The Golden Knights have the next three days completely off, meaning no games, practice, and no media availability. They currently sit in 3rd place in the Pacific Division with 44 points in 39 games. That’s one point behind the 2nd place Sharks and one ahead of the 4th place Ducks.
There are a few topics I wanted to discuss but none of them garnered a full article. So, we cram them all into one and call it a day. Here we go.
Brandon Pirri Re-Assigned to AHL
Following the overtime loss to the Kings last night the Golden Knights re-assigned Brandon Pirri to the Chicago Wolves. In doing so they also took Max Pacioretty off IR.
Just looking at the moves, this would lead most to believe that Pacioretty will return Thursday and will be slotted back into his normal place in the lineup. That may happen, but it also may not, and Pirri might wind up right back on the 2nd line despite being re-assigned a few days earlier.
Per NHL rules, if a player clears waivers, which Pirri did on October 4th, they must play 10 games or be on the active NHL roster for 30 days before they are eligible for waivers again. Pirri was recalled to the Golden Knights on December 18th and played in games on the 20th, 22nd, and 23rd before being re-assigned on the 23rd. Thus, he’s played three games and spent five days on the roster.
By optioning him back to the Wolves during this three-day break, the Golden Knights still have six available games and 24 days before he must re-clear waivers. The clock is cumulative, so even if this stint with the Golden Knights is over, it restarts if he is called back up again.
What all of this is trying to say is that there’s a practical reason to send Pirri down to the AHL even if VGK intends to play him on Thursday. It may or may not happen, but unlike most situations when a player is returned to the AHL, this one does not necessarily mean his time with the Golden Knights is up.
Struggles Without Main Defensemen
It was well-documented how much the Golden Knights missed Nate Schmidt during his 20 game suspension. They went just 8-11-1 and were much closer to the basement of the Pacific than they were the top.
Over the past two games, they’ve gone 0-0-2 at home while missing Colin Miller due to an upper-body injury.
Deryk Engelland has missed six games this season, the Golden Knights are 3-2-1 in those games.
Brayden McNabb, Shea Theodore, and Nick Holden have played in all 39 games
When Miller and Schmidt are both in the lineup, Vegas is 12-4-1. When one or the other is missing they are 8-11-3.
Defensive depth is clearly an issue that needs to be addressed, whether that be via trade or by giving some of the young AHL prospects a chance. Either way, something needs to be done because no team makes it through the playoffs with just six defensemen.
Vegas has 13 players, including nine forwards that average 0:50 or more per shift. There are only 118 NHL skaters that average 0:50 or more
The Golden Knights have 10 players in the top 100 in the NHL in this category.
Jonathan Marchessault and Alex Tuch lead the team with 0:56 average per shift while Max Pacioretty, Reilly Smith, Paul Stastny, and William Karlsson all average at least 0:53.
In fact, the Golden Knights have eight forwards (including Erik Haula) with longer average times per shift than the highest defenseman (Deryk Engelland).
What does this mean for the future? I have absolutely no clue, but it feels significant as the numbers not only seem backward (defenseman usually take longer shifts than forwards) but 13 players in the top 118 is a ton.
Gallant’s Trust In Brandon Pirri
Each of the last two nights the Golden Knights have been tied or up inside of the last few minutes of the game. In both cases, Gallant has shortened his bench, specifically singling out one player in his top six, Brandon Pirri.
Last night, in the final four minutes of the game, in which the score was 3-3, Pirri played a total of 10 seconds. Against Montreal, with Vegas up a goal, Pirri did not see the ice at all over the last 5:45 of the 3rd period.
Against LA, Pirri played 15:58, a full three minutes less than every other member of the Golden Knights top six (Tuch and Smith were the next closest at 19:07). It was a little closer on Saturday as Pirri played 15:57 while Tuch played 17:55.
Pirri’s shift numbers were low too. He recorded 19 on Sunday and 22 on Saturday while Tuch, Stastny, Smith, Marchessault, and Karlsson all took at least three more in each game.
Pirri has scored three goals and recorded an assist in his three games, but he still clearly does not have the trust of his head coach to be used in all situations. That’s a big part of what Gallant values in a player (see Smith, Karlsson, Eakin, Schmidt, etc). Pirri’s time with the Golden Knights is probably not done for this season, but don’t expect him to ever become a stalwart in Gallant’s lineup.
Marc-Andre Fleury leads the NHL in ice time having played 2019 minutes over the course of the first 39 games. The next closest goalie to Fleury is Frederik Andersen with 1779.
That’s 240 more minutes than any goalie in the league.
He also ranks 4th in shots against and saves with 950 shots against and 861 saves.
He’s played in both ends of multiple back-to-backs and is responsible for every Golden Knights win this season.
There’s been talk of rest from Gallant, but they’ve yet to show it. At some point they are going to have to actually do it rather than just say it.