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Scoring Droughts Reaching Troublesome Heights

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas 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.

Team Meetings & GM Locker Room Visits, VGK Pulling Out The Stops To Turn The Tide

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

In the world of professional sports, there are a few telltale signs that concern is seeping into a team. The Golden Knights have seen two of them in the last few days.

First is the team meeting. We hear it all the time for teams heading in the wrong direction that following a big loss they lock the doors and hash things out. Typically the captain and a few others in the leadership group step forward and make it abundantly clear that the losing must stop.

With the captain sidelined for the Golden Knights, someone else had to do it.

Marchy stood up and spoke to everyone and said some powerful words. We all need to look in the mirror here. Here and there it’s okay to lose if the effort’s there but the effort wasn’t there. -Keegan Kolesar

Following the shutout loss at home to Dallas, one of the few remaining players from the inagural season stood up and had some choice words.

After the game I was super disappointed so I said my piece and now we’ll move on and see how we respond tonight. -Jonathan Marchessault

Marchessault’s message was simple.

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Home Is Where The Problems Are

(Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke, SinBin.vegas)

The Golden Knights have now lost three consecutive home games, all by at least two goals, and have scored just four times in nine periods of action at T-Mobile Arena.

After a 5-1-0 start in Las Vegas the home record has slipped to 7-6-1 while the Golden Knights continue to dominate away from the friendly confines of The Strip, posting a sterling 12-2-1 record on the road.

The question is, why?

Sometimes it’s just the way it goes. Maybe after Christmas it might switch. It doesn’t matter if we play at home or away if you are a professional hockey player you have to find a way to bring your best performance. It’s extra disappointing for our group to not show up in front of our fans because we play in the best place in the league. -Jonathan Marchessault

There’s certainly a chance coincidence plays a part but the head coach believes it goes a bit deeper than that.

Games like tonight on the road we would have found a way to stay in it. Our game management is better on the road. -Bruce Cassidy

The splits are pretty staggering to back that up.

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VANCOUVER CANUCKS 5 VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 1 (16-6-1, 33 PTS)

The Golden Knights were looking to bounce back against the Vancouver Canucks after losing to the Seattle Kraken on Friday. The Canucks got off to an early start, scoring the only two goals of the first period. Vegas took three 1st period penalties that Vancouver took advantage of.

Trailing 2-0, the Golden Knights tried to stop the bleeding, but they continued to commit costly penalties. The Canucks scored three times and took a commanding 5-0 lead after 40 minutes of action.

Vegas let out their frustrations in the final period, dropping gloves multiple times with Vancouver players. Jonathan Marchessault and Keegan Kolesar both took five-minute penalties for fighting in the final period. Marchessault even snapped the Canucks shutout, but the Golden Knights wouldn’t get any closer.

The Golden Knights record drops to (16-6-1) losing to the Canucks 5-1 at T-Mobile Arena. Next, Vegas will pack their suitcases for a four-game, ten-day road trip. Puck drop against the Columbus Blue Jackets is scheduled for 4P PT on Monday. (Recap by Jason)

(Analysis/Tweets by Alex the Intern)

Points Aside, Vegas Could Use More Offensive Impact From Jack Eichel

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The season couldn’t have gotten off to a much better start for the Golden Knights. They’re leading the West in points (14), the Pacific in goals allowed (16), and are top three in the conference goals scored (29). The Misfits are hot, goaltending has been consistent and captain Mark Stone looks like his old self. Most importantly, the team hasn’t suffered any significant injuries through nine games. All is well in Golden Knights world except for one slight concern, Jack Eichel.

In 156 minutes played, the $10 million center has eight points (3G/5A) in nine games for 0.88 points per game average. Not bad. In fact, Eichel’s eight points are tied for a team-best with Jonathan Marchessault and Chandler Stephenson. So, why is Eichel’s production being brought up? Simple, he’s not doing enough when you consider his importance, salary, and talent. Especially, when you compare Eichel to other players in his tax bracket.

Points By Top Highest Paid Forwards

Connor McDavid: 15 Points (8 Goals, 7 Assists)
Artemi Panarin: 12 Points (4 Goals, 8 Assists)
Auston Matthews: 7 Points (2 Goals, 5 Assists)
John Tavares: 10 Points (3 Goals, 6 Assists)
Mitch Marner: 7 Points (2 Goals, 5 Assists)
Jonathan Toews: 5 Points (4 Goals, 1 Assist)
Aleksander Barkov: 5 Points (5 Assists)
Anze Kopitar: 7 Points (1 Goal, 6 Assists)
Jack Eichel: 8 Points (3 Goals, 5 Assists)
Tyler Seguin: 6 Points (2 Goals, 4 Assists)
Johnny Gaudreau: 8 Points (5 Points, 3 Assists)
Matthew Tkachuk: 9 Points (4 Goals, 5 Assists)

Eichel is right in the middle of his peers in points and assists but he’s on the lower end of goals and one statistic that many find a good evaluation of a player’s offensive impact. While primary assists tend to get lost in statistical blenders, they should be weighted heavier than a secondary helper. Eichel has the same amount of first assists (2) as Nic Hague and Zach Whitecloud. Chandler Stephenson on the other hand has four assists and they are all primary. Let’s not forget he’s tied for the most points and second amount of minutes played for a forward. In a sense, Eichel’s stat line should look more like Stephenson’s.

Sure, it’s nit-picking, but compare Eichel’s first assists with the league leaders.

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Cassidy Explains What He Wants To See Out Of Reunited Misfit Line

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Coming into the season one item of Bruce Cassidy’s agenda with the Golden Knights was to try out a lineup that separated William Karlsson, Reilly Smith, and Jonathan Marchessault.

He opened up the preseason with each of the three of them on three different lines before quickly putting Marchessault back with Karlsson to start the real games. Then, at the end of the sixth game of the year, needing a goal to tie the Avalanche, he went back to it, reuniting the Misfit Line.

The chemistry was instant and it carried over to each of the next two games against Toronto and San Jose.

They’re good hockey players and they’ve played together a lot. Last night they were good against Toronto and they just didn’t capitalize, maybe made one extra pass. They know where each other are all over the ice. I’ve told them that when you get spread out against a team that’s pressing up on you all over the ice it’s tougher to have success. So they started supporting each other better. -Cassidy

The Misfit Line was on the ice for a goal against in the 2nd period in San Jose which consisted of multiple defensive zone turnovers from the trio. It turned into a bad change and eventually a breakaway goal that gave the Sharks the lead.

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Special Teams Not Yet A Strength For Golden Knights

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

In the NHL, a widely used benchmark to measure a franchise’s overall special teams success is the 100% rule. If the success rate of the power play plus the penalty kill adds up to 100% or more, the team is considered to have strong special teams.

After six games in 2022-23, the Golden Knights are currently operating at 86.2%, the 5th worst in the league so far. The power play has scored on four of 23 chances for a success rate of 17.4% while the penalty kill has conceded on five of 16 for a 68.8% PK.

In each of the two losses, the Golden Knights were outscored on special teams leading to the difference in the final score of the game.

Obviously, with the new coach and the small sample size, this is not something to be overly concerned about at this point in the season, but there’s no question it must improve as the year progresses.

We’re definitely not quite where we want to be but we’re trending (in the right direction) I think. -Mark Stone

Our penalty kill has had pockets of really good kills and there are times, including the two losses, where we get outscored, but I don’t want to necessarily blame them. -Bruce Cassidy

The Golden Knights currently rank 27th in the league in penalty kill, and it could be worse if not for a close goalie interference call that erased a goal in Calgary.

Alex Pietrangelo, Alec Martinez, Brayden McNabb, and Zach Whitecloud have been VGK’s primary defensemen on the penalty kill. As for the forwards, it’s been a bit more of a mixed bag aside from William Karlsson and Reilly Smith consistently leading the way.

Before the season, Cassidy made it clear that one of his objectives was to utilize his bottom-six players a bit more in the penalty kill to lighten the load on the top-six while also allowing a strong fresh line to hop over the boards when the penalty is killed. Karlsson is currently a 3rd line player, so he qualifies, but Cassidy knows this is still an area he must focus on moving forward.

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Power Play Variety Paying Off Early For Vegas

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Through three games the Golden Knights power play is averaging one goal per contest. A success rate that Vegas fans haven’t seen in several seasons. While it’s premature to celebrate, it’s better than shouting obscenities after failed man-advantages like fans had been used to.

You are running through different people including the more accomplished offensive defensemen here, so you may see more action from there. -Bruce Cassidy

We explained in-depth, VGK’s new look power play under coach Bruce Cassidy. One element of the strategy was getting everyone on the ice involved. The Golden Knights have three PP goals and all were scored by a different player. Not only that, seven separate players have a PP point. It’s been a cast of characters contributing on 5-on-4 situations.

VGK Power Play Points
Nic Roy (2 Assists)
Alex Pietrangelo (2 Assists)
William Karlsson (Goal)
Jonathan Marchessault (Goal)
Reilly Smith (Goal)
Jack Eichel (Assist)
Mark Stone (Assist)

Both of Cassidy’s power play units have had success, creating game-tying and go-ahead goals. Against LA, William Karlsson evened the score 3-3 midway through the 3rd period. Up in Seattle, Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly stretched Vegas’ lead on man-advantage opportunities.

Another sign Cassidy’s directions are quickly catching on is the variety of ways each power play goal has been scored. Karlsson’s PPG was a deflection from a superb Alex Pietrangelo shot-pass. The sequence began with Karlsson winning the faceoff and ended with Pietrangelo using his offensive creativity.

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Power Play Tailored To VGK’s Strengths Still Working Towards Finished Product

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The power play will be a huge emphasis from Day 1 for the Golden Knights this season. After a few seasons of struggles, Bruce Cassidy was brought in to fix it. It’s currently very much a work in progress with shifting units, systems, and options through the first few weeks of Training Camp.

At yesterday’s practice, special teams were under the microscope with the power play working entries and in-zone plays against full-speed penalty killers. Unit 1 consisted of Jack Eichel, Chandler Stephenson, Reilly Smith, Mark Stone, and Shea Theodore while the other unit was Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson, Phil Kessel, Nic Roy, and Alex Pietrangelo.

There are definitely some concepts to build on as the units grow more and more familiar both with each other and what Cassidy’s system is trying to accomplish, but the head coach sees room for improvement.

What I hope to see is a little more chemistry where we are playing with more pace. Moving the puck quicker, supporting it, automatic outs, things like that, that come naturally to you. When you are seeing pressure you are able to sustain O-zone play. I don’t think our pace is where it needs to be in terms of moving the puck quick to break pressure, but again some of that is not a lot of reps and live reps. -Cassidy

One of the most noticeable features of the Golden Knights power play under Cassidy is a lesser reliance on the bumper player than he did in Boston.

We detailed the Cassidy power play in-depth this summer, and we’re already starting to see Cassidy tweak the system to fit some of Vegas’ most talented players.

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VGK Players Undervalued In Fantasy Hockey Rankings

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It goes without saying fantasy sports are not an accurate measurement of how a player or a team will perform. Nonetheless, taking on the challenge of creating a winning lineup is an annual hobby for thousands of NHL fans. Right now, fantasy outlets are releasing their top player lists trying to accurately project the league’s point leaders for the 2022-23 season.

The same names lead the rankings as they have in previous years. Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Auston Matthews, Cale Makar, and Nathan MacKinnon round out the top five best overall players according to NHL.com, ESPN.com, TSN.com, Sportsnet.com, and anyone else with eyes.

Locally, center Jack Eichel is the first name to appear for Vegas (44th) on NHL.com’s list of top 250 NHL players ranked. Mark Stone (45th), recovering from back surgery, is one behind his teammate. Defenseman Shea Theodore (99th) is the only other Golden Knight to be ranked in the top 100. While it may look like the fantasy experts are disrespecting some of VGK’s stars, others are being considered a sleeper pick for 2022-23.

With Robin Lehner on the shelf for the season, Vegas’ No. 1 job is ripe for the taking and at this point, it’s Logan Thompson’s to lose. In 19 appearances last year, 17 of which were starts, the 25-year-old posted a 10-5-3 record to go along with a 2.68 goals-against average, .914 save-percentage, and one shutout. –Nick Alberga, Sportsnet.ca

Although Sportsnet noted the position is officially up for grabs, they feel comfortable suggesting Thompson as VGK’s first goaltender to go in fantasy drafts around Canada and the United States. Of course, there needs to be a ‘buyer beware’ prompt for those interested in any of VGK’s netminders. Experts would tell you to wait until the later rounds.

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