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Playoffs A Reminder Health Isn’t Only Factor For Success

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Watching the Stanley Cup playoffs certainly has a different feel without the Golden Knights as participants. As we’ve been over many, many times since their season finale, injuries played a significant role in why the team is on the outside looking in. Halfway through the first round, it’s clear Vegas needed more than just their health to advance.

Western Conference Playoff Summary

  • 14-0 Team Scoring First
  • 8-6 Home Team
  • 4.25 Winning Team Average Goals
  • 3.22 Average Goal Differential Per Game
  • 1.8 Power Play Goals Per Win
  • 10-4 When Scoring PPG

Down the stretch, the Golden Knights had trouble picking up the first goal of game, received very little output from their power play, and lacked the ability to climb back and win from behind. On most nights in the playoffs, those elements would be a recipe for disaster. Not surprising, early consistent scoring is paying off in the postseason. So far, there have been 14 games played in the Western Conference, the team that scored the opening goal went on to win to all of them.

Naturally, lower-scoring teams focus on winning defensive battles helping them survive in a long series. Last night the LA Kings defeated the Edmonton Oilers 4-0 and evened the series by playing their signature suffocating style. The Oilers are +7 in goal differential but are in no better shape than the Kings.

The sixth highest-scoring team in the NHL’s regular season has only mustered up three goals in three games. The Calgary Flames averaged 3.55 goals per game in the first 82 but have been held to 2 goals or less in the last three. Yet, the 2.84 goals per game Dallas Stars hold a 2-1 series lead.

Western Conference Goals Scored Per Game

  • Colorado 5.33 (1 ENG)
  • Edmonton 4.25
  • Minnesota 3.25 (2 ENG)
  • St. Louis 3.00 (1 ENG)
  • Dallas 2.00 (2 ENG)
  • Nashville 2.00
  • LA 2.50 (1 ENG)
  • Calgary 1.0

Subtract empty netters, and the averages decrease for several Western Conference contenders. Making most games much tighter than the averages show. No matter who Vegas faced off against their periodic offensive struggles could’ve haunted them in the first round.

Turn back the clock to Vegas’ run to the semifinals last year. In six games against the Montreal Canadiens, the Golden Knights averaged 2.18 goals per game, scored the opening goal twice, and were blanked on the man-advantage.

Without a doubt, the Golden Knights’ front office is tuning in nightly like all of us. We’ve heard dozens of times the NHL is a copycat league, it’s possible VGK execs are picking up plays for their grease board. Why not take a few notes on Colorado’s lethal PP, or some offensive strategies from Edmonton, Minnesota, or St. Louis. Maybe, it’s best to watch Dallas and LA’s suffocating, everything to the outside type of defense. It may be the difference between making semis or the finals.

DALLAS STARS 3 VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 2 (41-31-7 91 PTS) – SO (1-0)

Recap: The Golden Knights needed points in Dallas to keep their season alive and showed their urgency late in the opening 20 minutes. William Carrier gave Vegas a 1-0 lead :49 seconds before the period expired.

Dallas evened the score after the midway point of the game but Vegas would regain their lead in the waning seconds of the middle frame. Chandler Stephenson put the Golden Knights ahead 2-1 with :04 seconds left in the 2nd period.

It didn’t take long for the home team to tie the game 2-2 in the final period. The game would head to overtime and eventually be settled in shootout. On the 13th shot in SO the Stars clinched the victory with the only successful attempt.

The Golden Knights record drops to 42-31-7 falling to the Stars 3-2 in shootouts. Vegas picks up only one point and trail Dallas by four points for the final Wild Card position. The Golden Knights travel to Chicago for their second to last game of the season. Puck drop against the Blackhawks is set for 5:30 PM. (Recap by Jason)

Analysis: Vegas did not play poorly by any stretch of the imagination in this game. They scored first, they unknotted a tie, and they pushed until the very last second in both regulation and shootout. In the end, the skills competition got them again but it goes so much deeper than that. VGK have won just two games of their last seven. They simply aren’t good enough to be in the playoffs and that hurts. (Recap by Ken)


Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs. Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center.

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Reliving The Previous Two Games Against The Dallas Stars This Season

Remember when we used these photos for the playoffs in the bubble. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Playoff “Photographer” @BadSportsArt)

It’s not often we get to say this and actually mean it, for the Golden Knights tonight is truly a must-win. If Game 80 results in a loss to the Stars, the season will be over for the Golden Knights. If it happens in regulation, it truly is mathematically over, but even if it happens in OT, there will be no coming back for Vegas.

Here’s the good news. This season, these two teams have faced off twice and the Golden Knights were the victors in each. To get ready for tonight’s game, it seems wise to look back at the previous two to see who played, what went right, and what went wrong for the Golden Knights.

Lineups

October 27th, 2021 – at Dallas

Carrier-Stephenson-Krebs
Marchessault-Karlsson-Smith
Dadonov-Roy-Kolesar
Howden-Leschyshn-Miromanov

Hague-Pietrangelo
Martinez-Theodore
McNabb-Coghlan

Brossoit

December 8th, 2021 – vs Dallas

Pacioretty-Stephenson-Stone
Marchessault-Karlsson-Smith
Janmark-Roy-Dadonov
Carrier-Kolesar-Amadio

Hague-Pietrangelo
Theodore-Whitecloud
McNabb-Coghlan

Lehner

Projected for tonight

Pacioretty-Stephenson-Stone
Marchessault-Karlsson-Roy
Janmark-Eichel-Dadonov
Carrier-Amadio

Hutton-Pietrangelo
McNabb-Theodore
Martinez-Whitecloud
Coghlan

Thompson

In the last game, the home game in December, the Golden Knights were about as healthy as they’ve been all season, save for Eichel having yet to make his debut. The game in October however was a much more limited lineup missing both Pacioretty and Stone, and using Miromanov as a forward.

How the games went

October 27th, 2021 – at Dallas

Vegas conceded early, just 2:20 into the period, on a tipped goal from a shot from the point. The Golden Knights’ defensemen, McNabb and Coghlan, failed to get inside position and Luke Glendening had an easy tip-in chance to steer it past Brossoit. The Golden Knights tied almost instantaneously though as Shea Theodore intercepted a clearing attempt and threw the puck on net. It was stick-checked by a Stars player and fluttered along the ice towards the goalie who was fooled by the speed. A bit of a fluky goal.

Vegas allowed another tipped goal early in the 2nd and trailed for a majority of the game after that. Jonathan Marchessault ripped home a one-timer with the Vegas net empty to send the game to overtime. Evgenii Dadonov would win it in OT.

The game was dominated at even strength for the most part by the Stars who outshot Vegas 34-16, outchanced the Golden Knights 44-21, and racked up 16 high danger chances to VGK’s just seven. The final tally in expected goals was 3.03 to 0.9, yet the score showed 2-2 at the end of regulation.

Vegas could not keep the Stars away from the front of the net and needed the best game Laurent Brossoit has ever played as a Golden Knight to even keep them in it. It wasn’t pretty at all, but it was an OT victory in the end.

To be fair though, VGK were playing the 2nd night of a B2B, three games in four nights, and had travel issues getting into Dallas the night before/day of.

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Former DeBoer Captain: VGK’s “Great Transition Game” Creates Problems For Opponents

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Dallas Star center Joe Pavelski served four-plus seasons as Pete DeBoer’s captain. Both had great success from 2015-2019, making the postseason each season together, including a Stanley Cup Finals appearance in 2016. So, it’s fair to say Pavelski knows his former coach well on and off the ice. This week the Wisconsin native explained what type of team the Golden Knights were.

They’re a team that if you give them two-thirds of the ice, they’ve got a great transition game. They take off and you saw that. They go at times and make plays. -Joe Pavelski, Stars center

During their time together in San Jose, DeBoer and Pavelski won 59.6% percent of their games. The former Sharks captain averaged 31 goals per season including 38 on the power play. In Vegas, DeBoer’s top offensive forwards Max Pacioretty, Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault have been as dangerous as Pavelski was in San Jose. Since becoming a Star, Pavelski has faced his former boss eight times, seven of which were postseason contests. Without reminding fans of the Stars success in the 2020 Western Conference Final, after Wednesday it’s clear Dallas is comfortable rolling out the same blueprint that eliminated Vegas in the bubble.

Against the Stars in the 2020 WCF, the Golden Knights averaged 36 shots per game but lost four times by exactly one goal. Although Vegas won 5-4 there were similarities on Wednesday night. DeBoer’s squad outshot Dallas 45-23 and trailed for most of the game. At this point, we can assume it’ll be tight 60 minutes every time these two meet.

You can’t take things for granted. We spent quite a bit too much time in the d-zone. They were around the net. -Joe Pavelski, Stars center

It wasn’t just the forwards that flourished under DeBoer in San Jose. Check out sharpshooting defenseman Brent Burns’ numbers from 2015-2019. Burns averaged 75 points per season under DeBoer. Several Golden Knights defenseman are seeing an increase in opportunities because of the team’s extended pressure in the opponents’ zone. DeBoer’s active blue line created a dangerous dual-threat offense that other teams have had trouble with in the regular season.

As a 16-year veteran, Pavelski found success playing with and against DeBoer’s game plan. It’s possible his knowledge of being on a transition team in San Jose aids his current club against Vegas. Either way, the former Sharks captain rightly describes and understands why the Golden Knights are a deep threat. The one unfortunate aspect of the Pavelski-DeBoer connection is that they’re both chasing a championship. Each has appeared twice but neither has been sized for a ring. It’s possible with Jack Eichel in the mix, DeBoer’s quick rush/shot suppression strategy works in the postseason, and they’ll probably need to eliminate Pavelski’s Stars along the way.

VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 5 DALLAS STARS 4 (15-10-0 30 PTS)

Recap: The Golden Knights came out firing the puck, outshooting the Stars 10-5 in the 1st period. Each team was awarded a power play and only Dallas was able to cash in to take a 1-0 lead into the intermission.

Mark Stone tied the game immediately in the middle period, scoring his second goal of the season :19 seconds in. The Stars would respond with back to back power play goals, making them 3 for 3 on the man advantage. Late in the period Jonathan Marchessault gave Vegas life with his 11th of the season.

The two traded goals midway through the final frame but Stone and his linemates would come through again. The captain tied the game with five minutes remaining and Max Pacioretty broke the tie a minute later. 

The Golden Knights record improves to 15-10-0 with their 5-4 comeback win against Dallas. Vegas will next face the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday night. Puck drop against the Flames is scheduled for 7 PM. (Recap by Jason)

Analysis: In an absolutely crazy game, the Golden Knights’ 5-on-5 dominance won out over their incompetence on both special teams. VGK hounded the Stars all night at even-strength and ended up outshooting Dallas 45-23, but it took a furious comeback in the 3rd to find a way to win it. Two games against Dallas now this season, two miraculous wins, and four big points. (Recap by Ken)


Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs. Dallas Stars game at T-Mobile Arena.

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How 122 Minutes Changed The Direction Of The Golden Knights Season

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s amazing how quickly the tides can turn for a professional sports team. For example, the Atlanta Braves were floundering below .500 in late June, holding the tenth worst record in the National League. Now, Atlanta is three games away from winning the World Series. Okay, maybe the Golden Knights two game Central sweep isn’t of the same magnitude but the tone surrounding the team and the fanbase is a stark difference from what it was on Tuesday afternoon.

There’s no arguing who’s lineup was more talented over the past two games and especially on Tuesday night. Down to their bare bones the Golden Knights did something that not even the organization expected to happen, win back-to-back road games in Colorado and Dallas. It was a tall order but coach Pete DeBoer and his makeshift roster performed as if Mark Stone was leading the way. However, the absence of Stone and others were replaced with gutsy performances by the current, less-talented Golden Knights.

Clearly, DeBoer got through to his players before the road trip began on Tuesday. In case it wasn’t loud enough the de facto leaders (Pietrangelo, Marchessault, Smith, Karlsson, Martinez) made sure the message was heard. Based off their last six periods (and OT) the healthy players were highly motivated and reminded the league on back-to-back nights that their season wasn’t finished.

It was a gutsy road trip. It was a gutsy win again today, short bench, had more guys leave during the game, so we were basically playing three lines. Guys dug deep all week. Tough circumstances and guys found a way. It was a real character test and I thought we did a great job. -Pete DeBoer

One of the reasons Vegas was able to survive and collect four enormous road points was the brilliant play from their goaltenders. As expected, Robin Lehner was Colorado’s foil, and backup Laurent Brossoit put his team in a position to win the game down the stretch in Dallas. Without sharp goaltending this week would look a lot bleaker. Several times over the last two games Vegas could have lost confidence and let the game get away from them. Up 2-1 in Colorado, the Avalanche had more than a period to tie the game but Lehner and his teammates refused to let that happen.

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VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 3 DALLAS STARS 2 (3-4-0 6 PTS) – OT

Recap: The Golden Knights fought off an early 1-0 deficit with a goal of their own almost two minutes later. Vegas defended the rest of the penalty being outshot 15-5, but the game remained tied 1-1 after the opening twenty minutes.

Dallas took the lead midway through the middle frame on a deflection by Vegas backup goaltender Laurent Brossoit. The Golden Knights had quality chances towards the end of the period but couldn’t cash in.

Trailing 2-1 the Golden Knights made a strong push in the final period. Vegas had several chances and finally the dam broke with a wicked shot from Jonathan Marchessault tying the game with about a minute to go. Moments later Brossoit came up with the save of the night to keep the game tied and sending it to overtime.

In OT, it was Evgenii Dadonov who stuck one past Khudobin and the Golden Knights steal not one, but two points on the road.

The Golden Knights record improves to 3-4-0 after winning back to back games in Colorado and Dallas. Vegas will next hit the ice on a Friday for a Nevada Day evening matchup against the Anaheim Ducks. Puck drop is scheduled for 5PM.(Recap by Jason)

Analysis: Vegas came in playing the second-half of a back-to-back and the third game in four nights, plus they had travel problems, arriving in Dallas just a few hours before the game. They looked every bit of what you’d expect for a team in that situation for the first 35 minutes of the game. Somehow, they managed to stick around in the game until a pair of heroes emerged. They were Marchessault and Brossoit, and somehow, almost miraculously, the Golden Knights come back with four points in hand. (Recap by Ken)


Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs. Dallas Stars game at American Airlines Center.

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Who’s To Blame For The Golden Knights Underachieving… Again

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s a sad moment for fans when a hockey season abruptly ends like it did last Thursday. Reality sets in when a Cup run is over and the 31st franchise will have to wait another year for a chance at the ultimate prize. Unfortunately, the truth is, this was another wasted season for the Golden Knights. For the second straight year, Vegas faced an inferior opponent and couldn’t find a way to force a game seven. Their leaders, coaches, and framers failed again and almost identically in back-to-back years.

Against Montreal, the Golden Knights outshot the Canadiens 193 to 165 yet had two fewer goals in the Semifinals. Keep in mind the Canadiens were the 15th lowest scoring team in the regular season and Vegas was 3rd highest. The Golden Knights fell down the same hole last postseason against the Dallas Stars. Like Montreal, Dallas was another low scoring team that found a way to outscore the Golden Knights in the conference finals. It was inexcusable in 2020, and even more so in 2021 after the organization retooled in the offseason.

So, who’s to blame?

Players

Let’s begin with the leadership group. Captain Mark Stone has built quite the portfolio in Vegas, however, his stock continues to plummet in the playoffs. For three straight seasons, Stone has provided very little offense for the Golden Knights when they needed him late in a series. Going without a single point in the entire Semifinals was rock bottom for Stone. His failure to produce in the backend of a playoff series was evident again against Minnesota, Colorado, and Montreal.

In all fairness to the captain, he owned up to it.

I can praise (the Canadiens) all I want but ultimately it falls down on myself and the top players on this team. We had some guys that produced night in and night out. As far as myself I got skunked this series. That can’t happen. I’m the captain of this team, the leader of this team, I take a lot of responsibility for what just occurred. -Mark Stone

Another concern was the continuous slow starts for Vegas. In six Semifinal games, the Golden Knights allowed the first goal four times, and were sluggish to begin the 1st period in several other postseason contests. In the final 12 games of the postseason, the Golden Knights trailed at some point in 11 of them.

Is it possible the team leaders for Vegas couldn’t motivate their teammates enough to kick off the game on time? It’s hard to comprehend why, but it’s fair to point fingers at the men with letters; Stone, Reilly Smith and Alex Pietrangelo.

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Mattias Janmark Doesn’t See Similarities In How Wild And Stars Defend The Golden Knights

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Anyone else feeling a bit of deja vu from the last playoff run?

The Golden Knights seem to be able to generate chances but the puck just will not go in the back of the net. Through two games Vegas has attempted 144 shots with 70 of them making it to Cam Talbot. He’s stopped all but three despite consistent pressure from the Vegas offense.

To most, including myself, it reminds me of the Dallas series, and the back-end of the Vancouver series before it. But to Mattias Janmark, who was on the Stars team that ended Vegas’ season last year, he doesn’t see the parallels. When asked if the Wild are defending the Golden Knights in a similar way, he took a moment to think about it and then said “not really.” He went on…

It’s hard because I was on the other side. I don’t think (Minnesota) plays too much of the same style as we played in Dallas. I don’t see too many similarities but I think in the playoffs all the series are similar in some ways. It’s always hard to score in the playoffs. -Janmark

One place in which Minnesota is very different from Dallas is in their commitment to block shots. In 123 minutes of hockey, the Wild have stepped in front of 40 Vegas shots. Meanwhile, in 5 games, or 304 minutes, the Stars blocked just 60 Golden Knights shots.

Another difference is where the shots are coming from for the Golden Knights. The first heat map is from this series while the second is against Dallas.

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Power Play Improvement Could Turn VGK From Great To Elite

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights are regarded as one of the better teams in the league. They’ve been described as elite, highly-skilled and loaded. Vegas backs that up with the third best points percentage (.786) in the NHL. However, there is one glaringly obvious area the first place Golden Knights will need to improve.

Since the start of the shortened 2019-20 season, the Golden Knights are 19th in the league with 40 5-on-4 goals. When coach Pete DeBoer took over on January 16th, 2020, Vegas dropped even lower to 28th. In that timespan the Golden Knights squeaked out an underwhelming 12 5-on-4 goals in 79 opportunities.

The 2021 Golden Knights have only scored three times on the power play, the second least in the league. One on a two-man advantage, and two on a 5-on-4. Overall, Vegas’ power play efficiency is 11.5% good for 28th in the NHL.

2021 VGK Man-Advantage Breakdown

27 Man Advantage Opportunities
Power Play Goals (3)
5-on-4 Goals (2)
5-on-3 Goals (1)
6-on-5 Goals (1)

On the other hand, signs show that Vegas’ deficiencies won’t hurt them in the long run. Under DeBoer, the Golden Knights have the third-highest points percentage (.741) behind only Boston (.774) and Philadelphia (.750). Impressively enough, Their inability to score in 5-on-4 situations rarely cost them regular season points.

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