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Brayden McNabb Puts Forth 1st Star Quality Performance In Colorado

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Prior to yesterday in Colorado, the last time the Golden Knights played a 3rd period Brayden McNabb watched on TV from somewhere in the basement of T-Mobile Arena. Having been ejected from the game due to a high hit, McNabb was unable to help his team which had also lost another defenseman due to injury.

Against the Avs, he got his redemption.

No, McNabb did not score a goal. Nor did he even record a point. He wasn’t on the ice for the game-winning goal and he didn’t make some heroic play to swipe a puck off the goal line (something he has actually done before).

Instead, he played the best Brayden McNabb-style game we may have ever seen out of Brayden McNabb.

McNabb’s gap control was excellent. His decision-making on the puck was perfect. He challenged passes through the slot and cleared rebounds. He discouraged plays along the wall with his menacing reputation. And maybe most importantly, he made his partner, a 21-year-old playing his 2nd career NHL game, look comfortable, confident, and steady.

Nabber is super easy to play with. He was talking to me the entire time. -Kaedan Korczak

To most fans, McNabb is known as a bit more of a soft-spoken guy. He’s not flashy on or off the ice, which in many ways makes him the classic veteran defense-first defenseman. However, his teammates, especially those who are partnered with him on a D-pair know him in a much different way.

McNabb is widely known in the locker room as one of the best on-ice communicators on the team. He’s been in every situation and seen every different type of play which allows him to talk his partner through anything that’s thrown at him on the ice.

He’s succeeded with puck-moving offensive players like Shea Theodore and Dylan Coghlan, defensive veterans like Deryk Engelland and Alec Martinez, and young players like Daniil Miromanov and Korczak.

Last night in Colorado, McNabb was called upon to shoulder a massive defensive load with three of VGK’s top-six defensemen out injured and a pair of youngsters in the lineup. He played almost six minutes on the penalty kill, dealt a lot with the Avs’ 2nd and 3rd lines, and was called upon to get the Golden Knights to the finish line in the 6-on-5 empty net situation.

McNabb’s final shift of the game was 3:04 as the Avalanche pressed for the game-tying goal. McNabb and his partner at the time, Alex Pietrangelo, constantly locked down the center of the ice while also reading every play perfectly to help Vegas clear the puck five times in the final two minutes.

It wasn’t just his last marathon shift though. McNabb played 10:44 in the 3rd period including five shifts that lasted longer than a minute. In his final three shifts, from the 8:19 remaining mark on the clock, McNabb was on the ice for 5:57 and allowed just three shots on goal. His 24:29 total time on ice is the most he’s recorded in any game this season and he finished the game with a +1 rating.

The Golden Knights outshot the Avs just 10-7 with McNabb on the ice, and they racked up 13-3 scoring chance edge including a 9-1 mark at high danger. McNabb was on the ice for just 0.17 expected goals against, by far the best of any Golden Knight per 60 minutes.

The veteran guys have to step and speak up, demonstrate on the ice, and lead by example. -Bruce Cassidy

McNabb could not have done a better job of that in helping the Golden Knights to a 3-2 win over the reigning Stanley Cup champions.

It’s not often the best player on the ice is a stay-at-home defenseman who plays a game that he does nothing but stay-at-home. For the Golden Knights at Ball Arena last night though, that’s exactly what happened, and Brayden McNabb was that guy.

Using Ice Below The Goal Line Has Helped VGK’s In-Zone Offense

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights have always been a pretty good offensive team. They currently rank 7th overall in total goals since 2017 and sit in 5th this year after what was considered a down year finishing 12th.

One of the main reasons for that has been how deadly they’ve always been off the rush. From the moment the Golden Knights stepped on the ice for the first time, transition offense has been their calling card. James Neal helped VGK to their first-ever win on a quick-strike chance off the rush and they’ve been doing it ever since.

However, over the course of the last two years, there have been extended stretches in which that style of offense has dried up for Vegas. The most notable instances came in postseason series against the Canucks, Stars, and Canadiens.

When Bruce Cassidy was brought on board as the third coach in team history, he knew that had to change. Of course, no one would want to take away from the Golden Knights’ most consistent avenue of generating offense, but it was clear they had to build other roads to success as well.

Even though we’ve been good all year I think it’s been more rush. We’ve really focused on our power play and the pace of that and I think it has shown up well for us lately. Now it’s about building in some O-zone play where we don’t get chances off the rush. -Cassidy

That focus has started to shine through for the Golden Knights, especially in the last few home games, a trio of wins.

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The Goalie VGK Have Owned The Most Strikes Back

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Over the course of the Golden Knights’ six seasons in the NHL, there’s no goalie in the league they’ve had more success against than Anaheim’s John Gibson. The numbers are astounding, especially considering the career pedigree of the 29-year-old American netminder.

Prior to last night’s game, the Golden Knights had a record of 20-3-0 with Gibson in the goal for the Ducks. Vegas had scored at least three goals on Gibson on 18 separate occasions. They reached four 11 times and scored at least five four different times.

Earlier this season marked the second time in Gibson’s career against the Golden Knights he was pulled from a game. Vegas put four goals on 18 shots and the Ducks lifted Gibson for the 3rd period. In 2018, Vegas scored three times on their first 12 shots against the Ducks goalie and he was relieved before the halfway point in the game.

In more than 1300 minutes against the Golden Knights, Gibson had recorded just one shutout, three wins, and allowed 76 goals, about one every 17 minutes of action.

Even in shootout, the Golden Knights owned him. Before last night’s game, Gibson stopped just three of seven Vegas shootout attempts in contests held in 2017 and 2021, both VGK wins.

Then, last night happened.

He was on tonight. He was the best player on the ice. -Bruce Cassidy

Gibson stopped 49 of VGK’s 51 shots before keeping the Golden Knights on both attempts in the shootout. He racked up 2.54 goals above expected and only conceded on a shorthanded breakaway and a puck that was kicked by his teammate into the goal.

Despite shutting the Golden Knights out once in his career back in 2021, this was easily the best performance Gibson has ever posted against Vegas. He’s only been above .900 in 13 of his 24 career appearances and found himself on the losing end of 10 of them.

I don’t know if they had 50 shots or whatnot, but the next save was better than the next and the next. I hate to say I’m (not) surprised, but we are lucky to have that guy between the pipes, for sure. -Trevor Zegras, ANA forward

The win hardly made a dent in VGK’s dominance over Gibson though. His new record against the Golden Knights is 4-15-5 with a .905 save percentage and 3.41 goals against per game.

I don’t think we’ve fared too well against them in the last few years, so it’s nice to get a win. -John Gibson, ANA goalie

For the Golden Knights, it certainly feels like a lost point on the road against one of the worst teams in the NHL. However, sometimes you just have to tip your cap, especially to a guy you’ve gotten the best of for the better part of six years.

Shootout Bench Celebration Breakdown

In the final game before the Christmas break the Golden Knights used a late-goal and a win in shootout to earn a much-needed come from behind home win.

From my seat in the press box I was able to capture the bench reaction for both of VGK’s shootout goals. The first from Chandler Stephenson to keep the Golden Knights alive, and the second by Mark Stone to win the game. (Video of both celebrations below.)

This is analysis of every player’s celebration style.

McNabb – Very tight celebrations. Hands close to his own chest, almost like someone scared him. Takes a moment to celebrate on his own, then joins in with others. Has a habit of punching people late in the celebration.

Miromanov – Does not like to sit for the big moment. Standing in one, then leaning way over the boards in the other. Classic two hands in the air holding up the stick. Instantly looking for high fives, including from those not willing to give them. Focus quickly turned straight to opening the door on the game-winner, courteous, great teammate.

Pietrangelo – Had a hard time seeing much of the Stephenson goal because Miromanov was standing in his way. Strong chin, taking an errant high-five/punch to the face from Miromanov. Small jump on game-winner, but definite air under both skates. Initiates massive hug with Martinez. Odd right-glove decisions. He took it off to wipe off his face prior to the shootout attempt, then nearly drops it upon the goal, recovers, but does not put it back on for the hug with Martinez. Probably wants that back as it likely caused an awkward hug grip.

Martinez – Sheer relief on the game-tying goal. Head down, both fists up. Wants high fives next, but struggles to find a good partner. Pietrangelo isn’t ready and Hague is already engaging with Miromanov, so he punches Hague’s other hand. Not ideal, but better than being left hanging. Terrified of Stone’s attempt shown by placing his chin directly on the boards. Explodes into celly though with a two-hand convulsing motion. Stellar hug reciprocation.

Hague – Has a signature celebration but with levels of intensity based on importance. Huge right-handed fist pump while opening entire body to rest of the bench. Already the tallest player on the team, he reaffirms that by also being the highest jumper. Poor dismount going over the boards including a dropped stick (possibly caused by an unintentional kick from Carrier). Definitely wins the award for most excited player on the bench.

Pachal – Strength is an issue here as he’s nearly knocked over by Hague on the winner. Possibly looking for high fives from the coaches who are only interested in non-players. Rookie inexperience definitely shines through here.

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The Special-est Of Teams

(Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke,

Christmas has come early for the Golden Knights’ special teams. A pair of units that have been under massive scrutiny for the last few years (months for the penalty kill) have kicked it into high gear and are now carrying the team.

Over the past 11 games, since December 1st, the Vegas power play has converted on 12 of 30 opportunities. The 40% success rate is good for 2nd in the NHL in that span, behind only the Edmonton Oilers, and it’s on pace to be the highest power play percentage of any month in VGK history.

Over the same span, the penalty kill is sitting at just 77.8%, a touch above the team’s season-long number of 75.6%. However, in the past seven games, the Golden Knights have killed 10 of 11 power plays they’ve faced. And, they’ve scored twice on the penalty kill, meaning they’ve outscored the opposition on their power play 2-1 since the Philadelphia game, seven games ago.

For both units, it goes beyond the numbers though. On the power play, the puck is moving much quicker in the zone, the entries have been much more consistent, and puck retrieval has been stellar. The top unit of Mark Stone, Jonathan Marchessault, Chandler Stephenson, Reilly Smith, and Alex Pietrangelo are zipping the puck around with a diversity of options that’s never been seen on a Golden Knights power play.

Obviously, it’s led to a bunch of goals, 12 in the last 10 games, but it has also meant opportunities for everyone. Look at the list of power play goal scorers and who has collected the assists since December 1st.

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Cassidy Weighs In On Why Golden Knights Are Struggling At Home

(Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke,

Why do the Golden Knights stink at home?

It really is the million-dollar question right now and everyone likely feels the same as Reilly Smith after the last game.

I feel like if we knew, we’d have flipped it around a while ago. -Smith

The players mostly seem to be on the same page chalking it up to coincidence and/or the randomness of an 82-game season more than anything else.

The coach, on the other hand, has a much more specific view of what’s going wrong.

At home our problem is that we’re trying to make plays early in the game against every team that comes in here. They’re ready to play and it’s not working out. It’s what we do well on the road to other teams. It’s checking well, getting pucks back, and taking advantage of our opportunities. -Bruce Cassidy

The buzzword for Cassidy is puck management.

That’s the mindset I’ve got to get across to the guys at home, we have to manage the puck better. Once they go over the boards, the onus is on them. They’re the ones that have to have to manage the puck better and that’s our problem right now, that’s why we’re .500 at home. -Cassidy

The head coach believes pressing for offense is not only what is keeping his team from being able to score, but also forcing them to concede. His stress has been on taking what the game gives you, which changes against each team they play.

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Film Breakdown: Mark Stone’s Winning Plays On Power Play

The captain of the Golden Knights is known for so much more than his ability to put the puck in the net.

In today’s film breakdown, we look at his impact on a 3rd period power play. He didn’t even record a point on the eventual game-tying goal, but his contributions were priceless.

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The Middle Frame Has Given The Golden Knights Troubles

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Through 16 games, the Golden Knights have been one of the most consistent teams in the NHL. They’ve won 13, they’ve been the better team in almost all of them, they’ve yet to be shutout, haven’t allowed more than four in a game, and all three of the losses have been by a single goal.

Quite frankly, there’s not much more you can ask for out of a start to the season from a results perspective.

Inside of games, however, the Golden Knights haven’t been quite as steady. They’ve been the best 1st period team in the league scoring 21 (most in NHL) and allowing just eight (T-3rd in NHL). They’ve also been excellent in 3rd periods netting 21 (6th in NHL) while allowing 14 (T-6th in NHL). The middle frame hasn’t been as kind to Vegas though, and it’s potentially a reason for concern moving forward.

The overall goal numbers aren’t terrible. 14 goals for (T-20th in NHL), 15 goals against (T-11th in NHL). It’s the chance numbers that jump off the page.

On the five-game road trip in which the Golden Knights won all five games, they allowed 14 high-danger chances in both the 1st and 3rd while allowing 29 in the 2nd period.

Then, in the first game home, the trend continued. Vegas allowed just one high-danger chance in the 1st and didn’t allow a single one in the 3rd, but, they allowed seven in the 2nd, a period that ultimately cost them a chance to match the franchise’s longest winning streak ever.

Scoring chances, Corsi, expected goals, you name the stat, they are all far worse in the 2nd than the 1st and 3rd for the Golden Knights.

The question is, why?

Head coach Bruce Cassidy has a pretty strong theory on it.

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Seven Ways VGK Won Seven Straight Games

The Golden Knights are currently 10 points ahead of the 2021-22 team at this point in the regular season. More goals, more victories, more cheer. The word is out, the public is noticing VGK’s quick start and bounce back from last season. Thankfully for fans, the Golden Knights don’t look like they’re slowing down any time soon.

VGK Last Seven Games

  • 7-0-0
  • +12 Goal Differential
  • 3.86 Goals Scored Per Game
  • 2.00 Goals Allowed Per Game
  • 6 Power Play Goals
  • 2 Shorthanded Goals
  • 34.1 Shots Per Game

Tonight, in Toronto the Golden Knights will have a chance to win their eighth game in a row. The streak has stretched two weeks, beginning in Nevada and continuing in Eastern Canada. During their run, Vegas has defeated divisional rivals, conference contenders, Hart Trophy winners, a Vezina trophy winner, and several future Hall of Famers. Since October 24th, the Golden Knights’ offense per game is fifth-best (3.86) and third in goals allowed per game (2.00). Frankly, it’s been an impressive run for Bruce Cassidy’s club.

Noticeably, all seven victories have been won in different fashions. From toppling opponents, or squeaking by in overtime, to jumping out to a lead or playing from behind, Vegas has shown an array of ways to succeed. Here’s how each game was won.

Monday, October 24th: VGK 3-1 vs. TOR

Offense Jumps on Early Opportunities

The Golden Knights started their win streak by attacking the Maple Leafs from the moment the puck was dropped. After Toronto committed an early too many men on the ice penalty, Nic Roy gave Vegas a 1-0 lead on the expiring power play. Later, Chandler Stephenson scored the eventual game-winning goal 0:42 into the final frame. The Golden Knights controlled the game from the jump and won it within the first minute of the final period.

Tuesday, October 25th: VGK 4-2 @ SJ

Third Period Takeover

Through 40 minutes in San Jose, the Golden Knights looked flat. The Sharks offense, defense, and goaltending were outperforming a clearly more talented road team. Immediately after the second intermission the Golden Knights flipped a switch and exploded for three 3rd period goals. Shea Theodore scored 0:55 in, William Karlsson and Mark Stone capped off the 4-2 victory with goals of their own. Vegas came away with another two points where they weren’t the best team for most of the night. In the end, the better team took over in the most crucial moments.

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Film Breakdown: Box-And-One vs Empty Net

The Golden Knights have been stifling teams down the stretch in games when the other team pulls the goalie.

In today’s film breakdown, we look at the box-and-one system the Golden Knights deploy and show examples of what they do well inside of it to make life difficult on opponents.

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