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Return Of The Forecheck

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

For the Golden Knights, results have become paramount. With just 14 games left in the regular season, the defending Stanley Cup champions find themselves just three points above the playoff cutline with multiple games against the teams chasing them.

Winning matters, and unfortunately, Vegas did not get that done last night.

That being said, if the Golden Knights want to repeat they need to do a lot more than just find enough points to get into the playoffs. To do it, they’ll need to be playing consistently great hockey the rest of the way in the regular season and into the playoffs.

While the scoreboard did not exhibit it last night, the style of play Vegas showed did, especially in one key area that has been lacking for much of the year.

We made a concerted effort to play behind them. Tampa usually has three guys back (along the defensive blue line) so it’s a little bit more difficult to enter the zone if you don’t have speed and numbers in the right places. -Bruce Cassidy

VGK’s forecheck is crucial to their success. To consistently generate offense they have to be able to force the other team to turn the puck over in their own end. When they do, the game tends to snowball in Vegas’ direction as it allows the defense to be more active in the offensive zone which means longer possessions and more chances.

That’s what I loved about our guys tonight, we played the game in front of us. If there was ice we took it, if not we went behind them. It’s our game, it’s when we’re at our best. We’re a big team. We force their D into turnovers and a good example of that is the 3rd goal. That’s how we want to get offense out of the bottom of our lineup, and really all of our lineup. -Cassidy

On the goal Cassidy is referencing, Ben Hutton’s 3rd period strike, the Golden Knights won the puck back four different times before Keegan Kolesar slid the puck to Hutton for the goal.

We’re constantly trying to grow (the forecheck) and make it a focal point in our game that every line can get the puck back. For us it’s for every guy to look upon themselves and figure out what’s best for them in the offensive zone and how to get the puck back. -Kolesar

Cassidy mentioned that having players like William Carrier and Paul Cotter back in the lineup helped the forecheck as a whole, and that was clearly on display last night. The result may not have shown up as an opportunistic Tampa Bay took advantage of a few Vegas mistakes, but the process is continuing to head in the right direction, which is massive at this time of the year.

Penalty Kill Minutes Are “Out There For Somebody,” Eichel Took Many In First Preseason Game

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

In his first preseason game of the year, Jack Eichel was the first player over the boards on multiple occasions when the Golden Knights were tasked with killing a penalty.

We didn’t use him a lot on the kill (last year). With Reilly Smith’s minutes, they’re out there for somebody. -Cassidy

Eichel played 2:19 of shorthanded time and took three faceoffs with a teammate in the box. Only once all season (including pre and postseason) last year did Eichel play more on the penalty kill than he did last night.

Without Nic Roy as a right shot center we used Jack for draws, so he started a lot of the kills. It’s something I talked to Jack about doing a little more of so we’ll see how it goes. He’s a smart guy, can pressure pucks, and you saw it with our kill tonight, I thought it was pretty effective. -Cassidy

While everyone’s fairly certain Eichel will dominate on the penalty kill the same way he does just about every other aspect of the game, there’s a cost that comes with it, and Cassidy isn’t blind to it.

With the PK, that’s something we can build into his game, it’s at what expense? How many minutes does he get? Or are you better off spreading it around to other guys to keep them in the game more. -Cassidy

Last night, Cassidy chose to limit Mark Stone and Chandler Stephenson’s time on the penalty kill in favor of taking a look at players like Mason Morelli, Jonas Rondbjerg, Jakub Demek, and Jakub Brabenec. He’s considering doing the same in the regular season with a pair of fourth liners.

Both Kolesar and Carrier, I brought that up last year that I’d like them to kill more, it didn’t work out that way, no fault to them, I used other people. They’ve been killing now against our guys in practice for a year so there’s an opportunity for those two. There’s a little bit of by committee this year for that particular spot. -Cassidy

Managing minutes is going to be a massive story all season for the Golden Knights. Cassidy has already made it clear he’s not willing to give players games off for rest, so he’ll have to do pick and choose his spots inside of games instead.

There are many reasons it’s so hard to repeat as champions in the NHL, workload is among the strongest of them. Having Eichel as an option to help kill penalties is certainly beneficial for the Golden Knights, but he can’t be overused. Cassidy is keenly aware of it, he’ll just have to get reasonable contributions from others to make sure he can actually stick to it.

VGK’s Bargain Binners Significantly Over-Performed In Cup Run

(Photo Credit: @GoldenKnights on Twitter)

This week NHL outlets compiled a team of the biggest bargains of the 2022-23 season. Unfortunately, zero Golden Knights players made the list, nor should they have. When Tage Thompson is the bargain bin’s top center, you can only imagine how skilled the rest of the lines and pairings are.

Sportsnet’s 2022-23 All-Bargain Team:

FORWARDS

Brandon Hagel (TBL) — Tage Thompson (BUF) — Daniel Sprong (SEA)
Michael Bunting (TOR) — David Krejci (BOS) — Gabriel Vilardi (LAK)
Zach Parise (NYI) — Morgan Frost (PHI) — Taylor Raddysh (CHI)
Stefan Noesen (CAR) — Thomas Novak (NSH) — Sonny Milano (WSH)

DEFENSE
Erik Gustafsson (WSH/TOR) — Luke Schenn (VAN/TOR)
Mark Giordano (TOR) — Rasmus Sandin (TOR/WSH)
P.O. Joseph (PIT) — Sebastian Aho (NYI)

GOALIES
Stuart Skinner (EDM)
Filip Gustavsson (MIN)

So, maybe there wasn’t enough room for VGK’s valued players, but several deserve praise after their unexpected production during Vegas’ championship run.

Michael Amadio
16 Goals, 11 Assists, +2, 99 Shots On Goal, 2 Game-Winning Goals, 12:13 Average Time On Ice
$762,500 Cap Hit

Amadio’s output was not only surprising in the regular season, but he continued to outperform expectations in the playoffs. In 16 games, the 27-year-old pitched in with five goals and five assists for the Stanley Cup-winning Golden Knights, including a big-time game-winning goal against Winnipeg in double overtime.

As for being a bargain, Amadio scored as many playoff goals (5) as Sebastian Aho ($8.4M AAV), Aleksander Barkov ($10M AAV), Auston Matthews ($11.6M AAV), and Tyler Seguin ($9.85M AAV) in roughly as many games. While Florida was paying Barkov $2M per goal, Vegas was shelling out $152,500 per goal scored by Amadio. Surely, to the everyday Joe, six figures to score a goal seems like a boatload but compared to others mentioned, the Golden Knights got themselves a significant discount.

Adin Hill
25 Starts, (16-7) Record, 61 Goals Allowed, .915 Save %, 2.45 Goals Allowed Average, 16 Quality Starts,
$2,175,000 Cap Hit

We’ve gone over Hill’s Stanley Cup run dozens of times since June 15th. What else can we say? The third-string (or second depending on who you ask) goaltender was outstanding and unstoppable in the three series he suited up for. Hill led all qualified postseason goalies in save percentage, goals allowed average, losses and shutouts and made a fraction of what the rest of the playoff goalies make annually.

Vegas’ backstop earned $4,780 per save, $197,727 per victory, and $1,087,500 per shutout in the postseason. Compared to the three other goaltenders to start 14 games or more, the Golden Knights barely opened their wallet for a postseason victory. The Panthers paid Sergei Bobrovsky $17,094 per save, $833,333 per win, and $10M per shutout. Seattle offered Phillipp Grubauer $15,485 per save and $842,857 per win. Western Conference Finals goalie Jake Oettinger played three more games than Hill and Dallas reimbursed him $8,510 per save, $400K per win, $4M per shutout. Looking back, Hill could be one of the biggest bargains in modern NHL history.

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Battle Of Depth Tilting Towards Dallas

(Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke, SinBin.vegas)

For the first 10+ games of this playoff run one of the most consistent parts of the Golden Knights’ game has been their 4th line. No matter what has been going on with the group ahead of them, the grinders on the 4th line have gotten the job done night in and night out.

The Western Conference Final started out that way as Teddy Blueger came up with the go-ahead goal in the 3rd period. In Game 2 the 4th line was the only group that had any consistent success at 5-on-5, out-attempting the Stars 10-3, out-chancing them 3-0, and managing multiple high-danger chances without allowing one.

From there though, and especially in the past two games, it’s headed in the wrong direction for the depth players in gold.

Our 4th line didn’t do what it typically does in terms of puck possession in the O-Zone and then they were forced to play and got outworked in the D-Zone. So that’s something I expect to change. Whether Howden’s on that line, Blueger, or Nic Roy, they have to do a better job against their 4th line. Give credit to that line for Dallas, they outplayed our guys. -Cassidy

The group of Radek Faksa, Fredrik Olafsson, and Luke Glendening dominated the Golden Knights’ 4th line in Game 5 including the massive goal that tied the game. That group posted a 92% expected goals share against the VGK 4th line and did not allow William Carrier, Keegan Kolesar, and Brett Howden anything near the front of the net.

In many ways, it set the tone for the rest of the team.

That was one part of the game where that slot battle comes into play and that urgency tilts the game in their favor. When our 4th line is going well like that, our game goes better. They did some good things but they have to get back to who they are and their identity. -Cassidy

Vegas had troubles in many areas of the ice last night, including giving the puck away 24 times, but the largest area of concern is directly in front of the net. After being basically even through two games, the Golden Knights now trail 63-48 in high-danger chances in the series. Even as good as Adin Hill has been, the Stars have scored five goals from high-danger chances in the past two games, they had just three in the first three.

That’s our group, next man up. We got contributions from everyone. I mean that’s a gutsy win being down a couple of guys and coming in here. I like our group and I wouldn’t bet against them. -Pete DeBoer

To turn this around and secure that final win, the Golden Knights must get back to getting contributions up and down the lineup. Vegas’ depth has made line matching difficult for opposing coaches, especially in road games. With Game 6 taking place at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Vegas is going to need everyone to get back to playing the way they were.

VGK Won’t Stray From Plan To Open Periods Despite Oilers’ Firepower

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Right before the national anthems at every Golden Knights home game, the public address announcer introduces Vegas’ starting lineup to the crowd. If you didn’t know better, you’d probably expect to hear names like Jack Eichel, Mark Stone, or William Karlsson. But, instead, almost every night it’s Nic Roy, William Carrier, and Keegan Kolesar.

Throughout his time behind the Vegas bench, Bruce Cassidy has always preferred to start his fourth line. He says it’s to “set the tone” or “get the team playing the right way” and while those cliches are all good and well, what he really means is he wants a simple start that will keep anything crazy from happening.

The Golden Knights’ 4th line plays a very elementary style of hockey. Get the puck, gain the center red line, send it to the back glass, and then go hit people until they get it back. There’s nothing flashy about it, and most of the time it doesn’t generate much offensively. What it also doesn’t do though is allow the other team much of anything. If Vegas wins the draw, there’s a really good chance it’ll be 200 feet away from the Golden Knights’ goal in seconds. If they lose it, the trio of Roy, Carrier, and Kolesar are excellent at locking down the neutral zone and forcing a dump-in the other way. Again, nothing flashy, and likely nothing really happening.

It’s been successful against pretty much every team in the NHL this season, and it’s a strategy that’s not new to Cassidy. Both Pete DeBoer and Gerard Gallant liked to deploy the fourth line to open games as well.

However, the Edmonton Oilers offer something much different than every other team in the league. Not only do the Oilers have the best player in the game, they also have arguably the second-best player, and to start games and periods, they often send them both out together.

They feel they have an advantage putting Draisaitl and McDavid together, and they’re right, they are two of the best players in the world and they are dynamic, so I get it. But we have to try and counter it the best way possible. -Bruce Cassidy

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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)

Bruce Cassidy Details His Ideal Minute And Role Distribution Among Forward Lines

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Every coach at every level in the sport of hockey wants to balance minutes equally across the entire lineup. In a perfect world, the coach could just sit back and roll four lines keeping everyone fresh and ready to play at the highest level in their next shift.

But, the NHL is not a utopia and the divide between high-end players and everyone else often causes an imbalance of ice time.

I don’t know that you should have guys up in the 20’s (minutes) that are forwards. Are you getting maximum value out of them if they are over 20 every night for 82 games? We’ll see how that plays out and how the guys who are used to that manage that. If they can pull it off and give you maximum play then I’ll change the way I think. -Bruce Cassidy

Same goes on the flip side.

We shouldn’t have anybody under 10 minutes a night. If this team is functioning as we see it, I think that 4th line would be closer to 12 minutes because they are going to play against good people, get D-zone starts, and play on the PK. -Cassidy

Historically, VGK have used their 3rd and 4th lines in checking roles, but often would see their usage sheltered with offensive zone starts and/or favorable matchups. Cassidy wants his 3rd line of William Karlsson, Brett Howden, and Michael Amadio to operate as a strong defensive line with the 4th line also taking some of the most difficult minutes.

That’s defending, that’s penalty kill, the hard minutes. We have to be careful with guys over the course of the year because of fatigue, injury, and maybe age. -Cassidy

The challenge for Cassidy though will be the abilities of the players in the bottom-six in regards to holding up to the rigors of what he called “stressful minutes.”

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