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3rd Line Success Comes Down To Tuch

Will they sign him? Will they trade him? What in the world is going to happen with Nikita Gusev?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

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.

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Vegas Golden Knights Top NHL In Jersey Sales

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

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:

  1. Marc-Andre Fleury
  2. William Karlsson
  3. Alex Tuch
  4. Max Pacioretty
  5. Deryk Engelland

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.

(Stick tap to Alan Snel from LVSportsBiz. Check out his hour-long interview with VGK CMO Brian Killingsworth.)

Alex Tuch Thrives On The Right

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

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.

Alex Tuch Readies For The Playoffs

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s twice-weekly column publishes every Wednesday and Sunday during the Golden Knights season.** 

When Mark Stone was acquired by the Golden Knights on Feb. 25, it impacted the entire team.

But no one was more affected by bringing Stone into the fold than Alex Tuch.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

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.

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Time To Break Up The Top Six

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Last night was an eye-opener for the 2018-19 Golden Knights. After a tough loss against the Arizona Coyotes, the fourth straight at home, Gerard Gallant delivered a strong message in the locker room following the game. The team followed it up with a lengthy, competitive practice on Friday and then went without morning skate on Saturday. It appeared they had hit rock bottom and appeared primed to start the turnaround.

Last year’s team had its moments too, but every time they would come back, play great, and win. This team didn’t.

Instead, this team got outmanned in a game they simply came up short in the talent department. The foursome of Auston Matthews, John Tavares, William Nyander, and Mitch Marner scored three goals and tallied seven points while the entire Golden Knights top six (Karlsson, Marchessault, Smith, Stastny, Tuch, and Pacioretty) had two goals and four points with half of that damage coming on a shorthanded goal.

The VGK 2nd line was a combined -8 and the 1st line put up a miserable 25% Corsi For percentage as a group. Matthews’ line ate up Stastny, Pacioretty and Tuch scoring twice and posting seven scoring chances to Vegas’ one. All in all the Golden Knights top six played 20 of the 36 minutes of even strength action and accounted for one goal while allowing three and created just seven scoring chances compared to Toronto’s 17 while they were on the ice.

Here’s the good news. Despite all of it, and while playing the worst hockey in franchise history, the Golden Knights were right there. They had a lead in the 2nd, tied the game in the 3rd, and had a power play chance to take the lead inside of 15 minutes remaining in the game. This is still the same team that posted 60 points in their first 48 games and positioned themselves safely in the playoff picture.

With just four games before the trade deadline, it’s time the Golden Knights look in the mirror and realize they have to win with balance. No longer is their first line so dominant that they can be relied upon to not only shut down the oppositions top line but score while they’re at it. They can’t expect their 2nd line to pick up the slack left behind by the inevitable regression of that 1st line. They need to return to what became their identity last year and what was at times earlier this season. A balanced attack that never stops applying pressure.

The best way to do that, break up the top six.

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Are The Golden Knights Better Than Last Year?

Last year? We’re better, I think we’re a better team. -Jonathan Marchessault

Best inaugural season ever, 109 points, 29-10-2 at home, Pacific Division Champions, Western Conference Champions, you know it all, I just type it because it’s fun to remember, so let’s keep going…

They won eight of the first nine in franchise history and never lost more than three in a row until the final four games of the year. They had a 13-game point streak mostly during a 12-1-1 month of December. They put up five five-game win streaks including two in the playoffs and went 13-3 in the first 16 playoff games.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

What I’m trying to say is the 2017-18 Vegas Golden Knights were damn good, yet, one of their best players is not afraid to say this team is better.

And, he’s probably right.

I went around the locker room asking players and the head coach the exact same question. “Do you think your team now is as good as they were at any point last year?”

Many guys kind of danced around the question saying last year is last year, but you could tell, the insinuation that this team is as good, if not better, wasn’t a crazy thought.

I like this team. The parity around the league is good, there’s no easy night, but I always feel confident that we have a good chance to win. -Marc-Andre Fleury

We have a lot of similarities and we are striving to play as well as we did last year, are we there yet, I don’t know.  -Bellemare

The most direct, before I spoke to Marchessault, was from Alex Tuch, who didn’t hesitate when he said. “Yeah, I really do believe so.” He couldn’t really put into words how or why (mainly because he didn’t want to disparage anyone from last year’s team, understandably), but you could tell he believed it.

Then there was the head coach.

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Valentin Zykov Helps Fill An Age Gap For VGK

Youth is a problem for VGK, hopefully Valentin Zykov can help fix that. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The average age of the Golden Knights current active roster is 28. If you weight it by time on ice that number jumps to 29, the 3rd highest in the league, tied with San Jose and Los Angeles.

The team has eight players that are at least 30 and another nine that are 27 or 28. There are only three guys under the age of 24 that have seen the ice for the Golden Knights in 2018-19 with Alex Tuch being the youngest at 22.

That distribution is a massive reason why Valentin Zykov was not only claimed by the Golden Knights, but also why other arrangements (Brandon Pirri to AHL) were made to allow him to stick around.

Age-wise he fits into a group where we don’t have a lot of players. Our only young players on our team are Theodore and Tuch. So it’s good business by us to give this a chance and take the opportunity to evaluate him. -Kelly McCrimmon, Assistant GM on VGK Twitter

Well before the season began (on 07/24/18) we took a look at the entire Golden Knights system, including draft picks, free agent signings, and the Pacioretty trade and identified this age gap.

Since then, things have only gotten worse as the Pacioretty for Tatar and Suzuki trade made the Golden Knights older, Pirri has been the only call-up to have an impact (he turns 28 in April), and young guys like Reid Duke, Tomas Hyka, Jake Bischoff, Zach Whitecloud, Dylan Coghlan, and others haven’t had an impact.

Age Range# of PlayersPlayed in NHL in 18-19
≤20210
21-2382
24-26177
27-291110
≥2988

*Table includes all players in VGK system. Included: Nikita Gusev. Not Included: Vadim Shipachyov, Philip Holm, Teemu Pulkkinen, David Clarkson

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Don’t Touch The New Top Six

Say hello to a new top six. Marchessault-Karlsson-Tuch & Pirri-Stastny-Smith. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It took until Game 8 of the Golden Knights inaugural season to find the combination of William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, and Reilly Smith, but once the eventual Jack Adams award winner Gerard Gallant found it, he rode it for all it was worth.

The oft-described “top line” of the Golden Knights took the league by storm scoring a combined 92 goals, 213 points, and an insane +116 rating. They found themselves in the debate as the best line in hockey and helped power an expansion team to a division and conference title.

But then, in the matter of literally a second, the line was broken up.

It was a gut feeling and wanted to change things up a little bit. -Gerard Gallant

Coach comes and tells you, Tuchy you’re going with Marchy and Karly and Smitty is going to go with your line. -Alex Tuch

I told Pirri just keep playing the same because we were playing well. -Paul Stastny

Down 2-1 in the game, Gallant swapped Tuch and Smith creating a line of Karlsson, Tuch, and Marchessault, and another of Stastny, Smith, and Pirri. From then on, the Golden Knights completely took over the game.

Vegas dominated possession, scored three straight goals (and another that was taken off due to an offside challenge) and completed a come back from a two-goal deficit to win their 6th straight home game.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. We just wanted to change it up a little bit, fortunately for us, it worked. -Gallant

When you have a lot of depth at forward you can kind of juggle lines a little bit, there’s a fine line of doing it to much, but sometimes you need a little spark and that kind of just got a spark for the whole team. -Stastny

It’s not like it’s a demotion or anything, any line you can play on with this team is pretty special. It brought us a lot of momentum and energy to our game. -Smith

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Alex Tuch Is The Driving Force Behind Max Pacioretty’s Offensive Awakening

Without Tuch’s help, Pacioretty has yet to find the net. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Max Pacioretty has been red-hot over the past two weeks. His seven-game point streak just concluded, he’s scored eight goals, and has tallied multiple points in three of the last four Golden Knights games. Finally, Pacioretty is breaking through and displaying the skills and production that was expected of him when he was acquired for Tomas Tatar, Nick Suzuki, and a 2nd round pick.

However, as we do on every goal in the hockey, we need to award an assist for Pacioretty’s turn-around, and it goes to Alex Tuch. A single stat illustrates it best, so we’ll start there.

 TOIGoals ScoredGoals Allowed
67 w/ 89173:36118
67 w/o 89139:0107
89 w/o 6799:0162

The table shows how many goals were scored and how many goals were allowed, at 5-on-5, when Pacioretty and Tuch are on the ice together, and when each has been on the ice without the other. As you can see, there is a significant amount of time on ice for each of the three situations.

Max Pacioretty has not been on the ice for a single Golden Knights goal, at 5-on-5, when Alex Tuch was not also on the ice. However, Tuch has been out there for six without Pacioretty. Also, Max has allowed seven without Tuch, while Tuch has only allowed two without Pacioretty.

Of course, Cody Eakin has had a positive impact on the line as well, but not nearly as much as Tuch. It’s a small sample, but in the 15:31 Pacioretty played with Eakin and not Tuch, the Golden Knights allowed two goals and didn’t score any.

 TOIGoals ScoredGoals Allowed
67 w/ 89173:36118
67 w/o 89139:0107
89 w/o 6799:0162
67 w/ 21 w/o 8915:3102
67 w/ 89 w/ 21141:13106
67 w/o 21 w/o 89123:3105

Sometimes stats are misleading though, especially “on ice” stats that are credited simply for a player being on the ice and not necessarily involved in the play. So, I decided to go through every 5-on-5 goal scored by Pacioretty to see what impact Tuch had on the play. (You can see them all at the end of this article.)

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Pothier: Stastny Should Return To Second Line Immediately

It still may be a couple weeks, but it’s starting to look like Stastny is getting ready to return. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

With the promising news we uncovered yesterday about Paul Stastny, the question that seems to be on everyone’s mind is the same. When he comes back, where does reigning Jack Adams award winning coach Gerard Gallant place him in the lineup when he’s ready to come back?

It’s an age-old question in sports, should a player lose his position because of an injury? Keeping in mind how well his replacement is playing, in most cases, the answer is no.

Injured center Paul Stastny was signed in the offseason to anchor a brand new second line, yet they haven’t played one shift together. Alex Tuch was to graduate to the top-six and play alongside Americans Stastny and Max Pacioretty. The three could’ve been dubbed the “Freedom” line, but unfortunately, injuries got in the way.

The Golden Knights stand at 29 points, and in the middle of the mess that is known as the Pacific Division. Since Stastny’s injury in Game 3 of the season, the team has played roughly .500 (13-12–1) hockey without him. However, the second line has been extremely effective as of late. Since bumping third line center Cody Eakin up in early November due to Erik Haula’s lower-body injury, the Eakin-Tuch-Pacioretty line has 35 points. The second line was arguably one of the biggest factors in Vegas’ late November five-game win streak.

Tough to break-up, I get it.

Eakin’s strong play brings us back to the organization’s vision for this season. He was expected to center the third line again, and make it more consistent than it was last season. That was GM George McPhee’s plan. And so was upgrading their second line center with a talented veteran like Stastny. Injuries essentially delayed the offseason remodel.

Bottom line is, Stastny is valued by this team as their second line center. They paid him as such, and made a high-risk move trading for Pacioretty to compliment his play. The connecting moves were projected to juice up team offense, and still could once Stastny is cleared to play. This was the team’s vision. They told us.

We wanted to try improve our team. That’s why we signed Paul Stastny as a free agent. Why trading for Max Pacioretty was really important for us. -Kelly McCrimmon, Assistant GM, on 11/19/18

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