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Up Two Or Down Two, Vegas Can Handle Either

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s been said that a two goal lead is the worst lead in hockey. Silly, right? However, there’s some truth to it.

As you might expect, the absolute most dangerous lead in hockey is the one-goal lead as 85.35% of those were surrendered. That means either a game was tied up or the opponent took the lead back from them.

A two goal lead was given up 39.52%, seeing a two-goal lead given up nearly four out of every ten times is incredible. Think of the “dead puck” era when a two-goal lead essentially meant the game was over. Now? Not so much. Of the 463 times a team held a two-goal advantage, 183 times that team gave it up.- NBCSports.com

When a club is up two or more in a game, they tend to take their foot off the gas or play with a bit of unnatural risk. Not too mention trying to stop an angry, desperate team chasing goals. On Tuesday night in St. Louis it was a rare occurrence that a 2-0 lead wasn’t good enough for Pete DeBoer and his players.

We got the start we wanted for a change, and we talked about that, and we let them back in the game.-Pete DeBoer, VGK coach

No need for panic as it was the first time all season the Golden Knights blew a two goal advantage and lost. Vegas had spoiled puckline leads in the past but always found ways to win. The season opener against Seattle and the overtime scramble against Anaheim are two instances that stand out. In St. Louis the guard was let down too early and the Blues sensed it.

Original Golden Knight David Perron liked the Blues response on Tuesday night. Perron told Bally Sports Midwest that trailing by two only fueled his team.

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The All VGK Killer Team

Thursday’s preseason game was so miserable to watch a fellow writer and I started trying to come up with all of the players that have given the Golden Knights fits over the first four seasons. This idea was born out of the fact that VGK were making Nick Schmaltz look like an offense driving machine for a few shifts in a row and we thought, he’d fit right in with some of the names that kill the Golden Knights.

Of course, Schmaltz’s run of dominance didn’t last long (if it even lasted at all, he just popped for a shift or two and that was enough to catch my attention during that dreadful game), but players just like him have had success against the Golden Knights in meaningful games.

This team is built of players that have actually had an impact on helping their team beat the Golden Knights. Unlike players like Evander Kane, Tom Wilson, and Antoine Roussel who are just annoying and usually hurt their team.

Without further ado, here’s the All VGK Killer Team from the first four years of the Golden Knights’ existence.

1st Line
Kyle Connor-Anze Kopitar-David Perron

This is a legit 1st line, centered by the man who has more points against the Golden Knights than anyone else, Anze Kopitar. His 21 points in 21 games are five better than any other player in the league and he’s added a couple more in the playoffs. Connor has also thrashed the Golden Knights on the scoresheet, posting eight goals and five assists for 13 points in just eight games. Like Kopitar, he’s also scored a goal and an assist on VGK in the playoffs. Then, there’s the one and only David Perron. It seems like it’s a life goal to ruin the night of every Vegas fan every time he’s at T-Mobile Arena. The Golden Knights have shut him down from time to time, but this list wouldn’t be complete without him.

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5 GM Do-Overs We Wish The Golden Knights Could Make

It’s pretty much universally accepted that the Golden Knights front office dominated the Expansion Draft. Not only did they build a team that was good enough to come within three wins of lifting the Stanley Cup, but they acquired a heap of assets to go with it. Since June 21, 2017 though, it’s been a bit bumpier of a road.

I saw a tweet yesterday that got the wheels turning in my mind to go back over some of the worst moves in VGK history. As I did it, I realized just how many good moves have been made since then too. So, this has turned into a two-parter! Today we start with the five do-overs and Saturday we’ll unveil the 5 do-agains.

Here we go…

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5) Allowing David Perron to leave in free agency

Following the inaugural season and the subsequent run to the Stanley Cup Final it was clear David Perron had fallen out of favor in some way with the Golden Knights organization. He missed the last week of the season, the first two playoff games against the Kings, then found himself as a healthy scratch for two of the five Winnipeg games and one Stanley Cup Final game.

This seemed to overshadow the fact that Perron was one of the most reliable players on the VGK roster the entire season and offered a unique skillset the team has never replaced. His ability to control the puck in the offensive zone, either at even-strength or on the power play opened up space for his teammates and gave the Golden Knights a different look than their usual transition-oriented attacking style.

It was sold as a rebuilding of the 2nd line due to poor defensive statistics, but it seemed to be more about Perron’s age and health than anything else. He went on to sign a four-year deal with a $4 million AAV in St. Louis that has proven to be a steal of a contract. He has 164 points in 184 games with the Blues, more than Max Pacioretty and Jonathan Marchessault in the same span.

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Stopping Perron And O’Reilly #1 Obstacle For Golden Knights Against Blues

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

To say the Golden Knights are haunted by David Perron and Ryan O’Reilly would be putting it lightly. In the three seasons since Perron left Vegas as a free agent, the pair have scored 8 goals, registered 11 assists, and combined for a +14 rating in just eight games against the Golden Knights.

Why can’t the Golden Knights stop them? The answer, as it is for most questions in hockey, comes down to time and space.

O’Reilly’s a great player in the middle of the ice and Perron, as Flower can attest, is a great shooter (Fleury nods in agreement). When he gets his time and sapce in shooting areas that’s where he capitalizes. -Mark Stone

In just 72 minutes of ice time together at even-strength against the Golden Knights, the pair have been on the ice for eight goals while conceding just twice. Oddly, the advanced stats such as shot share, expected goals, and high-danger chance numbers with them on the ice skew majorly in Vegas’ direction but the results haven’t matched.

On the power play, they’re even more deadly, as was the case last night. They’ve shared the ice for just 13 minutes on the man-advantage against Vegas and have accounted for four goals.

For us moving forward we have to do a better job of taking away that time and space and keying in on Perron’s shot a little more. -Stone

The key for Perron and O’Reilly, and the reason the advanced metrics don’t tell the whole story, has been their ability to create chances quickly. Any giveaway or even just a small mistake such as stick position of a defender can instantly turn into a goal scoring chance against Vegas.

A small seam can lead to Perron releasing one of his wicked one-timers or his nasty toe-drag shots that helped him each 66 points in a Golden Knights uniform. Meanwhile, O’Reilly is a pest forechecking against Vegas. Not only can he take the puck away himself, he’s crafty enough to fool defensemen into making mistakes.

The Golden Knights must have a keen eye on that pair any time they are on the ice, especially on the power play. Matchups are crucial and can be the difference in a game the Golden Knights should win and one they let slip away.

In the game last night, one Vegas unquestionably outplayed the Blues in for a majority of the night, St. Louis stole a goal from Vegas on a single shift in which they got Perron and O’Reilly out against the Vegas 4th line. Perron literally shared the ice with Keegan Kolesar and Ryan Reaves for less than a minute, and it resulted in a goal. On the power play Reilly Smith and William Karlsson were able to limit Perron and O’Reilly, but the 19 seconds they got against Tomas Nosek helped lead to another goal.

It’s tricky on the road, because the Golden Knights must declare their line and pair first at every stoppage, but being mindful of Perron and O’Reilly is quickly becoming a prerequisite to beating the Blues for Vegas.

Supplemental Discipline Not Likely, Nor Necessary, For Mark Stone’s Hit

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It was called a dirty play, an unnecessary hit, and not very smart. That is how the St. Louis Blues viewed Mark Stone’s 2nd period open-ice check on Tyler Bozak. Stone was forced into a fight, meanwhile, Bozak didn’t return to the game.

Questionable. We’ll look at him tomorrow.- Craig Berube, Blues coach

Stone was given a two-minute interference penalty for the mid-ice collision and the Blues were awarded their third power play of the night. After the penalty expired, Vegas’ captain dropped gloves with St. Louis defenseman Justin Faulk. It was an uneventful fight but it looked as if both parties were satisfied. St. Louis sent their message, Stone complied.

We got into kind of a battle in the corner and his elbow came up on me. Then we just jostled coming up the ice and I slammed on the brakes to get in his way. I didn’t expect to fight afterwards. He came after me and we fought. -Mark Stone

It seemed the bad blood was left on the ice, until Stone’s check was brought up several times after the game by St. Louis coach Craig Berube and his players. It’s possible the Blues were letting off some steam fresh from watching the replay, and learning their teammate was questionable to play next game. Either way, it was clear none of them liked it.

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Round Robin Adjustments – vs. St. Louis Blues

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Complete series: Dallas, St. Louis, Colorado

We’ve broken down two out of the three round-robin teams (Colorado and Dallas) the Golden Knights will be facing, so let’s finish it off with the St. Louis Blues.

vs. St. Louis: (2-1) 4-2 L, 5-4 W OT, 6-5 W OT

Let’s start with this, all three games between Vegas and St. Louis were highly entertaining. It’s hard to forget former Golden Knight David Perron hugging current Golden Knight Max Pacioretty’s leg, which then led to seven different roughing penalties. Vegas was fortunate to win the two OT games because of two improbable comebacks. In both victories, the Golden Knights trailed the Blues after two periods of play. They will need some of that never-give-up mentality in the round-robin, especially with Jordan Binnington in net. However, it’s unlikely St. Louis will blow many more three-goal leads.

Areas of Adjustment

  • Keep your heads on straight

The Golden Knights will have to improve their discipline against St. Louis. Not only for the fear of the Blues strong power play, but also because St. Louis can successfully agitate teams. They pestered their way to the Stanley Cup final last season, and they clearly enjoy annoying the Golden Knights.

Against St. Louis, Vegas averaged only six minutes in penalties per game, however in their second matchup the Golden Knights spent 12 minutes in the box. Granted many were matching penalties but when the Blues power play hit the ice they took advantage. St. Louis scored the opening and overtime forcing goals on the power play. Take those away and Vegas probably wins the game in regulation. Vegas turned the tables on St. Louis in their third matchup, scoring four times on man-advantages including on in OT. Their four power-play goals were the most scored in one game for the Golden Knights.

The Golden Knights are the better team at even strength so if they keep from being dragged into the muck, they should be able to handle the Blues.

  • Contain Offensive Defensmen

It’s no secret St. Louis has elite weapons on the blue line. Three of their top five season leaders in shots were defenseman, Alex Pietrangelo led the entire team with 225 shots on net. In the three meetings with the Golden Knights, the Blues got 23 shots and 10 points from defensemen. Vegas will have to get in the way of some of those shots or make it tough altogether for St. Louis’ D-men to get one off.

One way the Golden Knights can frustrate the Blues defensemen is by blocking shots and by creating high-zone pressure. Quite like the strategy Vegas used against Pete DeBoer’s San Jose Sharks in their 2018 postseason series.

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The Golden Life After Hockey

The one downfall of being an NHL player is that it’s not a lifelong job. The average American retires around 65, but for the average pro hockey player it’s 33. While it’s a highly desirable job, earning high salaries, and entertaining millions, there’s still plenty of life after hockey.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie was asked which current player he thought could become a good NHL GM, and his answer was not surprising.

Sidney Crosby is a hockey junkie. He loves the game. He loves to talk about the game, he follows things closely. He has a great awareness of what’s going on. I don’t know if he’ll go into management but it won’t surprise me. If he did go in, he would be all in. He’s got a real passion for the game and that reflects in knowledge and a thirst for knowledge about all things hockey.-Bob McKenzie, TSN

So it got us thinking, which current/former Golden Knight would make a good NHL general manager?

Jason’s candidates: Max Pacioretty, Paul Stastny, Shea Theodore

Ken’s candidates: David Perron, Nate Schmidt, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare

Max Pacioretty

There are many elements that go into being a successful general manager, the biggest one is accepting the harsh reality of the business side of hockey. The Islanders Lou Lamoriello is a great example of being a stone-cold executive, even Vegas’ George McPhee has an icy side. Maybe it’s education, or it comes with experience. Pacioretty felt the chill up in Montreal where he was constantly made the scapegoat. From the fans, media, to team executives, #67 had a lot on his plate. However, he still managed to score 226 goals for the Canadiens. Pacioretty accepted his high-profile role as an American captain in Montreal, and professionally handled his daily responsibilities, no matter how combative they were. In the end, he was traded by the organization he gave it all for, and it didn’t phase him. By then, he had already been schooled about the dirty business.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

After one year at his local high school, Pacioretty moved on to a hockey prep school, then to the USHL, and lastly the University of Michigan before becoming an NHL player. Since the age of 15, the Connecticut native was heavily recruited and scouted, so he’s well aware of that process.

As captain, Pacioretty needed to work the room and find balance with all of his teammates. Even loud, overbearing teammates like PK Subban. Being captain allowed him insight on how the team was built. What the front office was doing right and what went wrong. With several failed seasons in Montreal, I’m sure the 31-year-old veteran took note of the poor decisions made by the organization.

His experience early on with the recruitment stage, witnessing of building up and tearing down rosters, adding in his tough skin and Pacioretty has the resume to become a future general manager. (written by Jason)

David Perron

Man, I miss David Perron. Perron is one of the most intriguing players both on and off the ice.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

His hockey mind is always on full display when he’s playing as he just seems to have a knack for finding holes in the offensive zone where he can hold onto the puck for a little longer than anyone else who has ever worn a VGK jersey. He sees the game at a different speed than most and I’d have to think that would translate well into scouting as well as team construction.

Off the ice is where he really made me believe he has what it takes to be a GM though. He’s one of the few players in Golden Knights history who really cared about stats and even advanced stats. He’d talk about Corsi, zone starts, through-percentage, and many other pieces of data that proved he’s a true hockey junkie.

The intelligence he displayed in breaking down complex game situations as well as his understanding of the salary cap and the business end of hockey has me believing he would be not only the most likely to become a GM, but also the best future GM of any current or former Golden Knight. (written by Ken)

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