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Gallant Is Protecting Pirri, Allowing Him To Thrive

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Through seven games and 97:22 of ice time, the Golden Knights have not allowed a goal with Brandon Pirri on the ice. In that same span, Vegas has a 64% Corsi For, created 67 scoring chances, and have scored 11 times.

In short, when Pirri is on the ice, good things happen.

That’s my role, that’s why I signed and that’s why they signed me here. I’ve got to stick to my strengths. Turk’s put me in a fantastic position to succeed, playing with two really skilled guys. Stas finds me and Tuchy creates space. -Brandon Pirri

That middle part interested me when I heard it, “put me in a fantastic position to succeed.” Pirri went on to mention his linemates, but the in-game situations he’s found himself in are even more telling than his linemates. Pirri has been on the ice for 83 faceoffs, only 17 of them have been taken inside of the Golden Knights zone.

That equates to a 74.4% offensive zone draw percentage (Offensive zone draws divided by Offensive+Defensive zone draws). The next closest player is Brad Hunt at 67.8%, then there’s not another player on the team at over 66%. Pirri’s linemates, Alex Tuch and Paul Stastny are at 65.1% and 54.0% respectively.

Also, late in games, Gallant has decided not to use Pirri. In Pirri’s seven games, five of them have seen the score within one goal in the last 10 minutes of regulation. In those five games, Pirri has played in 84 shifts, only 10 of them have occurred in the final 10 minutes of the game, and only once did he play more than one regular shift (at least 40 seconds) at the end of a game.

Bellemare is a specialty in that situation. If we’re down a goal, Pirri will be on the ice. When we’re up a goal, you put four defensive guys out there and Bellemare and those type of players deserve to be on the ice at that time of the game. -Gerard Gallant

I asked specifically about the most recent game, a win over Los Angeles, in which Pirri played a total of :52 in the final eight minutes of action.

I mean we scored, made it one-nothing and they had a great chance right after that on the breakaway but you usually get down to six or seven minutes and I want certain guys on the ice and the guys know that so we shorten it a little bit and guys go out there and do their jobs. -Gallant

I looked through a number of games last season, and couldn’t find an example of Gallant removing one of his top six (Marchessault, Karlsson, Smith, Haula, Neal, Perron) at the end of a game as he has with Pirri. In fact, there’s almost the exact same scenario in a game on January 7th, 2018 against the Rangers as we saw on January 1st, 2019 against the Kings.

In both games, the Golden Knights took a one-goal lead (2-1 vs NYR, 1-0 vs LAK) fairly early in the 3rd period. Following the goal in the New York game, Brendan Leipsic, Cody Eakin, and William Carrier each took two or fewer shifts in the final 10 minutes of the game. After Vegas scored against LA, William Carrier, Ryan Reaves, and Brandon Pirri each took two or fewer shifts in the final 10 minutes of the game.

There are other examples of it, but Gallant has proven that he has certain roles for certain players and it’s a huge reason why he’s been so successful in Vegas. One such example is late game situations, rather than simply rolling the lines out as they were, he shortens his bench to put stronger defensive players in while holding back his weakest defensive options. It leads to wins, but it also leads to goofy stats like the ones we’ve seen with Pirri.

Pacioretty’s offensive zone faceoff percentage is 64.1% (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Now, I’m not making an argument as to why Brandon Pirri needs to be sent back to the AHL, in fact, I believe the exact opposite, I think he needs to stay, but Gallant’s history has shown us that he prefers his top six to remain together in all situations, up a goal, down a goal, or tied. With Pirri, he’s been unable to do that.

As Pacioretty gets set to return to the lineup (either tonight or Sunday), expect Pirri to stay in his normal role on the 2nd line, but the second the scoring dries up, Pacioretty will likely take that spot back as it returns Gallant his all-situation top six.

I can’t control that. I’m happy for myself because I’ve wanted this opportunity and I’ve done a good job for the most part, but that doesn’t mean anything, I’ve got to show up tomorrow and work that much harder. -Pirri

The question is, can Pirri continue to put up numbers playing alongside Cody Eakin and Ryan Carpenter, Tomas Nosek, Oscar Lindberg, or Valentin Zykov as he has with Stastny and Tuch? If he can’t, do they put him back on the 2nd line and see if Pacioretty can do it on the 3rd? Do they make other line changes? Or do they simply send him back to the Wolves?

Gallant has said all the right things about Pirri’s defense, but actions speak louder than words and the actions prove Pirri has still yet to earn the coach’s trust defensively and it’s highly unlikely that’s going to happen any time soon. So, he better keep scoring or else the clock might strike midnight on this Cinderella story.

Previous Podcast #137: The Roster Pickle




  1. Al Powers

    I think Eakin can find Pirri some goals on the 3rd and also, be a good drawman for him, it’s the other winger creating space that’s the issue for a sniper like Pirri. On the 2nd line Statsny and Tuch are the players to keep your attention whereas on the 3rd, Pirri will attract the attention. Hopefully Zykov can show a nice threat drawing some heat away from Pirri on the 3rd when he eventually heads there, and hopefully it’s fast, since he’s coming up on his waivers deadline.

  2. Nick R

    I agree with you that Pirri needs to stay where he is for the time being as he is producing reliably, even more so since Turk has shown the presence of mind to have him on the ice in situations where he has no downside. I remember Pirri playing a couple games at on the final road trip of last season and he really jumped out at me and I wanted to see more of him to see if he was for real. It’s definitely a gamble to push him over the waiver limit and risk exposing him or someone else like Carpenter and Nosek who are good penalty killers (and I have a soft spot for Nosek) or guys like Hunt and Lindberg who are easy to manage personality and work ethic wise as roster depth players. Even Merrill, who is probably the most maligned Knight in my household has looked very solid lately which makes this whole situation tough.

  3. lS

    Total disgust with gallant and McPhee over the Pirri situation. The knights just won 4 games in a row with Pirri on the lineup giving up only 3 goals in those games . Knights NEED scoring ..gallant and mcphee ar way overthinking on PIRRI.

  4. JAY T

    This did not age well.

    • Why not? I’ve been saying all along that there’s a real chance he’s the one that goes if he doesn’t make it to 10 games. I didn’t think it was going to happen, but I always knew there was a chance.

      • JAY T

        It’s almost like they planned it this way. I mean, why pick up Zykov? He’s taking up a roster spot but no where to be seen!

  5. JAY T

    Actually it died within a few hours of posting lol

  6. Rob

    Pirri sent down ugh

  7. Sam

    Just listened to podcast.

    Has JP list his mind? He cannot look back on a trade and judge it as good or bad? Tatar was a disaster, especiallyfor the price paid.

    Yet, according to JP, it was a good trade because the team went to the SCF.


    And that whole Minnesota Wild thing. . . What?

    I think sometimes the man says things and, rather than admitting he misspoke or had a brain cramp, he continues to postulate whatever theory it is until it is too far along to say “my bad.”

    He says, now, that the Tatar trade was a good trade. Sorry, but that is a ridiculous point of view by any standard.

  8. Sam

    I live in Atlanta (old Flames fan from the 70’s), but now consider Calgary and the Knights my teams btw if anyone cares.

    Love the sinbin…keep up the great work.

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