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Continuing Goalie Rotation Into Real Playoffs “On The Table” For DeBoer

Since the Golden Knights acquired Robin Lehner, he and Marc-Andre Fleury have been in a straight goalie rotation. Through seven regular-season games, an exhibition game, two round-robin games, and a third tomorrow, Vegas has alternated goalies in each and every game.

There’s nothing abnormal about a goalie rotation in today’s NHL… during the regular season. But once teams get to the playoffs, historically (and by that I mean every team ever) teams select one goalie as a starter and he remains in the net until he loses it. Very rarely do teams change goalies off wins and even more rarely do they use both goalies multiple times in the same playoff series.

However, with the oddity that is the 2020 playoffs and the Golden Knights success in swapping goalies every night, there’s a legitimate argument to be made that it should continue into the first round.

DeBoer has intimated since the team returned to action that his plan was to go the normal route and select a starter after the round-robin, but when I asked him if he’s considering sticking with the rotation following tomorrow’s game, his answer was far more non-committal, indicating it’s a real option they’re examining.

I think everything’s on the table. It’s such a unique year, such a unique format. I’ve already heard there’s going to be some back-to-backs in the early rounds of the playoffs which typically you never got so for me everything’s on the table in that regard. -Pete DeBoer

In the 10 games since acquiring Lehner, the Golden Knights are 8-2-0 overall with Lehner posting a perfect 4-0-0 record and Fleury coming in at 4-2-0. Lehner has allowed eight goals in his four games while Fleury has given up 15 in his six.

On paper, a playoff goalie rotation could offer some unique benefits, especially considering the contrasting styles of the Golden Knights’ two goalies. But, without teams trying it in the past, there’s no true evidence that those benefits will actually hold true.

It’s worked so far for the Golden Knights, but are they willing to be the team that breaks the mold?

The option is on the table, we’ll see if DeBoer picks it up.

Offense-Minded D-Pair Could Serve As Dangerous Tool For Golden Knights

Nate Schmidt and Shea Theodore both became Golden Knights at the Expansion Draft. They’ve each played more than 200 games as Golden Knights, but only three times have they ever been paired together to start a game.

173 regular season games have featured a lineup with both Schmidt and Theodore, yet at even-strength, the two have only been on the ice for 197 minutes.

Monday, late in the game, the dynamic offensive duo had a chance to play multiple shifts together as the Golden Knights attempted to recover from a 3-1 deficit. A little more than eight minutes of ice time later, Vegas stormed back into the game to tie it, eventually take the lead, and then seal their first win of the 2020 playoffs. The main reason that happened was the dominance the Golden Knights showed with 88 and 27 on the ice together.

Schmidt and Theodore were both on the ice for Vegas’ third and fourth goals (Nate scored the 3rd one) and they put in a 90-second shift in the final minutes to help seal the win.

The pair was nothing short of electric and they might just be the Golden Knights’ secret weapon when the team is trailing on the scoreboard. One that reminds the head coach of a duo from his past.

We had (Brent) Burns and (Erik) Karlsson in San Jose and we tried them together once in a while. We would stick them together if we were behind in games or on offensive zone draws, it’s a nice option to be able to throw those guys out there. -DeBoer

Schmidt and Theodore played a total of 8:46 together in the 3rd period where they held the Stars to just two shots, while posting an 82% Corsi, generating five scoring chances, and scoring the two goals.

Both guys are smart, they both move pucks and I think they both can drive offense. It’s always tough when you have two offensive guys playing together. The thing I like about Schmidtty and Theo is they both take pride in defending too. They’re not going to create offense by giving up a lot defensively or ignoring their defensive responsibilities which is a nice combination to have. -DeBoer

The pair was deployed for 11 shifts that began with a faceoff, just one was taken in the VGK defensive zone.

It doesn’t appear as though DeBoer is planning on leaning on the tandem of Schmidt and Theodore to start a game, but he certainly seems willing to give them significant time together when the Golden Knights need help offensively.

He did just that on Monday and they delivered.

Letdown Periods Trending In Round-Robin Games

No one knew what to expect in Vegas’ first round-robin game against the Dallas Stars. Some Golden Knights players talked about bringing intensity, some said they would play it safe, making sure they were healthy for the first round. So when Vegas won 5-3 in a roller coaster game, it was no surprise that it was a forgettable victory.

While their 3rd period, four-goal outburst was outstanding, the 2nd period letdown may have some Golden Knights worried. However, trends are showing that most round-robin teams have had a letdown period in their first game. Five of the eight teams allowed two or more unanswered goals in a period, and three of those five teams lost.

Vegas vs. Dallas

We all watched it, Vegas looked like they were toast by the conclusion of the 2nd period. Then Dallas decided to sit back in the 3rd. Both teams allowed three or more unanswered goals and had extended moments of sloppy hockey.

VGK 2nd Period:

  • Allowed three straight goals (One PP goal)
  • Outshot 13-10
  • Faceoff Wins 43%
  • Committed one penalty (Theodore/Hooking)
  • Lost the lead

The puck was deep in Vegas zone for the majority of the 2nd period and Dallas took advantage, scoring three unanswered goals. Dallas took six out of the first seven shots taken in the period. At one point it looked like Vegas would never be able to clear the puck from their own end. Thankfully the Stars made it easy for the Golden Knights to come back. Dallas equally broke down and gave Vegas the room to snap off four goals in the final period.

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DeBoer’s Won’t Hesitate To Make Big In-Game Changes

It had been almost 9,000 minutes since the Golden Knights played a meaningful game, but it took less than 30 for Pete DeBoer to have seen enough.

I gave it as long as I thought I could. -DeBoer

Midway through the 2nd period against the Stars, DeBoer shook up his lineup, changing three of the four forward lines.

We were flat. For 40 minutes we didn’t have our stuff. We didn’t have our game, we didn’t have our system in place, we just didn’t play well. So, shake it up a bit, kind of give us a kick in the butt. -Mark Stone

After months of preparation to figure out what the lines should be followed by weeks of working almost exclusively together in training camp, the trios that were supposed to work out the best for the Golden Knights were blown up at the first sign of distress.

I would have loved to have had us play at a high enough level all the way through that we wouldn’t have to change anything but that’s not realistic. -DeBoer

This is a good look into the coaching style DeBoer is going to bring to the Golden Knights through this playoff run. Unlike Gallant who liked to trust the process and allow the players to work through issues, DeBoer is going to be proactive.

Without Max Pacioretty, the lines weren’t exactly what DeBoer was looking at for the last five months while the league was paused, but they were pretty darn close. Yet, he didn’t hesitate to change them in the first game that had true meaning to the team.

Starting Lines

Stephenson-Karlsson-Stone
Marchessault-Stastny-Smith
Cousins-Roy-Tuch
Carrier-Nosek-Reaves

Lines in 2nd and 3rd periods

Cousins-Stephenson-Stone
Marchessault-Karlsson-Smith
Roy-Stastny-Tuch
Carrier-Nosek-Reaves

A coach only has so many tools in those situations to use and that’s obviously one of them. I knew it was a team-wide problem because we really didn’t have anybody that was very good in the first 40 minutes. -DeBoer

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VGK 2020 Playoffs “Depth Chart”

With the extended roster available to the Golden Knights, I wanted to take a look at how they might roll out their players as they need to go deeper into the lineup.

The best way to illustrate that was by using an element common to football but somewhat foreign to hockey, the “depth chart.” This is my best guess at how Pete DeBoer’s “depth chart” looks heading into the 2020 Playoffs.

(Note: This is not a way to build lines. Instead, it’s to show which players are best at each individual position. Thus, in the event that there’s an injury, which player would be the next to fill in. The idea is to use each player the highest up the chart at each position to build the roster of 12 forwards and six defensemen. Then, lines and pairs are created around that group of 18.)

Left WingCenterRight Wing
PaciorettyKarlssonStone
MarchessaultStastnySmith
StephensonStephensonTuch
CousinsRoyRoy
TuchCousinsReaves
RoyNosekNosek
CarrierBrownBrown
NosekQuinneyKolesar
BrownDukeQuinney
QuinneyKrebsDuke
DukeKrebs
Krebs
Left DRight D
McNabbSchmidt
TheodoreTheodore
MartinezMartinez
HoldenHolden
MerrillWhitecloud
HagueEngelland
Coghlan

The 2020 Postseason Is A “Once In A Lifetime” Event For Hockey Fans

Today begins the official start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and while the Golden Knights won’t play until Monday, there are several games to keep your eyes on.

Vegas fans couldn’t get a true feeling of the NHL’s game presentation during Thursday night’s exhibition game against Arizona because the league used a fraction of what they have planned going forward.

We’re super excited about what we are going to be debuting and showing from Saturday all the way through the Stanley Cup Final. What you were seeing was probably five percent, ten percent of what you’re going to start to see on Saturday.- Steve Mayer, NHL Chief Content Officer

The NHL intends on making the television broadcast an experience for the viewing audience. They’ve added dozens of cameras for alternate views of the ice, creating a unique event, not just a typical hockey game.

Starting today, fans should keep their eyes open for some of the new additions the league will use throughout the entire postseason. They’re hoping fans will be entertained like they’re watching a movie or a television episode.

As a fan you’re not going to miss anything. Camera angles, the low angles, the replays, super slo-mo. There’s some really cool looks. The ability that we’ve had to really get inside of the game. It’s a made for television event. We don’t have fans here, so we essentially built a set. Every screen we’re going to highlight players. We’re going to highlight highlights, the history of the game, the statistics of the game. Visually I think you’re going to see things that you have never seen and probably never see again. -Steve Mayer

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Defense Can Benefit From Softer Crowd Noise

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

We can’t get Golden Knights defensemen to shut up about the importance of their on-ice communication. They say it’s key for a pair to be aware of one another during a game, especially defending a rush, or if one is in possession of the puck. Sure, they know where the other is most of the time but the chatter can often help to get back in position, develop a play or break out of the defensive zone safely. Come this time of year (well, not normally actually this time, but you get my point), it takes on even more significance as one broken play in the postseason can lead to the winning or losing goal.

With the Return-to-Play underway, fans were introduced to the recorded ambiance that the league will use during games. It’s interesting, to say the least. The crowd noise will be pumped through arena speakers giving some sort of fan representation. However, the volume level was lower than a normal sold-out NHL game. During yesterday’s exhibition broadcasts, you could hear the atmosphere of a typical NHL game but the natural sounds of hockey were much more defined.

Brayden McNabb and Nate Schmidt have three years of chemistry playing together in Vegas. It’s a luxury the young franchise has. We’ve seen the impact Shea Theodore has on the ice but he wasn’t paired with Alec Martinez until deadline week back in February. There’s no doubt the veteran Martinez won’t have a problem connecting with his pair pal, but one injury or one bad night and that can all change.

If the third pair of Nick Holden or Zach Whitecloud are struggling you might see coach Pete DeBoer shuffle his lineup, or cut some minutes. In that scenario, the lessened crowd noise might allow whatever d-pair that’s on the ice to have clearer communication. Holden even made a crack to the media about using code words because opponents will likely hear what the Golden Knights are discussing. Without rabid fans, the defensive players should have no problems picking up each other.

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DeBoer Shares Goalie Plans For First Four Games

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights enter the return to the 2019-20 season with a luxury. Vegas is part of the group of eight teams that will not be fighting for their playoff lives instantly upon the season’s resumption. Instead, they have an exhibition game followed by three round-robin games which come with reward but little consequence.

Head coach Pete DeBoer intends on taking advantage of that luxury in regards to his goaltenders.

My plan here is both guys are going to play through the round-robin. I think coming off a four-month pause in order to make sure that we get everybody up to speed and are fair and have all the information at our disposal when we start the playoffs that’s the right thing to do. They’ll probably play two and two between the exhibition game and the three round-robin games and then we’ll make some tough decisions. -DeBoer

Since the Golden Knights acquired Robin Lehner at the deadline, they have rotated between he and Marc-Andre Fleury every game. It was just a six-game stretch, but it appears that plan will continue through the first four games in Edmonton.

That first of those four is an exhibition game against the Coyotes on Thursday. DeBoer is planning on taking that game a lot more seriously than he would a normal preseason game.

I do know I’m not a big believer in splitting goalies half games so whoever we start with we’ll plan on ending with. We have the option of dressing 22 where a normal roster is 20. I’m leaning towards dressing 20 just because I want to get into our game rhythm. We only have one game prior to starting the round-robin so I want it to feel like an important game. -DeBoer

He did not reveal which goalie that will be, but the assumption based on how they’ve been rotating goalies is that whichever it is, he will also be in the net for the middle round-robin game against St. Louis. Obviously things could change, but we expect it to look like this…

7/30 – ARI – Goalie 1
8/3 – DAL – Goalie 2
8/6 – STL – Goalie 1
8/8 – COL – Goalie 2

The Golden Knights will then have a day or two off before they start the real playoffs, a best-of-seven series against a qualifying round winner. At which point, DeBoer will select the true starter.

Those decisions are never written in stone and whoever we start with that can change very quickly depending on how the playoffs go and injuries and matchups and things like that. -DeBoer

Let the story of the playoffs for the Golden Knights begin.

Golden Knights “Weren’t Truthful” About Coaching Change

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Two days after the NHL trade deadline which saw the Golden Knights pull off a blockbuster trade acquiring Robin Lehner, head coach Pete DeBoer, who had been with the organization for just over a month, approached the podium in the media room at City National Arena.

You probably noticed Dave Prior wasn’t out there today. We’ve restructured our goaltending department a little bit here. Mike Rosati, starting tomorrow, will handle the day to day stuff. -DeBoer on February 26th, 2020

Within a matter of 48 hours, the Golden Knights had brought in competition for the face of the franchise, shipped out the supposed heir-apparent who served as the backup for two and a half seasons, and shuffled their goaltending coaches. All with just 17 games left in the regular season and while riding a six-game win streak that would extend to seven that night.

Dave is still part of the organization. It’s not health-related. Dave’s role here has always been bigger than the day to day coaching job and he’s going to base out of Ontario and continue to support us that way. -DeBoer on February 26th, 2020

Prior was among the first group of employees hired by George McPhee back in August of 2016, eight months before Gerard Gallant. He was more than just a goalie coach as DeBoer noted. Given the title “Director of Goaltending,” Prior had his hand in every decision the team made from which goalies to draft to who to sign to even the most fundamental choice of which goalie will start every single game.

Suddenly, the most important man in Golden Knights goaltending was no longer needed in Las Vegas, and instead, would be working 2,000 miles away, from his home in Guelph, Ontario, Canada.

Peculiar under any circumstances, but especially considering the team who had leaned on Prior for three seasons had just acquired a brand new goalie to bolster their chances at winning the Stanley Cup.

However, according to Prior, the statements made by DeBoer on February 26th weren’t entirely accurate.

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Other Postseason Teams Not Sounding As Confident As Vegas

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

As we near the end of Phase 3, the Golden Knights confidently continue to prepare for life in the bubble. Coach Pete DeBoer and his players have expressed their goals throughout training camp and sound as if they are already in postseason mode.

We’re not going there for vacation. We’re going there for work and a goal in mind to win the Stanley Cup. –Alec Martinez, SiriusXM NHL

The message is clear from this organization that while their surroundings will be unique, nothing has altered their objective. The chatter from the Golden Knights since training camp has been focused and positive, more so than other clubs. And it starts with the head coach.

Even if we had a first-round opponent, through this portion we would be spending 90% of the time on our game anyway. I’m a big believer that if our game is in a good place that we throw that out there and let the other team adjust to us. –Pete DeBoer, NHL Network

While the local team feels good about their playoff chances other franchises are still trailing in preparation. The clock is ticking for some to get their act together before traveling to their hub city destination.

The Blue Jackets have a qualifying round matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs, however, neither seem to be feeling as confident as Vegas. As most fans already know, Tortorella never holds back and he isn’t now. Maybe it’s motivation or maybe he’s legitimately concerned that his players aren’t ready for August.

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