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Hot, Cold, And William Karlsson

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights have been on a nice run since the All Star break, losing just one game in regulation and cementing their place in the Western Conference playoff picture.

Along the way, there have been a few big-time performers stepping up consistently helping lead VGK to goals and eventually wins. Despite all the winning though, there have been a few disappointments as well, players that will need to step up their game if the Golden Knights want to achieve the ultimate goal by season’s end. And then, there’s been William Karlsson.

We’ll start with the good.


Jack Eichel
8 goals, 6 assists, 14 points, +10 rating

There’s really no point in doing this list without starting with #9. Eichel has been on his best run as a Golden Knight since the calendar flipped to February and there are no signs of him slowing down. He’s scored goals in seven of the 12 games since the break, and has been on the score sheet with at least a point in nine.

Plus, the goals have been big ones. Eichel gave the Golden Knights a 3rd period lead against both New Jersey and Dallas, he scored twice in the 2nd period to put VGK ahead against Carolina, and his power play goal against the Flames sparked the Golden Knights’ comeback.

And on top of all of it, he just flat-out looks like the best player on the ice most nights. His powerful skating stride is breathtaking and his shotmaking ability at full speed is spectacular.

Shea Theodore
3 goals, 9 assists, 12 points, +8 rating

Theodore returned from his nasty knee injury a few days before the break. He didn’t quite look himself in those games and the results showed. Since, he’s been every bit of the dynamic puck-moving defenseman the Golden Knights knew they had when they signed him to a long-term deal four years ago.

He’s driving offense from all three zones again and putting teams on their heels with his ridiculous puck-handling ability. In the last nine games, Theodore has recorded at least four shots in five of them and he’s averaging nearly 22 minutes of ice time a night, lightening the load on Alex Pietrangelo.

Scoring from the blue line is not exactly the main focal point of the Bruce Cassidy offensive system, but when Shea is going like he is, the offense looks so much more potent.

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VGK Have Plenty Of Younger Players, But Most Of Their Offense Comes From Players North Of 30

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

This season, the Golden Knights’ top two scorers are smack dab in the primes of their careers. Chandler Stephenson’s All Star campaign has the 28-year-old on 50 points in 61 games while Jack Eichel leads the team with 22 goals and has tallied 45 points in 48 games.

The next group of players on the Golden Knights’ scoring list are not exactly in their primes though. Six of the next seven top scorers (so 6 of 9 overall) are at least 30 years old. The first player under the age of 26 on the stat sheet is Paul Cotter, checking in as the 13th-highest point producer on the team, and expected to be a healthy scratch tonight.

Simply put, the Golden Knights are old, or at the very least, their most effective players are old.

47.9% of the offense has come from 10 players aged 30 or above. Only five teams in the NHL have received more ice time from 30+-year-old players, and three of them have won a Stanley Cup in the last six seasons. VGK’s 240 points from 30+-year-olds is 4th most in the league behind Washington (373), Pittsburgh (311), Boston (277), and the New York Islanders (255).

In the present, that’s really not a problem at all. The problem lies in the group of younger players behind 30+’s. The Golden Knights have used 20 players under the age of 30 this season, so there are plenty of 20 somethings to choose from. However, outside of Eichel, Stephenson, William Carrier, and for his age Cotter, that group has not made much of an impact.

Despite ranking outside of the bottom 10 in games played, VGK rank in the bottom five in goals, assists, points, and points per 60 by players aged 25 or younger.

Now, you may be saying, “ok, but Eichel is 26, add him in.” With Eichel included, the Golden Knights rank 25th in goals, 28th in assists, 26th in points, and 29th in points per 60 by players aged 26 or younger.

It looks even worse in graphical form, including when you add in 27-year-old Shea Theodore, and 28-year-olds Stephenson and Carrier

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Cassidy Details Game Plan He’d Like To See On VGK Power Play

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Hello darkness, my old friend.

After an 0 for 7 night on the power play the Golden Knights have converted just one goal on 28 opportunities since Mark Stone got injured.

The units have been mixed up but the results simply haven’t come with. Vegas has slipped to 18th overall in power play percentage and they are in dead last at 8.8% since January 1st.

There’s a lot right now (on the power play that we need to work on). I don’t think the pace of our power play is where it needs to be, quite frankly. In the zone, we hold pucks too long. We’re at our best when we have quick movement, a play to the net, and then quick recovery. That’s just a mindset we have to have. We had it earlier this year and we’ve had it on the occasional power play and then it’ll disappear on the next one. -Cassidy

The Golden Knights spent this morning in the film room with a focus on what they’ve done right in the past.

We showed video this morning and showed pretty much all of our O-zone goals to try and define what we are in the O-zone. We’re trying to make seam passes against teams that are set in their coverage. We scored one in Montreal (all season), so we’re not that team, so let’s not keep being stubborn. In practice (we’re doing it) and it translates to the game, that’s not who we are. Let’s get back to who we are by getting it low to the goal line and attacking from there. -Cassidy

Cassidy spoke to the game plan he’d like to see the Golden Knights take on the power play moving forward. He said it starts with essentially a shot clock in the mind of the players that lasts around six to eight seconds. At that point, he wants a shot thrown at the net.

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Assessing Blame For Golden Knights Latest Skid

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Last week, one of hockey’s most honest and loudest voices tweeted out an observation that Golden Knights fans have seen play out for months now.

Former NHL’er and Spittin’ Chiclets star Ryan Whitney simply noted Vegas’ latest struggles and the fanbase sounded off in his replies. Some fans blamed the players, others blamed specific players. Several questioned the coaching staff and many were frustrated by the front office’s vision. The responses were passionate and the judgments were evenly distributed among the organization.

There are likely a dozen reasons why the Golden Knights are currently a little better than a bubble team with scoring issues. Injuries, chemistry, and lost leadership are some to name but other problems are deeper than that. Especially, on the offensive side of the ice. So, who’s to blame for the current skid?

Here’s a defense for the parties that were most blamed in Whitney’s replies. How much is shared and who should be let off the hook?

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Scoring Droughts Reaching Troublesome Heights

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights haven’t been scoring much recently. They’re 1-5-1 in the last seven games and have scored just 15 times in those games. Six of those 15 came in the lone win which means in the previous six losses the Golden Knights have scored a total of nine goals.

The main reason for this is that the most important players on the team are not putting the puck in the net. Look at the last time each player in the top six scored a goal.

Reilly Smith – 12/31/22 – 11 games without a goal
Chandler Stephenson – 1/5/23 – 9 games without a goal
Mark Stone – 1/5/23 – 2 games without a goal (+7 games injured)
Jonathan Marchessault – 1/7/23 – 8 games without a goal
Jack Eichel – 1/12/23 – 7 games without a goal
William Karlsson – 1/24/23 – 1 game without a goal

It starts with us. There’s no secret that to win hockey games you need your best players to be your best players. We’ve got to show up and we have to find a way to produce. -Marchessault

It starts with the simple fact that these guys are shooting less. Over the past seven games, each of Eichel, Stephenson, Smith, and Marchessault have all seen their shots per game dip.

Eichel’s is the most drastic going from 3.48 on average over the course of the season to just 1.86 in the past seven games. He has just three games all season in which he’s been held shotless, two of them since Stone went out.

Stephenson’s shot totals have dipped by nearly a third too. He’s averaging 1.42 shots per game on the season and has seen just four reach the goalie in the last seven games. He does not have a single game with more than one shot on goal since January 2nd, 10 games ago.

William Karlsson, who is the only top-six player to have scored since Mark Stone’s injury is also the only one to see his shot totals increase in the captain’s absence. But, it’s up just 0.24, or about one shot on goal every four games.

Unsurprisingly, all five players mentioned above have a negative +/- over the last seven games as well. Eichel leads the charge sitting at a -8 and he’s been at least -2 in four of the last seven games.

Simply put, if the Golden Knights want to turn around their scoring, they need it to start at the top of the lineup. These five forwards are the primary players on the power play, they receive the most minutes at even strength, and many even kill penalties. If they don’t produce, the team won’t win, and that’s exactly what’s been happening lately.

Eichel Must Lift Teammates With Stone Out; He Hasn’t So Far This Season

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

During the month of December, the Golden Knights had to play 13 games without their most expensive player, Jack Eichel. Vegas went 7-5-1 including wins over Boston, Winnipeg, and Colorado.

In that stretch, Mark Stone’s play was incredibly noticeable in all three zones. He posted 16 points (7G, 9A) in the 13 games, helped carry a line including Chandler Stephenson and Michael Amadio, and his pickpocketing superpower was on full display for the month Eichel was out.

Stone averaged 20:24 and was dominant in all phases of the games. He posted three even-strength goals, two on the power play, and two more shorthanded. He also scored a game-winning goal in shootout against St. Louis.

In a time of need, the captain raised his game.

Now, the time has come for Jack Eichel to do the same with Stone sidelined for an unknown length of time. In his first few attempts, that didn’t happen. In losses to Edmonton and Dallas, games in which Stone played just 3:57, Eichel was held pointless, posted a -5 rating, and recorded just two shots in 41 minutes of ice time. He was not on the ice for a single Golden Knights goal at any strength.

Eichel must improve not only his game but the play of those around him if the Golden Knights are going to have success without their captain.

While the numbers are limited that has not happened this season either.

The chart above shows four advanced statistics for the six Golden Knights defensemen with the most time on ice this season. They are all listed as “shares” meaning numbers above 50% are good while numbers below 50% are bad. The stats listed are on-ice Corsi For, Goals For, Expected Goals, and High Danger Chances and are all 5-on-5 only.

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Eichel Benefitting From Extra Center As Linemate

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

As the Golden Knights continue to return to health, the number of lineup options for Bruce Cassidy begins to grow. As players have funneled into and out of the lineup we’ve been able to see a good number of different combinations with the forward groups.

With it has come quite a bit of information. Some of it’s been good, some not as much. We’ve certainly learned that Chandler Stephenson and Mark Stone can succeed without Jack Eichel. We also know that the 4th line seems to operate best with Nic Roy in the middle. And while “Plan E” of Michael Amadio fits at the moment, it took Plans C, D, F, and G to settle on this one.

Another particular piece of knowledge that has been gained across the month of lineup mishmash has been the value of having another center on the line with Jack Eichel.

In his 28 games this season Eichel has played on three different lines. First, it was Eichel with Smith and Kessel, then he found his way to the most consistent line with Stone and Stephenson, and finally, yesterday’s return to the lineup matched with Smith and Roy. It’s been easy to see that in the games in which he’s had another center on his line, the group works more seamlessly in all three zones.

It’s huge to have another center on the ice. Both of us can take draws and you are interchangeable when you need to play low in the D-zone. -Eichel

The typical responsibilities of the center in Cassidy’s system (and most systems for that matter) involve playing much closer to their own goal in the defensive zone. And while Eichel has certainly put forth a better defensive output this year than much of his career, the benefit of having someone else doing that job can help unlock Jack’s speed and prowess through the neutral zone when the puck is eventually broken out.

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Familiarity Helped LA’s McLellan Prepare For Kings 4-2 Victory

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

There aren’t many head coaches as familiar with the Golden Knights as LA’s Todd McLellan. Last night represented the 23rd time McLellan faced Vegas in their six-year franchise history.

I was impressed with our group the way we played early. We were fast, we executed well, our passing was crisp, we worked into position. Let’s call it what it is, [coming out of a break] it’s usually pretty or ugly and you have your fingers crossed that pretty shows up and that was the case for us in the first period. If you recall a year ago coming back, it was ugly against Vegas, so maybe somewhere in the back of their minds they remembered that. -Todd McLellan, LAK Coach

Since being hired in LA, McLellan is 8-10-0 against Vegas. With the exception of the shortened 56-game season, the Kings have had some level of success against the Golden Knights under their current coach. Vegas took six of eight from Los Angeles in 2020-21, but are a combined 4-5-1 outside of that NCAA-style schedule.

Also, as coach of the Edmonton Oilers, the veteran bench boss posted a 3-2-0 record against the Golden Knights. Last night, McLellan joined Jared Bednar, Craig Berube, and Bruce Boudreau as the only four to beat the Golden Knights under all three coaches in team history. To say he has experience coaching against Vegas would be an understatement.

Yeah, I think we played great. I think we started the game well, we were all over them at the start and I think that was that was good and the team kept it going. -Victor Arvidsson, LAK Forward

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The Golden Knights got off to a great start against the Red Wings in Detroit. Star center Jack Eichel tapped in a one-time pass from linemate Chandler Stephenson 1:04 into the game. Vegas held the Red Wings scoreless and skated into the 1st intermission with a 1-0 edge.

Jonathan Marchessault doubled VGK’s lead early in the 2nd period, scoring his first goal of the road trip on a Golden Knights power play. Detroit got within one with a PP goal of their own, but the Golden Knights weren’t finished in the middle frame. After committing a hooking penalty, Phil Kessel exited the box and scored his 5th goal of the season on a breakaway. The visiting Golden Knights held a 3-1 lead after 40 minutes.

Late in the third the Red Wings decided to pull their goaltender and Reilly Smith took note. Smith took a long-distance shot from the neutral zone to ice the game for Vegas. The Golden Knights picked up their second win on the road trip but more importantly, the team lost Eichel to an undisclosed injury in the final period. VGK Coach Bruce Cassidy didn’t have much of an update on Eichel after the game and said the center was being evaluated.

The Golden Knights record improves to (18-7-1) with their 4-1 victory in Detroit. Vegas will wrap up their road trip on Monday in Boston to take on Cassidy’s former team. Puck drop against the Bruins is scheduled for 4P PT. (Recap by Jason)

(In game tweets by Gary Kondler and Kondler & Associates)

VGK Team Chemistry On Full Display In Buffalo

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It was clear that last night’s 7-4 victory in Buffalo was an emotional game not just for Jack Eichel but the entire Golden Knights locker room. Realistically, the team could have been caught looking forward to their flight home, but Vegas came out like it was the biggest game on the road trip. From the comments by the players after the game, it sure seemed like it.

He’s one of the more impressive teammates I’ve ever played with, if not the best player I’ve ever played with. It’s all about support in this locker room. Everybody supporting each other and I couldn’t be happier for the guy, he deserves it. -Mark Stone

We noted earlier this month that the long Eastern Conference road trip could help grow an already healthy team chemistry and it showed against the Sabres. Sure, OT winners in Washington and Toronto should be considered taxing victories but neither felt as important as the contest up in Northern New York. From the players to the coach, anyone in white and gold was emotionally invested in shutting up the heckling fans in Buffalo. Bench boss Bruce Cassidy made his declaration on the intense, revenge game when he spoke with ESPN in the 1st period.

The puck has found Jack a couple of times in great spots, hopefully he buries one. -Bruce Cassidy, on ESPN broadcast

Eichel’s retribution was important to him but possibly even more to his teammates. Leaving Buffalo with two points was the club’s only mission and they were well prepared for a passionate battle against the Sabres. Last night could have been the loudest confirmation of how strong the bond is in the 13-2-0 Golden Knights locker room. Unbeaten in nine straight games, five on an eleven-day road trip and finishing with a statement win in Buffalo is exactly how a tight group travels back home.

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