Last week one of the best follows on Twitter, analytics wizard @JFreshHockey, dropped a bunch of “micro-stats” from stat-tracking company InStat.
InStat goes back over games and grades events like turnovers, zone entries, puck battles, and dekes. The Golden Knights were littered throughout the top and bottom 20 lists for a variety of stats, some that were quite surprising.
No surprise here, Mark Stone is awesome. The eye test has proven this out for years, but now we have a solid stat to show that when the puck is on Stone’s stick in the defensive zone, it’s coming out of the zone. Also unsurprisingly, he does it by passing the puck out as opposed to carrying it.
It’s been a tough week for Golden Knights fans. First the organization traded away two fan favorites only to have word come down that Alex Tuch will be out for six months with an injured shoulder. That’s a lot of difficult news in only five business days in the middle of summer.
Sticking with who’s left, filling Tuch’s role for an extended period of time will be difficult for coach Pete DeBoer. The good news is the roster has several options to help create offense, but will it be enough to improve Vegas’ lackluster power play?
(Dadonov) was a player we identified as a priority. We had him ahead of all players that were available in Expansion. That effectively addressed the need of adding one good foward. -Kelly McCrimmon
This week general manager Kelly McCrimmon acquired forward Evgenii Dadonov from Ottawa as another weapon to aid the power play, where he’s found high levels of success. Since his return to the National Hockey League in 2017-18, the 31-year-old Russian has registered 25 power play goals. In that span, he’s tied in PPG with offensive studs like Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin. Even more impressive, Dadonov posted those numbers without scoring on a man-advantage last season with Ottawa.
If you’ve watched every Golden Knights game or just a few over the past four years, you’ve seen the talent level of Alex Tuch. It’s tough to miss. He’s big, fast, and incredibly skilled. Three attributes many NHL players weren’t born with.
After 255 games played with Vegas, it’s hard not to wonder if Tuch’s been used properly. A clear top-six forward on most NHL teams, the 25-year-old has been largely relegated to an inconsistent third line with no identity for four straight seasons. So when will the organization, coach Pete DeBoer, and Tuch himself, decide to make that leap and become a top scoring option for Vegas?
I’ve taken on a role of being able to move up and down the lineup. Honestly, it isn’t my decision whether or not I’m playing on the first two lines or the second two lines. I come here to do a job and that’s to play hockey and to do that to the best of my abilities. Whatever management, coaching staff feel where I should slot in the lineup that’s their decision and I’m never going to complain about that. -Alex Tuch, 06/26/21
I know he’s considered the seventh forward in the top six but it’s fair to argue if Tuch were given more shifts and better linemates he would become Vegas’ most lethal threat. I’m not ignoring Max Pacioretty’s natural ability to net pucks but Tuch is bigger, younger, and possesses a nasty release as well.
Perhaps the Misfit line’s chemistry is too consistent to break up. However, after back-to-back premature playoff exits, it’s possible there will be some roster shuffling. I’m not advocating trading a reliable two-way forward like Reilly Smith to shake things up, but to collect assets, cap relief, and create roster space it might made sense, especially with Tuch waiting in the wings.
Golden Knights captain Mark Stone has been as advertised against the Minnesota Wild. He leads the team in goals, points, average minutes by a forward and has shown his true leadership this postseason. However, it’s still not enough.
In order for the Golden Knights to advance past Minnesota, Stone will need to continue supplying Vegas with offense. With his linemate Max Pacioretty out it adds stress on the 29-year-old captain to come through night in and night out in the playoffs. And unfortunately when Stone can’t produce offense the team doesn’t fare well.
Starting with Stone’s first postseason as a Golden Knight in 2018, the winger has tallied 34 points in 32 playoff games. His average points per game is 1.06, up from 0.77 before the 2021 postseason began. However, the bulk of Stone’s postseason points come in Game’s 1-4. His production drops 50% in the last three contests of a seven-game series.
Stone Postseason Points Per Game w/ VGK
Games 1-4: 20 Games, 24 Points = 1.20 PPG Games 5-7: 9 Games, 5 Points = 0.60 PPG
Vegas’ leader shouldn’t have to take on all of the responsibility but when he doesn’t score in one of the last three games the Golden Knights record is 1-6. That’s a problem.
This trend goes back to the regular season. Vegas heavily relied upon Pacioretty and Stone’s nightly offense to scoop up two points. When the two top liners came up dry, often so did their team. That can’t happen tonight or going forward in the playoffs.
In Game 5, Stone registered a goal in a losing effort. Even when he’s producing a point per game his club has come out on the losing end. Ultimately, most of the pressure falls on Stone to create more offense when Pacioretty is unavailable and Alex Pietrangelo continues to underachieve. Against Minnesota, the captain has made up for the absence of other’s production.
My guess is Stone will be active tonight and hard to keep off the scoresheet.
**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2021 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**
To paraphrase that great military philosopher and mercenary Col. John “Hannibal” Smith, “Don’t you love it when a plan comes together?”
When the Golden Knights managed to wrangle Alex Tuch away from the Minnesota Wild for a third-round conditional draft pick, someone knew something. All the organization needed to do was show some patience.
The Wild had drafted Tuch in the first round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft at No. 18 overall. He appeared in six games with Minnesota and was scoreless. Minnesota, which was hell-bent on protecting defenseman Matt Dumba, basically give Tuch away as the Knights used the Wild’s expansion selection to take Erik Haula.
Today, Tuch is a first-line winger, kills penalties, plays on the power play, and is one of Vegas’ best players. And he’s signed through 2026 at an AAV of $4.75 million. He has earned Peter DeBoer’s trust and best of all, he’s only 24 years old.
George McPhee doesn’t get them all right. But Tuch is making him look pretty damn smart. Ditto for Kelly McCrimmon, Vaughn Karpan and the rest of the team’s pro scouting contingent.
We had input from a lot of people. Minnesota was in a position where they had some stress from a salary cap standpoint and also from the cycle of where their team was at. They had a lot of really good players and we identified Minnesota as a team where we could get a prospect. If you go back to the expansion, we had the first (amateur) draft we drafted were ’99s and late ’98s. We didn’t have access to ’97s,’96s ’95s or ’94s. So there was value in dealing with one of the teams that were strapped to get one of the players from that age group, those exempt players. Alex Tuch was one of those players, born in ’96. Minnesota was in a tough spot. if they did nothing, they would’ve lost a top defenseman of forward. So it made sense for them and it made sense for us. -Kelly McCrimmon
I don’t know who is going to be the GM of the U.S. Olympic Team for next year’s Olympics in China, but if Tuch’s not on the list of invitees, something is definitely wrong. But more on that in a bit.
Let’s focus on the present. The Knights originally were in no rush to play Tuch. If you recall, he started the inaugural 2017-18 season with the Chicago Wolves. But late in October, he and Shea Theodore were recalled to the NHL and neither ever returned to the minors.
No matter how many games an NHL regular season has, no game’s are alike. Sure, the first few games had similarities, Vegas won all three but didn’t look good doing it.
Something had to break.
We were talking before the game that we hadn’t really pitched in too much… It’s kind of convenient that we did tonight, and I thought it definitely helped our overall game. -Shea Theodore
With the exception of the first few minutes, the Golden Knights put together their best attack of the season and were handsomely rewarded from it. Ten players collected points in Vegas’ 5-2 victory against Arizona and not a single one of them were cheap empty-net points either.
All five goals were examples of how dangerous this club can be. Alex Tuch scored Vegas’ first power play goal of the season, Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty paired up once again, and the star defensemen found the net three times.
Over their history, the Golden Knights have scored a total of 877 franchise goals, 738 in the regular season, 139 in the playoffs. In 238 regular season games, Vegas’ average comes out to 3.14 goals scored per game. In all three seasons, Vegas tallied more than the league average, and are ranked 8th in the NHL in goals since their inception.
The big offseason question was can the Golden Knights score enough in year four, and most importantly, in the playoffs?
2017-18: 268 Goals, 3.26 Goals Per Game (Regular Season) 57 Goals, 2.85 Goals Per Game (Playoffs) 2018-19: 246 Goals, 3.00 Goals Per Game (Regular Season) 25 Goals, 3.57 Goals Per Game (Playoffs) 2019-20: 224 goals, 3.15 Goals Per Game (Regular Season) 57 Goals, 2.85 Goals Per Game (Playoffs)
Coming into the Vancouver series, the Golden Knights were on a torrid offensive pace. Three round-robin games and a five-game whooping of the Blackhawks had Vegas scoring at a 3.75 goals per game clip. Then, it hit the skids. In 12 postseason games against Vancouver and Dallas, the #1 seed in the Western Conference averaged only 2.25 goals per game. In the last eight games, they scored just 12 goals or 1.5 per game.
After the season, it was mostly written off publicly by players, coaches, and the office as just a rough patch and a pair of hot goalies The offseason was centered around one major move, though one that should help the team offensively.
One of Alex Tuch’s most noticeable skills is his speed. Arguably one Vegas’ fastest players, Tuch revealed that he wasn’t always quick on his skates. The 24-year-old forward had to develop a more effective way to use his stride to gain advantages on ice.
I wasn’t that fast in Minnesota. I worked with a guy out of Rochester, Francois Methot. We broke down my stride completely. Tore it down, everything was different. If you want to go technical, it was the crossover or the lateral crossover. –Alex Tuch on Spittin Chiclets Podcast
Learning how to improve any element to an NHL players game isn’t shocking, but training to skate faster is something that most players can’t successfully achieve. Tuch was built with high-level talent but clearly felt the need to work on his wheels to secure a spot on an NHL club. Which he’s cemented in Vegas.
I would call them quick starts, like when you start from a stop position. He would show me the angle that I needed to be at, how straight your legs got so you push. We kind of broke it down, and after you get it down it’s all about repetition so he bagged me for two months straight. I completely retrained… I continue to do stuff like that in the summer so I’m trying to get faster. –Tuch on Spittin Chiclets Podcast
Tuch clearly knew he needed to become a faster, more powerful skater in order to be a successful pro, and he fully dedicated his entire offseason to doing so, using the same methods studs like Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel use in their offseason training.
When you have that full extension you try to get the biggest strides possible. By getting those big strides you’re really going faster. I know McDavid has that speed, McKinnon and those guys but if you want to see a guy who has probably the longest, smoothest stride you like at my former teammate Jack Eichel. His stride is insane. –Tuch on Spittin Chiclets Podcast
Even after his hard work paid off in developing new skating techniques, #89 further worked on his stride. To be one of the fastest players in the league, Tuch realized he has to stay vigilant and use the tools he learned from his skating sessions in Rochester, NY.
I wasn’t only doing it on the ice. Whenever I was doing sprints or any off-ice workouts were all about the full extension, were all about that angle of acceleration. I continue to do stuff like that in the summer, so I’m trying to get faster. –Tuch on Spittin Chiclets Podcast
Golden Knights fans see Tuch’s speed and skating ability on full display every game. His long strides cut through traffic with grace and power finding open space to breakout or cut behind the net. What seems like god-given talent, is actually hard work paying off.
If a 1st round talent like Tuch can improve his skating after being drafted then it’s possible the guys in the local men’s league can as well. So, tell Fitzy and Sully not to give up their ECHL dreams just yet.
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.
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.