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Home Is Where The Problems Are

(Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke, SinBin.vegas)

The Golden Knights have now lost three consecutive home games, all by at least two goals, and have scored just four times in nine periods of action at T-Mobile Arena.

After a 5-1-0 start in Las Vegas the home record has slipped to 7-6-1 while the Golden Knights continue to dominate away from the friendly confines of The Strip, posting a sterling 12-2-1 record on the road.

The question is, why?

Sometimes it’s just the way it goes. Maybe after Christmas it might switch. It doesn’t matter if we play at home or away if you are a professional hockey player you have to find a way to bring your best performance. It’s extra disappointing for our group to not show up in front of our fans because we play in the best place in the league. -Jonathan Marchessault

There’s certainly a chance coincidence plays a part but the head coach believes it goes a bit deeper than that.

Games like tonight on the road we would have found a way to stay in it. Our game management is better on the road. -Bruce Cassidy

The splits are pretty staggering to back that up.

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NEW YORK RANGERS 5 VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 1 (19-8-1, 39 PTS)

Recap: The Golden Knights were back home hosting the New York Rangers after going 3-1-0 on their four-game road trip. New York caught Vegas off guard early, taking the first lead 6:49 into the game. The Rangers outshot the Golden Knights 15 to 5 in the opening 20 minutes.

Vegas picked up the pace midway through the 2nd period, outshooting New York 17 to 11. After drawing two concurrent penalties, Jonathan Marchessault evened the score with his 11th goal of the season.

Penalties ultimately cost the Golden Knights the game in the 3rd period. On New York’s second PP opportunity, the Rangers took the lead six minutes into the period and extended their lead 0:24 later. New York added three more to finish off Vegas 5-1.

The Golden Knights record drops to 19-8-1 falling to the Rangers. Vegas will next hit the ice on Friday night vs. the Philadelphia Flyers. Puck drop against the Flyers is scheduled for 7 PM. (Recap by Jason)

Analysis: It’s always tough playing the first home game after a long road trip, especially a successful one. VGK fell right into that trap for the first 30 minutes of the game getting outworked all over the ice. They picked it up for 10 minutes and it looked like they might rescue the game, but it all fell apart in the 3rd before they lost their cool and resorted to loser hockey. Was always going to be tough, especially without Eichel and Pietrangelo. (Recap by Ken)

Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs. New York Rangers at T-Mobile Arena.

  • Goalie Interference
  • What’s going on at home?

Ken’s Three VGK Stars

*** Chandler Stephenson
** Jonathan Marchessault
* William Karlsson

Golden Knights Continue Search For Right Combination On Third Line

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s a problem that’s common around the NHL, and it’s certainly not new here in Las Vegas, but the Golden Knights have once again found themselves searching for the identity of their 3rd line.

The top six, bolstered by superstars Jack Eichel and Mark Stone, and supported by The Misfits, have set the tone for the team both offensively and defensively. It’s clear what is expected of them each and every night and typically they deliver.

The 4th line, which has mostly been anchored by the pair of William Carrier and Keegan Kolesar, has been dubbed the “Energy Line” by Bruce Cassidy. Their expectation is to play a physical, north/south style of game in order to make life difficult on the other team no matter which line they play against. They’ve done exactly that the entire season and have even chipped in a bit more offense than expected along the way.

But the 3rd line remains a bit of an enigma. Is it a checking line? Is it a defense-first shutdown line? Is it supposed to be the main source of supplemental offense?

What is the identity of that line supposed to be?

Well, I know what I’d like it to be but you can’t make players something they’re not. I’d like to have the type of line that can play in any type of game. Forecheck game, check well in close scoring game, and secondary offense. We have some guys at the top of the lineup that are giving us good offensive numbers so we don’t necessarily need just an offensive line. We need a 200-foot, heavier type of game line would be the best way to describe it. -Bruce Cassidy

Even before the injury bug hit the Golden Knights a bit, it’s been a bit of a revolving door on the 3rd line. While each of the top line (Stephenson, Eichel, Stone), the Misfit Line (Smith, Karlsson, Marchessault), and the 4th line (Carrier, Roy, Kolesar) have seen at least 16 of the 27 games together, no 3rd line has started more than seven games together.

There have been nine different 3rd line combinations with six of them playing three or fewer games together.

In a perfect world there would be some similarities to the Carrier, Kolesar (line). Physical people that maybe have a little more offensively tilted game, but that’s not Phil (Kessel), we know that. It is Nic Roy, so that’s why we moved him there and if we can find the right left-winger to complement both of those guys then we’ll have something. But until we do we’ll keep trying. -Bruce Cassidy

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VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 4 BOSTON 3 SO (19-7-1, 39 PTS)

The Golden Knights wrapped up their road trip with an emotional game in Boston. Vegas came out motivated to preform for their head coach Bruce Cassidy in his first matchup against his old team. Paul Cotter scored 1:36 into the game, giving his team and coach an early lead. Minutes later Jonathan Marchessault fired in his 10th goal of 2022-23.

Again, Cotter immediately got back to work in the middle frame. This time it only took 0:51 to pick up his second of the game and extend VGK’s lead to 3-0. Boston made a push in the second half of the period and cut Vegas’ advantage to 3-2 after two periods played.

Boston evened the score early with a PP goal 3:08 into the final period. Both teams would have several chances but couldn’t break the tie. The heavyweight bout would need overtime and eventually a shootout to settle the score. Reilly Smith ended the game with a five hole winner.

The Golden Knights record improves to (19-7-1) defeating the Bruins 4-3 in shootouts. After a successful Eastern Conference road trip, Vegas will head home for a three game set against the Rangers, Flyers and Bruins. Wednesday’s game vs. New York is scheduled for 7P PT.

(Tweets/Analysis by Gold Medalist Connor Fields)

VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 4 DETROIT RED WINGS 1 (18-7-1, 37 PTS)

The Golden Knights got off to a great start against the Red Wings in Detroit. Star center Jack Eichel tapped in a one-time pass from linemate Chandler Stephenson 1:04 into the game. Vegas held the Red Wings scoreless and skated into the 1st intermission with a 1-0 edge.

Jonathan Marchessault doubled VGK’s lead early in the 2nd period, scoring his first goal of the road trip on a Golden Knights power play. Detroit got within one with a PP goal of their own, but the Golden Knights weren’t finished in the middle frame. After committing a hooking penalty, Phil Kessel exited the box and scored his 5th goal of the season on a breakaway. The visiting Golden Knights held a 3-1 lead after 40 minutes.

Late in the third the Red Wings decided to pull their goaltender and Reilly Smith took note. Smith took a long-distance shot from the neutral zone to ice the game for Vegas. The Golden Knights picked up their second win on the road trip but more importantly, the team lost Eichel to an undisclosed injury in the final period. VGK Coach Bruce Cassidy didn’t have much of an update on Eichel after the game and said the center was being evaluated.

The Golden Knights record improves to (18-7-1) with their 4-1 victory in Detroit. Vegas will wrap up their road trip on Monday in Boston to take on Cassidy’s former team. Puck drop against the Bruins is scheduled for 4P PT. (Recap by Jason)

(In game tweets by Gary Kondler and Kondler & Associates)

Dissecting VGK’s Underperforming Penalty Kill System

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

One of the few sore spots for the Golden Knights to this point in the season has been their penalty kill. Operating at just 75% efficiency, the Vegas kill has allowed 10 goals and some important ones.

Similar to the defensive structure, a system overhaul was put in place this season on the penalty kill with assistant coach John Stevens taking the reins.

The Golden Knights play a much more passive system than they had been deploying under Pete DeBoer. It’s also multiple, meaning it doesn’t look the same against every single opponent.

In DeBoer’s highly aggressive system, the Golden Knights would take away the pass across the blue line in an effort to contain the puck to one side of the ice. Then, they’d use angles and stick position to find numbers advantages in order to take away the puck. In the new system, there’s a set plan in place, but it can change from game to game. Head coach Bruce Cassidy gave a pair of examples from recent games.

When there’s a true elbow shooter like (Tage) Thompson in Buffalo we would rather avoid that one. They ended up getting the shot they wanted and scored. When Toronto was here with (Auston) Matthews and (Mitch) Marner on the elbows, we would rather give (Morgan) Rielly the shot from the middle and deal with the screen and tip in front. -Cassidy

When they identify a particular strength of the team, they look to alter the system slightly in order to take away that option. Regularly though, the plan is to make sure the shots come from outside of the faceoff dots.

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The Middle Frame Has Given The Golden Knights Troubles

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Through 16 games, the Golden Knights have been one of the most consistent teams in the NHL. They’ve won 13, they’ve been the better team in almost all of them, they’ve yet to be shutout, haven’t allowed more than four in a game, and all three of the losses have been by a single goal.

Quite frankly, there’s not much more you can ask for out of a start to the season from a results perspective.

Inside of games, however, the Golden Knights haven’t been quite as steady. They’ve been the best 1st period team in the league scoring 21 (most in NHL) and allowing just eight (T-3rd in NHL). They’ve also been excellent in 3rd periods netting 21 (6th in NHL) while allowing 14 (T-6th in NHL). The middle frame hasn’t been as kind to Vegas though, and it’s potentially a reason for concern moving forward.

The overall goal numbers aren’t terrible. 14 goals for (T-20th in NHL), 15 goals against (T-11th in NHL). It’s the chance numbers that jump off the page.

On the five-game road trip in which the Golden Knights won all five games, they allowed 14 high-danger chances in both the 1st and 3rd while allowing 29 in the 2nd period.

Then, in the first game home, the trend continued. Vegas allowed just one high-danger chance in the 1st and didn’t allow a single one in the 3rd, but, they allowed seven in the 2nd, a period that ultimately cost them a chance to match the franchise’s longest winning streak ever.

Scoring chances, Corsi, expected goals, you name the stat, they are all far worse in the 2nd than the 1st and 3rd for the Golden Knights.

The question is, why?

Head coach Bruce Cassidy has a pretty strong theory on it.

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Seven Ways VGK Won Seven Straight Games

The Golden Knights are currently 10 points ahead of the 2021-22 team at this point in the regular season. More goals, more victories, more cheer. The word is out, the public is noticing VGK’s quick start and bounce back from last season. Thankfully for fans, the Golden Knights don’t look like they’re slowing down any time soon.

VGK Last Seven Games

  • 7-0-0
  • +12 Goal Differential
  • 3.86 Goals Scored Per Game
  • 2.00 Goals Allowed Per Game
  • 6 Power Play Goals
  • 2 Shorthanded Goals
  • 34.1 Shots Per Game

Tonight, in Toronto the Golden Knights will have a chance to win their eighth game in a row. The streak has stretched two weeks, beginning in Nevada and continuing in Eastern Canada. During their run, Vegas has defeated divisional rivals, conference contenders, Hart Trophy winners, a Vezina trophy winner, and several future Hall of Famers. Since October 24th, the Golden Knights’ offense per game is fifth-best (3.86) and third in goals allowed per game (2.00). Frankly, it’s been an impressive run for Bruce Cassidy’s club.

Noticeably, all seven victories have been won in different fashions. From toppling opponents, or squeaking by in overtime, to jumping out to a lead or playing from behind, Vegas has shown an array of ways to succeed. Here’s how each game was won.

Monday, October 24th: VGK 3-1 vs. TOR

Offense Jumps on Early Opportunities

The Golden Knights started their win streak by attacking the Maple Leafs from the moment the puck was dropped. After Toronto committed an early too many men on the ice penalty, Nic Roy gave Vegas a 1-0 lead on the expiring power play. Later, Chandler Stephenson scored the eventual game-winning goal 0:42 into the final frame. The Golden Knights controlled the game from the jump and won it within the first minute of the final period.

Tuesday, October 25th: VGK 4-2 @ SJ

Third Period Takeover

Through 40 minutes in San Jose, the Golden Knights looked flat. The Sharks offense, defense, and goaltending were outperforming a clearly more talented road team. Immediately after the second intermission the Golden Knights flipped a switch and exploded for three 3rd period goals. Shea Theodore scored 0:55 in, William Karlsson and Mark Stone capped off the 4-2 victory with goals of their own. Vegas came away with another two points where they weren’t the best team for most of the night. In the end, the better team took over in the most crucial moments.

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November Notes: Cassidy And VGK Match Thanksgiving Success

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Tonight, in Ottawa the Golden Knights continue a challenging five-game eastern conference road trip. This is the first extended journey for Vegas this season. Up until now, the Pacific Division leader’s longest road trip was a two-game trip to Seattle and Calgary. It’s possible the Golden Knights are fortunate to go on a cross-coast so early in the season. Normally, lengthy road trips allow a chance for players to bond and go through the grind together. Five cities in ten days against teams all with a .500 winning% or higher will help grow chemistry.

With the exception of the 2020-21 shortened season, the Golden Knights annually take an early season trek to the east coast for a handful of games. Here are the results from the previous five seasons.

VGK’s First Extended Road Trip Of The Season

  • 2021-22: (2-2-0) – L 4-0 @TOR, W 5-1 @OTT, W 5-2 @MTL, L 5-2 @DET
  • 2020-21: (2-1-0) – L 3-2 @COL, W 3-0 @COL, W 3-2 @ANA
  • 2019-20: (1-2-1) – W 2-1 @CBJ, OTL 2-1 @TOR, L 5-2 @WAS, L 3-2 @DET
  • 2018-19: (2-3-0) – W 2-1 @MIN, L 4-2 @BUF, L 5-2 @WAS, L 4-2 @PIT, W 1-0 @PHI
  • 2017-18: (1-4-1) – L 6-3 @NYI, L 6-4 @NYR, L 2-1 @BOS, W 5-4 @OTT, SOL 3-2 @TOR, L 3-2 @MTL

Traditionally this road trip hasn’t been kind to the Golden Knights. Defeating the Capitals 3-2 in Washington was a good start for the Golden Knights, considering they’ve lost their opening matchup four out of five years. Since the opening season Vegas has combined for only 18 of 42 points on their early November trips. The 2017-18 club struggled to the point that former coach Gerard Gallant made his now infamous “we’re not an expansion team” speech after losing to the NY Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

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10 Game Segment Grades: Games 1-10

(Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke, SinBin.vegas)

During his time in Boston, Bruce Cassidy would often say he breaks the season down into 10-game segments. After each group of 10 games, he takes a step back to evaluate what he’s seeing and what he believes may need to change.

This year, we’re going to do something similar by grading each 10-game segment and then tracking a running “GPA” to keep tabs on how the Golden Knights are playing in each area of the game.

Vegas finished the first segment of the season with an excellent record of 8-2-0. They’re outscoring opponents 32-17 and have trailed for just 85:30 of the 600 minutes they’ve played. The Golden Knights have scored first in seven of the 10 games and have held a multi-goal lead in five of them.

All in all, it’s been pretty darn good across the board. So, get ready for some strong grades.

Offensive Production

32 goals in 10 games will absolutely work for the style of play Bruce Cassidy is deploying with the Golden Knights. They’ve scored in a variety of ways and have gotten goals from 14 different players and points from 19.

The new top-six including the super line with Jack Eichel and Mark Stone has been extremely effective and the Misfit Line picked up where they left off. The bottom-six has held its own to this point chipping in enough offensively.

The blue line has not been a source of goal-scoring to this point but they are definitely making an impact in chance generation. Shea Theodore and Alex Pietrangelo have seven and six points respectively and the rest of the blue line have all chipped in at least one helper.

The Golden Knights do have plenty of room for improvement here though. They currently rank just 14th in the league in even-strength goals per game. The main reason for this is ineffective finishing. VGK are at or near the top of the league in every important chance generation measurement but haven’t seen it pay off. They have the 22nd-ranked shooting percentage overall and the 31st on high-danger chances. Despite this, they have a PDO at nearly 1.03 indicating they’ve actually been fortunate in regards to shooting percentage vs. save percentage. It hasn’t been a problem to this point, but there have been some glimpses of it so it’s definitely something to keep an eye on moving forward.

Grade: B+ (Season GPA: 3.3)

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