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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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Behind The Scenes Look At Golden Knights and Stars Series From “We’re Not Going Home”

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Playoff “Photographer” @BadSportsArt)

It’s always interesting to get a behind the scenes look at an NHL playoff series, especially from this year’s playoff bubble. Although the Golden Knights last played 60 days ago, this week we got some visual details from their series with the Dallas Stars.

The Stars released an “all-access journey” through their 2020 postseason run, and spent time focusing on the Western Conference Finals (the entire show is embedded below). In “We’re Not Going Home,” Dallas sounded extremely confident heading into their seven-game series with Vegas. The Stars were vocal about the Golden Knights’ easy path to the Conference Final.

They haven’t played a fucking team like us boys. Their first two rounds, it was pretty fucking easy. Send a fucking message early. They played two light teams, they’re in for a rude awakening.-Jamie Benn, Stars captain in “We’re Not Going Home”

Of course, Dallas’ Captain was confident at the time after his team beat Calgary in six, and Colorado in seven. It wasn’t just the players either, Dallas’ coaches felt comfortable with the matchup after watching and studying Vegas’ previous series.

Dallas assistant coach, and former LA Kings head coach, John Stevens questioned if Vegas had been pushed enough by Chicago or Vancouver. Stevens believed if the Stars played physical, and their rugged brand of hockey they would advance to the Stanley Cup Finals.

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Golden Knights Keep Up With 2020 NHL “Oddity”

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

In a year where strange is normal, the NHL was no exception and did their part to add to the madness. Unusual statistical occurrences happened over the 2019-20 season, and the Golden Knights were one of those teams in on the action.

There were 125 multi-goal comeback wins, the most in NHL history through 1,082 games (the amount of games played this season instead of 1,271). This is my favourite stat here today because I came across some commentary this season about “hockey today” being less entertaining (less physical, too fast to follow, copycat styles), yet the game itself gave us great drama. The most multi-goal comeback wins EVER. When your team is down in today’s NHL, they aren’t necessarily out.-Justin Bourne, Sportsnet

It really is a remarkable statistic. Just over 1,000 games played and 125 instances where a team comes back to win from a two-plus goal deficit. Early multiple-goal leads in this league won’t always ensure a victory. I guess that’s why we’re constantly told by coaches and players the need to “play the full 60.” Damn, I miss hockey cliché speak.

To add to the oddity, the Golden Knights achieved the feat twice in the regular season, both against the same team.

VGK Comeback Wins Trailing By 2 Goals

1/4 vs. STL: VGK wins 5-4 in OT/Trailed 3-0 in 1st Period
2/13 vs. STL: VGK wins 6-5 in OT/Trailed 4-2 in 2nd Period

Then, in the playoffs, Vegas did it again to St. Louis!

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Rattled By Thatcher Demko?

Following their Western Conference Final loss, Pete DeBoer made a puzzling comment about his team’s mentality.

There’s no doubt that the last couple of games in the Vancouver series against Demko probably rattled our confidence a little bit. -DeBoer

DeBoer casually revealed one of the reasons Vegas struggled to score on Dallas was a rookie backup goaltender from a previous series living inside of his players’ heads.

We’ve heard coaches reference past series to account for injuries or even style of play differences, but I’m not sure I’ve ever heard one admit his team was psychologically fractured by an individual performance in a prior round. We applaud the honesty, but what is he saying about his team… or maybe even his own coaching job?

Another learning lesson for our guys at this time of year; fighting through, persevering, finding a way to get yourself out of a slump. Getting your confidence back quicker. -DeBoer

What happened to the mentality this team had?(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

These are all things the Golden Knights clearly did not do well inside of the bubble, that they must improve upon if they are to hoist the Cup in the future. But one has to wonder about the fragility of the locker room if they did indeed allow the ghost of Thatcher Demko to ruin their chances to win a completely new series.

What happened to “one game at a time?” To “I’m not worried about the offense?” To “the worst thing we can do is change?”

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