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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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2020 Golden Knights Playoffs “Photo” Gallery

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DALLAS STARS 3 VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 2 (DAL WINS 4-1) – OT

Recap: For the first time in seven games the Golden Knights scored a 1st period goal. Chandler Stephenson gave his team the lead with a nifty move to the net. Robin Lehner stood strong stopping all nine of Dallas’ shots on net.

The middle frame was flooded with penalties. Altogether there were four power play opportunities for both teams and neither could produce a goal. Vegas was 0/3 on their chances taking four shots on Stars goalie Anton Khudobin. On the other side of the ice, Lehner was flawless through 40 minutes preserving a 1-0 Vegas lead.

Fifteen seconds into the final period Reilly Smith shot a wicked wrister passed Khudobin to extend Vegas’ lead 2-0. It was Smith’s first goal since August 23rd, breaking his ten-game scoring drought. Dallas would get on the board midway through the period making it a tight 2-1 game. The Stars forced overtime tying the game 2-2 on a later power play goal.

Unfortunately, Vegas took an early delay of game penalty and Dallas took advantage ending the series in overtime.

With their 3-2 OT loss, the Golden Knights were eliminated 4-1 in their best-of-seven series with the Stars. Vegas will pack up and head back home from the Edmonton bubble. (Recap by Jason)

Analysis: The Golden Knights relied on the same style of possession offense and once again it produced absolutely nothing for the eighth consecutive game. They scored twice on transition chances and that was all they had to show for the game. Then, when they got the lead, they collapsed in their own end throwing the style of game that kept Dallas’s offense at bay out the window. In OT, a tough penalty cost them the game and the series. Not a good look at all and now things have to change moving forward. (Analysis by Ken)


Upcoming stories from Game 5 of the Vegas Golden Knights vs Dallas Stars in the Western Conference Final at Rogers Place in the NHL Bubble.

  • Hopefully the delusion ends and they learn from the shortcoming

Ken’s Three VGK Stars
*** Reilly Smith
** Chandler Stephenson
* Alex Tuch

DALLAS STARS 2 VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 1 (DAL 3-1)

Recap: The 1st period of Game 4 was a mirror image of the entire series. For the third straight game neither team could come up with a goal in the opening 20 minutes.

The game began to heat up in the 2nd period. Vegas took the first lead on a power play goal from Alec Martinez. Dallas tied the game and eventually took the lead 2-1 with a power play goal of their own with under a minute to go in the middle period.

Dallas suffocated the Vegas in the final period. The Golden Knights drew multiple penalties earning a 5-on-3 power play. They had several chances but couldn’t convert and tie the game.

With their 2–1 loss, the Golden Knights trail the Stars 3-1 in their best-of-seven series. Game 5 of the Western Conference finals is set for Monday night. Puck drop is scheduled for 5:00 PM. (Recap by Jason)

Analysis: The Golden Knights refused to change the way they played and the Stars once again capitalized on the style. Vegas controlled a good portion of the game in the offensive zone but yet again couldn’t must up enough truly dangerous scoring chances at even-strength. The one goal they scored was on the power play and when they needed the PP to bail them out again with a 70 second 5-on-3, they couldn’t. Something must change in the style of play or there is no way the Golden Knights will defeat the Stars three times in a row and make the Stanley Cup Final. (Analysis by Ken)


Upcoming stories from Game 4 of the Vegas Golden Knights vs Dallas Stars in the Western Conference Final at Rogers Place in the NHL Bubble.

  • We might be as lost as the Golden Knights. But we’ll figure out something.

Ken’s Three VGK Stars
*** Shea Theodore
** Alec Martinez
* Alex Tuch

Vegas Faces Tough But Attainable Challenge After Losing Game’s 1 & 3

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

If you’ve heard it once you’ve probably heard it a thousand times on the SinBin podcast. Teams need to win odd-numbered games to clinch a series. So far, the Golden Knights haven’t done that in the Western Conference Final. While losing the first and third contests of a seven-game series isn’t ideal, plenty of teams have actually advanced in that position.

Since the 1999-2000 season, eight teams have gone on to win a conference final or Stanley Cup final after losing Games 1 and 3 of the series. Over the past 20 years it’s been accomplished four times in the Western Conference finals, three in the Eastern Conference finals, and twice in the Stanley Cup finals. Including last season’s Cup winner the St. Louis Blues, who did it twice in their championship run. Vegas is hoping to be the ninth team, starting by winning Game 4 (something all nine teams did).

Teams That Won WCF Losing Game 1 & 3
2000: Dallas Stars- won in seven (won 4, 5, 7)
2007: Anaheim Ducks- won in six (won 4, 5, 6)
2015: Chicago Blackhawks- won in seven (won 4, 6, 7)
2019: St. Louis Blues- won in seven (won 4, 5, 6)

Pete DeBoer is no stranger to the situation his current team is in. In 2012, DeBoer’s New Jersey Devils lost the first and third games of the Eastern Conference finals and stormed back to win the series in six. Seven years later he was on the other end as the coach of the San Jose Sharks. In last year’s Western Conference final, the Blues overcame defeats in game one and three to outlast the Sharks in seven.

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