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Vegas Reveals Successful Template In Anaheim

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

As we watched over the weekend, the Golden Knights easily dominated the basement-dwelling Anaheim Ducks in two straight games. It’s clear Vegas is the much, much better team. This season the Golden Knights are 6-1-0 against the Ducks and have dictated the season series except for an earlier 1-0 defeat.

They’ve done the same against pretty much every other inferior team in the division as well. It’s been that type of campaign for the Golden Knights. They mop up on inferior opponents, winning games by an average of 1.5 goals per game.

VGK vs. ANA, ARI, LA, SJ, STL (Combined record: 87-104-28)
119 Goals Scored
69 Goals Allowed
3.71 Goals For Per 60
2.15 Goals Allowed Per 60
48 Goal Differential
53 out of 64 Points (26-5-1, .828)

It’s no secret the Golden Knights have had an easy path to a postseason berth. Same goes for the Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild. All three have built strong records by defeating the teams they should. So, it’s unfair to solely mock the Golden Knights for their weak schedule.

Points Percentage vs West Division Teams
Colorado .744 PTS%
Vegas .727 PTS%
Minnesota .663 PTS%

Realistically, that’s what contending teams need to do. Vegas, Colorado, and Minnesota were all handed a light schedule before the season began and have done their job gathering as many points as possible. It shouldn’t matter what level of competition they face. There’s no secret formula for beating and taking advantage of lesser opponents. However, that’ll end in early May when the regular season concludes and they have to exclusively play each other.

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Golden Knights Need To Rely On Others For More Offense

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Last month was a big one for two of the Golden Knights’ most reliable forwards. Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone really made an impact in March, combining for an impressive 43 points in 31 days. The club benefited from the two top compilers and posted a 12-5-0 record over the month. Unfortunately, March ended and the Golden Knights began April with a shootout loss against the Minnesota Wild.

Of course, it’s only one game and Vegas picked up a point in the process so there’s no much to gripe about. Last night’s SO loss was only the Golden Knights’ 11th defeat through 35 games this season. The club has set themselves up nicely for a postseason position. However, the loss to Minnesota carried over a trend that should make Vegas fans a bit uneasy.

The Golden Knights rely so much on Pacioretty and Stone to produce offensively that when they don’t, the team struggles to score. In their 11 regulation, overtime, or shootout losses, the top two forwards have scored in just three of those games. Without Pacioretty and Stone’s one-two punch, the Golden Knights average an anemic 1.27 goals per loss.

Especially, in a division featuring a Colorado team that just scored nine in a game and a pesky Minnesota group that averages close to three goals per 60. For Vegas to eliminate both in the postseason, they’ll need to rely on more than just the top line.

Pacioretty & Stone Postseason Production Per Game

Pacioretty: 0.82 Postseason Points Per w/ VGK
0.62 Career Postseason Points Per

Stone: 1.07 Postseason Points Per w/ VGK
0.77 Career Postseason Points Per

The issue for the Golden Knights isn’t just a problem in the regular season. Going back to their first postseason series as Golden Knights in 2018, when Pacioretty and Stone’s offense dried up the team crumbled. Against the San Jose Sharks the pair tallied ten goals in the first four games of that series. Game’s 5-7, the two veterans combined for one goal. One.

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Mark Stone’s Colorado Blueprint Must Be One And Only Focus For VGK

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche have met six times so far this season. Each team has won three but the Avs hold the slight edge as one of their three losses came in overtime.

It might sound oversimplified, but at this point in the season, every person who puts on Golden Knights clothing, be it players, coaches, management, scouts, literally everyone, should have a one-track mind from now until the end of May.

How do we beat Colorado?

With the playoff set up this season, both the Golden Knights and Avs are already essentially locked into the playoffs. It’s possible the seeds move around, but in all likelihood, they’ll each play someone else in the first round setting up for the inevitable matchup in the second round.

Everyone knows it’s coming, it’s just a matter of what the path looks like to get there. That’s why the focus should constantly be on them. The strategy at the deadline should be aimed at beating Colorado. The goalie rotation should be aligned in a way that best helps beat Colorado. Rest days, line shuffles, injury management, system tweaks, you name it, it should all be focused on that one same thing.

The good news is that Vegas has somewhat of a blueprint of how they can get it done, one Mark Stone helped lay out after the crushing 5-1 defeat on Thursday.

They have four or five really good puck-moving defensemen. If you turn pucks over they turn and go. We weren’t getting pucks in. We weren’t getting our forecheck established. If you put pucks in behind them, they don’t really want to go back and get it. But if you turn it over, they transition the puck better than anyone in the league. -Stone

The Golden Knights heeded Stone’s advice on Saturday as they took a far more direct approach on their entries and saw a five-goal against game turn into a two-goal against game.

Vegas was much more willing to dump the puck in behind the Avs and attempt to work their forecheck. The 4th line had their best game of the six against Colorado spending most of their time in the offensive zone setting up shots from the point, one of which William Carrier tipped in.

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Carp: Stone Wearing ‘C’ Well

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to for the 2021 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**

These days, we tend to mock decisions, using the phrase, “How’s that working out?”

So feel free to ask about Mark Stone’s captaincy of the Golden Knights. How’s that working out?

Pretty damn good I’d say.

When the Knights traded for him a couple years ago, I said in this space that he should be the team’s first captain. Not right away, but eventually. Some of you questioned that idea, which of course was your right. And a few of you even made some valid points.

But here we are, more than halfway through the 2021 season and Stone is leading, both in the dressing room and on the ice. He’s putting up the kind of numbers that gets you votes for the Hart Trophy, which goes to the NHL’s Most Valuable Player.

Peter DeBoer is stumping for him. Others around the league are saying his name too. Stone? He’s too busy scoring goals and making plays in his own end to deny the opposition from scoring to worry about it.

With March wrapping up, Stone has had an amazing month. He has 8 goals, 14 assists, five of which came in one game against Minnesota on March 1 which helped him earn NHL First Star honors on March 8. His 22 points in March are the most by a player in a single month in the brief history of the Golden Knights and there are still two more games left — Monday and Wednesday vs. the Kings.

He also has had one fight, a +6 rating, and his team is still in first place in the West Division with 47 points, one more than Colorado after Saturday’s 3-2 OT win over the Avalanche. He remains a constant presence in the lineup, having missed only one game this season. He leads the NHL in game-winning goals with seven so he has shown a knack for delivering in the clutch.

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League Leading Top Lines

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights are leading the league in several categories this season but one in particular is a bit surprising. Vegas forward Max Pacioretty scored two 1st period goals last night to give him a total of 16 on the season. Pacioretty’s production has him five goals behind superstar and league leader Auston Matthews. However, that’s not a shocking statistic.

Most Goals Scored By Line
VGK: Pacioretty-Stephenson-Stone (24)
BOS: Pastranak-Bergeron-Marchand (17)
NYI: Lee-Eberle-Barzal (16)
VAN: Boeser-Miller-Pettersson (16)
COL: Landeskog-MacKinnon-Rantanen (15)

Not only is Pacioretty scoring, but his linemates are as well. The support from captain Mark Stone and center Chandler Stephenson have transformed Vegas’ top line into the best scoring trio in the NHL. Considering the heavy offensive lines in Boston, Edmonton and Toronto it’s unexpected to see the Pacioretty-Stephenson-Stone lead the entire league.

Vegas fans have seen the chemistry all season. All three complement one another and serve important roles when they’re on the ice together. We know Pacioretty is out there to sling the puck, but Stone and Stephenson have elevated the entire line by their playmaking abilities. The captain has 24 assists, meanwhile, the top line center has 11. The trio combined has a running total of 83 points or 33% of all Golden Knights points.

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Tighter Schedule “Tough Physically, But Mentally Is Going To Help”

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Just seven games into the season COVID has struck the Vegas Golden Knights. A few positive tests to coaches and players have forced the NHL to postpone three games, two against San Jose and one with St. Louis. The rescheduling of the games inside of the normal framework of the reason has made an already tight schedule even tighter.

The Golden Knights saw one more back-to-back added to their schedule, bringing their total up to nine on the season (three with travel). What was previously an overblown storyline of “so many more back-to-backs” is now suddenly a real one. The eight Vegas originally had scheduled over 56 games was good for one every seven games. In a normal NHL season that number is usually around one in every 6.5. Now, with nine in 49 games, Vegas is set to face a back-to-back once every 5.4 games.

That pales in comparison to the total volume of the games in the amount of time the NHL is squeezing them into though. With the Golden Knights sitting idle for nine days over the last week, they are now scheduled to play 49 games in the next 93 days. That gives them on average less than 48 hours between games for the next three months!

To be exact, assuming the schedule goes on as planned, Vegas will play a game once every 45.6 hours. Compare that to last year where they played 71 games in 159 days or 53.7 hours. Or the years before when they played 82 games over 184 and 183 days or about one every 53.8 hours.

To match the numbers from each of the previous three seasons, Vegas should be playing 49 games in 110 days, not 93. Even if you take out the bye weeks from those, as Vegas sort of just had one, it still should be 49 games in about 102, nine days more than scheduled.

I’ve always found it incredible how NHL players seem to be able to spin any seemingly negative situation into a positive, and captain Mark Stone was able to do just that with this one.

It’s challenging but the way I look at it is, on the road I’d rather be playing games. I don’t really want to be sitting in my hotel room with nothing to do. I don’t mind it. We’re going to condense a lot of road games together, we’re going to be playing a lot of hockey, keep our mind away from a lot of things. It’s going to be tougher obviously physically, but mentally it’s going to help us. -Stone

The number of road days doesn’t change much, but there are many more breaks in the series format with the new reschedulings.

It will certainly be easier to move from game to game mentally as the games happen so frequently, but the physical side is definitely a concern, especially if there are injuries.

It’s just part of the year that is 2021. On the bright side, whatever it looks like now, it very well may look differently in a week.

Supplemental Discipline Not Likely, Nor Necessary, For Mark Stone’s Hit

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It was called a dirty play, an unnecessary hit, and not very smart. That is how the St. Louis Blues viewed Mark Stone’s 2nd period open-ice check on Tyler Bozak. Stone was forced into a fight, meanwhile, Bozak didn’t return to the game.

Questionable. We’ll look at him tomorrow.- Craig Berube, Blues coach

Stone was given a two-minute interference penalty for the mid-ice collision and the Blues were awarded their third power play of the night. After the penalty expired, Vegas’ captain dropped gloves with St. Louis defenseman Justin Faulk. It was an uneventful fight but it looked as if both parties were satisfied. St. Louis sent their message, Stone complied.

We got into kind of a battle in the corner and his elbow came up on me. Then we just jostled coming up the ice and I slammed on the brakes to get in his way. I didn’t expect to fight afterwards. He came after me and we fought. -Mark Stone

It seemed the bad blood was left on the ice, until Stone’s check was brought up several times after the game by St. Louis coach Craig Berube and his players. It’s possible the Blues were letting off some steam fresh from watching the replay, and learning their teammate was questionable to play next game. Either way, it was clear none of them liked it.

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Vegas’ Cup Contending Offense On Display Last Night

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

No matter how many games an NHL regular season has, no game’s are alike. Sure, the first few games had similarities, Vegas won all three but didn’t look good doing it.

Something had to break.

We were talking before the game that we hadn’t really pitched in too much… It’s kind of convenient that we did tonight, and I thought it definitely helped our overall game. -Shea Theodore

With the exception of the first few minutes, the Golden Knights put together their best attack of the season and were handsomely rewarded from it. Ten players collected points in Vegas’ 5-2 victory against Arizona and not a single one of them were cheap empty-net points either.

All five goals were examples of how dangerous this club can be. Alex Tuch scored Vegas’ first power play goal of the season, Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty paired up once again, and the star defensemen found the net three times.

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Underestimating The Pace Of A Real Game

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

We all watched with our own eyes on Thursday night. Vegas’ 5-2 victory over Anaheim got off to a quick but hectic start. In the opening eight minutes of the 2021 season, the two teams totaled four early goals. We know what happened later in the game, but let’s focus on the first eight minutes of the game.

If you’re playing in a normal season, and we get up two nothing like that the building is rocking. We got to learn to continue to push, we kind of let our foot off the gas after going up two nothing. -Mark Stone

In the initial 2:13 of the 1st period it looked like Vegas had turned the game into a one-sided contest. Jonathan Marchessault and Tomas Nosek nabbed their first goals of the season, temporarily giving the feel of a normal Golden Knights drubbing of the Ducks. Minutes later things quickly changed.

With their backs against the wall, Anaheim battled back and scored two of their own. Like the Golden Knights, the Ducks netted two in a matter of minutes.

The first eight minutes were messy but that wasn’t a shock to the players or coaches involved.

With no preseason you have to evaluate your game. We had some breakdowns a little too much in front of our own net. Some mental breakdowns but we also battled back. We gave up two goals early and we were able to respond the way we wanted to. -Ryan Getzlaf, Ducks captain

After a long time off the ice and a short training camp, it was expected both teams would come out rusty. However, both offenses came out hot and surprised the defense and goaltenders right from the opening faceoff. According to Anaheim’s head coach Dallas Eakins, the early flow of the game was sort of a reality check.

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The wait is over, the Golden Knights officially have their first captain in franchise history. Mark Stone was named captain of the Golden Knights via the team’s social media account.

Alex Pietrangelo and Reilly Smith have been named alternates.

Honestly I was kind of speechless. It’s very humbling for me. It’s a big honor. Something I’m not going to take lightly and something I’ve very excited to do. -Mark Stone

He’s as fine a person as you can find in this game. You like him off the ice, you like him on the ice. -George McPhee

He’s a tremendous competitor. He likes nothing more than when someone on the team scores, not just himself personally, that says a lot about his character and what type of leader he is. -Max Pacioretty

You want a guy who is dedicated to winning, who plays the right way and if you watch him play he’s underrated in terms of everything he can do on both ends of the ice. There’s not many guys in the league that can put up the numbers offensively that he does year in year out and contribute the way he can defensively. To me, that’s winning hockey and that’s what you want in your captain. You want a guy that’s going to give it to you every single night, the consistency like that, he’s certainly a special player. -Alex Pietrangelo

It’s been 40 years since an NHL team has won the Stanley Cup without a captain. That doesn’t mean you can’t do it. I don’t think that it’s an accident that that’s the case. -Pete DeBoer

We had with McPhee, DeBoer, and myself we thought we had the obvious guy and this was the time to name the captain. He embodies everything we want in a captain and that includes a great deal of humility. -Kelly McCrimmon

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