The moment it became clear Mark Stone would be able to rejoin the Golden Knights lineup for Game 1 of the playoffs, Bruce Cassidy knew he had options.
Vegas had just ripped off a run of 22-4-5 over the previous two months that saw them win the division and clinch the #1 seed in the West, and they did most of it with a similar lineup, especially since the Trade Deadline.
It featured a top line anchored by Jack Eichel, a 2nd line with William Karlsson and Reilly Smith, and a 3rd line featuring Chandler Stephenson. So, with Stone coming back, a tricky decision had to be made.
Do you upset the apple cart a bit and stick the captain back on the top-line in his rightful place next to $10 million Eichel, or do you try to fit him into what’s been working?
Before the series even started, Cassidy opted to go for Option 2, offering a much more balanced lineup while also allowing for some shelter for Stone as he worked his way back up to peak form.
The lineup was essentially built around four sets of pairs. Jonathan Marchessault and Eichel, Smith and Karlsson, Stone and Stephenson, and Nic Roy and Keegan Kolesar. It offered a balanced top-nine with an identity fourth line that can hold its own even against the opposition’s best line. Through three games, Cassidy has stuck with it, only opting to shuffle the wingers moving Brett Howden up and Ivan Barbashev down.
Balance is all good and well though, until a goal is needed, and that’s where the healthy lineup with Stone available offers a ripcord for Cassidy, one he pulled at the very end of regulation and multiple times in the overtime sessions.
When wanted, Cassidy can opt to load up his lineup and roll out two lines with incredible familiarity.
The first is the classic Misfit Line of Marchessault, Karlsson, and Smith. Old faithful, as it were, found themselves on the ice for a few crucial offensive zone shifts late in the first OT and in just 2:09 of ice time generated five shots on goal, six scoring chances, and 0.57 expected goals.
The other is the mega line Vegas went to the first time they ever saw Eichel and Stone on the ice at the same time, Stephenson-Eichel-Stone. That line has played 250 minutes together in the past two seasons and has absolutely dominated in every statistical category. With 21.9 seconds left in regulation, Cassidy reunited them looking for a spark, and that’s exactly what he got.
Then, right after he put the Misfits together in OT, the next O-Zone draw saw Eichel, Stone, and Stephenson on the ice trying to secure that game-winning goal.
So now, not only do the Golden Knights have a functioning balanced lineup, they also have the option to load up and lean on two dominant lines of yesteryear to put even more pressure on opposing defenses.
In Game 3, it came through in regulation and nearly did in overtime. Expectations should be high it comes through at some point moving forward as well.
I am very happy and have to admit that I did not think Stone would be ready to play at such a high level. Eichel has stepped up his game here in the playoffs as well.
We have some very good players in the wings as well with Cotter, Carrier, Dorofeyev and LT all standing by if needed.
My cardiologist recommends that the VGK get out to a huge lead tonight so that we can sit back and enjoy the game without the threat of cardiac arrest!
Rr, NO KIDDING!! It was shock, disbelief and mayhem! LUCKY to survive with the W, after that 3rd period shock.
knights fan in minny
key word healthy no one has got hurt in the playoffs
I am wondering how Petro, at his age, continues to put in the number of minutes he does. Bringing him in has been the key to anchoring our defense. Martinez is a super blocker and hope he remains healthy. I’d like to see Theodore getting some chances as well as Whitecloud. Watching McNabb hip check forwards against the Boards always gets a cheer!
AP is supposed to be fit at Rod Brindamour levels.
Nice to be able to have no ethics and cheat the salary cap like this!! I know technically it’s legal and TB and VGK know to to skirt the rules.,, hopefully some day the league will actually agree a cap is a cap all year, not just the regular season!!
I don’t get the hate for the LITR loophole. It offers more opportunities for players to move to contenders at the deadline. That get them better opps to win and elevate their profiles for future contracts. It also opens up ice time for younger players/rookies to get reps and reputations. It’s also better for the league as it amps up competition during the post season when potential news fans are watching.
If you like hockey, you should be open to whatever is best for the players and grows the game. Gotta remember that the best of the best in the NHL make about $10M per season. In comparison a bum like Russell Westbrook got paid about $50m this season during which two teams couldn’t kick him to the curb fast enough.
Reward the players (and ambitious clubs) and grow the sport!
The hate for it is the league uses a cap to try and equal the playing field. Teams like the Leafs could afford $200M payrolls, while teams like Az barely afford the $80M. I like hockey, so I’d rather have players across the league make good money and not have to be stashed on LTIR all year like TB and VGK have done.
In the old days yes ambitious clubs could spend all the money they wanted. If we went back to that not even VGK could compete for the best players against teams like the Leafs and Rangers. the players would just follow the money! The cap is there for a reason, just like in the NFL where all contracts count, even those on LTIR. NHL needs to follow suit.
Who exactly did the Knights “stash” on LTIR this year who wasn’t injured or coming off surgery’s ?
duh – Stone?? Or was it just a miracle he was healthy the first day of the playoffs so his $9.5M cap hit didn’t count?? Again, NHL needs to move to the NFL rules where a salary is a salary, doesn’t matter!
Conservatives: "Protect the children" Liberals: "Protect the pedophiles" We are not the same...
bettman/ canada’s idea of socialism
and it sucks, everyone knows socialism fails EVERYWHERE. Even in Germany, Sweden, Norway, Iceland they are rolling back all their socialist policies big time. BEcause it does not work.
Get it yet?
Mike the moderate
Sure, just like the a-hole’s tRump tax cut policies which gave the billionaires even more money.
Good points Roberto.
Good point??? So you are in favor of no salary cap? Hello Leafs and Rangers dominating the league!!
Roberto did not say that.
Roberto said – “Reward the players (and ambitious clubs) and grow the sport!” – in order to do that no salary cap…
The current 20 man roster we iced the last 2 games is $4 million under cap.
The salary cap is $82,500,000.
VGK FINAL CAP HIT : $96,459,761
FINAL CAP SPACE Tooltip : $0
LTIR USED Tooltip : $13,959,761
So that is cheating the purpose of the cap!
If it was really cheating why aren’t the owners all lined up complaining? Or the GM’s? Answer, because THEY APPROVED the system.
They’re under the cap. Do the math
The lineup we’ve been playing isn’t that far over the cap. Everyone was on the roster to begin the season except for barbashev over carrier and brossoit over Thompson. What is that a 2 million salary difference? Yeah really cheating the cap aren’t they. Plus players only get a salary for the regular season, so why should there be a salary cap for the postseason when there are no salaries being paid
You do realize Stone did have a second back surgery within 9 months and there was no guarantee it would be successful. Saying it was all to stash him on LTIR to bring in a 3rd string goalie that is currently scratched (Quick), a fourth liner that is now scratched (Teddy), and a current fourth liner (Barby) is a stretch. But keep believing that nonsense.
They has $96M worth of salaries in a league where the cap was $82M… bottom line. Shouldn’t make a difference who is or isn’t on LTIR. Many of the other teams couldn’t afford to pay the $96M, that’s why there is a cap!
Your argument is they kept Stone out to somehow manipulate a rule. Stone was out for a surgery recovery. You really think they wanted their Captain to be out for 4 months to circumvent the cap.
by putting Stone on LTIR during the season the Golden Knights saved $9.5 million which in part helped them pick up goaltender Johnathan Quick from the Los Angeles Kings Ivan Barbashev from the St Louis Blues and Teddy Blueger from the Pittsburgh Penguins in anticipation of a long playoff run.
They didn’t put him on LTIR for an advantage. He actually had back surgery. What do you not get? If you had back surgery when would you go back into the lineup?
Fairly sure Cassidy is working towards moving Stone up to the top line. He’s only played three games. Stone and Stephenson works well whether Stephenson is center or on the other wing.
Carrier when ready can be the wildcard. Hard to see scratching Amadio or Barbashev especially that Carrier will be super rusty. Good problem to have.
P. S. Re: Stephenson and Stone:
All of Stone’s 43 games he was with Stephenson, either on the other wing or Stephenson was center when Eichel was injured. Those 43 games was the best stretch of Stephenson’s career (11 G/29 A = 40 points).
knights fan in minny
don’t mess with what’s working
By all means scratch Amadio!
Id take Carrier or Blueger over him.
I also dont get how Howden is in the top 12……
Great point with those 2 lines to bank on!
I love the balanced lineup. The 3rd line would be the weak point for an opponent to attack but now they can only hope to play matchup games with the 4th line. Carrier with Geno that line also! I would love a Howden – Roy – Carrier 4th line!? What a nightmare
Stone worked his ass off to try and get back for playoffs. There was no stashing going on there at all. Anyway, Knights need to play a full 60 tonight and take control of series! Let’s go boys!
THE hockey GOD
Conservatives: “Protect the children”
Liberals: “Protect the pedophiles”
We are not the same…cons are good, liberals are evil.
I see nut job only has 2 posts he must have writers cramp believe me I’m not complaining with his less is always better.
Listen , none of the teams are cheating, if they are within the rules. Very simple. Don’t like the rules, fine, but don’t call them cheaters when they are compliant within the rules. So, is Hill in tonight? I would think likely.
LTIR only hurts poor teams. Wealthy teams and players make more $.
The bottom feeders have no pull in this league and are basically a jobs program for small Canadian cities and a couple of US cities. Cruel but true.
F**K YEAH ❤️❤️❤️