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Comparing the Remaining Schedules Of The West Division’s Two Top Dogs

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The stretch run is officially here.

The Golden Knights have just 10 games left in the regular season and despite their position atop the division in points, Vegas is still technically looking up at Colorado due to points percentage. The Avalanche missed a week due to COVID Protocols but they are back in action now and have a pair of games in hand on the Golden Knights.

Winning the West Division comes with a pretty hefty prize. Not only does it earn the winner home-ice advantage in the first two rounds, but it also means a matchup in the first round against a losing team as opposed to a decent Minnesota Wild team.

The simplest way the division will be determined is by either Vegas or Colorado sweeping the two games left between the top teams. Those games are both to be played at T-Mobile Arena with the first taking place this Wednesday and the second rescheduled to Monday, May 10th. If either team takes home all four points (especially if they don’t give up any in OT), that team will almost certainly win the division. But if they split, which the two teams have over the first six games, the rest of the schedule becomes interesting.

The Golden Knights have 10 games left while the Avalanche have 12. Both teams have just four home games left which means Colorado play eight on the road compared to Vegas’ six. (See full schedules below)

The biggest advantage for the Golden Knights is rest. Not only are they getting it in the near future with three consecutive off-days coming up after tonight’s game, but they also have just two back-to-backs compared to Colorado’s three.

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Robin Lehner Blasts NHL Over “Blatant Lie” About Players Taking COVID Vaccine

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Robin Lehner stepped up to the mic today during the Golden Knights player media availability on Zoom. He answered a few questions and then without being prompted by a question decided to deliver a message on the way the NHL is handling COVID protocols following players receiving the vaccine.

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Vegas Reveals Successful Template In Anaheim

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

As we watched over the weekend, the Golden Knights easily dominated the basement-dwelling Anaheim Ducks in two straight games. It’s clear Vegas is the much, much better team. This season the Golden Knights are 6-1-0 against the Ducks and have dictated the season series except for an earlier 1-0 defeat.

They’ve done the same against pretty much every other inferior team in the division as well. It’s been that type of campaign for the Golden Knights. They mop up on inferior opponents, winning games by an average of 1.5 goals per game.

VGK vs. ANA, ARI, LA, SJ, STL (Combined record: 87-104-28)
119 Goals Scored
69 Goals Allowed
3.71 Goals For Per 60
2.15 Goals Allowed Per 60
48 Goal Differential
53 out of 64 Points (26-5-1, .828)

It’s no secret the Golden Knights have had an easy path to a postseason berth. Same goes for the Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild. All three have built strong records by defeating the teams they should. So, it’s unfair to solely mock the Golden Knights for their weak schedule.

Points Percentage vs West Division Teams
Colorado .744 PTS%
Vegas .727 PTS%
Minnesota .663 PTS%

Realistically, that’s what contending teams need to do. Vegas, Colorado, and Minnesota were all handed a light schedule before the season began and have done their job gathering as many points as possible. It shouldn’t matter what level of competition they face. There’s no secret formula for beating and taking advantage of lesser opponents. However, that’ll end in early May when the regular season concludes and they have to exclusively play each other.

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Carp: A Playoff Insurance Policy

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas 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 the games in the regular season schedule dwindle to a precious few, we need to look ahead to the playoffs and how the Golden Knights stack up.

As of this morning, the Knights are still chasing Colorado for the top spot in the West Division. Can they overtake the Avalanche? There’s two games remaining vs. the Avs, both at the Fortress, so a sweep of the pair would certainly help Vegas’ chances.

But if the Knights finish second, it likely means a date with Minnesota in the first round and we all know the challenges that lie within playing the Wild. And even if the Knights overtake Colorado and win the division, it probably means playing an improved St. Louis team which would not be an easy out.

So, what does a playoff roster look like?

Assuming everyone stays healthy, the lineup is pretty much set:

Pacioretty-Stephenson-Stone
Smith-Karlsson-Marchessault
Nosek-Janmark-Tuch
Carrier-Roy-Reaves

Pietrangelo-McNabb
Theodore-Martinez
Whitecloud-Hague

Lehner/Fleury

You could see Roy move up to the third line and Nosek return to center the fourth line. But otherwise, that’s what we can likely expect Pete DeBoer to do with his lineup. However, there’s a wild card in all of this.

The Knights believe they have some offense stashed away in the event things go cold as they did in the Edmonton bubble last summer, someone who could generate chances and put the puck in the net, or, at the very least, set up his teammates for success.

I’m referring to Peyton Krebs.

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Golden Knights Used To Heating Up Around Trade Deadline

With the acquisition of Mattias Janmark and a few other changes to the starting lineup, Vegas looked like a different team on Wednesday. They were flying all over the ice, creating scoring chances at will, and finished the game with six goals, chasing a multiple Cup-winning goalie.

It’s part of a four-game winning streak and with the schedule set up pretty nicely, it appears like a good time for the Golden Knights to rip off seven or eight in a row.

Sound familiar for this time of the season?

Last year with the team trading for Alec Martinez, Robin Lehner, and Nick Cousins while subtracting Cody Eakin from the lineup the Golden Knights were in the middle of a five-game win streak when the deadline hit. They pushed that to eight and had won 11 of 13 prior to the Pause.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

In 2018-19, right after they added Mark Stone, Vegas stormed off on a six-game winning streak. That streak stopped ever so briefly before they extended it to 10 wins in 11 games

The first year there wasn’t exactly a winning streak like the previous two, but from mid-February to mid-March, wrapped around the deadline, the Golden Knights won nine of 14.

But, despite those little deadline-inspired runs, Vegas is probably hoping for a bit different outcome down the stretch this year than they’ve seen in their first three seasons.

In Year 1 the Golden Knights coasted to the finish line winning just five of their final 10 games. Year 2 saw essentially a collapse as Vegas won just three of the final 10. Then last year, the Golden Knights were winning on the ice, but couldn’t maintain health off it. Pandemic aside, Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, and Chandler Stephenson were all hampered with injuries that could have led to a rough finish to the season had it not been cut short.

The Golden Knights have 14 games remaining in the regular season as they sit four points out of first place with a game in hand. 10 of the 14 are against teams with a sub .500 points percentage and 12 of the 14 against teams with more losses than wins on their season record.

No matter what Colorado does, the schedule is set up very nicely for Vegas to storm into the playoffs on a major hot streak. Usually, teams that do that continue on when they get there.

Vegas Will Need More From Pietrangelo In The Postseason

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Before Alex Pietrangelo suited up for the Golden Knights he was a 0.59 point per game player. In a COVID, injury-hampered season the defenseman has only been able to contribute 13 points in 27 games (0.48). It hasn’t just been his lack of offense that’s been concerning though. Last night in LA, NBC Sports analyst Jim Fox was perplexed by a shift from Pietrangelo that led to the King’s second goal.

Alex Pietrangelo was all over the place. Look at number seven, he’s at the red line. He’s a defenseman. I was watching Pietrangelo the whole shift, he was lost and out of position. -Jim Fox, NBCSN analyst

Overall, it’s been an up-and-down first season for the 31-year-old, but there’s still time to redeem himself.

Pietrangelo is heavily leaned on by coach Pete DeBoer. He leads the team with 25:18 of ice time per 60, is second in power play minutes, and third in shorthanded TOI. Last week in St. Louis the alternate captain skated for 31:00 minutes against his former team. Currently, Pietrangelo ranks 5th in the NHL in average time on ice but 46th in points per game for a defenseman. Clearly, he’s getting the opportunity to return back to form, it just hasn’t quite happened yet.

The workload paid off last night when Pietrangelo flipped one past LA goaltender Cal Peterson. The puck was deflected by a Kings player but it was a great example of the defenseman generating offense. Also, in the 2nd period Pietrangelo calmly controlled the puck in the offensive zone and ripped a shot on net. The puck was blocked out of play but he recognized a quality scoring chance and snapped a shot without hesitation. The $8.8 million dollar man needs to factor in nightly, especially when facing Cup contenders. The production concerns of an expensive player can easily wash away if he performs in the postseason.

In 92 postseason games, Pietrangelo has accrued 51 points (8 goals, 43 assists), which averages out to be 0.55 points per game. When the former Blue led his team to a Stanley Cup championship he totaled the most assists of any player in the playoffs.

The veteran was expected to be that final piece to the puzzle and he still can be. If the defenseman returns back to the offensive threat he has been in years past, the Golden Knights will be extremely tough to defend. As long as Pietrangelo is creating offense and defending top lines Vegas will have a much better chance of advancing.

If he doesn’t, there will be a lot of puzzled looks coming his way.

DeBoer: “There Will Be No Pacing Ourselves Down The Stretch”

28 games in 50 days.

That was what the Golden Knights were staring at back on March 21st, ahead of their first back-to-back with travel of the season. That 50-day span includes six back-to-backs, multiple four-game road trips, and the current stretch of 14 days in which they are scheduled to play an absurd nine games.

When the Golden Knights had to pause their season in the final week of January and into February due to COVID, they knew they were going to have to pay the piper at some point. That point is here and so far, they’re holding up, but not exactly dominating like they were earlier in the year.

The first game in that 28 in 50 stretch was on February 21st against the Kings. The Golden Knights lost that one and have proceeded to lose five more of the 13 they’ve played so far. They’re 7-5-1 to this point, 24 days into the grind. That leaves 15 games in the next 26 days with the Golden Knights sitting comfortably in a playoff spot, still very much in the chase for 1st place, while also trying to stave off a challenger for 2nd.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Sitting 15 points clear of the playoff cut line with just 15 games to go the Golden Knights could take their foot off the pedal and coast to the finish line by working in off games for players. No one would fault them for it, especially with the fact that the Avalanche have lost just one game in regulation since March 8th.

Pete DeBoer, though, has other plans.

I’m not a big believer in managing anything other than trying to win to give yourself the easiest path possible come playoff time. Obviously home-ice advantage against the lowest seed as you move through, it doesn’t always mean success but we want to pursue that as hard as we can. I think we’ll manage energy by not practicing, by giving them as much time off between games as we can in this condensed schedule, by making sure our travel is well planned and well thought out. -DeBoer

The Golden Knights and Colorado will play two games on April 26th and 28th at T-Mobile Arena. If one team wins both of those games, they’ll probably win the division. Otherwise, it’ll come down to which team plays better against the likes of the rest of the relatively soft West Division.

For Vegas, the focus is simple.

There will be no pacing ourselves down the stretch for the playoffs. Our goal is to finish first. -DeBoer

It’ll be fairly significant if they pull it off. If they don’t though, second-guessing is inevitable.

George McPhee’s Has Stood Pat At Deadlines Before; How’d It Turn Out?

It’s trade deadline day, and in a few long hours, we’ll know the roster the Golden Knights will bring into the playoffs on their run for a Stanley Cup in year four of the franchise.

Deadline day is great because it’s one of the few days where hope truly springs eternal for all teams. Winning teams look for their clubs to add the final piece to the puzzle, middling teams hope for the blockbuster that changes the season, and the bottomfeeders wave the white flag and focus on a brighter future.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

In Vegas, the deadline has been a day for celebration all three seasons. From Tomas Tatar to Mark Stone to Robin Lehner and Alec Martinez, the Golden Knights have swung for the fences each and every year.

Unfortunately, to this point, none of these trades have been that one missing element to help the Golden Knights lift the Cup, but that certainly doesn’t mean they haven’t had an impact on the team.

This year feels different though. This year the Golden Knights sit in a clear playoff position and have a reasonable argument to stake their claim amongst the league’s elites. They’ve raced out to an impressive 27-11-2 record, hardly ever lose at home, and they have a roster that on paper stacks up with anyone in the league. But, they are also so close to the salary cap that they can’t even afford to replace an injured player without placing him on LTIR. They’ve played multiple games shorthanded and understand that any trade must include money and players going out.

However, history tells us George McPhee and Kelly McCrimmon aren’t exactly big fans of sitting on their hands at the deadline. In three seasons with Vegas, they’ve made eight trades either on or within a week of the deadline. They’ve been involved in a headline move four times and have sent away just two players off their every-day starting lineup.

That’s such a short history though, so we wanted to dig a little deeper. Current GM, McCrimmon, has only held this role in Vegas, so we have to focus on the current President of Hockey Operations, McPhee.

He has been in the head seat for 19 previous deadlines. He has made at least one trade in 16 of them. He’s made multiple trades in 12, and 10 of the last 13. However, it’s the other side of the coin we’re more interested in today, the years he stood pat.

He did that with the Washington Capitals three times in 16 seasons at the helm. Those seasons were 2011-12, 2008-09, and 1999-00. We’ll start with the most recent, in which McPhee was quoted after the deadline saying this…

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Carp: Fools Gold? Or Have The Top Six Woken Up In Time?

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas 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.**

When the week began, my original inclination was to draw a conclusion that the Golden Knights problem with their offense isn’t with their bottom six, but rather their top six.

Actually, make that top seven as I’ll include Alex Tuch in the conversation.

Then the Knights scored six goals Monday against St. Louis. Problem solved, right?

Not exactly.

The top guns went back into cold storage Wednesday in the 3-1 loss to the Blues. So the angle was back in play.

Or was it?

Friday, the Knights scored a season-high seven goals in defeating Arizona, 7-4. Reilly Smith got two of them. Jonathan Marchessault, Chandler Stephenson, and Max Pacioretty also scored. The line of Smith, Marchessault, and William Karlsson combined for six points.

I left The Fortress a bit confused. Was what I had witnessed an actual wake-up by Smith and the guys? Or was it a tease and we’ll see them go back into hibernation?

I’m still not sure what to believe. Smith has always been a streaky scorer. He’ll be in deep freeze for weeks. Suddenly, he’ll be wielding a hot stick and he’ll be scoring with regularity. However, I’ve learned to never give up on him. He’s too good a competitor to stay off the scoresheet forever. And when Marchessault, that little ball of hate, gets his juices flowing, that line becomes dangerous once again.

That brings us to today’s rematch with the Coyotes and what may be the most important 24 hours of the season so far. If you read ‘Yotes coach Rick Tocchet’s postgame comments Friday, you know he was a very unhappy boss. He basically called his team out for allowing the Knights to jump them and build a 5-0 lead. Yes, his team sort of responded with a bit of push in the third period, but it wasn’t close to being enough to overcome the hole they had dug for themselves.

I will be absolutely shocked if the ‘Yotes don’t come out angry and flying this afternoon, looking to make a statement. They are fighting for their playoff lives as they are currently one point behind the Blues for the fourth and final West Division playoff berth and they figure to play with a great amount of desperation.

My concern is will the Knights match that desperation? Will they play with jump, with purpose, and with intensity? Will they not hang Marc-Andre Fleury out to dry against Phil Kessel, Nick Schmaltz, Clayton Keller, and Connor Garland, Arizona’s primary weapons?

Most important, will the top six build off Friday’s performance and will Tuch, who last scored a goal March 13 and has one tally in his last 17 contests, find the back of the net?

There’s another facet to today’s game. The NHL trade deadline is 24 hours away. Kelly McCrimmon has publicly stated he doesn’t expect the team to make a big splash by noon Monday. But Colorado got better Saturday in upgrading its goaltending with the acquisition of Devan Dubnyk from San Jose and Joe Sakic may not be done dealing. The Avalanche currently reside atop the West Division with a four-point lead on the Knights, who have a game in hand on Colorado. The two teams have two more meetings remaining later this month — both in Las Vegas.

The Knights had organizational meetings in town earlier this week to explore all their options. Remember, they’re up against the salary cap so they’re going to have to get real creative if they want to swing a major deal. Even a secondary trade may require some heavy lifting, depending on who is involved.

If I’m GMKM, I’m watching today’s match with more than the usual interest. It’s up to him, and Prez George, to determine if there’s enough offense to beat Colorado and/or Minnesota, then be able to score often enough to win the Stanley Cup.

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Tocchet’s Honesty Says It All About Matchups With Golden Knights

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights had one of their best periods of the season last night and it wasn’t shocking that it came against the Arizona Coyotes. Vegas outworked, outshot and bullied Arizona up and down the ice in the opening twenty minutes. Being down four goals early wasn’t a surprise to Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet.

They have more talent than us, we get it. I just didn’t like some of our guys push early on. It looked like they were just deer in the headlights.-Rick Tocchet, ARI coach

Occasionally, Arizona has competed with the Golden Knights and did for half of a period last night. For the most part it’s been a one-sided contest with Vegas walking away with the majority of points.

Certain elements that the Golden Knights possess, the Coyotes simply don’t have an answer for. Arizona is much smaller and younger team. Vegas scares them and their coach echoed that. The advantage of size, skill and veteran IQ are the reasons why it’s mostly been a lopsided affair.

You know you’re playing against the big boys and I’m disappointed some guys couldn’t match. Couldn’t get in the forecheck, couldn’t hold on to a puck. When you’re playing the big guys you got to make sure you know what you’re doing.-Rick Tocchet, ARI coach

At times last night it almost looked like a scrimmage between the JV and Varsity teams. In the first period the Golden Knights bullied their way to four goals in nine minutes. The game was essentially over at that point. Sure, Arizona made a late push but that will happen when one team is trying to kill the clock with 51 minutes remaining in the game.

There’s a chance Vegas and Arizona will face eachother in the first round of the playoffs so it’ll be interesting if the Coyotes will play a different style or attack the Golden Knights with their speed an offensive weapons they have.

Vegas when they smell blood they’re going to give it to you.-Rick Tocchet, ARI coach

Before I declare a matchup with Arizona another easy path it’s hard not to think about last year’s postseason. Vancouver admitted to be intimidated by Vegas but learned how to absorb hits, adjust and force a deciding game seven. Could the Coyotes do the same?

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