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3rd Line Desperately Needs A Shakeup

The Golden Knights 3rd line this season has been an absolute disaster.

And that’s putting it politely.

Six games with Pirri-Eakin-Glass. Four games with Pirri-Stastny-Zykov. Three games with Zykov-Eakin-Glass. Three games with Nosek-Eakin-Glass. One game with Pirri-Eakin-Stone.

That’s 17 games, and those 3rd lines amassed a total of one goal. A single goal scored by Cody Glass against the Calgary Flames, which if this were soccer, would have been an own goal credited to Mark Giordano.

Individually, it doesn’t look much better.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Cody Glass – 18 games, 3 goals, 7 points*
Tomas Nosek – 17 games, 3 goals, 4 points**
Cody Eakin – 14 games, 0 goals, 3 points
Brandon Pirri – 10 games, 0 goals, 1 point
Valentin Zykov – 7 games, 0 goals, 2 points

*Glass played four games on the 2nd line. He scored one goal and had two assists in those games
**All three of Nosek’s goals were scored shorthanded or with the 4th line

But they aren’t supposed to be an offensive line. Right? That’s the bill of goods that’s been sold since the Golden Knights installed Eakin as the 3rd line center midway through the 2017-18 season.

Well, they aren’t good defensively either.

Eakin ranks as one of the 15 worst forwards with at least 100 minutes played this season with a 41.3% Corsi. He’s the 21st worst skater in the NHL at shot percentage at 40.8%, and he ranks in at least the 200th worst of 292 NHL forwards in goals against per 60, expected goals against per 60, and scoring chances against per 60. He’s been less than stellar in the faceoff circle winning at just a 46.4% clip, the worst of any Golden Knight with at least 100 draws. He has a -7 +/- rating, the worst of any Golden Knight. He’s one of four VGK skaters with a 0.0 defensive point shares number (the other three are Tuch, Roy and Bischoff who have played a combined 10 games). And, he’s registered just three takeaways, the least of any player with at least eight games played.

Pirri is right there with Eakin in all of the advanced stat numbers with a Corsi of 42.2%, shot percentage of 36.4%, and an expected goals for percentage of 41.8%. He’s been on the ice for just two goals while allowing five, and that’s including his 28:16 of power play time. He’s a -3, and has a -0.2 point share number which means if you simply subtracted Pirri and Eakin from the roster completely stats say they’d be almost half a point better in the standings.

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Eakin’s Return Will Shuffle Vegas’ Centers

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All signs point towards center Cody Eakin resuming the same role tonight he’s performed effectively for the past two seasons. Arguably, one of the better third line centers in the NHL, Eakin’s return to duty is integral to the Golden Knights and their Stanley Cup chase.

He’s a huge player to our team. He works hard, he’s quick and he wins a lot of draws. He’s an easy guy too play with. And on the ice he’s one of the leaders. I gladly welcome him back.-William Karlsson

A healthy Eakin completes Vegas’ depth down the middle. It allows Gerard Gallant to solidify his second line, by reuniting Paul Stastny with Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone. Unfortunately, it could be a harsh reality for young center Cody Glass. Who will either be on the wing or on the bench tonight against Calgary. (If practice Friday was any indication, it’ll be the latter.) (Update: It wasn’t any indication. Glass is headed to the wing.)

That so-called second line can play with each other, they’ve had a lot of success together. For our line, we get matchups that we can play against top lines because Cody [Eakin] can shut them down. It creates transition. -Brandon Pirri

Brandon Pirri will likely play on the third line anchored by Eakin. He quipped about Gerard Gallant’s ‘so-called’ expression, but there’s no question as to what the coach expects from his third line.

He’s so solid defensively and he allows creative guys a little more room to more to make plays. He can make up for the little mistakes here and there. With his speed he can get back and catch those guys. -Pirri

An underrated aspect to Eakin’s game is his speed. He has the ability to break out and create a rush, and quickly get back to defend. Eakin’s two-way play can greatly benefit offensive wingers like Pirri, and eventually Alex Tuch.

He creates a ton of speed, he’s one of the best skaters in the league. He pushes defenses back and creates a gap for guys like me who are looking for high ice a little more. -Pirri

We’ll see how Gallant sets his lineup tonight, but it appears Eakin is playing, and he’s almost certainly centering the third line. Which leaves questions about Glass’ immediate and long-term role this year. I’m sure it’ll be addressed eventually by the coaching staff and front office, but for now, it’s nothing but positive words in press conferences from the head coach and a spot on the wing for #9.

Veterans Embracing Opportunity To Help Along Talented Rookies

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s been a productive preseason for the Golden Knights. The team is undefeated in four exhibition games while using a mix of reliable veterans and rising rookies. Jonathan Marchessault, Max Pacioretty, and Brandon Pirri have all skated on lines with younger players eager to make a mark. It can be a challenge at times due to their inexperience, but for the most part, the veterans seem to embrace their role in helping rookies take the next step.

I don’t think it’s a challenge, I think it’s fun. I’ve noticed that a few of the younger guys, this year they’re playing with more confidence and they’re playing better. Which helps their confidence a lot.-Brandon Pirri

Pirri formed a strong relationship with the young defenseman during his time with the Chicago Wolves last year. He says the deep AHL playoff run made a world of difference in the development of guys like Zach Whitecloud, Nic Hague, Dylan Coghlan, and Jake Bischoff.

They are very mature. They were doing NHL things in the American Hockey League. In the American League it’s more like preseason hockey, but towards the end it’s real hockey. -Pirri

Marchessault understands the pressure young prospects can feel during camp and preseason games having been in their shoes many times during his career.

It’s all about helping them. Ultimately, they want to make the team so you go out there and try to make them look good. You try and give your best effort, talk to them, and build their confidence. I know what it’s like. -Marchessault

Max Pacioretty has four preseason goals, two of them were assisted by Cody Glass. #67 enjoys playing with prospects and tries to organically help them along the way.

It needs to be genuine. If you see something that can help, rather than saying something to say something, it goes a long way. They’re good hockey players at this level. There’s things they can teach me. -Pacioretty

Overall it seems to be quite enjoyable for all of the established players. Playing on lines with players from the pipeline reminds them of their first camp experiences, and allows them an opportunity to give advice and show leadership.

Guest Post: Brandon Pirri Gets His Shot

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The signing of Brandon Pirri was a bit of a shock for most, but today’s guest post author, Brock Lammers, explains why keeping #73 around makes perfect sense. 

At the Final Press conference of the 2019 season, Brandon Pirri said it was all about opportunity. He just wants to play in the NHL. The Knights have listened and they have signed him for 2 years $1.55 million. This isn’t the biggest contract he has signed in his career but it is a good contract for Brandon given the point he is at in his career.

Brandon Pirri is no doubt an NHL caliber forward, as demonstrated by his 10-game 2019 midseason scoring streak. I thought the Knights might have traded him last season. He was hot and his contract was expiring. It felt like there was value in a piece they were potentially set to lose, but they opted to not only keep him, but he remained on the roster through the rest of the season and the playoffs. This tells me that the Knights see something in him.

With the trade of Erik Haula and Ryan Carpenter leaving to free agency there are some open forward positions for Pirri to take. Pirri is a very exciting player with good speed and an excellent stick. He seems to always find himself in a great position for prime scoring chances. His net presence makes him a good asset on the offensive side of the puck. Pirri has also stepped up his defensive game which was one of his notable flaws last season. Many think this was the reason that he struggled to stay in the lineup and many believe if he fixed this aspect of his game he could claim a permanent spot in the lineup.

Game 7 of the 2019 First Round was the best game of Pirri’s career in my opinion. He was all over the ice, aggressively forechecking, had a good defensive stick, and of course, always creating offensive chances. If his play remains consistent with his Game 7 performance I believe he would be a good candidate for a starting slot on the opening night roster. However, with the depth of the Knights roster at the forward position, any sign of inconsistency is a sure way to become a healthy scratch.

His game 7 performance was what the Knights were looking for all year from him and they got it at the most crucial time. With two forwards already gone and another one or two potentially on the trade block, Brandon Pirri is more than an insurance plan, he’s a legitimate 3rd line option for 82 games.

Brock Lammers

If you are interested in contributing a Guest Post to SinBin.vegas, please email us.

2019 VGK Free Agency Tracker

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

  • Brandon Pirri has re-signed with the Golden Knights. Two-year deal at $775,000 AAV. (Source: SinBin.vegas)
  • Deryk Engelland is set to sign a one-year deal to remain with the Golden Knights. (Source: @TheFourthPeriod)
  • Golden Knights sign Patrick Brown to a two-year deal. The first year is a two-way deal at $700,000 NHL value. The second year is a one-way deal also at $700,000.(Source: @DarrenDreger)
    • Brown was the captain of the Calder Cup winning Charlotte Checkers.
  • Vegas has signed Tyrell Goulbourne to a two-way contract with an NHL minimum value. (Source: @PuckPediaPuckPedia)
  • Ryan Carpenter has signed with the Chicago Blackhawks for three years at $1 million AAV. (Source: @ChrisKuc)
  • Pierre-Edouard Bellemare signs with the Colorado Avalanche for two-years at $1.8M AAV. (Source: @FriedgeHNIC)
  • Max Lagace will sign with the Boston Bruins on a two-way deal with an NHL value of $700,000. (Source: @renlavoietva)
  • Nikita Gusev and Jimmy Schuldt are NOT eligible for offer sheets per the NHL’s official free agency list. (Source: SinBin.vegas)
  • The Golden Knights did not extend a qualifying offer to Tomas Nosek. He becomes an unrestricted free agent. However, George McPhee confirmed they are close to reaching a deal. (Source: SinBin.vegas)
    • Nosek has been signed for one-year at $1 million.
  • Daniel Carr is signing with the Nashville Predators. (Source: @FriedgeHNIC)
  • Zach Fucale signed an AHL deal with the Syracuse Crunch. (Source: @SyracuseCrunch)
  • Tyler Wong is headed to the KHL. (Source: @KRSchina)
  • T.J. Tynan signed with the Colorado Avalanche (Source: @renlavoietva)
  • Brad Hunt has re-signed with the Minnesota Wild for two-years at $700,000 AAV. (Source: @RussoHockey)
  • Brendan Leipsic has signed with the Washington Capitals. (Source: @@ikhurshudyan)
  • Golden Knights Expansion Draft pick Calvin Pickard is expected to sign with the Detroit Red Wings. (Source: @frank_seravalli)

The Free Agency Tracker is brought to you by Adam S. Kutner and Associates, the best Las Vegas personal injury attorney.

For Brandon Pirri “It’s All About Opportunity” This Offseason

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Brandon Pirri was one of the best stories in the entire NHL this season. He went from being passed over in favor of Stefan Matteau, Tomas Hyka, Reid Duke, Paul Thompson, and Daniel Carr to becoming a fan favorite, scoring seven goals in his first eight games and nearly cracking the Golden Knights top 10 in goals scored in franchise history.

A player who has always been regarded as an offensive threat but a defensive liability got his call back to the NHL on December 18th, 2018. He would not play another AHL game the rest of the year, and would eventually draw into the Golden Knights lineup for the most important game of the year, Game 7 in San Jose.

Looking back I’m really proud of myself. I wasn’t supposed to be on this team. I think there were four or five forwards called up before me. I finally got the opportunity and I made the most of it. -Brandon Pirri

But now, Pirri is an unrestricted free agent, and he’s in a much better bargaining position than he was either of the previous two offseasons when he signed one-year league minimum deals with the Golden Knights.

Instead, he’s now a 12 goal scorer in 31 games. He proved he was able to force his way onto one of the best rosters in the NHL and into the lineup at the most crucial time. This offseason he’ll be viewed a potential diamond in the rough, rather than an AHLer with potential upside.

What is he looking for in his next contract? One very specific thing.

Opportunity, it’s all about opportunity. -Pirri

He wants a chance to play in the NHL for good.

I controlled what I can control this year and I did get an opportunity and I proved myself. I’m not going to be given anything, I’ve never been giving anything. -Pirri

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Locker Room Clean-Out Day Highlights

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In the final media availability of the season nearly every Golden Knights player spoke to the media. We also had extended press conferences with The Creator, George McPhee, and Gerard Gallant.

Of course, there will probably be 50 stories on this site based off many of the comments on this day, but we wanted to share some of the highlights from the day.

(If you would like to listen to every second of the nearly 2 hours and 15 minutes of locker room interviews that we participated in, go here or to our podcast feed.)

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The Perfect Golden Knights Lineup

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As we head towards the playoffs the composition of the Golden Knights “perfect” lineup is going to become a major topic of discussion. Assuming full health, and it appears the Golden Knights should have it barring any new injuries, the top six should be locked in as it was prior to Max Pacioretty’s injury. It looks like this:

Marchessault-Karlsson-Smith
Pacioretty-Stastny-Stone

The next obvious pair of pieces are on the third line. Those are center Cody Eakin and right-wing Alex Tuch. Meaning the lineup now looks like this:

Marchessault-Karlsson-Smith
Pacioretty-Stastny-Stone
XXX-Eakin-Tuch

The final obvious piece is the fourth line center, that’s Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. Thus, we’ve got this:

Marchessault-Karlsson-Smith
Pacioretty-Stastny-Stone
XXX-Eakin-Tuch
XXX-Bellemare-XXX

That leaves six players to fill just three spots. Those players are Brandon Pirri, Tomas Nosek, Ryan Reaves, Ryan Carpenter, William Carrier, and Valentin Zykov.

To me, because there are two slots open on one line and only one on the other, the focus should be on creating the best fourth line possible and then using the leftover player to fill out what already should be a promising line of Eakin and Tuch.

Because the Golden Knights prefer to roster a fairly standard fourth line (meaning it’s much more of a checking/possession/don’t give up goals line) Pirri and Zykov aren’t great fits. They’ll come back into play when we consider the final piece on the third line.

Rather than give my opinion on how it should line up, I’d rather use numbers. So, using NaturalStatTrick.com’s “Line Tool,” I’ve gone through each potential option to see how they’ve performed as a trio when together.

LineTOIGFGACorsi %SC%PDO
40/41/7576:033365.2265.71.965
40/41/289:011257.1457.14.914
40/41/925:250062.5040.001.00
92/41/75123:033453.7155.56.979
92/41/75 (17-18)85:461046.2740.981.033
92/41/2818:301068.4270.001.067
92/41/28 (17-18)151:076550.0051.411.025
28/41/75344:3410955.4657.140.993

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Gallant Happy With Third Line; “Want Them To Keep Doing What They Are Doing”

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With the trade deadline fast approaching, the buzz around the Golden Knights is almost squarely focused on the third line. It’s a line with only one stable piece, the center, Cody Eakin, and filled with imperfect wingers such as Brandon Pirri, Valentin Zykov, Tomas Nosek, Ryan Carpenter, and Oscar Lindberg.

Most, including all three who write on this website, believe for the Golden Knights to reach the top of the mountain, something needs to change with that line. Whether it’s an addition from within, a piece added at the deadline, or reinforcements from the current top six, here at SinBin.vegas, we see the third line as the primary weakness for the Golden Knights.

The head coach, who happens to be the reigning Jack Adams award winner, does not agree.

I want them to keep doing what they are doing. People make a big deal of it that supposedly they don’t score enough. I don’t. We’ve got guys who can put the puck in the back of the net. Those guys have to come out and play their roles. I love a lot about our hockey team, I’m not too concerned at all. -Gerard Gallant

Gallant, speaking on the VGK Insider Show with Frank Harnish and Ryan The Hockey Guy on Fox Sports 98.9 FM, says he thinks his team is just fine offensively, even with the third line as currently constructed.

Well you know what, I think people overreact a little bit saying ‘oh this line needs to be better’ or ‘you’ve got to make that line better.’

I’m not worried about scoring. I know we’ve got the scoring in there. I’m worried about team chemistry and making sure we’ve got the right players playing at the right time. -Gallant

In fact, he went on to make an even bolder statement, declaring this year’s team as good as last year’s.

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The Pirri Dilemma

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

When Brandon Pirri isn’t scoring what does Gerard Gallant and the Golden Knights organization do with him? Well, we got one answer last night when Gallant healthy scratched Pirri in Detroit, the first game he’s missed while on the active roster.

While filling in for injured top six forwards, Pirri was as hot as any player in the NHL, but that dried up in a hurry.

First 9 Games
10 Points (6 Goals, 4 Assists)
4-Game Point Streak (5Pts)12/20-12/27
5-Game Point Streak (8Pts) 12/30-1/11
2 Game-Winning Goals
2 Power Play Goals
29 Shots on Goal (3.22 per game)
+10 Rating
9 Games Played
Team Record 6-1-2

Last 9 Games
2 Points (1 Goal, 1 Assist)
0 Point Streaks
0 Game-Winning Goals
0 Power Play Goals
19 Shots (2.38 per game)
2 Games With No Shots on Goal
-4 Rating
8 Games Played/1 Healthy Scratch
Team Record 3-5-0 *Healthy Scratch 1-0-0

As you can see, the 27-year-old forward’s production has dipped significantly. If he’s not adding offense, he’s hard-pressed to find a place in the lineup. Neither the club or the player wants that. If Pirri continued his point pace, it solves a roster spot, adds desperately needed third line scoring, and the flexibility to pass on a possible rental at the deadline. But if he doesn’t, because he doesn’t kill penalties, he’s not used in a defensive role, and he often can’t be trusted to help protect a lead, George McPhee might be forced to find a replacement.

I feel like Nashville and Winnipeg will be the most aggressive. Then I would rank it Vegas next, Calgary, followed by San Jose. -Pierre LeBrun, TSN Winnipeg

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