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2022 Has Been Challenging In Many Ways For The Golden Knights

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It hasn’t been easy for the Golden Knights in 2022. Overall, Vegas has lost 14 games this calendar year and collected only 24 out of a possible 48 points. It gets even worse. Since January 1st, the Golden Knights have scored the second least number of goals in the entire league. Adding to insult, Vegas has a meager .375 winning percentage in one-goal games since January.

It’s been a challenge considering the injuries Vegas has faced but like Sunday against the Senators, the Golden Knights just need to find ways to win. So how bad has 2022 been for Vegas? Well, let’s examine the numbers.

Goals Scored In 2022

  1. Florida 119
  2. Colorado 113
  3. Toronto 113
    ** 31. Vegas 61

Goals Scored Per Game In 2022

  1. Florida 4.58
  2. Toronto 4.19
  3. Calgary 3.85
    ** 28. Vegas 2.54

It’s no secret the Golden Knights have been struggling to score. Against a below-average Philadelphia team, Vegas’ offense stunk up the joint only creating one goal on 48 shots. You can give credit to hot goaltenders or look in the mirror and accept how poorly the club shoots the puck. Fourteen games this season the Golden Knights have shot 40 or more times on net. After Tuesday’s loss, Vegas is 5-8-1 when they shoot 40+.

Highest Shooting Percentage In 2022

  1. St. Louis 12.7%
  2. Tampa Bay 12.4%
  3. Florida 12.2%
    ** 32. Vegas 7.4%

The game against the Flyers was the 11th time the Golden Knights scored 2 goals or fewer goals since the turn of the calendar year. After four postseason exits, fans are well aware scoring two goals in the playoffs won’t cut it.

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Analyzing Usage Changes With Jack Eichel In VGK’s Lineup

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As expected, the moment Jack Eichel stepped into the Golden Knights lineup, certain things would change.

The most obvious was his role as top-line center which left Chandler Stephenson in need of a new position. At first, that was on Eichel’s left wing, but the last two games it’s been as 3C.

The next spot was on the power play. Eichel stepped right in on the half-wall to the goalie’s right on Vegas’ #1 unit. He’s played with a few different groups of players, and it appears they have found the right mix after Eichel’s game-winning snipe with 5.2 seconds left on the clock last night.

But one spot that may go under-recognized is the shift in usage that Eichel’s introduction to the lineup has caused. In his nine games as a Golden Knight, Eichel has seen just 30.3% of his shifts begin in the defensive zone. He’s taken 29 of his 115 faceoffs in the defensive zone, which has led to an increase in defensive responsibility for others.

The main group of “others” who have been shouldering that load has been The Misfits, William Karlsson, Reilly Smith, and Jonathan Marchessault.

Karlsson leads the team with 65 defensive zone draws taken since the Colorado game on February 16th, Eichel’s first. In fact, no one else is even close to Karlsson as Eichel, Stephenson, and Nic Roy, the next three in line, have combined for 81.

Prior to Eichel’s arrival, Karlsson, Marchessault, and Smith each started about 54% of their shifts in the offensive zone. With it, they each posted a Corsi right around 55%. In the nine games with Eichel, The Misfits are all under 45% offensive zone starts (Karlsson’s is 43%), with their Corsi numbers staying about the same as a group.

Simply put, they’ve been asked to take on the brunt of the defensive work and they’ve still been able to thrive offensively, especially in the second game against Colorado, the two against San Jose and one in Anaheim.

It’s also heavily affected Alex Pietrangelo’s usage. Instead of spending most of his time playing with the top-six as he did prior to Eichel’s arrival, he’s seeing more time with the depth group. To this point, it has had a pretty significant effect on his production as he’s been on the ice for just five goals in the previous nine games, which equates to 1.85 per 60 minutes. In the 46 games before Eichel, Pietrangelo was on the ice for 2.69 goals per 60 minutes, nearly a full goal more.

Eichel and Pietrangelo have shared the ice for 47:43 in the nine games they’ve played together and the Golden Knights have yet to score or be scored against with the pair out there. In Eichel’s 83:48 without Pietrangelo though, he’s been on the ice for six goals for and just two against.

In the time they’ve played together, they’ve taken 24 offensive zone draws compared to just 11 defensive, yet they have been outshot significantly (23-15), have allowed eight high-danger chances while creating just three, and have a 41% expected goals share. All of these numbers are better for both Eichel and Pietrangelo when they’ve been away from each other.

Obviously, it’s only been nine games, so the sample sizes are limited across the board. But the early returns have shown that Pete DeBoer has taken an approach of lessening Eichel’s defensive responsibilities early on in exchange for upping the pressure in different areas on Karlsson, Marchessault, Smith, and Pietrangelo.

It’s worked for some, it hasn’t for others.

NHL Exec Details Skills Competition Plans, Including Scrapped Plan Involving Shooting Pucks Off The Strat

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By now you’ve probably seen the plans for the unique, Vegas-centric NHL All-Star events set on the Strip. The two additional skills competitions will take place outdoors, on a locked-down Las Vegas Boulevard, and will singlehandedly blow away every other All-Star event in history. Steve Mayer, the NHL’s Chief Content Officer joined 32 Thoughts yesterday to break down the events and why Las Vegas is the perfect location to have such a grand event.

We’re going to have two events outside the arena. What we’re doing is creating a rink, what will look like a rink, on the fountain. The faceoff circles, the goal, the middle faceoff circle will be hard surfaces on which the skill will be performed. Imagine that the water of the Bellagio fountain is the ice. So when you look from high above you’re going to think we built a rink in the Bellagio fountains. We’re using the fountain as an element to the game. –Mayer on 32 Thoughts Podcast

When the NHL asked for bright lights, glamor, and innovative entertainment, event planners knew there was only one location. Some ingenuity and a little elbow grease, the City of Las Vegas will make it happen.

We’re going to shut the Strip down. We’re going to take the Strip over and we’re going to do an event which accuracy shooting meets Black Jack. We’re going to roll it out on to the Strip. The players are going to shoot, every time they hit a card that’s their Black Jack hand. Closest to 21 wins. Another really cool big personality event. I think there’s going to be a lot of strategy, a lot of talking a lot of going after each other. –Mayer on 32 Thoughts Podcast

When the league staked claim in Las Vegas five years ago it was clear they were here for several reasons. The NHL’s suits correctly forecasted their product would not only survive but thrive in Southern Nevada. The Golden Knights have been a contender since their first season and the fan experience is better than all 31 other cities. So yeah, the NHL believed hockey would achieve success in Las Vegas. Also, it is a great place to throw league parties.

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McPhee Stresses Defense With Former NHL Defenseman He Drafted

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Late in overtime Golden Knights’ defenseman Alex Pietrangelo made an unfortunate turnover costing them an extra point in Carolina. The miscue stung but in reality, earning one point in a game that seemingly looked over was a nice parting gift. Unfortunately, players don’t see it that way. Especially, the players that make game-ending gaffes.

If it weren’t for Pietrangelo’s work in regulation it’s possible Vegas never even forces overtime. And for that, coaches, teammates, and some fans tend to cut heavily used defensemen some slack. Last night was a good example of that. It was Pietrangelo’s team-leading 29th shift of the game when his soft pass was scooped up by Andrei Svechnikov.

If you’ve got a good defense then you can be in every game. –George McPhee on Alz Caps podcast

McPhee joined one of his former draft picks, 12-year NHL veteran Karl Alzner on his podcast to talk some puck and the importance of reliable defensemen.

**The whole interview can be found here. It’s an excellent listen for any VGK fan.**

It’s clear the Golden Knights organization values top-tier defensemen. Acquiring Shea Theodore around the expansion draft, making an in-season trade for Alec Martinez, and inking Alex Pietrangelo to a loaded seven-year commitment should be enough evidence.

You’ve seen it with the Caps and you can see it with our team and other teams that have a lot of injuries this year. You can lose some forwards and hang in there. You start losing defenseman and you’re in trouble. –McPhee on Alz Caps podcast

For reference, McPhee’s first two picks in Washington were defenseman. Overall, while managing the Capitals McPhee selected 38 defensemen and nine of them in the first round. Including, choosing Alzner fifth overall in 2007. Clearly, it’s a position McPhee heavily values.

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Vegas’ PP Shows Success Against Conference Contenders

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In training camp, Vegas coach Pete DeBoer expressed patience and urged fans and media to wait until after the season ended to evaluate his team’s success on the power play.

If we go 4-for-4, I’m not going to tell you it’s fixed. And if we go 0-for-4, I don’t want you to say it’s never going to be fixed. Evaluate this at the end of the year. -Pete DeBoer on 10/10/21

Fair enough coach, but we can’t wait that long. We need something to overanalyze for another month or so, you know when Jack Eichel’s name is written in the lineup. So, let’s ignore DeBoer’s wishes for now and examine how the power play has performed against the Western Conference’s top teams.

It’s well known how shaky it can get for Vegas’ power play. The Golden Knights have gone on multiple game runs with PP success but then quickly it can switch back to hibernation mode. Eichel will undoubtedly help that. Statistically, you could argue that the Golden Knights PP has largely improved from the early stages of the season. In the first 25 games of the season, Vegas only converted 11 power play goals. Since then they’ve added 13 more, and had a nine out of an eleven game stretch of scoring one or more PPGs.

We’re making mistakes but pucks are going in to. -DeBoer on 12/10/21

As the coach eluded, Vegas’ power play isn’t quite fixed but it’s scoring and should only improve when certain players arrive/return. With that in mind, it’s truly unfair to use only this season’s numbers. So let’s combine the 2021-22 season with last year’s 56-game shortened schedule.

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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

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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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