The last time the Golden Knights won at home was 17 days ago. The last time they’ve won two in a row at home was 211 days ago when they won Games 3 and 4 of the series against the Sharks.
Over the course of the first season and a half for the Golden Knights, no matter what else was going on, they could always rely on their ability to win at home. They went an unbelievable 29-10-2 at T-Mobile Arena in 2017-18 and backed it up by starting 16-4-3 at home to start 2018-19. But since, it’s been a bit of a struggle.
They finished last year at 10-6-2 before dropping a crucial Game 6 at home leading to a first-round exit. This year they’ve actually lost more games inside of T-Mobile Arena than they’ve won, posting a 4-3-2 record.
If you dig into the stats, you’ll see they’ve been scoring fewer goals, shooting much less, and for the most part not controlling the flow of the game even close to as often as they used to.
I don’t think it’s anything with personal or the style of play or anything like that. I just honestly think it’s a mentality thing. We’ve got to play a little bit harder, little bit chippier. We’ve got to really want to dominate teams. I think we are going out to just try and win, we want to go out and try to dominate. It makes winning that much easier and I think it makes everyone around us better. -Alex Tuch
Tuch has been watching from the sidelines for all but four periods this season, and he’s seeing exactly what most everyone else is seeing. While he was speaking about the team in general, in my opinion, his comments translate to the team’s play at home even more than on the road.
Heading into Thursday’s Halloween game against the Montreal Canadians, it appears the Golden Knights will be at full strength for the first time all season. Nate Schmidt, Alex Tuch, and Malcolm Subban are all back. Deryk Engelland’s “minor tweak” shouldn’t keep him out of the lineup, and despite being sent to the AHL yesterday, Nic Hague, Jake Bischoff, and Nic Roy are all available to the Golden Knights.
A full-strength roster means a full-strength lineup. But, what that looks like is in the eye of the beholder. The perfect lineup to me is not the perfect lineup to you is not the perfect lineup to Gerard Gallant.
So, we figured the best thing to do to illustrate the possible differences would be to ask members of the media to submit their lineup if they were the head coach. Each of the three writers for SinBin.vegas, plus Justin Emerson from the Las Vegas Sun, Ryan Wallis from Fox Sports Radio, and Jesse Granger from The Athletic each sent in their “perfect lineup” with a little explanation as to why they like it that way.
Explanation: First things first, Cody Glass needs to be playing center, so I put him there. Then, that left me with the option of playing Eakin as 4th line center or as a winger. We’ve never seen him as a wing and he’s a terrifically responsible defensive center that would fit well on the 4th line. So, now it’s Reaves, Pirri, or Roy? I liked what I saw from Roy, but it was as a center and for a single game. So, I’ll stick with what we know, and go with Reaves. The final option is who to play on the left wing on the 3rd and 4th lines. The options are Carrier or Nosek. Carrier has flashed when given the chance to show some offense, and with the Golden Knights, he’s never gotten a chance to play with skilled forwards. Nosek has, and he’s been just okay. So, let’s go with Carrier and see what happens.
As for the D, there wasn’t much to choose from. With Schmidt back, he clearly should be with McNabb to make the best pair possible and have them eat up the toughest minutes. Holden and Merrill have been perfectly suitable with each other so I’ll leave that. Which brings us to the only decision, Engelland or a rookie. I like Theodore on the right because it accentuates his offensive talents. Thus, I’m willing to roll the dice and try Hague with Theodore and see if they can hold their own in their own end. PK duties are fine with 88, 22, 15, and 3 with Engelland out of the lineup.
Explanation: I’d like to see what Glass could do as a playmaking center, particularly with a winger like Tuch. I also think as a lefty, Eakin would be better suited to the left wing than either righty on his line. On the fourth line, Nosek has proven to be a terrific defender that can win faceoffs, while Carrier and Roy’s speed can generate offense while still laying the hits that the Golden Knights value. McNabb and Theodore have been strong matching with other team’s top lines, while Merrill and Schmidt could help them against teams with a strong top-six. Holden has been playing well enough to keep in the lineup, while I haven’t seen enough out of Hague or Bischoff to think that right now they are better than the six veteran defensemen that Vegas has.
The Golden Knights power play was much maligned last year. They finished the season 25th in the NHL, converting on just 16.8% of their chances.
To make matters worse, it didn’t improve with the addition of one of the most dangerous power play weapons in team history, Mark Stone. After the deadline, Vegas hit on just 7 of 45 power-play opportunities or 15.6%. They picked it up dramatically in the postseason, running at a 27.5% clip, but it was all against the same team, and it fell off a cliff in Games 6 and 7 when they went 0 for 5 and gave up a shorthanded game-winner.
This year, the Golden Knights have connected on 6 of their 20, 30%, which has them in 6th place in the NHL through 6 games.
Last game in Los Angeles, the power play looked unstoppable, going 3 for 3 and creating opportunities consistently. I set out to figure out what, if any, differences there were on the power play between now and last year (especially in the playoffs when the personnel was most similar).
The first thing to focus on is the entry. Vegas consistently uses a drop pass which leads to a puck carrier with speed brinign the puck through the neutral zone. He then brings it in himself or drops it off to one of the two wingers standings at the blue line. The Golden Knights strayed from this entry for a bit in the playoffs, but returned to it by the end of the series. So, for the most part, that’s completely unchanged.
The units are not far off from what they were against the Sharks in the postseason. The better unit includes Max Pacioretty, Mark Stone, Paul Stastny, Shea Theodore. The other unit includes Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith, and William Karlsson. The difference that Cody Glass in now in for Alex Tuch on the first unit, and Nic Hague and Valentin Zykov are in for Colin Miller and Cody Eakin on the second.
What this has done has created a small difference in the default layout the Golden Knights use once they enter the zone and are completely set up. It’s literally the only difference I can find, but there does seem to be a contrast in how the units operate due to the change.
To illustrate it, we head to the grease board!
Power Play setup last year with Tuch
Power Play setup this year with Glass
As you can see, the only difference is where Glass and Tuch play. Tuch is set up directly in front of the net with the idea of screening the goalie and picking up rebounds, while Glass is under the goal line as an extra passing option.
The main difference is the options that are presented for the two guys in the circles when they have the puck (Pacioretty and Stone).
We are just 21 days away from Opening Night at T-Mobile Arena. Which means, the William Hill mobile sports app is stocked with Golden Knights related bets and props.
Whether you gamble or not, prop bets always give us a rough idea of expectations heading into a new season. This year, William Hill has listed 11 prop bets including eight-player specific bets. Here are my picks on each and every one of them. (Last year I went 6-3.)
Regular Season Points O/U 101.5
The Golden Knights had 109 in Year 1 and 93 in Year 2, this year’s total is smack dab in between the two. The biggest question of whether they’ll get there or not will be health. If the Golden Knights are relatively healthy through a majority of the season, they’ll reach 102 without any issue. But, if they lose one of the centers, Stone, Schmidt, or Fleury, they could see some rough stretches that keep them from the century mark. Think back to last season, the first 20 games, the poo stretch before the trade deadline, the way they limped to the end, a lot went wrong, and they still got to 93. I have to believe this year will be at least a bit smoother.
Pick: OVER 101.5
October Points O/U 17.5
With the season starting on the 2nd, the October schedule is pretty packed. The Golden Knights play 14 games with eight of them being at home. It’s also a nicely laid out schedule with minimal travel and just one back-to-back. In fact, I listed the last two weeks of October as one of the softest stretches in the entire season schedule. The first two games are going to go a long way to determining whether or not they reach this number, but I don’t expect them to lose both which means they’ll need 16 points in 12 games. The opponents aren’t exactly easy as a whole, but the Golden Knights should come out motivated and that will lead them to a solid 18+ point month.
Cody Glass just wants to play. He’s told us for three straight summers now, his goal is to play in the NHL. ASAP.
The question is, where would he play?
It’s the NHL, I’ll play anywhere. I’ll play defense if I have to. -Glass
Earlier this summer, Glass said he’s grown, and he’s ready to make the leap from juniors/minors to the NHL. However, in his third NHL training camp, his age, size, nor maturity will decide his path. It will be up to the Golden Knights management to choose between an established NHL body and giving their young center a chance to flourish.
But again, where will he play?
To be anywhere on the Vegas roster it would be unbelievable. You need to find that role and you need to play it. So, if they want me to be a checking forward, I’ll do my best to be a checking forward. -Glass
You have to love Glass’ eagerness to make the club, but let’s be serious, Vegas didn’t draft a center sixth overall to be a checking forward. That role is best filled by guys like Tomas Nosek, or William Carrier. The Golden Knights have higher expectations for a two-way, top ten drafted center.
Last season, Golden Knights forward Ryan Reaves fought four times and was voted the victor in each by the fans. Three regular season scraps and one postseason go-around with Evander Kane was a light schedule for Reaves, who normally averages seven fights per year.
Evander Kane vs Ryan Reaves from the San Jose Sharks at Vegas Golden Knights game on Apr 14, 2019 https://t.co/u4kdnF1ev0
“I don’t think we’re ever going to boomerang back. I think we’re going to see decline, after decline, after decline, to the point now that we have new historic lows across the board in hockey fighting.”- Greg Wyshynski, ESPN NHL Reporter
Player safety has been a big reason for the drop off but it’s also becoming difficult to carry fists in a salary cap world. Love him or hate him, Reaves is unique. He has stood the test of time and is preparing for his tenth NHL season.
He’s arguably the toughest guy in the league, but the fact he can play the game and contribute that’s what makes him valuable. That’s where the game is nowadays. There were a lot of players that were pushed out, he was not one of them. Rightfully so. He can contribute to the game and not just for what we’re known for doing. -Shawn Thornton, Former NHL Player
Thornton spoke with me in late February, after the Golden Knights hosted the Florida Panthers. Overall, the retired NHL heavyweight was glad to see the decline in fighting.
In my opinion, intimidation is a part of life. When you’re in an arena that’s two hundred by eighty-five with no out of bounds, it’s amplified. I think there will always be a space in hockey. Sometimes it’s a pressure cooker and a fight will be the thing that pops the top off… but there’s no more room in the league for a one-dimensional guy, and I’m actually very okay with that. -Thornton
That’s just about the only thing anyone wants to talk about regarding the Golden Knights. However, the key to the 3rd line isn’t Nikita Gusev, it’s actually Alex Tuch.
Tuch found himself on the 2nd line for a majority of the year last year, but in the first year, he played mostly on the 3rd line with Cody Eakin. That appears to be where he’ll end up again, and whether it’s with Gusev, Brandon Pirri, or someone else, Tuch’s offense should be enough to make that a solid line.
Alex Tuch – 2017-18 78 Games Played 37 Points (15 goals, 22 assists) Record w/ Tuch in lineup: 48-23-7 Record when Tuch scores a goal: 12-2-0 Record when Tuch registers a point: 23-7-0 29 Points (13 goals, 16 assists) in 48 VGK wins 8 Points, -12 in 23 VGK losses 4 Game-Winning Goals
Alex Tuch – 2018-19 74 Games Played 52 Points (20 goals, 32 assists) Record w/ Tuch in lineup: 39-28-7 Record when Tuch scores a goal: 14-5-0 Record when Tuch registers a point: 26-10-2 38 Points (13 goals, 16 assists) in 39 VGK wins 12 Points, -14 in 28 VGK losses 6 Game-Winning Goals
Over his two seasons with Vegas, the 23-year-old has averaged .59 points per game, which jumped significantly to .70 points per game in 2018-19. There’s no reason to believe it won’t increase again. If Tuch can climb close to a point per game than the third line won’t be an issue in 2019-2020 no matter who he plays with.
The Golden Knights weren’t able to repeat as Western Conference Champions (#NotAMajor), but they were able to successfully defend another title in year 2018-19.
For the second straight year, the Golden Knights sold the most jerseys in the NHL according to CMO Brian Killingsworth.
In Year 1, it was almost a foregone conclusion that the expansion team would top the list as literally every fan had to buy a new jersey. But to keep it up in Year 2 is quite the achievement.
The Golden Knights also topped the NHL in sales per cap (measured by fans/attendance) at in-arena team stores. And, Killingsworth confirmed during the 2018 playoff run people from over 110 countries bought Golden Knights apparel.
Marc-Andre Fleury finished atop the list of Golden Knights players for most jerseys sold and ranked 3rd behind Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby.
The top five Golden Knights jerseys sold were:
Killingsworth noted that Mark Stone made a strong push towards the top five in the few months following the trade deadline but didn’t quite crack the top five.
All in all, another year of dominance in the apparel market for the Golden Knights. It will be challenging to repeat as champs again in Years 3 and 4, and even tougher in Year 5 with the Seattle expansion franchise coming in, but if any city can do it, it’s Vegas.
This season Alex Tuch has played in 72 of the Golden Knights 80 games putting up career-high numbers across the board. 20 goals, 32 assists, a +13 rating, and just 8 penalty minutes over the course of the whole season. He was the team leader in points for a long stretch of the middle of the season and currently leads the team in game-winning goals with six.
Tuch has done all of it in while playing right wing. However, he hasn’t played right wing all season. On five separate occasions, Tuch has been utilized as a left wing, three of those coming within the last five games.
In those five games, Tuch has a total of zero goals, zero assists, a +0 rating, and zero penalty minutes. His TOI is down from his season average of 16:46 to 16:02, and in two of the five he played less than 15 minutes.
That being said, he’s been credited by NaturalStatTrick for creating 15 scoring chances individually (up from his season average). He’s taken 15 shots, or three per game (up from his season average), and he’s put up an impressive 65.1% Corsi (up from his season average).
The Golden Knights have conceded just one goal against with Tuch on the ice in the five games (.20 per game) he played on the left while they’ve allowed 46 in the other 67 games (.69 per game).
Vegas has also dominated in high danger chances for and against with Tuch on the left wing, creating 21 while allowing only six. That’s good for a 77.8%, Tuch’s season average is 60.0%.
Moving forward, it appears Tuch will have a home on the right wing with Cody Eakin and one of Brandon Pirri, Tomas Nosek, or Ryan Carpenter. Vegas will rely upon at least some scoring from that line, and Tuch will have to be a big part of that.
Whether he’s on the right or the left wing, the Golden Knights need him in the playoffs. I’d recommend they play him on the right, because results are always better than analytics.
The 22-year-old from upstate New York was playing on the second line with Paul Stastny and Max Pacioretty. Since the trade, Tuch is now skating on Vegas’ third line with Cody Eakin and either Tomas Nosek, Brandon Pirri or Ryan Carpenter.
He has gone about his business, working harder in the defensive end of the ice, fitting in with his new linemates, finishing his checks and forechecking hard.
The second-year right wing has 49 points. He has already surpassed last year’s totals of 15 goals and 22 assists with 19 goals and 30 assists after scoring the final goal in a 6-3 win Sunday over Edmonton at T-Mobile Arena.
It hasn’t really been an adjustment. I’m supposed to go in there and not change my game. I might be in a different place at a different time, but you can’t change your style. I don’t think it matters who I’m out there with. My job is to use my speed, get shots and make plays. -Tuch
All of this bodes well for the upcoming playoffs, a brand of hockey that seems well-suited for Tuch’s game and skill set. There are 10 games left to the regular season. Whether or not Tuch wins the team scoring race should be secondary to the fact his game is really good at the moment and he can be expected to carry his solid play into the postseason.