that, the Habs had six losing streaks of four-games or more.

So a four-game home losing streak when his team is comfortably in the playoffs isn’t going to rattle a player like Pacioretty, nor should it rattle the fans.

Every great team has to face adversity at some point or another… hopefully we can build off this experience here and rally around it. Eventually we use that to our advantage. We haven’t been playing the right way, and a little bit of a wake up call needs to jump start us here. -Pacioretty

Now deep into his first campaign with the Golden Knights, Pacioretty understands and appreciates the passionate fanbase. Which is why he’s reaching out to the Vegas faithful, and telling them to take a deep breath. The players are confident that they’ll break out of this current skid, and go on to play strong hockey at home.

We have a tremendous advantage playing at home in front of our fans. We want to make sure we maintain that by playing good hockey in front of them. -Pacioretty

Cliche or not, every NHL team has its share of ups and downs over an 82 game regular schedule. Which is why the average point total for a team that wins the Presidents Trophy is 115.5 regular season points. Even the best of the best go on losing streaks.

No. There’s no panic -Pacioretty

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Golden Knights Find Themselves Lost At Home

**Steve Carp’s twice-weekly column publishes every Wednesday and Sunday during the Golden Knights season.** 

You can feel the anger. You can see the frustration. You can understand the struggle in searching for answers.

For the Golden Knights, home is not a happy place right now. And all the jumping up and down from the fans, all the imploring from the in-game hosts to get loud, all the music everyone has grown accustomed to isn’t going to snap this team out of its current funk in T-Mobile Arena.

This is on the players, plain and simple.

Started out that way, but not so much recently. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Knights have lost four in a row at home. They have begun the eight-games-in-nine stretch at T-Mobile with two losses. The notion of taking the Pacific Division title grows dimmer with each defeat as San Jose has taken control of the top spot.

And it’s not any one thing that has been the cause, though if you are willing to look at it objectively, you’ll see the team hasn’t played a full 60 minutes in any of the recent home losses.

Certainly not Tuesday in falling 5-2 vs Arizona.

Coach Gerard Gallant may not be a math wizard, but he knows percentages. And here’s his take from what was a very brief, angry and contentious postgame news conference Tuesday:

It was 2-2 game and all of a sudden, we try and get cute and start making drop passes through the slot and turn over and then they go the other way on odd man rushes so you know, we get 40-something shots.

I didn’t like the way we played. I thought we played about 10 minutes of real good hockey tonight. There was no passion in our game. There was no aggressive forecheck in our game. We played a soft game, and in my opinion, we gave them three goals from our mistakes.

Not from what they deserved. And they played well, you know I give them credit but when you are going to give them three goals like that you are not going to win many games. -Gallant

So it begs several questions. Why play cutesy with the puck? Why not be more direct? Why not come out with some jump? Was it a lack of respect for the Coyotes, who have played the role of doormat to the Knights in the past? Was it trying to play to the crowd?

I’m not sure the players have the answers. But it’s up to them to fix it.

We didn’t battle hard enough. We were in a good spot going into the third, with 2-2. We just didn’t battle, we weren’t good enough.

Definitely no reason for that group to be losing a game like that. We have the work ethic, all the skills that we need to be successful and we just don’t make it happen. We need to be willing to want it more than the other ones. -Jonathan Marchessault

Nate Schmidt, who also tends to tell it like it is, said there are multiple issues plaguing the Knights right now.

(It’s) more of the same. Not showing up at home, not finishing games, just a lot of things from our game that are just not characteristic of our group.

Right now, it’s tough. It’s tough when you have good parts of the game, you know, you push back to tie the game and just think that you’re going to be easy for the third period. I mean they’re pushing too.

It’s this time of year. It’s hard to win this time of year. And I know we just don’t have it for the whole game and that’s just not going to be enough to win. -Schmidt

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