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Jack Eichel Is Playing Far More Than William Karlsson, That Must Change

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

On every hockey team, there’s a hierarchy when it comes to time on ice. Every team has a top line that includes a #1 center, a workhorse defenseman, a first power play unit, and preferred penalty killers. This leads to an uneven, but expected, range of times on ice for each of the 18 skaters.

This year, Alex Pietrangelo leads all Golden Knights in time on ice, averaging 23:38 per game. Jack Eichel is the leader among the forwards at a healthy 20:33, nearly two minutes more than he played a year ago. Chandler Stephenson and William Karlsson lag by two and three minutes with Stephenson at 18:30 and Karlsson at 17:45. That distribution is normal for a team with three excellent centers.

Something peculiar has been happening recently though. In the 5 games before one Eichel was ejected from, Eichel has amassed 28 more minutes than Karlsson for an average of more than five and a half extra minutes per game.

Yesterday, I asked Bruce Cassidy for his preferred distribution between the centers and he replied that a five-minute difference is too much, and instead, it should be closer to two or three minutes. He continued to hypothesize that it could have to do with added power play time and extra shifts with the team trailing.

However, the numbers have not borne it out.

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A Look Back On Ken’s 50 23-24 Predictions + 10 New Predictions

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Before the season began I published a list of 50 predictions for this season. With 13 games to go, let’s see how I’m doing. Then, because you’ll clearly be able to see my ability to predict the future, I’ll make 10 new predictions for the rest of the year.

  • TRENDING CORRECT – Jack Eichel will score more than one point per game
    • Eichel has 53 points in 50 games.
  • INCORRECT – Mark Stone will play at least 60 games
    • Stone will finish the regular season with 56.
  • CORRECT – Marchessault will score more than 30 goals
    • Marchessault has 38 goals.
  • INCORRECT – VGK will sweep at least three Pacific Division teams
    • San Jose are the only team VGK have/can sweep.
  • TRENDING INCORRECT – VGK will not win the division but will advance further in the playoffs than the team that does
    • VGK will likely not win the division.
  • INCORRECT – Mark Stone will score more than 20 goals but never record a hat trick
    • Stone scored 16 and had one hat trick.
  • CORRECT – VGK will win 7 of their first 10 games
    • VGK won 9 of their first 10.
  • TRENDING INCORRECT – Ivan Barbashev will score fewer than 40 points
    • Barbashev has 38 points in 69 games.
  • CORRECT – The projected starting six defensemen will player fewer than 20 games together the entire regular season
    • They played 8 together and will likely not play another one with Hanifin now on the roster.

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Models Show Slight Concern Ahead Of VGK’s Final 15-Game Playoff Push

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Golden Knights fans have been aware of the local team’s inconsistency for weeks. Sure, they defeated the dreadful New Jersey Devils on Sunday, but Vegas’ erratic nature has some questioning their ability to repeat as Stanley Cup champions. Thankfully, there’s very little panic here in Las Vegas.

We know the numbers. The Golden Knights are 7-9-1 since the All-Star break and have a .441 points percentage in that timeframe. Most startling is their regularly programmed defense and goaltending are allowing an alarming 3.59 goals per game. Add in -8 in goal differential and you have the perfect recipe for a midseason slump.

Poor numbers aside, computer models still have the Golden Knights holding a 77-87% chance of qualifying for the playoffs. Calculations give Vegas a 77.9% (HockeyReference), 86.7% (MoneyPuck), and 80.3% (HockeyViz) of beginning the quest to defend their championship title.

HockeyViz tends to be a little more cautious about drawing hard conclusions about teams being all the way in or out. Regardless where they sit in that 80-90% probability range, it’s impossible, unfathomable even, to see the team that just went so hard all-in at the deadline — missing the playoffs. They won’t, they just won’t. And so, we’ll watch to see if they play their way into the 2-3 seed series vs. the Oilers, or if they end up being just a brutal draw for some unlucky one-seed out there. –Justin Bourne on

One factor that should help balance out the numbers is the reintroduction of Jack Eichel to the lineup. Since his return, the Golden Knights’ star center contributed seven points to 18 total team goals in six games. Per usual, Eichel is +2 and is adding 1.17 points per game. Once Tomas Hertl hits the ice in a Golden Knights uniform, Vegas’ offense will be a problem for any first round opponent. Losing Mark Stone is a serious blow, but Vegas’ remade star-studded lineup should make up for the captain’s absence.

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Stone Hopes To Jumpstart VGK After Monday’s Offensive Explosion

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The last time Golden Knights fans saw Mark Stone explode offensively was the series-clinching Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals. The captain tied a bow on Vegas’ first-ever championship with three goals and two assists in a 9-3 blowout. Monday’s game was not nearly as important but Stone broke out again, solving Vegas’ scoring woes for one night.

I was just fortunate enough to be in shooting spots tonight. I’d be a fool to pass up the ones that I got. Those just come some days and other days they don’t, but we just need to keep finding ways to play those 60-minute games as a good team. -Mark Stone

Stone completed the three goal challenge for the 3rd time in a Golden Knights uniform, two coming in the postseason.

Mark Stone Hat Trick Highlights

  • 04/14/19 – 1st Round Game 3 vs SJ: 3 Goals, 2 Assists, 4 Shots on Goal, 18:24 Time On Ice, VGK wins 6-3
  • 06/13/23 – SCF Game 5 vs FLA: 3 Goals, 1 Shorthanded Goal, 3 Shots on Goal, 16:54 Time On Ice, VGK wins 9-3
  • 01/15/24 – Game 44 vs NAS: 3 Goals, 5 Shots On Net, 18:48 Time On Ice, VGK wins 4-1

Going into Monday’s matinee, the reigning Stanley Cup champions were averaging an insufficient 2.5 goals per game in the last 14 games. Without the laundry list of injured Golden Knights, healthy players must step up and score enough to win. It was no surprise that VGK’s leader was the one to break out for three of Vegas’ four goals. Hopefully, his performance solved the Golden Knights’ lack of offense going forward.

We have to be a better version of ourselves for longer if we expect to get points. We’ve even talked about that. We might even be doing that and still not get points because teams will just be playing better. We’ve witnessed some of that lately. -Bruce Cassidy

Several times this season after a slow night offensively, Stone aided his team to success by scoring in the next game. In early November, Vegas began the month with a paltry three goals in nine periods. In Vegas’ next match, the captain scored a game-winner late in the final frame. He also added two power play assists, giving the Golden Knights offense a much-needed shot in the arm.

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Jack Eichel Among League Leaders In Defensive Impact

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

We dove into it earlier in the season but it’s time to spotlight it again. At this point of the 2023-24 season, Vegas center Jack Eichel has established himself as a confident 200-foot player. Many Golden Knights fans will say they’ve known since that last season, especially after VGK’s successful Stanley Cup run last summer.

However, his performance through 42 games has been balanced, impactful, and pleasantly surprising. As expected, the offensive guru leads the team in points (44), goals (19), power play goals (7) and game-winning goals (5). What wasn’t anticipated was Eichel’s fine defensive on-ice work.

Take for instance last night’s contest against the Boston Bruins. Eichel spent 1:01 on a crucial penalty kill in the latter half of the 3rd period which held the Bruins scoreless through that point of the game. He then followed it up with 1:17 five-on-five shift. Of course, he max-ed out his 3:37 in power play time but also spent 2:18 killing penalties. It hasn’t been the norm for a guy who averaged 0:25 seconds of PK time per 60 before becoming a Golden Knight. Since the addition of Bruce Cassidy in October of 2023, Eichel now averages 1:01 per game.

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Cassidy Hoping Separating Eichel And Stone Will Bring More Balance To A Karlsson-less Lineup

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Being a coach in the NHL requires the ability to juggle. Not literally, though Bruce Cassidy has shown to be so good at the figurative kind it wouldn’t shock me if he could do it with balls or pucks as well.

This season for the Golden Knights there has been a constant struggle to remain healthy enough for long enough to keep a lineup intact from game to game. So, Cassidy has been forced to make a lot of decisions through his lineup to try and maximize the players he does have.

For the last 15 games, the same top line has been used and individually each of the three players has thrived. Since November 30th when Jack Eichel, Mark Stone, and Ivan Barbashev were put together they have combined for 19 goals and 50 points in 15 games. The team started hot with that group as the top line as well, going 7-1-1 in the first nine games.

But, the team has dropped five of the last six, all in regulation.

I look at them both as guys that drive lines. When they are on the same line it takes away from whatever line Stone comes from. You get extra with two drivers that seem to have really fed off one another but you are robbing Peter to pay Paul type of thing. -Cassidy

To make matters even more difficult, William Karlsson picked up an injury at the Winter Classic which will keep him out for each of the next two games. Cassidy says the loss of another key forward has essentially forced him to split apart Eichel and Stone.

We figured we may go back to (Stone with Stephenson and Eichel with Marchessault) and see if it balances us a little better. I consider Karlsson a driver of a line as well. We lose him in that sort of 3rd role so it’s going to be up to some younger guys to step up. -Cassidy

Balance was a key aspect of the Golden Knights’ success in the playoffs last year. They outscored opponents at 5-on-5 by 33 goals in 22 games. In the last nine games, with a more top-heavy lineup, Vegas is down 25-18 at 5-on-5

To turn things around, they need to get scoring from throughout the lineup rather than relying so much on the 1st line. Tomorrow against Florida will be the first look at a VGK lineup with Stone and Eichel on separate lines in over a month. It was a rough patch back then in late November that forced the move to put them together, now taking them back apart is the hopeful solution to get them out of the current skid.

New Power Play Setup Paying Dividends For Golden Knights’ Top Unit

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

21.7%. That’s the Golden Knights’ power play percentage this season, the 13th best rate in the NHL. It’s just 0.3% off the franchise high-water mark which was set in the 71-game 2019-20 season.

We may not quite be at the point to say the Vegas power play has completely turned it around, but there’s no question it can be scratched off the weaknesses tab, where it has been atop the list for quite some time.

The Golden Knights have scored at least one power play goal in seven of the last ten games, including three in a row, and they have outscored their opponents on special teams in six of the last ten.

I think there’s some chemistry developing. In the middle of the power play they are able to adjust better to what the other team is doing than they were last year, or more willing. More willing to move around and play different positions on the power play but still maintaining the structure of the 1-3-1. -Bruce Cassidy

Movement has been something missing for an awfully long tme and it appears the new setup the Golden Knights rolled out during the Eastern road swing has seemed to unlock it.

With Chandler Stephenson out of the lineup for two games to start off that trip, the Golden Knights were forced to bump William Karlsson up to the first unit. In doing so, they opted to shift Mark Stone to the bumper role and swap sides of the ice with Jonathan Marchessault and Jack Eichel.

So, rather than…


The Golden Knights are now using…


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