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First 20 Games Isn’t Like Last Season’s Start

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Gerard Gallant doesn’t sugar coat. He hasn’t in the past and he didn’t after the first 20 games of this season. So far, he isn’t impressed with his team’s start.

No not really. I feel we haven’t played as good this year. Last year we were missing some key people and we were treading water a little bit and then we took off at the 20 game mark last year. No, this year I think we haven’t played as well in every game and a little more inconsistent. -Gallant

It’s way, way too early to panic. Vegas’ roster is incredibly talented and the team will have plenty of time to perfect their game before the postseason. However, if we’re calling out poor play, the first quarter of the season left a lot to be desired. Sure, Vegas has four more points through 20 games this season, but there are areas of concern.

↑ Up from last year
↓ Down from last year

VGK 2019-20 First 20 Games: 9-8-3 (21 Points) ↑

55 Goals For ↑/61 Goals Allowed ↓
-5 Goal Differential ↑
9 Games of 2 or less Goals Scored (2-6-1) ↑
5-4-2 in games against Playoff teams ↑
4-4-1 in games against Non Playoff teams ↓
6 Victories by 2 or more goals ↑
6 Losses by 2 or more goals ↑
3-2-3 in one goal games ↓
Longest win streak: 2 ↓
Longest losing steak: 4 ↓

VGK 2018-19 First 20 Games: (8-11-1) 17 Points

50 Goals For/56 Goals Allowed
-6 Goal Differential
12 Games of 2 or less Goals Scored (2-9-1)
(1-8) in games against Playoff teams
(7-3-1) in games against Non Playoff teams
5 Victories by 2 or more goals
9 Losses by 2 or more goals
(3-2-1) in one goal games
Longest win streak: 3 games
Longest losing steak: 3 games

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Frustration Is Not The Answer

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The quotes were all the same from last night.

Different players framed it in slightly different ways, but deep down they were all trying to say the same thing. This team is too good to be losing as often as they have been.

The most consistent sound coming out of the mouths of Golden Knights players in the month of November has been a deep breath.

They know they should be better, but no one completely understands why they haven’t been better. The underlying stats show the Golden Knights are deserving of a better fate, but time and time again the scoreboard has not agreed. It’s led to the same feeling up and down the Golden Knights organization, the feeling is frustration.

Frustrated with themselves, but mostly frustrated in the results.

Just about every player and coach had something to be frustrated with. Whether it was Mark Stone’s missed breakaway, the blown penalty shot by Jonathan Marchessault, defensemen finding themselves on the wrong side of the puck, or the decision to try a brand new set of forward lines, everyone had something to think about when heads hit pillows last night.

What does frustration do though?

Speaking for myself, being frustrated doesn’t lead to the best me. When I’m frustrated I usually make poor decisions. They have the best intentions, but choices made out of frustration don’t tend to solve my problems. It’s not until I change my attitude that I see the results turn.

That’s just what the Golden Knights need right now. A change in attitude. Enough looking for the ceiling for answers. Enough wondering when it is going to turn. Enough disappointment. Try something new.

Maybe it’s anger. The “rage room” is all the rage, right?

Maybe it’s some Tony Robbins life coach bullshit. “Your past doesn’t equal your future.”

Maybe it’s something weird, like a wacky Joe Maddon-esque team bonding thing. Onesie pajama party on the plane. Bring a mime to practice. (Maddon did both of these things.)

How about hypnotism? (There’s literally a professional hypnotist with a Vegas Strip show that is a diehard Golden Knights fan.)

Go hang out with the crazies from Cirque du Soleil again.

Whatever it is, this team needs a new feeling in the locker room.

Frustration is not the answer and it’s up to someone to do something, anything, to change it. Even if it looks really stupid while they are doing it.

Golden Knights Have To Start “Trying To Dominate,” Especially At Home

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The last time the Golden Knights won at home was 17 days ago. The last time they’ve won two in a row at home was 211 days ago when they won Games 3 and 4 of the series against the Sharks.

Over the course of the first season and a half for the Golden Knights, no matter what else was going on, they could always rely on their ability to win at home. They went an unbelievable 29-10-2 at T-Mobile Arena in 2017-18 and backed it up by starting 16-4-3 at home to start 2018-19. But since, it’s been a bit of a struggle.

They finished last year at 10-6-2 before dropping a crucial Game 6 at home leading to a first-round exit. This year they’ve actually lost more games inside of T-Mobile Arena than they’ve won, posting a 4-3-2 record.

If you dig into the stats, you’ll see they’ve been scoring fewer goals, shooting much less, and for the most part not controlling the flow of the game even close to as often as they used to.

I don’t think it’s anything with personal or the style of play or anything like that. I just honestly think it’s a mentality thing. We’ve got to play a little bit harder, little bit chippier. We’ve got to really want to dominate teams. I think we are going out to just try and win, we want to go out and try to dominate. It makes winning that much easier and I think it makes everyone around us better. -Alex Tuch

Tuch has been watching from the sidelines for all but four periods this season, and he’s seeing exactly what most everyone else is seeing. While he was speaking about the team in general, in my opinion, his comments translate to the team’s play at home even more than on the road.

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Golden Knights Rumored To Be “Looking For A Mobile D”

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Since the start of the regular season, the Golden Knights have been playing a numbers game with the salary cap. They’ve shuttled players like Nic Roy, Nic Hague, Cody Glass, Jimmy Schuldt, and Jake Bischoff between the NHL and AHL in an attempt to accrue usable cap space come trade deadline day. Thus far, they’ve sent Roy down four times, Hague three, and Glass, Schuldt, and Bischoff each once. In doing so, they’ve lessened the cap hits of all five waiver exempt rookies.

They are doing this for one reason, and one reason only, so they are in a position to make a trade and acquire a player that will help them win the Stanley Cup. Whether that trade happens today, or next week, or seconds before noon on February 24th, that’s why they are playing this game.

Which should obviously spark everyone reading this to ask the exact same question.

“Who are they looking to trade for?”

No one besides a select few inside the walls of City National Arena actually know, but over the course of the next four months there will be context clues along the way.

The first of those comes to us compliments of Sportsnet.ca’s superstar reporter Elliotte Friedman.

Nate Schmidt is back after a 13-game absence, and the Golden Knights badly missed him. Does Vegas feel the need to add mobility on the blue line? Opponents do think it is one of their few weaknesses. –Friedman in 31 thoughts on 11/5/19

He left it there in the written article but went on to elaborate a bit on his weekly podcast with Jeff Marek, also named 31 Thoughts.

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Carp: Jonny Greco’s Contributions To Golden Knights Etched In Stone

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2019-20 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**

Where to begin?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The music. The cheerleaders. The mascots. The pregame and between periods videos. The skits on the ice. The arena hosts and hostess.

The in-game experience at T-Mobile Arena is unmatched in the NHL. I know. I’ve been in every rink and I can tell you for a fact nothing rivals the emotional feeling and the energy that comes once you step inside The Fortress.

Of course, I’m pretty much preaching to the choir here. But the man responsible for most, if not all of it, has decided to move on.

You may recognize the name. A few of you can even place the face. But the handiwork of Jonny Greco is known to all of you because he made sure you were part of it all.

Whether it was the third period exhortation for everyone to yell and clap during an ice maintenance, or singing “Sweet Golden Knights” and “Home Means Nevada” between periods, or having celebrities and fans alike crank up the siren to begin each period, Greco made sure you were and remained engaged, regardless of the score.

And whether you love everything about attending a Golden Knights game or only a small portion of it, you have Greco to thank.

This is from the press release put out by the team back on April 7, 2017 announcing Greco’s hiring:

Las Vegas is the entertainment capital of the world. We recognize and embrace the expectations that come along with playing our games here from a performance perspective. Jonny possesses a unique background that spans multiple professional teams, leagues and sports entertainment entities. His creative vision will help us produce exceptional in-game presentation and entertainment, which will create memorable and enjoyable experiences for our fans. –Kerry Bubolz, Golden Knights president

So when word got out Friday that Greco was leaving the Strip for Broadway (He has reportedly taken a job with Madison Square Garden), it was an end of an era of sorts. But the stamp he las left on the franchise is indelible.

Thinks about this: When was the last time a network, any network, decided to show the pregame show on the air?

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Explaining The Salary Cap Benefit Of Sending Nic Hague And Nic Roy To The AHL

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Well, it happened again. Following a night in which both Nic Hague and Nic Roy played in a win against Columbus, they were optioned to the AHL. This morning, they were called right back up and one or both may play tonight against Toronto.

Being shuttled back and forth between the AHL and NHL isn’t new for the Nics. It has happened to Roy three times and Hague twice. They are sent down with the idea of eventually bringing them back up and sometimes it all happens within a day or two.

When it happens, you’ll see dopes like the guys at SinBin.vegas tweet something like this…

It’s about cap space we say.

Reminds me of one of my favorite lines in Seinfeld history when Kramer says “they just write it off.” He has no idea what writing it off means or how it helps businesses, but it sounds smart, so he says it.

They are accruing cap space, all the teams are doing it!

But how? Why? Are you sure?

If you nailed down most, they’ll eventually crack like Kramer and say “I don’t know, but they do it.” And the conversation would end there because let’s be honest, does anyone really care how or why it happens?

But, since you are still reading, you must be someone that cares. So, I’m here today to explain it. (After I spent most of my night last night reading through the CBA and having my buddy Hart from PuckPedia.com further explain it to me.)

The NHL has what they call an “upper limit” or a maximum amount of money a team can spend on their team salaries. This is often referred to as the salary cap. The idea behind it is to make it so that no team can go out and buy the best players and pay their way to a dynasty. There’s a crazy calculation to figure out what the cap will be each year, but that’s for another day. This year the upper limit is $81.5 million.

So, every day at 5PM EST, the league takes a look at every roster in the NHL, calculates the total amount of salary they have on their roster and makes sure it’s at or under $81.5 million. But, it’s not always as easy as simple addition. Instead, they use what’s called an “averaged amount” based on the player’s contract and the length of time he’s been on the NHL roster.

If a player makes $1 million and he’s been on the roster for every day of the season, he counts for $1 million against the cap. However, if that player was off the roster at any point, his cap figure comes down. Here, let me show you an example.

The league season is 186 days long. It runs from October 2nd to April 4th. Thus, every player’s salary is calculated over 186 days. To make the numbers round, let’s use a player that makes $1.86 million. Every day of his contract is worth $10,000 against the cap. $10,000*186 = $1.86 million.

Say this player is on the roster on opening night. The league calculates it as if he’s going to be on the roster for the rest of the year, so his cap hit is $1.86 million. If he’s on the roster every day for the next 40, his cap hit never changes, it’s always $1.86 million.

But, if he’s sent to the minors for one day, his cap hit is now reduced by $10,000 ($1.86 million divided by 186). When he comes back his cap hit is now $1.85 million.

Every day he’s not on the NHL roster, his cap hit decreases by $10,000. Send him down for 10, you save $100,000. Send him away for 30, you save $300,000.

Got it? Ok, let’s move away from this mythical player and get back to the Nics, Hague and Roy.

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Overtime Woes Growing Concern For VGK

This guy can’t bail you out every time. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights have played in nine regular-season overtime periods since they last scored an OT goal. They are 0 for 4 finding the back of the net in OT this year and went five straight without scoring in overtime to close out the 2018-19 regular season.

Add it all up, and Vegas has played 29:29 of overtime hockey since they last walked off the ice an overtime winner. They’ve gone an acceptable 4-5 in those games, winning all four in shootout, but their inability to score in 3-on-3 overtime is concerning.

The four OT games this year have totaled 13:48 of play. Vegas spent 1:38 of that time playing on the power play against Chicago yet still didn’t score.

In the nine games over the last two seasons, Vegas allowed the game-winning goal within the first :30 of OT on three separate occasions, including most recently against Montreal last week.

Since Mark Stone has been a member of the Golden Knights, they’ve not scored a single overtime goal despite playing in six OT games.

No matter how you slice it, it’s bad. It cost Vegas a few points last year, it’s cost them a couple already this year, and if it’s not corrected, it’ll cost them even more as the season progresses.

I wanted to see if I could identify some of the symptoms to the Golden Knights overtime issues, so I went back and watched all four OT games Vegas has played this season. In two, neither team scored and the Golden Knights won in shootout. In the other two, defensive breakdowns led directly to opposition goals in which the goalies had no chance. Obviously, those need to be avoided, but it’s been more than just the final moment that has been the problem for Vegas. There are two substantial issues they’ve had to this point. One when they have the puck, one when they don’t.

First, there have been way too many careless giveaways in overtime. In four overtime games, Vegas has given the puck away five times prior to creating a scoring chance on that possession. Stone, Theodore, Smith, Karlsson, and Marchessault have each had one and not a single one of them was even trying to make a play to lead directly to a goal.

In OT, the name of the game is possession. If you have the puck, you have a great chance to win. So, giving it away is a cardinal sin. It’s one thing to try and make a great play to set up a chance, but that’s not what’s been happening for Vegas. Instead, it’s simple giveaways, usually trying to keep the puck in the zone rather than taking it out and resetting. Here are two examples.

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Ref You Suck: Subpar Officiating Hurting NHL’s Image, Integrity

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2019-20 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**

I’m not one to blame officials for the outcome of games. I always believe that you make your own luck in sports. And I have yet to see a referee actually score a touchdown, sink a basket or put a puck in the net.

But when the officiating negatively impacts the outcome of games, you have a credibility problem.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

We see it in the NFL. We see it in Major League Baseball. We see it in college football and college basketball. And we certainly see it in the NHL.

Every team in the league falls victim to inept officiating and the Golden Knights are obviously not immune. I won’t even go into Game 7. I’ll just give you Exhibits A and B from Saturday’s 4-3 overtime loss to Winnipeg.

Exhibit A was Ryan Gibbons’ waving off icing in the third period which led to the Jets tying the game 3-3. The linesman had initially put his hand up for icing, then had a change of heart and waved it off.

Nate Schmidt, who was in pursuit of the puck and was closest to it as it crossed the goal line, could not have made a play. By rule, the whistle should have blown since there’s no-touch icing in the NHL.

Instead, Schmidt loses an edge, crashes into the end boards, Kyle Connor scoops up the puck and feeds Mark Scheifele, who was alone in front and beats Malcom Subban.

Tie game.

Watch the video. Gibbons has his hand up. The Golden Knights players see it and react the way you normally would as they gear down and look to head to the Winnipeg end for the ensuing faceoff.

Instead, there’s never a whistle, the goal counts and there was nothing Gerard Gallant could do about it. It’s a discretionary call by the linesman and not subject to review.

They didn’t really have an explanation. They knew they made a mistake, bottom line. So, we just moved on. -Gallant

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Golden Knights Award Campaigns

I was watching TV last night when I saw an ad for a candidate running for President in 2020.  That got me thinking. We’re already a month into the NHL season, should we start the campaign for Golden Knights to win individual awards?

I was still lukewarm on the idea, seeing as Vegas has only played 13 games and the awards show is seven months away. But then, my mind was instantly changed.

A second ad for Tom Steyer!

I figured if Tom is already trying to get my vote in November of 2020, it’s fair for me to start talking/writing about Mark Stone winning the Hart, Cody Glass for Calder, or Valentin Zykov for Masterton (he’s got about as much a chance as Tom 2020, right?)

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Hart Trophy – Most Valuable Player
VGK Candidate: Mark Stone

Stone currently sits in 9th place in both goals and points through the first month of the season. Of course, in order to win the Hart, he’ll need to jump into the top five at the very least, but a 100+ point effort from one of the league’s best defensive forwards would definitely warrant consideration. If Stone can keep on this pace, he’ll be pushing the century mark and he’ll likely be doing it for a team that’s running away with the Pacific Division by March. Honestly, it will probably take an injury or two to a few of the main candidates, but the longer Stone stays in the top 10 in points, the stronger the candidacy will get.

Vezina Trophy – Top Goaltender
VGK Candidate: Marc-Andre Fleury

Fleury currently leads the league in wins, minutes, saves, and point shares for goalies. He’s posted a .928 save percentage and 2.30 goals against average, both of which are better than the numbers Andrei Vasilevskiy put up en route to his Vezina last year. Fleury has made a countless number of incredible saves and is the main reason the Golden Knights are 8-5-0 rather than 5-8-0. Vegas seems once again primed to run him out there 60+ times this season which means he should be at or near the top in every statistical category for goalies when the season is over. It’s literally the only thing he hasn’t done in his career. Hopefully this is the year.

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Golden Knights History Before And After Breaks Suggest Success

The Golden Knights have a mini-break this week with their next game being on Thursday night against the Montreal Canadiens. Last year, they had seven separate occasions of three or more days off. Vegas went 7-6-1 on games directly before and after those breaks. In 2017-18, the Golden Knights had five occasions and were 7-2-1.

2017-18: Before and After Break Record
7-2-1 Overall
4-1-0 Games Before Break
3-1-1 Games After Break

2018-19: Before and After Break Record
7-6-1 Overall
2-4-1 Games Before Break
5-1-1 Games After Break

Some look at the extra rest as a good thing, others will argue the timing could possibly disrupt any momentum from Vegas’ dominant performance last night against Anaheim. Either way, the Golden Knights will use the lay off to their advantage.

Yeah I think so. We’ll practice Monday and take Tuesday off. So we’ll have a good hard practice on Monday, hopefully they’ll smile in the practice and make it fun. If not, I’ll be grumpy. -Gerard Gallant

Veteran Max Pacioretty can appreciate the extra rest but also puts the responsibility on individual players. He stresses each member of the team is a professional and should spend their time wisely.

Approach it as a player. Do the right things, make sure your body is ready to play the next game. Everybody responds differently to different types of preparation. At this point in our career, most guys know how to handle a couple of days here between games. It’s important to make the right decisions. -Pacioretty

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