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Why The Golden Knights Have Had So Much Success With Their Net Empty

On Sunday afternoon the Golden Knights were in a situation they’ve admittedly found themselves in too often this year. Down a goal late, Pete DeBoer called Laurent Brossoit to the bench with just under two minutes left in an attempt to score the game-tying goal.

For the sixth time this year, the Golden Knights found the back of the net with their goalie on the bench and a sixth skater on the ice. That’s the fourth most of any team in the NHL this year and ties most by a Golden Knights team in a season ever.

In fact, in just 35 games, the Golden Knights have scored more goals with their net empty than they did in the last 100 regular season games.

The question becomes, why?

We’ll start with the coach-speak answer, but one that certainly has quite a bit of validity.

There’s never any panic with our group in those situations, there’s a calmness which you need. If you are running around trying to make something happen you can’t enter with possession. You’ve got to have a calmness to your group to get organized, to get set up, and to know that we’re getting the goalie out early enough that the clock is our friend, and we don’t have to rush or force anything. I think our guys get that concept. -DeBoer

Along with calmness, there’s definitely a sense of belief that shines through. As DeBoer says, panic rarely, if ever, sets in, which allows the Golden Knights to continue stacking up chances until one goes in.

As for the player reasoning, it’s a bit more specific.

We’ve talked about a few things systematically that have worked. From up top we are setting up with good shooting opportunities for me and Theodore and whoever else is at the top with us whether it’s Pacioretty or Marchessault or whoever. And if you look at all the success we’ve had at 6-on-5, it’s because we have guys standing in front of the net. You’ve got two people in front and us shooting up top it’s obviously pretty difficult for the goalie to see it. Also, you want to create those scrums so you can get those second opportunities because you have the extra guy out there. -Pietrangelo

If you look at a still frame from the shot that led to the goal on Sunday, it’s pretty clear what he’s is talking about.

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VGK’s Eastern Conference Invasion

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s been an up and down ride for the Golden Knights in games against Eastern Conference teams. In fact, their record was 4-5-0 against Atlantic and Metropolitan clubs before this road trip began. After their shootout win in New York the traveling Golden Knights have a chance to sweep their annual pre-holiday road trip on Sunday.

In nine periods, Vegas scored 12 total goals and trailed for just a combined 25 minutes. The Golden Knights got off to a fast start in Boston, essentially sealing their victory after the first 20 minutes. Sure, Boston was hampered with several key players out after testing positive for COVID. However, Vegas took advantage of a team in disarray and left the Bay State with two points. There were times Vegas looked disjointed in New Jersey and the final score reflected their messy 5-3 finish. Even coach Pete DeBoer knew the process was ugly but he only cared about the two points his club picked up.

We did just enough to win. We take the two points and move on. I liked our 1st period, hated our 2nd, and we were opportunistic in the 3rd. -Pete DeBoer

Give the Devils credit for making a late push but the Golden Knights got caught trying to close out a road game too early. Eventually, the visiting team came out on top and took care of business. Which is the only goal on non-conference trips. Pick up two, and pack your bags.

It wasn’t clean but it was another character win for the Golden Knights in New York. The Rangers opened the door by laying back which allowed an opening for Dylan Coghlan’s game tying goal. Vegas beat an emotional, highly talented team for their seventh come from behind or late game triumph.

When you step out there you definitely don’t want to lose to them. They chirp on the bench. You got to play them physical and frustrate them in all three zones. -Ryan Reaves, NYR forward

Thankfully for Golden Knights fans Reaves’ new team couldn’t frustrate the Golden Knights enough.

Earlier in the season Vegas struggled with foreign opponents and now they’re on track to beat four of them in their own territories. It’s safe to say the Golden Knights are making a league wide statement on this trip. Not only is Vegas healthier but their determination, force, and urgency are beginning to remind NHL teams why they’re regarded as a deep threat. And they’re an Alec Martinez and Jack Eichel away from a full (sort of) lineup.

Okay, so they’re not the Beatles and they didn’t fly across the pond, but storming the Northeast like Vegas has should qualify as an invasion.

Vegas Is Becoming Alex Pietrangelo’s Team

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Let’s be honest, we all thought the Golden Knights would be a lot worse off than they are today. Thanksgiving has passed and we can all let out a collective sigh knowing that if the season ended today Vegas would be in the playoffs.

The injury bug hit the Golden Knights hard but through coaching, leadership, and responsibility, the Golden Knights are currently in third place in the division.

One player that was an enormous reason why the Golden Knights kept their heads above water is defenseman Alex Pietrangelo. Since Game 52 of last season, Pietrangelo has emerged as Vegas’ most important player. Sure, some deep stats will disagree but frankly, this is a case of mistaken identity. You want a stat? The Golden Knights are 7-2 when Pietrangelo registers a point. A point! Not a goal, but just one point from #7 usually propels the Golden Knights to a victory. That’s just his offensive contributions.

Clearly, coach Pete DeBoer isn’t concerned with what the data says about his most essential player. If the 31-year-old is such a deterrent than why would he be one of the most utilized defenseman in hockey? Pietrangelo is a bonafide workhorse and a fantastic facilitator for DeBoer.

Average Time On Ice: 25:16

  • 1st on VGK, 9th in NHL

Even Strengthened Minutes Per Game: 20:03

  • 2nd on VGK (1st – Theodore 20:17)

PP Minutes Per Game: 2:20

  • 2nd on VGK (1st – Stone 3:05)

Shorthanded Minutes Per Game: 2:50

  • 2nd ok VGK (1st – McNabb 2:57)

Offensive or defensive draw, up a goal or down a goal, up a man or down a man, it doesn’t matter, DeBoer is calling on #7.

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Eight Straight Strong Periods Giving Belief The Systems Are Starting To Sink In

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

After starting 1-4-0 to begin the season, the Golden Knights have ripped off six wins in their last eight. While the wins are crucial as key players remain out of the lineup due to injury, the way the Golden Knights have been playing has been just as important.

For the first time all season, last night Vegas put together a complete effort on both ends of the ice, allowing the fewest Grade A chances of the season while also generating enough in the offensive zone to sneak out four goals and overcome two deficits.

The game against the Kraken is another step in the right direction off what may have been their next best game of the year, ironically a 5-2 loss in Detroit. Vegas defended much better in that game as well but were bit by the penalty bug and an effective Red Wings power play. Before that, the final two periods in Montreal were as strong as we’ve seen from the Golden Knights this season.

We changed a few things in our system this year and that’s going to take time to adjust and I think now we’re starting to see it become second nature for us. You’re starting to see what we want to do throughout games with those systems. -Alex Pietrangelo

Whether fully healthy or not, the Golden Knights will go as far as their defensemen. Vegas’ offense is built through generating chances off the rush, often started or joined by a defenseman, and in-zone play that relies on shots from the point and activations from the blue line to keep plays alive.

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Golden Knights Shining With Own Net Empty

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Throughout the course of this season the Golden Knights have been in survival mode. Whether the reasons have been self-inflicted or not, this version of the Golden Knights hasn’t looked anything like the ones we’ve grown accustomed to watching in the past.

Often times we hear coaches talk about the process over the results. Basically saying that over a long season it’s more important how a team is playing than whether or not they get a win on any given night. This season, the process for the Golden Knights hasn’t been great. They’re allowing far too many chances, the power play is pushing historically bad levels, and they aren’t finishing the opportunities to the same degree they are capable of. The results have been ok, but everyone’s aware they could be much worse.

There is one place where the process has been stellar, if not elite. It’s when the Golden Knights have trailed late in a game and have been forced to remove their goalie to push for the comeback goal.

Vegas has spent 11:40 with their net empty this year which has resulted in just one goal for and three against. Not exactly the results a team is looking for with the goalie pulled, but not terrible. However, the process has been excellent, and there was no better display of it than last night.

Trailing by two, Pete DeBoer opted to pull Laurent Brossoit from the goal with 4:08 left in the final period. At that moment, Vegas had Alex Pietrangelo, Shea Theodore, Nic Roy, Reilly Smith, Chandler Stephenson, and Jonathan Marchessault on the ice.  With the help of a timeout 68 seconds in, all six of those players put in more than three minutes of ice time in the final four, and Pietrangelo and Theodore were on the ice for a three minute and 47 second long shift.

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Golden Knights Must Manage Minutes Amidst Injuries

(Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke, SinBin.vegas)

It’s no secret the Golden Knights are banged up. Heck, I think I’ve started every one of the last 10 stories I’ve written with some version of that statement. But the fact of the matter is whether it’s the play on the ice, the discussions off it, or anything in between, it’s affecting everything surrounding the team right now.

One such place we’re seeing that effect is in playing time. The Golden Knights have played a lot of hockey and traveled three times (one of which had complications) in the past eight days. Pete DeBoer is convinced fatigue is one of the main reasons his team threw away a three goal lead last night.

It’s that time of year, you look around the league and there’s a lot of blown leads. Teams don’t quite have things locked down yet. I think you combine that with five games in eight nights this week and some tired guys. We put some big minutes on guys with some of the injuries and I think we ran out of a little bit of gas and lost some momentum there. -DeBoer

Of the Golden Knights top four minute-getters at forward and defense, six are on pace to set career highs in average time on ice per game.

 This SeasonLast SeasonCareer High
Stephenson19:4818:0618:06 (20-21)
Smith19:0117:5218:37 (15-16)
Karlsson18:5618:4018:52 (19-20)
Marchessault18:2717:2518:09 (18-19)
Pietrangelo26:2324:2626:18 (15-16)
Theodore23:2822:3322:33 (20-21)
Martinez22:3022:3422:52 (17-18)
Hague17:5516:0016:00 (20-21)

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Can The Golden Knights “Find” Three Goals Per Game?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

After Wednesday’s loss to the St. Louis Blues, Vegas coach Pete DeBoer said his team needed to find a way to score three goals per night. Averaging 3+ goals per game almost guarantees an NHL team, and specifically the Golden Knights, a victory or at worse an overtime loss.

In 2020-21, the Golden Knights were 35-2-1 when they scored three or more goals in a game. Also, ten games ended in an overtime period or shootouts capturing at least one point.

So let’s pretend the Golden Knights will be without their weapons for 20 games. It could be more, hopefully less, but the length of time Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone are on the shelf won’t matter for this exercise.

The idea here is to try and add up averages to see if it’s actually possible for this lineup as currently constructed to reach three goals consistently.

Thanks to DeBoer, he solved the first part of the equation for us.

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System Tweak May Change The Style Of Game Golden Knights Are Used To Seeing

(Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke, SinBin.vegas)

If you watched last night’s season opener between the Golden Knights and Seattle Kraken you probably noticed a bit more of a wide-open game than we’ve grown accustomed to seeing in Vegas since Pete DeBoer took over.

At first blush, most of the credit for that would seem to belong to the expansion team, coming in with a highly aggressive style in all three zones, one that both caused them to fall into a 3-0 hole but also climb out of it. But, a tweak to the Golden Knights system may have played as big a role in the look and feel of that game as well.

If there’s one thing the Golden Knights know they must do this season, it’s learn how to generate more offense than they have when the going gets tough in the playoffs. It was going to take some soul searching, some creativity, and a willingness to try something new.

This has been a historically great rush team. We all know rush dries up in the playoffs, everybody is more diligent in their checking. So, how do you create more rush? -Pete DeBoer

The answer the Golden Knights came up with is what Alex Pietrangelo dubbed a “new neutral zone.” It’s a systematic tweak Pete DeBoer and his coaching staff have implemented into the Golden Knights forecheck as the opposing team exits their own zone and makes their way through the neutral zone.

We’ll get into the X’s and O’s of it as the season progresses, but the simple way to describe the difference is in the Golden Knights’ increased willingness to try and jump passing lanes and/or hound the player receiving the first pass.

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2021-22 VGK Opening Day Trivia: Who Am I?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

There’s nothing more exciting than Opening Night. It’s a new season with new players, new rivals, and new objectives. As we prepare for tonight’s matchup against the 32nd franchise let’s have a little fun.

2021-22 Golden Knights Opening Night Trivia: Who Am I?

Surprise, I have the most opening night points in franchise history with 4 (2 Goals, 2 Assists). Who am I?

Click for answer
Mark Stone

 

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to suit up and join the boys tonight but I’ll be cheering loudly. Not sure if you remember, but last season I scored the franchise’s only opening night empty net goal. Who am I?

Click for answer
Alex Tuch

 

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5 Bold And 5 Not-So-Bold Predictions About The 2021-22 Vegas Golden Knights Season

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s finally here… tomorrow.

The preseason is over and the Golden Knights are ready to embark on their fifth NHL season. Expectations are understandably very high both from a team perspective and for a multitude of individuals.

Here are 10 predictions for the upcoming season. We’ll start with the milder five.

The Golden Knights will be the only Pacific Division team to reach 100 points

There are a few other teams in the division who I expect to be a little bit better, but the full 82-game schedule will really show the weakness of the Pacific. The division will struggle mightily against the Eastern Conference and it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see both Western Conference wild cards come from the Central.

Max Pacioretty will lead the team in goals for a third straight year

While I expect a number of Golden Knights to take a step forward in some of their goal-scoring numbers, the 35-40 you can basically slot Pacioretty in for is just too many to expect any other Golden Knight to reach. Maybe Jonathan Marchessault or Evgenii Dadonov can hit 30, or maybe this is an up year for pending UFA Reilly Smith, or maybe even we see the return of William Karlsson’s goal-scoring prowess. But, no matter which one happens, I still can’t see them getting past Pacioretty.

Three Golden Knights will represent Vegas as the city hosts the All Star Game

It’s tough to get three All Stars on the same team, because it basically means only one other team in the division can have multiple players from the same roster. But, the host city has had at least three players each of the last five seasons, and the Golden Knights have enough star power to keep that streak alive.

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