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Who Have Been The Most Healthy Golden Knights?

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The best ability is availability. No one knows that better than the Vegas Golden Knights.

In the playoff run that culminated in a Stanley Cup championship for the Golden Knights, they missed just six games from skaters over the 22-game stretch. 18 skaters per game or 22 games minus the six lost means VGK had 98.5% health rate in the 2023 playoffs.

That has not been common for the Golden Knights. Every season for the past three, one of the main talking points has been injuries. Vegas are routinely among the top five in the league in man games lost.

This season, just three players played all 82 games. Brayden McNabb, Jonathan Marchessault, and Ivan Barbashev each suited up for every regular season and playoff game. The same was the case last year as McNabb was joined by William Karlsson and Phil Kessel in playing all 82. The year before, VGK did not have a single player suit up for every regular season game.

Here’s a full look at every Golden Knights’ availability over the last three seasons.

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Everything That Was Said About Jonathan Marchessault At Locker Cleanup Day

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

At the final media session for the year for the Golden Knights, everyone said the right things about pending UFA Jonathan Marchessault’s place within the organization. Now, it’s up to the team to take action to keep him here.

Here’s everything that was said about his situation from Marchessault himself, Bruce Cassidy, Kelly McCrimmon, and a bunch of his teammates.

I’ve done everything I can to stay here. I know I’m a big part of this organization and team and I’ve proven it along the years. I’m pretty confident. I would love to stay, it’s my home. I’ve been part of the group of guys that started this. It’s the most proud thing I’ve done in my life professionally for sure. I’m just happy to be a Golden Knight and I want to be one the rest of my life but that’s not necessarily in my control. It’s something my agent and Kelly are going to go through. I love it here, I want to stay here for sure, but we’ll see. -Jonathan Marchessault

I had a real good meeting with Marchy this morning. We talked with his representatives. Marchy is an original, he’s a core player, and he had a career year. So he’s done everything humanly possible to put himself in a good position. We really like the player and his value extends beyond what you see on the ice. He’s a really important leader and an important guy in our dressing room. There’s certainly a strong willingness from both sides to have real good discussions. That’s what we’re going to work on. With that said we’re not going to comment on the ongoing commentary of how it’s going or that type of thing, we’ll work diligently and see where we get to. -Kelly McCrimmon

I don’t know when it will happen. I talked to Kelly this morning and he wants me back, he likes me. And obviously the feeling is mutual. I love Vegas, I love my teammates, I love the organization, the coaching staff, all the staff working with us, they are family to me now. I could have had a rough season after doing everything we’ve done as a team and personally, but I had a good one still. So it just shows I left it all out there and things will happen I guess, we will see. -Marchessault

I love coaching Jonathan Marchessault. The progression we’ve made might be one of the best ones I’ve enjoyed from where we started to where we ended up. We started with how will we prepare for games, how will we practice, what do I need out of you, 200-foot player, what does he need, the back-and-forth, we’re both emotional. And then we win the Stanley Cup, he wins the Conn Smythe, he has a career year. For me, those are all rewarding things as a coach to see a player go through and you feel like you’ve done your small part as a coach when that happens. I enjoy my relationship with him talking honestly and openly. I love his energy around the room. He’s had great years as a Golden Knights. I can’t say enough good things about him. As a coach, you hope you can keep everybody together, him included. That’s between his party and Crim to try to get something done. I know the situation he’s in, we’ve got four or five of those guys. That’s my experience from day one til now. Love coaching the guy. Terrific guy for the room. When you see a relationship develop like that it’s nice. I’ve had it with other players where we become a little closer than some other guys, that you end up interacting with more for whatever reason. That’s how it went with Marchy. We’ll see how it leads. -Bruce Cassidy

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What VGK Did Wrong In Game 3 And How They Can Correct It

Photo from ProjectSaint in SinBin Discord

The Golden Knights’ performance to start Game 3 was unrecognizable compared to how they played in Dallas in the first two games of the series. They were outshot 30-10 in the first half of the game and if it weren’t for an other-worldly goaltending performance from Logan Thompson would have been trailing by five or six rather than just two.

Of course, Vegas stormed back into the game with a 4-on-4 goal followed by a shorthanded tally but never got their game going in the right direction at 5-on-5 for the entirety of the 76 minute game.

There were two main problems that plagued the Golden Knights in Game 3 and they worked hand in hand to allow the Stars to dictate a majority of the contest. First, VGK’s puck management in the neutral zone was poor. They turned the puck over on countless occasions leading directly or indirectly to transition chances the other way. This meant as the game went along they became more committed to dumping the puck into the offensive zone. That’s where problem two arose, Vegas struggled to slow down Dallas’ exits along the walls.

Combine them both, and it led to one way traffic coming at Thompson for most of the night, illustrated perfectly by a 27-4 edge in high-danger chances and 54-26 in overall scoring chances to Dallas.

They took it to us. We had no business being in that game. LT stood on his head and allowed us a chance to get back in it. We have to learn from it and have a better start in Game 4. -Brayden McNabb

The first issue is a simple one to fix. Game 3 was not the first time the Golden Knights have had puck management issues this season and typically they were able to correct it quickly. It’s the other aspect of the game that is a bit more concerning.

We have to play through their hands. There’s a lot of time we’re going up as defensemen or forwards coming back and we’re doing fly-bys. We need to close on that guy whether the D goes up and ends it and the forward reads off him and gets over the middle speed or the forward gets up and ends it because the D wasn’t able to get there in time and then the D recovers to the middle to get over their middle speed to neutralize it. -Bruce Cassidy

Here’s an example of what Cassidy is talking about.

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VGK’s Heaviness Contributing To 2-0 Series Lead

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

We heard it way back after the 2017-18 Stanley Cup finals, the Golden Knights needed to get bigger and stronger. Or in hockey lexicon, Vegas needed to get heavier. So, they did.

They traded for Ryan Reaves (6’2″, 225) around the 2018 deadline, completed a late offseason deal for Max Pacioretty (6’2″, 217), and they traded and signed Mark Stone (6’3″, 217) minutes before the 2019 trade deadline expired. So, the organization did what they said they, get heavier. And it didn’t stop there.

Size matters, especially at this time of year. They lean on you all night and they wear teams down because they lean on you. It’s impressive because there are times when they get a lead where they’re not trying to score. They’re controlling the territory of the game, and you don’t get any second chances. Every puck is confronted in your own zone and there’s no free ice anywhere. There’s got to be tactic changes when you play that team because of their weight and size. It’s fun to watch that team play that type of playoff hockey. – Ken Hitchcock, former NHL coach on Bob McCown Podcast

Over the years Vegas introduced Nic Hague (6’6″, 230) to their lineup, took a chance on monster goaltender Adin Hill (6’6″, 215), picked up Nick Holden (6’4″, 210), added depth with Ben Hutton (6’3″, 201), brought in Nic Roy (6’4″, 202), signed a mega-deal with Alex Pietrangelo (6’3″, 215), and are currently starting large Logan Thompson (6’4″, 205) in net. Easy to say, the Golden Knights set out to be heavy, and they were rewarded with a Stanley Cup trophy last year.

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VGK’s Shot Blockers Back To Frustrating Playoff Opponents

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

In case you needed one, the Golden Knights reminded us on Monday night that they really enjoy blocking shots. They finished 3rd in the NHL this season with 1,506 blocks and got right back to it in Game 1. 

Game 1 game-winning goal scorer Brayden McNabb nearly set a record for the most blocks by a Golden Knight in a playoff game with 8 (Alec Martinez had 9 in Game 6 vs COL). William Karlsson and Nic Roy lead all forwards with two blocks a piece and eight different Golden Knights registered at least one blocked shot.

Blocked Shots In Playoffs Since 2018

  1. Vegas: 1,637 (89 Games)
  2. Tampa: 1,600 (99 Games)
  3. Dallas: 1,192 (67 Games)
  4. Boston: 1,189 (76 Games)
  5. Colorado: 1,138 (71 Games)

Since the 2018 postseason, the Golden Knights lead all franchises in blocked shots and blocked shots per game. Reserve defenseman Alec Martinez is second in the NHL in playoff blocked shots (194) since the 2018 postseason. McNabb is just behind him (192) and will likely pass Martinez tonight in Game 2. Fellow blueliners Alex Pietrangelo is fifth (173) and rounding out the Top 15 is Shea Theodore (129) and Zach Whitecloud (124) since the 2018 playoffs. All have raised the Stanley Cup, multiple times for some.

Vegas even added to their historical team average in Monday’s 4-3 Game 1 victory.

Blocked Shots Per Playoff Game Since 2018

  1. Vegas: 17.76
  2. NYI: 17.58
  3. NAS: 17.26
  4. DAL: 17.02
  5. NYR: 16.48

Even though they know it’s coming, the Stars will likely struggle finding shooting lanes tonight. Plus, once frustration sets in, Pete DeBoer’s team won’t be able to stop themselves. Dallas will take inaccurate, ill advised shots down the wing and from the point allowing Vegas to simply absorb the puck and quickly exit the zone. This isn’t the first time we’ve followed a Pete DeBoer coached team.

When shots can’t make it through to the net, the more annoying it can get for an offensively gifted team that relies on creating havoc in front of the goal like the Stars.

Of course, blocking shots can lead to injuries, obstructed goaltenders, or unlucky bounces so there’s no guarantee it’ll go as swimmingly for VGK in Game 2 ad it did Game 1 (and most of last year’s WCF). But, that’s not going to stop the Golden Knights. It was a large part of the championship success last season and continues to be in 2024. After all, Stanley Cup winning Golden Knights declared last summer ‘It Hurts To Win.” We’re still waiting for the new slogan, but the old one isn’t going away any time soon.

Injuries Affecting Golden Knights Defensive Continuity

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Continuity is crucial when it comes to defending in the NHL. Playing with the same defensive partner for an extended period helps in every aspect. Last year, the Golden Knights had that luxury to start the season and in the playoffs. This year, they haven’t, and it’s starting to show.

Last year, Vegas used the same set of six defensemen for each of the first 20 of the first 21 games. Those six defensemen then went on to play 21 of the 22 playoff games with the exact partnerships from the beginning of the year. This season, Vegas has been forced to cobble together their lineup from Opening Night.

Before the season even began, both Zach Whitecloud and Alec Martinez were sidelined. By the time Martinez returned, Alex Pietrangelo had gone out. When Whitecloud returned, Hague was out. When Hague returned, Martinez went back out and then Theodore followed right behind him.

Vegas has used their preferred group of six defensemen just one time this season. This has led to a major shift in the minute load each player has had to take on.

(Thru 31 games)2023-24 Minutes2022-23 MinutesDifference

The minutes that were being eaten up by Theodore, Martinez, Whitecloud, and Hague last season have gone to Ben Hutton, Kaedan Korczak, and Brayden Pachal this year.

In addition, it has meant a ton of different pairings. Last year over the 82-game regular season and 22-game postseason run, the Golden Knights used 19 different defense pairings. This year, through just 31 games, they are already at 15.

The Golden Knights have remained a strong defensive team through all of it, but it’s clearly been slipping a bit in the last few weeks.

Anaheim’s Third Period Rally Taken From Vegas’ Playbook

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

On Sunday night the Stanley Cup-winning Vegas Golden Knights dropped their first regulation game of the season. Think about that again, it’s November 7th and the Golden Knights have secured 23 out of their opening 26 points of 2023-24.

Well, I give our players a lot of credit. It’s their fourth in six days. They’ve played their asses off. We give up three chances, and they all ended up in the net. That’s going to happen some nights. -Bruce Cassidy

3rd period scoring is one of the major reasons the Cup champions have the record they do in early November. A couple of days ago the surprising Anaheim Ducks gave Vegas a taste of their own medicine. The Golden Knights are among the top of the league in 3rd period scoring but after Sunday’s game, so are the Ducks.

NHL’s Top 3rd Period Scoring Teams

  1. Detroit Red Wings: 20
  2. Vegas Golden Knights: 19
  3. Anaheim Ducks: 19
  4. Minnesota Wild: 18
  5. Carolina Hurricanes: 18
  6. LA Kings: 17
  7. Vancouver Canucks: 16

While the cluster of clubs are close in numbers, we have to figure in empty-net goals. Not taking anything away from Vegas but they’ve shot and scored into an empty net on four separate occasions. When all is said and done, an ENG usually results in two points. Anaheim and LA are slightly different in the sense that their goals tie or put them ahead with their final frame tallies.

We’re a veteran group, and we should be able to finish that game, but credit to them. They came hard and they got some bounces, and they were able to put a few in the net. -Brayden McNabb

Anaheim’s flurry of 3rd period scoring on Sunday got them back in the game, evened the score, and covered the reverse puckline for good measure. It was unlike any final frame Vegas has skated this season. It’ll also likely be one of the few poor 3rd periods we will see in the future.

The Golden Knights’ ability to create goals when it matters isn’t fading because of an overdue loss to start the season. Dating back to the 2023 playoffs, crucial and late-game goals secured key wins for Vegas and eliminated four competitive opponents. It’s certainly carried over to this season. Sunday night was tough, but from the looks of it, it’s an aberration, not the start of a trend.

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