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Major Lineup Shuffling Furthers 1st Period Importance

Game 4 was the first time in the eight-game playoff history of the Golden Knights where they were severely outplayed. It ended as a 4-0 beatdown and the Sharks had evened the series.

In response, Jack Adams finalist Gerard Gallant appears to be making a host of lineup changes. Based on morning skate, it seems Ryan Carpenter, Oscar Lindberg, and Luca Sbisa will be placed into the lineup, while Tomas Tatar, Tomas Nosek, and Jon Merrill will all come out.

Last year, Lindberg was tremendous in the playoffs. If he does it tonight, Gallant is going to look like a genius. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

This will be the first game the Golden Knights will be without Nosek since February 11th, and just the 3rd game all year in which Nosek will be a healthy scratch. Oddly enough, the last time Gallant chose to scratch Nosek it was a 5-4 overtime win against the Sharks on November 24th.

If Sbisa returns, it will be his first game action since February 27th. Lindberg would also be making his Vegas playoff debut having been out since the final game of the regular season on April 7th

You do what you have to do. You put your best lineup in that you think gives you the best chance to win that evening. We’ve done it all year, guys come in and play different spots and play different roles, it’s all you can do. You go with your decision, you talk to your coaches, and you do the best you can. -Gerard Gallant

The changes magnify the 1st period, however. With multiple players who have been out for over a month returning to the lineup and potential changes to three of the four forward lines (see below), the Golden Knights are vulnerable early. It often takes players a bit of time to get back into the flow after missing games, but Vegas can’t afford to fall into a hole.

Throughout this entire season, when the Golden Knights have really needed a game, they’ve usually gotten it. But beyond that, they’ve almost always started out those games well. That was the case the last time they had to “flip the switch” back on going from a disastrous loss in Calgary to the playoff opener, but the time before, against the Flames at home, it took a period or so to really get going.

This team has it in them to play a good game tonight, no one is debating that. They just have to do it right away. They can’t play anything but their best from the moment the puck is dropped, and that’s what makes the lineup changes concerning. The Golden Knights have home-ice advantage in a best of three series, now they have to take advantage of it, and they can’t let cold legs and unfamiliarity get in the way.

Projected Game 5 Lineup

Smith-Karlsson-Marchessault
Perron-Haula-Neal
Lindberg-Eakin-Tuch
Carpenter-Bellemare-Carrier

Schmidt-McNabb
Theodore-Engelland
Sbisa-Miller

Next Man Up, Just Not Yet

It won’t come in Game 1, but there will come a time where Luca Sbisa is needed, and he’s a nice weapon to have in waiting. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

As the Golden Knights head into their Second Round series with the Sharks they do so as healthy as they’ve been all season. There’s only one active player listed on the injury report and he’s considered ready to play when the team needs him.

It’s incredible, but the Golden Knights might just be the deepest team of any left in the playoffs. When they drop the puck against San Jose, Vegas will have a perennial 20 goal scorer and their highest paid forward on the bench sitting alongside a defenseman that one was considered “shut down” for the Golden Knights and only lost that title due to injury, not a decline in play.

They get even deeper when you throw in Oscar Lindberg, a penalty killing forward with excellent hands and solid speed, Brad Hunt, a power play specialist defenseman, and Ryan Reaves, a physical specimen waiting to unleash some fury into a series.

Coming off a first round sweep and allowing just three goals in 14 periods, no lineup changes are expected for the opening game of the series to begin later this week. However, that depth is going to be needed eventually, and we’re here to illustrate not just how many players the Golden Knights have to fill-in in case of injury, but how wide-ranging they can be allowing All Star head coach to feel comfortable no matter what happens.

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6th Defenseman

Expect Sbisa to get back in the lineup, but who he’ll be paired with remains a question. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Just as is the case with the 12th forward, with the return to health along the Golden Knights blueline, All Star head coach Gerard Gallant has some tough decisions to make heading into Wednesday’s playoff opener.

Nate Schmidt, Brayden McNabb, Colin Miller, and Shea Theodore are certainties to be in the lineup. Deryk Engelland is likely to be crack the lineup but there’s at least a bit of decision making needed with him as his play has seemed to slip as the season has worn on.

That leaves four defensemen with just once spot available in the Vegas D-core. As we did with the forwards, here’s a pros and cons list of each player and then both Ken and I made selections as to who we believe will get the call.

Luca Sbisa
20 Playoff games
1 goal, 4 points, -10 rating, 17:15 ATOI

Pros: Sbisa was one of the most reliable Golden Knights defenseman to start the season, was once considered VGK’s superstar shadown, and he has played several playoff games. Before being injured in mid-November Vegas was 10-5-1 with him in the lineup. Usually, Sbisa was paired up with Nate Schmidt and split duties covering the best forwards in the NHL. Like Englland, Sbisa is best staying home and protecting the net. Although he has done his share offensively. When Sbisa records a point the Golden Knights are 10-1-1 this season.

Cons: Sbisa has been hampered with injuries most of his career, and this year has been no different. Vegas was expecting a healthy defenseman after playing a full 82 games in Vancouver last season. It’s uncertain how injured he is, or if he’s even healthy enough to play against the Kings. Sbisa has suited up for 20 postseason games, going 8-12 with three different franchises. Sbisa could be the better overall option but Gallant may decide to go with Engelland because of similar style and trust.

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Golden Knights Injury Updates; James Neal, Reilly Smith, Malcolm Subban, Luca Sbisa, William Carrier, Oscar Lindberg

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

James Neal
Injury: Hand/Wrist
Injured on February 26th vs. Kings

Neal has missed 10 of the last 11 games. He played in the Kings game on the road where he left after falling behind the goal, seemingly on the same hand that was injured last year in the playoffs.

He did not travel with the team on the recent five-game road trip, but was seen skating many of the days while the team was away. Neal participated in the most recent morning skate wearing a red no-contact jersey.

James is doing real good. He’s skating today. He’s not playing tonight but we’ll see him in the near future. -Gerard Gallant

Reilly Smith
Injury: Wrist/Shoulder
Injured on March 6th vs. Blue Jackets

Smith left the game after a hit in the 2nd period in Columbus. He remained on the road trip for a short time following the injury before returning to Vegas.

He has not participated in a practice since the injury but was seen putting on skates and pads to take the ice for an individual practice today.

A source indicated to SinBin.vegas that the team initially feared Smith had broken a bone in his hand that could have ended his season, but an MRI confirmed otherwise. The same source put the timeline at about two weeks from the injury following the news of no broken bones.

He is not playing tonight. Day to day. Getting better. -Gallant

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Erik Karlsson And Bobby Ryan React To Possibility Of Being Traded To Vegas

“Our owner bought us a ping pong table. Yours wouldn’t even pay for an Uber ride.” -Probably Luca Sbisa

There were nothing but smiles in the visiting locker room last night at T-Mobile Arena. The Ottawa Senators battled for 60 minutes to beat the Golden Knights 5-4. The victory pushed the Senators to 22 wins and 52 points with just 19 games to play. That is, in a single word, bad. Which is probably why the Sens front office listened to any and all offers at the trade deadline. Including one from Vegas GM George McPhee, who inquired about their Norris winning defenseman.

That’s part of the business. I really didn’t know what really transpired or happened behind the scene. (The Golden Knights) were obviously one of the teams that was thrown out there a lot. They’re a good team and they were pushing for it, so nothing unexpected. -Erik Karlsson, OTT Captain

Karlsson was responding to a question I asked about his reaction when he heard about the Vegas chatter. The superstar Swede went on to discuss why free agents would seriously consider playing in Las Vegas.

It’s a great city and they have a great team. Their general manager McPhee, is a really good general manager and he’s been around for a long time. I think he’s going to build a good team, not only for now but the future as well. It’s definitely an attractive city. -Karlsson

Also rumored to be part of the Karlsson swap was Ottawa forward Bobby Ryan. Senators GM Pierre Dorion was attempting to unload Ryan’s $7.5M per season contract to whomever desired Karlsson. Possibly the reason why a deal with the Golden Knights fell through. I asked Ryan about his trade deadline anxiety.

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Luca Sbisa Hates Shootout

Welcome to the SinBin.vegas Golden Knights Line Charts page. The goal of this page is to show not only the Golden Knights lines for every single game but also to show the utilization rate of each player and each position in the lineup.

“Player Utilization” shows what position that player is used most often.

“Line Utilization” shows which players play in each position most often.

“Game-by-Game Line Charts” are the lineup for each individual game.

Abbreviations: C1 = 1st line center, LW2 = 2nd line wing, 3R = 3rd pair right defenseman, HS = Healthy Scratch, INJ = Injured, SUSP = Suspended

Player Utilization Charts

 

Line Utilization Charts

 

Game-by-Game Line Charts

Game 4 at Washington

Marchessault-Karlsson-Smith
Pacioretty-Haula-Nosek
Lindberg-Eakin-Carpenter
Carrier-Bellemare-Reaves

Theodore-Engelland
McNabb-Miller
Merrill-Holden

Scratches: Bischoff, Hunt

Game 3 at Buffalo

Marchessault-Karlsson-Smith
Pacioretty-Stastny-Haula
Nosek-Lindberg-Carpenter
Carrier-Bellemare-Reaves

Theodore-Engelland
McNabb-Miller
Merrill-Holden

Scratches: Bischoff, Hunt

Game 2 at Minnesota

Marchessault-Karlsson-Smith
Pacioretty-Stastny-Haula
Nosek-Lindberg-Carpenter
Carrier-Bellemare-Reaves

Theodore-Engelland
McNabb-Miller
Merrill-Holden

Scratches: Bischoff, Hunt

Game 1 vs. Philadelphia

Marchessault-Karlsson-Smith
Pacioretty-Stastny-Haula
Nosek-Lindberg-Carpenter
Carrier-Bellemare-Reaves

Theodore-Engelland
McNabb-Miller
Merrill-Holden

Scratches: Bischoff, Hunt

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In this picture, Lehkonen is the metaphor for the shootout. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

In 2010, Luca Sbisa competed in the Winter Olympic Games for Team Switzerland. Sbisa and his Swiss mates finished in 8th place at the Vancouver games. Switzerland played three games that went to overtime, winning two and losing one. Two of the three were decided by shootouts.

After Wednesday night’s Golden Knights victory over the Flames, some of the guys in the winning locker room turned on the epic Women’s hockey gold medal game.

I was getting changed, and OT just ended so I knew they were going to a shootout. I left. I didn’t want too see it. -Luca Sbisa

I had to ask Sbisa if he was kidding. He wasn’t.

It’s not fair, you battle so hard. Obviously, when you’re on the winning side it’s great but the other team is upset because they fought so hard. -Sbisa

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“I’m Not Too Scared Of Anybody”

Even when he’s bragging he’s humble. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Last night wasn’t the perfect game for the Golden Knights, rarely are they, but it was a game in which Vegas played its preferred style and pace and ended up running away with a 7-3 win.

Confidence is powerful in the game of hockey. Individually, it’s why a player like William Karlsson can go from 15 goals in 162 games to 31 in 60, or Ryan Carpenter can be waived in December and then go on a streak of six goals in nine games. As a team, it’s even more impactful as it breeds a belief that no matter the score or situation someone will step up and lead the team to victory.

We have confidence in this room that if we focus on ourselves and play 60 minutes, we can beat any team in this league. -Luca Sbisa

But sometimes ability doesn’t match the confidence in a locker room, and it turns a confident bunch into a frustrated one. It often happens when a team plays what they believe is a good game and do not come out on top. It takes away that feeling of invincibility great teams have.

If we play well, we will win.

That should be the belief in every locker room of every team, and it probably was at some point in the season, but as the year rolls along and that mantra doesn’t hold up, it chips away at a team’s confidence.

Then there’s the Golden Knights, who are probably the most confident team in the NHL. Why, because they’ve never experienced disbelief. When they play well, no matter who they play against, they’ve won. Not most of the time, every time. It hasn’t mattered where the games are played, who’s in the goal, or the talent on the other bench, if the Golden Knights play the way they are capable of, they will win the game, every time.

I don’t want to brag or anything but I’m really confident in our team. I like the way we’re playing right now. So yeah, I’m not too scared of anybody. -Marc-Andre Fleury

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