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Where Has All The Offense Gone?

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

For the first time in 2021, the Golden Knights have lost consecutive games. After racing out to an impressive 10-2-1 record in their first 13 games, Vegas has dropped two in a row to the Colorado Avalanche. The Golden Knights are also 2-3-0 in their last five games and have scored just eight goals.

Before the recent skid, the Golden Knights had been averaging 3.7 goals per game. Over the previous five, that number has plummetted to 1.6. The even-strength scoring numbers look even worse. First 10 games, Vegas scored 31 goals at even-strength. Since, they’ve mustered just four in five games.

We need to find ways to generate offense especially at 5-on-5. A big part of our game is to produce and try and play offense without giving up much defensively so we need to find out how to get better in that area. -Max Pacioretty after 2/14 win vs. COL

So, what happened?

First, it starts with the most basic concept when it comes to scoring, shooting. The Golden Knights reached 30 or more shots in six of their first 10 games. They’ve failed to reach 30 in any of the previous five and haven’t even made it to 25 twice (their two lowest performances of the season).

They’re 27th in the NHL in shots on goal per game with 25.8 since February 10th. Before this stretch, they were 5th in the league with 32.3.

It goes beyond shots actually on goal too. The even-strength Fenwick numbers (unblocked shot attempts) are poor as well. Vegas has allowed more unblocked shot attempts than they’ve created in just six games of their first 15. Four of the six have come in the last five.

The Golden Knights have had 80 even-strength shots blocked in the last five games. That’s an average of 16 blocked shots against. In the first 10 games, Vegas saw 122 shots blocked or 12.2 per game; a difference of almost four more blocked shots per game.

First 10
37 goals (3.7 per game)
32.3 shots per game
6 games with 30+ shots (60%)
55.5% Fenwick
12.2 shots blocked per game

Last 5
5 goals (1.6 per game)
25.6 shots per game
1 game with 30+ shots (20%)
46.1% Fenwick
16 shots blocked per game

The next one is a confusing one. In Vegas’ first 10 games they recorded 45 takeaways while giving the puck away 54 times. In the last 10, they’ve more than exceeded their takeaways (59) in half the number of games, while seeing their giveaway number (23) drop by about one a game. Thus, the Golden Knights are up more than seven takeaways per game over the last five than they were in the first 10.

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Film Breakdown: Zach Whitecloud’s Offensive Instincts

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

When the Golden Knights signed Zach Whitecloud as an undrafted college free agent out of Bemidji State, the hope was for him to turn into a defense-first option at the NHL level. During his early stint with the Golden Knights and a couple of years with the Chicago Wolves, that’s exactly what he was.

But, since Pete DeBoer took over and Whitecloud has become a staple in the lineup, he’s starting to show some offensive flair. Here’s my film breakdown showing his excellent ability to read and react to plays.

Vegas Taking Advantage Of Early Schedule

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Give the Ducks credit because last night’s 1-0 victory over the Golden Knights was a rare occurrence. Through 11 games it’s clear, the NHL (and a COVID pause) presented Vegas with a golden opportunity to start off strong.

The Golden Knights have largely preyed on weaker opponents. Their overall opponents’ combined record is 23-21-9. If you subtract the single game with St. Louis, the record drops to a sluggish 16-17-7.

The 5-4 win over Anaheim on Tuesday earned Vegas their 17th point of the season. Ten of those points, or 70% were earned by beating the same two bad teams.

vs. Anaheim & LA
VGK (5-1-0) 10 Points
VGK Goal Differential 21-13
VGK 3.5 Goals Scored Per
VGK 2.1 Goals Allowed Per

There’s also the home-ice factor. Of course, without fans, that is surely muted at least a little bit, but the rigors of traveling in the COVID landscape offer some challenges to the road teams.

The Golden Knights have traveled just one time the entire season and they suffered one of their two losses on that trip. In the two road games, they scored just three total goals.

At 8-2-1, Vegas has succeeded by dominating periods, getting hot goaltending and playing a lighter schedule. It’s not a knock on the Golden Knights, take em where you can get em. They play in a below-average division and as long as they clinch a playoff berth, it doesn’t matter who they beat or where they beat them. It was important for Vegas to jump out and build a cushion in the standings against easier competition and they’ve done just that.

Despite last night’s 1-0 loss to Anaheim, history tends to repeats itself when a Southern Californian team faces Vegas. Going back to the inaugural 2017-18, the Golden Knights have a combined total of 42 points in 31 games against the Ducks and Kings. Vegas has earned points in 22 of 31 games. It’s been a lopsided affair to say the least.

Vegas vs. Anaheim & LA History

vs. Ducks
16 Games Played
13-3 Record
26 Of A Possible 32 Points
55-29 Goal Differential
.843 Win%

vs. Kings
15 Games Played
7-6-2 Record (4-0 in Postseason)
16 Of A Possible 30 Points
42-46 Goal Differential
.533 Win%

Vegas will play Anaheim and LA 10 more times this season. Historical data projects the Golden Knights will earn around 13 points in their remaining games against the Ducks and Kings. If the forecast is accurate, Vegas will collect a whopping 23 of 32 points against the SoCal duo.

It’s possible the Golden Knights can build their path to the postseason from these two opponents alone. That success sets Vegas up nicely even if they happen to fall to better competition.

Film Breakdown: Chandler Stephenson #1 Center

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Coming into the season one of the biggest concerns for the Golden Knights was center depth. With Chandler Stephenson set to fill the role as the top center and options like Cody Glass, Nic Roy, and Tomas Nosek behind Stephenson and William Karlsson, we knew Stephenson needed to be great for this team to succeed.

So far, Stephenson has been just that and the more I watch him the more I realize why his skill set fits perfectly between Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty. In the pantheon of the NHL, Stephenson would still rank all that highly among the #1 centers in the league, but for this team and that line, he’s the perfect fit.

Postponements Bail Out Reeling Sharks

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

By now all Golden Knights fans know the NHL announced there are four members from the organization that are isolating and complying with the league’s COVID-19 protocol. Due to the unfortunate circumstances, Vegas was forced to postpone at least three games.

The National Hockey League announced today that the games currently scheduled for February 1 and February 3 between the Vegas Golden Knights and the San Jose Sharks have been postponed and will be rescheduled for later in the season in San Jose. -NHL PR

It’s news Golden Knights fans were dreading but knew was always realistic possibility this season. Now, Vegas is without an opponent for another week, when they hope to host the LA Kings on February 5th. The club the Golden Knights were supposed to play beforehand quietly doesn’t mind.

The San Jose Sharks have had an up and down season, and may have seriously lucked out. Lately, they can’t keep the puck out of the net giving up 17 goals in their last four games. Dropping the two more games to the Golden Knights might have been devastating for the Sharks.

Vegas vs San Jose Regular Season History
VGK .792 Winning %
VGK (8-1-3) 19 Points
VGK Goal Differential +19

This season the Sharks haven’t won two consecutive games and are allowing the third-most goals in the league. In the past, the Golden Knights have devoured San Jose in those conditions. That could’ve been the case this week.

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Film Breakdown: Reilly Smith In OT

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

One of the best qualities of Reilly Smith’s game is his ability to play in all situations. Coaches and managers use this term often but for Smith they really mean it. Need a goal, Smith can get you one. Need to protect a lead, Smith’s as good as they come defensively. Power play, penalty kill, four-on-four, you the situation, Smith is always a great option.

On Tuesday, after playing more than six minutes in each of the first three periods, the Golden Knights called on Reilly Smith for two big shifts in OT.

It’s a shame the NHL hasn’t made player tracking data public because Smith’s distance traveled in those two shifts was nothing short of incredible.

I broke down the two shifts in a film breakdown to show just how brilliant Reilly Smith in an OT session that wound up going scoreless.

Studying Film Of One Alex Pietrangelo Shift Showing His Ups And Downs So Far In Vegas

Photo from @NHL_PR

Today, all eyes are on Alex Pietrangelo. The former captain of the Stanley Cup winning St. Louis Blues is set to face his former team for the first time since joining the Vegas Golden Knights.

That’s the story of the night, and one I’m sure you’ll be sick of hearing by the time the game is over… if you aren’t already. So, I’m not here to focus on that angle. Instead, I want to take a look at how Pietrangelo has done to this point with the Golden Knights and what we can expect moving forward.

Through six games, there are a lot of positives. He has a goal and two assists, he’s leading the team in ice time by more than two minutes over any other skater, and he boasts a +1 rating on a team that’s rattled off five wins in six games.

However, it’s also perfectly fair to say he’s been a bit underwhelming, most notably in the defensive zone where he has been on the ice for four of the nine even-strength goals the Golden Knights have allowed.

I think anytime you come to a new team, new language, new teammates there’s an adjustment period. I think he’s adjusted faster than most players. I thought last game was arguably his best so far. -Pete DeBoer

The last game in Arizona was indeed the best Pietrangelo has played over the course of an entire game, but like the season as a whole, it still had many troubling moments.

In the 1st period, Pietrangelo took a 93-second shift after a TV timeout. It was a single shift that illustrates both where he’s struggled and where he’s shined while also showing exactly why the early issues are nothing for Golden Knights fans to worry about.

Let’s go through it in its entirety.

We pick it up at the face-off, where Pietrangelo does what very few defensemen in the NHL can do. Watch.

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“Tighter-Checking” Last Game Of Series To Be Expected

Max Pacioretty called it a week ago.

I think you’ll probably see that often that it’s going to be a tighter checking game in the second game of the series. -Pacioretty

Talking about adjustments after the second game of the season he said the format reminded him of a college schedule. As a former college hockey standout himself, he’s used to that style of schedule and made a prediction that couldn’t have come more true in the final game of the four-game series against the Coyotes.

The format allows you to kind of make adjustments after a game and while it’s fresh in your mind go out there and try to play a team you were just studying and breaking down. -Pacioretty

I’m not sure he expected a goalless game for the first 59 minutes yesterday, but tight-checking is about as perfect a description of that game as you can find, especially from the Golden Knights.

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Vegas gave up just 16 shots against the Coyotes Sunday afternoon in a game that featured just 18 high-danger chances, the season-low in a VGK game (previous low was 19, in the second game against the Ducks).

Vegas did a wonderful job keeping the Coyotes to the outside in the offensive zone, forcing them to play a style they aren’t necessarily comfortable with, especially without Oliver Ekman-Larsson in the lineup.

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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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