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Alec Martinez Is Very Easy To Root For

“I’m smiling under my mask.” -Alec Martinez

Although the members of the media were miles away, Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez answered questions at his Zoom press conference wearing a mask.

It’s a common theme with Martinez. He understands there’s a world outside of hockey. When asked about the concerns of a short training camp, a condensed schedule, or the pressures of playing for a contender, he first qualifies his responses by comparing it to the reality that we’re all living in. It’s not just the hockey season that’s been shaken, and the 33-year-old NHL’er understands that more than anyone.

It’s just the way things are going these days. Everyone has to adapt, you’ve got to be a professional. You know a lot of people are making sacrifices. There’s a lot of hard work being put into this so we can have the opportunity to play. I’m not going to complain. -Martinez

There’s no whiff of selfish, millionaire athlete coming from Martinez. It’s the complete opposite, the defenseman sounds like an aware citizen continuing to adjust like all of us. He’s preparing for an unusual season but doing his best to adjust.

Nothing in the world right now is ideal. I don’t expect the NHL season to be any different. -Martinez

Martinez is an easy guy to root for. He takes his job seriously but takes a real-world approach. Sure, his life has been rattled by delays, negotiations, and protocols but #23 recognizes that others are in a similar predicament.

As he enters his 12th NHL season, Martinez is confident Vegas can make a deep run in the postseason. Playing alongside Shea Theodore, the veteran defenseman understands his responsibilities protecting his free-skating partner. To get the most of Theodore’s abilities, Martinez will need to be a steady wingman.

Martinez might be unaware of how his demeanor can easily connect to average, everyday Golden Knights fans. It’s hard for fanbases not to feel left out when they can only enjoy their team from their 65-inch TVs. Martinez recognizes the issues that we’re all facing.

If guys don’t like each other you don’t have chemistry then you’re not going to be successful. I don’t think that only applies to hockey, I think that’s anything in life. -Martinez

If only he could say it louder so the rest of the country can hear.

Pairing With Pietrangelo – 5 Options For The Golden Knights Blue Line

Adding Alex Pietrangelo changes the look of any defensive unit in the NHL. It’s no different for the Golden Knights who through the years have seen quite the morphing of their blue line.

Vegas will head into 2020-21 with just one remaining starter from their inaugural game in Dallas, two from the Cup Final roster, and three from last year’s Opening Night.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

2017-18 Opening Night

Sbisa-Schmidt
McNabb-Engelland
Garrison-Miller

2018 Stanley Cup Final Game 1

McNabb-Schmidt
Theodore-Engelland
Sbisa-Miller

2018-19 Opening Night

Theodore-Engelland
McNabb-Miller
Merrill-Holden
*Schmidt Suspended

2019-20 Opening Night

McNabb-Schmidt
Merrill-Theodore
Holden-Engelland

How they run it out for 2020-21 is still to be determined, but the options are fairly minimal. Three of the six projected starters are absolutely locked into one side of the defense with a fourth basically a foregone conclusion. The three are Pietrangelo (right), McNabb (left), and Whitecloud (right). Theodore is the fourth, he played 90 of 91 games on the right side last season, including the playoffs.

That leaves just a few moveable pieces thus limiting the combinations Pete DeBoer has to work with. Here are each of the possible options, starting with the one most likely to be used by the Golden Knights when they open the 2020-21 season.

Option 1
McNabb-Pietrangelo
Martinez-Theodore
Holden-Whitecloud

This combination leaves two pairs intact from the playoff run and slots Pietrangelo in with a good fit in McNabb to play first pair minutes. Martinez has shown to be a great option with Theodore and the Holden/Whitecloud pair have held the fort on the third pair. The main question with this grouping would be how much McNabb holds back Pietrangelo’s offense. At times, Schmidt’s offense was neutered a bit playing with McNabb as they found themselves hemmed in the defensive zone against the opposing top line. Pietrangelo is an upgrade over Schmidt which should help that issue, but he wasn’t brought to Vegas to spend a majority of his shifts trying to exit the zone. The Golden Knights want offense from Pietrangelo, and if it’s not coming in bunches with McNabb by his side, they won’t hesitate to switch things around. Probability: 80%

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Pietrangelo Signing Reaction, The Untouchable Reilly Smith, Kicking The Tires On Taylor Hall, Steven Stamkos And The Ripple Effect Of It All

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It was the biggest signing of the offseason, changing the landscape of the NHL. When Alex Pietrangelo signed his seven-year deal with the Golden Knights the league wildly reacted to the deal and its effect on the franchise.

They don’t lack for boldness. The end of the road map for them, like every team is the Cup. Their path seems to be a lot more direct. I don’t know if it’s going to work. They’re dancing on a wire… The Stastny thing I guess opens the door for Cody Glass. If you take Stastny and Schmidt out of the lineup and just put in Pietrangelo, I don’t know how much better they are. I think Pietrangelo is really good, but you’re taking on two pretty important players. I really don’t know what to think of it.-Ray Ferraro, TSN on TSN1050

Another pundit, however, understood the mindset of the Golden Knights front office aggressive nature.

They’re a no nonsense franchise. They’re all about winning. That’s what Mr. Foley their owner is about. They make no bones about it. George McPhee is all about that. Kelly McCrimmon’s about that… They hate San Jose. They don’t dislike San Jose, they hate San Jose. When Pete DeBoer got fired by San Jose, the team they hated the most and probably the coach they hated the most they hired him because they thought he gave them the best chance to win. They’re about winning they don’t worry about all the other stuff, the window dressing. It’s not everybody gets a trophy in this league. They’re a hard edge organization.-Pierre McGuire, NBCSN to TSN1200

By this point Golden Knights fans are aware of the front office’s hard edge, win at all costs mentality. The massive commitment to Pietrangelo proved that, as well as the difficult decisions to trade Nate Schmidt and Paul Stastny.

I heard the deal in Vegas was going to be 7x$8.5M. It came out 7x$8.8M. It’s got the no move protection. I’ve been told it has the protection that Pietrangelo wanted. The buyout protection later in the deal it’s there, in the form of a signing bonus. I heard it was a grind… I do think there were some other teams that wanted to get in on Pietrangelo but I don’t think Vegas was going to let that happen. No matter how grindy the negotiations got, he was their target, he was the guy they wanted. I think Vegas was always Pietrangelo’s first choice.-Elliotte Friedman, 31 Thoughts Podcast

Friedman relayed some of the information he gathered surrounding Pietrangelo and gave detail to why certain players in the organization were irate hearing their names circling around the rumor mill.

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A Case For And Against Trading Each Of VGK’s Top-Six Forwards And Top-Four Defensemen

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights are likely headed for an offseason of change. It might be just a little if they can solve the goalie situation without breaking the bank or it might be a lot if they land the big fish in free agency. Either way, the possibility of moving one of Vegas’ top-six forwards and/or top-four defensemen is much higher this offseason than it was last summer.

Here’s a case for why they should trade each one of them, followed by a case against it. (Alex Tuch is substituted for Mark Stone due to Stone’s full no-movement clause.)

Max Pacioretty
$7 million (3 seasons remaining)

Case for: You want cap relief, here it is. Shedding Pacioretty’s $7 million would basically allow for a one-for-one move to make the big-ticket free-agent splash. Pacioretty may not return nearly as much as you’d probably like after the dismal end to the playoffs, but he has a history of scoring and former captains aren’t easy to find. He’s likely on the declining side of his peak and his injury issues are concerning. If someone is willing to buck up a 2nd round pick and eat the entire $21 million in cap space over the next three years, Vegas absolutely has to listen.

Case against: The biggest problem the Golden Knights had in 2019-20, and especially in the playoffs, was scoring and the solution is to trade the team’s leading scorer? What world are we living in here? The guy is coming off a 32 goal pandemic shortened season and was clearly banged up during the playoffs. When he’s healthy, he’s the best scorer Vegas has. He’s also worked incredibly well with VGK’s most important forward, Mark Stone. I’ll repeat what I said before, if scoring is the issue, you do not trade your leading scorer.

Jonathan Marchessault
$5 million (4 seasons remaining)

Case for: The case for trading Marchessault must start with his play in the postseason. He’s not the best defensive player in the world, he’s been known to take a penalty or two that he shouldn’t, and he isn’t exactly the physical specimen you look for in a hockey player, but all of that is overlooked because he can do the hardest thing to do in hockey, score. When he doesn’t, he has to be considered when thinking about change. The cap number would help free up some space for Vegas to make the splash they are hoping for in free agency and his production under DeBoer hasn’t matched what it was under Gallant which causes concern for the future. Plus, he’s played a lot less under DeBoer showing a lack of trust that Gallant had. This postseason Marchessault averaged 16:33 per game, in 2018 he averaged 19:25. The return would likely be worthwhile which could help in making something else happen down the line.

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Playoff Alec Martinez As Advertised In Game 1

When the Golden Knights acquired Alec Martinez, the first line of every article about him included his postseason successes. Prior to arriving in Vegas, he’d won two Stanley Cups, played in 64 playoff games over six different seasons, and scored game-winning goals to clinch both the 2014 Western Conference Finals and the Stanley Cup Final.

It’s always been about the playoffs with Martinez, and just one game into the actual playoffs as a Golden Knight, it’s already evident why.

Martinez logged 20:58 of ice time, the most of any Golden Knight, and was on the ice for three Vegas goals without conceding any. He added one assist, had two hits, was responsible for two scoring chances, and had four shot attempts. His main contribution, as advertised though, was his shot-blocking.

I thought (Alec) was great. Particularly some big blocked shots on our penalty kill. He’s just so solid. You can put him out in any situation. He’s a versatile guy. He’s been a real good addition for our group. -Pete DeBoer

Martinez blocked four shots including one big one on a dangerous chance on the penalty kill.

Of the team leading 20:58, he played two minutes on the penalty kill, 1:13 on the power play, and had a 173 second shift late in the 2nd period of a one-goal game. Plus, nearly nine minutes of his ice-time came in the 2nd period, when the game was being decided.

Martinez also spent the majority of his night (more than 11 minutes) sharing the ice with the Blackhawks’ most dangerous offensive line of Patrick Kane, Kirby Dach, and Alex DeBrincat. At even-strength, the Golden Knights allowed just five shot attempts, two shots on goal, and zero high-danger scoring chances with Martinez on the ice vs the Hawks 2nd line. He and Theodore posted a 70% Corsi against the high-skilled line and held them to a dismal 0.09 expected goals.

All in all, Game 1 was everything the Golden Knights could have hoped for when they were in the market for a defenseman at the deadline, even if the price was steep.

Other Postseason Teams Not Sounding As Confident As Vegas

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

As we near the end of Phase 3, the Golden Knights confidently continue to prepare for life in the bubble. Coach Pete DeBoer and his players have expressed their goals throughout training camp and sound as if they are already in postseason mode.

We’re not going there for vacation. We’re going there for work and a goal in mind to win the Stanley Cup. –Alec Martinez, SiriusXM NHL

The message is clear from this organization that while their surroundings will be unique, nothing has altered their objective. The chatter from the Golden Knights since training camp has been focused and positive, more so than other clubs. And it starts with the head coach.

Even if we had a first-round opponent, through this portion we would be spending 90% of the time on our game anyway. I’m a big believer that if our game is in a good place that we throw that out there and let the other team adjust to us. –Pete DeBoer, NHL Network

While the local team feels good about their playoff chances other franchises are still trailing in preparation. The clock is ticking for some to get their act together before traveling to their hub city destination.

The Blue Jackets have a qualifying round matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs, however, neither seem to be feeling as confident as Vegas. As most fans already know, Tortorella never holds back and he isn’t now. Maybe it’s motivation or maybe he’s legitimately concerned that his players aren’t ready for August.

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Golden Knights Unveil New Power Play Setup

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Pete DeBoer has had four months to scour over his roster and come up with the best combination of players in every situation. The forward lines and defensive pairs mostly match what we had seen in DeBoer’s time behind the bench before the pause, but the new power play groups have seen a bit of a shakeup.

Here’s how the Golden Knights ran out their power play units in practice on Friday, an early indication of what they’ll likely use when they get to the bubble in Edmonton.

Unit 1
Stastny-Stone-Pacioretty-Marchessault-Theodore

Unit 2
Karlsson-Smith-Tuch-Martinez-Schmidt

The first unit is absolutely loaded, which leads to a key question; are these equal time units, or is the first unit going to get closer to 90 seconds of the two minutes?

Stastny at center gives a good chance to win the faceoff, then he goes to the front of the net where he’s a terrific decision-maker. Marchesseault is stationed in the high-slot where he’s deadly when he gets the puck with a bit of time. Stone and Pacioretty present two excellent scoring options in the circles and both have shown tremendous vision to move the puck. And Theodore manning the blue line and driving the entries is VGK’s best PP QB.

There’s really nothing wrong with that unit at all, in fact, it might be the best collection of players the Golden Knights have ever had on the ice at the same time. The question is what it leaves the other unit.

DeBoer is abandoning the single defenseman setup on the second unit that he’s deploying on the first and has used most of his time in Vegas. The problem, in this case, is that neither defensemen is particularly proficient on the power play. Schmidt has just 26 power play points in his career and Martinez has only reached 15 in a season once. Both are good on at the blue line and each has the ability to laser a shot from distance, but as calling them elite weapons on the power play is a bit of a stretch.

That leaves much of the load to be shouldered by the three forwards.

 PointsPower Play PointsPower Play Points %
Max Pacioretty661929%
Mark Stone631727%
Shea Theodore461635%
Jonathan Marchessault471226%
Paul Stastny381026%
William Karlsson46817%
Alex Tuch17741%
Nate Schmidt31723%
Reilly Smith5459%
Alec Martinez13430%

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Trade Deadline Boost

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

For the third time in three seasons the Golden Knights made upgrades to their team. For the third straight year, the team went on to have immediate success with their new additions. The common message you get among the players are deadline deals can give a club a boost down the stretch.

It means the guys upstairs believe in us. When they add more strength to really go for it and see us as a real contender. That’s the way I see it. We’re going for it.-William Karlsson

Since last Monday’s trade deadline, the Golden Knights are 2-0-0, and have gotten contributions from all three acquisitions. So the question is, how much of a boost has the organization gotten historically after each deadline?

Post Deadline Success: 2017-18

  • Record: 10-7-3, 23 Points
  • Points%: .575
  • Goals Scored: 56
  • Goals Scored Per Game: 2.8
  • Goals Allowed: 58
  • Goals Allowed Per Game: 2.9
  • Points from New Players: 8 (4 Goals, 4 Assists)
  • Record vs Playoff Teams: 6-4-3

In 2017-18, the Golden Knights struggled right after the deadline, however they had won five of the six games before the deadline. Ryan Reaves had trouble fitting in immediately, but was possibly trying to do too much to fit in with his new teammates. Tomas Tatar pitched in with three goals down the stretch. Overall, the team was trending up heading into the postseason.

Post Deadline Success: 2018-19

  • Record 10-6-2, 22 Points
  • Points%: .611
  • Goals Scored: 64
  • Goals Scored Per Game: 3.5
  • Goals Allowed: 49
  • Goals Allowed Per Game: 2.7
  • Points from New Players: 11 (5 Goals, 6 Assists)
  • Record vs Playoff Teams: 5-4

Things were a bit different in season two. Vegas came out roaring after their deadline deal for Mark Stone. The former Senator added immediate offense and gave the team that two-way, high-level forward they needed. However, the team seemed to coast into the playoffs, something The Creator discussed on our SinBin podcast last summer.

Once we got Stone we immediately won 10 of 11, until they decided to take their foot of the gas. We end up with 93 points and we didn’t have home ice. -The Creator, 9/28/19

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Boehlke: Reaction To Trade Deadline Moves

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights have made four moves in the past week adding a forward, a defenseman, and a goalie while subtracting one forward in Cody Eakin.

Let’s start with the big one, the addition of Robin Lehner from Chicago for Malcolm Subban, a 2nd round pick, and prospect Slava Demin. There is no arguing that the Golden Knights got a lot better in this trade going from Subban to Lehner, but this deal comes with a lot of baggage. No, I’m not referring to anything regarding Lehner’s past, he’s proven to have overcome any concerns there and has been incredible in the past two seasons, I’m talking about a goalie controversy.

For three seasons the Golden Knights have had a clear hierarchy between the pipes. It’s Marc-Andre Fleury’s net and whoever is healthy fills in behind him. Now, things have changed. There’s a legitimate argument that Lehner should be the starter right away. He was better last season, he’s been better this season, he’s younger, and he has far fewer games on his body. But, can you really just cast aside the undisputed leader of the franchise heading into the team’s third playoff run, and can you do it this late in the season successfully?

It’s going to be a tough balance, and one that is only going to get tougher as the games grow in importance. Pete DeBoer doesn’t have to choose his starting goalie for Game 1 of the playoffs right now, he has time. But, what if one doesn’t emerge as the clear cut starter? What if they are both great? He’s going to have an incredibly tough choice and one that will have an impact on the locker room. Then, once we get there, how quick is the leash on whoever is in the net?

In theory, these are good problems to have as any coach will tell you that it’s better to have too many good players than not enough. However, we aren’t talking about a 2nd line left-wing or a 2nd pair defenseman, we’re talking about the most important position in the game. Also, these aren’t no-name guys, one is the face of the franchise and the other is the big trade deadline acquisition. One has to ride the pine and there will be an emotional backlash that comes with it. It’s a delicate balance and DeBoer and Dave Prior have to get it exactly right.

There is good news though, the Golden Knights are WAY better equipped now in the event they receive poor goaltending. With Fleury and Subban, if Fleury played poorly, or got hurt, the Golden Knights season was likely sunk. It’s not that Subban was terrible, but this team needs high-end goaltending if they want to hoist the Cup and he’s never proven to be able to provide it consistently. At best it was a massive question mark, now it’s anything but. If either Fleury or Lehner struggle, there’s a hell of an option to turn to (basically the opposite of the Sharks situation last year).

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Martinez’s Versatility Allows VGK To Go Unconventional With Their Defensive Alignment

We don’t have a VGK Martinez picture yet. Please accept our sincerest apologies for this one where he’s wearing a hideous outfit. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights lineup on Thursday, Alec Martinez’s first game, included six defensemen that all shoot with the same hand. Nate Schmidt, Brayden McNabb, Shea Theodore, Nick Holden, Jon Merrill, and Martinez all shoot with their left hand.

In the NHL this season, of the 294 defensemen to make an appearance, 175 of them, or 60%, shoot left-handed. So, it’s not abnormal that Vegas has a bevy of them, but icing an entire lineup lacking a single right-hand shot defenseman is far from common.

The Golden Knights have used a roster with all lefties four different times this season. I looked as hard as I could, and I can’t find a single other team that has done it once this year. (Because I know you’re wondering, they were a winless 0-3-0 before Thursday)

This season, the Golden Knights have only used two defensemen that shoot with their right-hand; Deryk Engelland and Zach Whitecloud. They’ve played a combined 56 games. The next closest team with the fewest number games by right-handed defenseman is Arizona with 93. Every other team has over 100 with many over 200.

The reason the Golden Knights have been able to get away with it is because of how many players they have that are comfortable playing on both sides. Since joining the Golden Knights, Schmidt, Theodore, and Holden have all seen significant time playing both sides and Martinez may have more experience doing it than all three combined.

He’s a left-shot, from what I understand he’s very comfortable on the right and he’s very good on the right. That versatility’s nice. Having a guy, even though he’s not a right-shot that’s very comfortable on the right is important. -DeBoer

The Golden Knights wasted no time putting that skill to use. In Martinez’s first game, he was paired with Jon Merrill with Martinez playing the right. Not even a period deep, he scored a goal playing the left partnered with Shea Theodore. Later in the game, he killed penalties on the right with both Schmidt and McNabb, and as a power-play expired he played a full shift on the left of Holden.

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