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McCrimmon Gives Update On Eichel, State Of The Team, During Sunday’s Game

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The start to the 2021-22 season didn’t go as planned for Vegas general manager Kelly McCrimmon. After beginning the season 1-4-0 and seeing their roster shrink due to injuries, the future looked uncertain for the Golden Knights.

It’s been a different season. I’ve often used the expression that every team runs it’s own race. You look at last year where we were relatively healthier than we’d been this year. We won a lot of hockey games and we were fighting for first place with Colorado the entire season. This year the injuries began early. -Kelly McCrimmon on ATTSN intermission show

Like most fans, Vegas’ GM had confidence that the group he assembled would turn it around. The roster made up of healthy Golden Knights, Silver Knights and free agents kept the team above water and in place for the stars to return.

The reinforcements healed at the right time for a poised Vegas run to first place.

Our first 20-22 games was really survival mode and I give credit to the coaches and players a lot of credit for scratching and clawing. I felt with the Calgary game earlier in December, from there we started really playing with identity and look more like we want the finished product to look. -McCrimmon on ATTSN intermission show

Instead of panicking the organization played through injuries and gathered enough information about their roster to prompt Vegas’ GM to make another franchise shifting move by acquiring center Jack Eichel.

Jack’s rehab has gone real well. We’re getting closer to two months since he’s been rehabbing. We’ll get him to Vegas sometime in January. Confident he will be in the lineup this season. -McCrimmon on ATTSN intermission show

Roughly two months after Eichel’s elected neck surgery the organization expects more positive progression to come later this month. Once he’s settled in Las Vegas, the front office should have better feel for when the 25-year-old will make his Golden Knights debut.

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Who Is Vegas’ Most Indispensable Player?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

This week ESPN chose one player from each NHL team that they deemed indispensable, the “Worldwide Leader” made a surprising choice for the Golden Knights’ most vital performer.

Most indispensable: Chandler Stephenson

We may not have pegged Stephenson as the Golden Knights’ top-line center or leading goal scorer when the season started. But here he is, having a terrific year. He’s averaging a point per game and the most ice time of any Vegas forward. On a team that stumbled out of the gate, Stephenson has been an irreplaceable player helping to keep the Golden Knights afloat.- ESPN.com

It’s hard to argue Stephenson’s value this season. The seven-year veteran is having a career season, leading Vegas in points, shooting percentage (50 shot minimum), and faceoff wins. Overall, Stephenson has been essential to the team’s turnaround since their early 1-4 start.

As a point-per-game player, the highly productive center anchored the top six when Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, and William Karlsson were on the mend. In the games that his two linemates were absent, Stephenson emerged as Vegas’ go-to for much-needed offense. Since the season began the Golden Knights are 7-3 when he scores.

As steady as Stephenson has been, ESPN is way off. Here are players more indispensable than Stephenson.

Alex Pietrangelo

Most Golden Knights fans are in agreement that Pietrangelo became Vegas’ most impactful player since last postseason. The former captain led his new team in postseason time on ice, shots, power play points, and is second in total points behind William Karlsson. In 31 appearances this season, the Golden Knights are 13-4 when the defenseman registers a point. Since the postseason, much of Vegas’ offense flows through the experienced defenseman.

To be fair to the critics, Pietrangelo is frequently on the ice for goals scored by the opposition, but it’s inevitable when he skates 25+ minutes per game. The alternate captain has been on the ice for 32 even-strengthened goals which is 9th worst in the NHL. However, Pietrangelo is 4th best in the league for being on the ice when his team scores. You know which Golden Knight follows Pietrangelo in those columns? You guessed it, Stephenson.

On Ice Even-Strength Goals For

  1. Pietrangelo 38
  2. Stephenson 38
  3. Hague 37
  4. Theodore 31
  5. Smith 29

On Ice Even-Strength Goals Against

  1. Pietrangelo 32
  2. Stephenson 28
  3. Hague 28
  4. Smith 25
  5. Marchessault 25

I understand deep stats overwhelmingly disregard the 31-year-old’s impact so this comes down to a simple eye test. Pietrangelo is more indispensable.

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Islanders’ Barry Trotz On VGK: “They’re Legit”

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It was the perfect road trip for the Golden Knights last week along the Eastern Seaboard. Winning in Boston, New Jersey, and two in New York sent a loud message across the league. Vegas’ four-game sweep had some hiccups but collecting eight points was all that mattered. Three of their opponents were openly impressed by how the Golden Knights found ways to win.

They’re a legit, deep, big, fast, well-coached hockey team. A good sign for us. We measured up against a pretty good hockey team. -Barry Trotz, NYI coach

The Cup-winning coach knows Vegas well, and has had some success against them. We’re all aware of Trotz and the Capitals eliminating the Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Finals but the results have been different in the regular season.

Outside of the postseason the current New York Islanders coach is 2-5-1 against Vegas. However, most games were tight and Trotz’ players were always prepared.

We played composed, we played with some urgency when we were down a goal to come back like this against a team like Vegas that keeps pressing. I thought we did a really good job tonight to come back and get the lead. It’s unfortunate to give up a goal at the end like this and lose that point. -Jean-Gabriel Pageau, NYI forward

The Islanders forced the Golden Knights into a hard-fought 60 minutes. Vegas’ skill and speed stood out to the Islanders, and specifically some of their quicker players.

You watch [Stephenson] play now, there’s no governor and he realizes it. He’s got himself to the next level. And he’s a good player. -Trotz

Vegas was sharp for several periods in New York and were hampered in others, but it never cost them in the end. Against the Rangers, the Golden Knights were completely in control of the game after the opening 20 minutes, but the remaining 40 were challenging.

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Vegas Is Becoming Alex Pietrangelo’s Team

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Let’s be honest, we all thought the Golden Knights would be a lot worse off than they are today. Thanksgiving has passed and we can all let out a collective sigh knowing that if the season ended today Vegas would be in the playoffs.

The injury bug hit the Golden Knights hard but through coaching, leadership, and responsibility, the Golden Knights are currently in third place in the division.

One player that was an enormous reason why the Golden Knights kept their heads above water is defenseman Alex Pietrangelo. Since Game 52 of last season, Pietrangelo has emerged as Vegas’ most important player. Sure, some deep stats will disagree but frankly, this is a case of mistaken identity. You want a stat? The Golden Knights are 7-2 when Pietrangelo registers a point. A point! Not a goal, but just one point from #7 usually propels the Golden Knights to a victory. That’s just his offensive contributions.

Clearly, coach Pete DeBoer isn’t concerned with what the data says about his most essential player. If the 31-year-old is such a deterrent than why would he be one of the most utilized defenseman in hockey? Pietrangelo is a bonafide workhorse and a fantastic facilitator for DeBoer.

Average Time On Ice: 25:16

  • 1st on VGK, 9th in NHL

Even Strengthened Minutes Per Game: 20:03

  • 2nd on VGK (1st – Theodore 20:17)

PP Minutes Per Game: 2:20

  • 2nd on VGK (1st – Stone 3:05)

Shorthanded Minutes Per Game: 2:50

  • 2nd ok VGK (1st – McNabb 2:57)

Offensive or defensive draw, up a goal or down a goal, up a man or down a man, it doesn’t matter, DeBoer is calling on #7.

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Mark Stone Sheds Some Light On An Injury That He’s Been Dealing With For A “While”

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

On October 14th the Golden Knights headed to Los Angeles to take on the Kings in their home opener. The game couldn’t have gone much worse for Vegas. They were dominated in every facet on the ice and to add injury to insult captain Mark Stone had to leave the game in the second period on a non-contact injury.

Stone immediately hunched over in serious pain and needed assistance to get off the ice and eventually down the tunnel. After the game, we learned that Max Pacioretty had also broken his foot in the game and the reports we were hearing at SinBin.vegas was that the team feared Stone’s injury could be even longer term than the 4-6 weeks on Pacioretty’s foot.

At the time, Pete DeBoer revealed Stone had been “dealing with something off and on” and that it finally “just locked up on him” which had everyone majorly concerned.

The frustrating thing for me was that I couldn’t really put a timeline on it. I saw a bunch of different specialists to… kinda put a timeline on it… and no one could really give me one. -Mark Stone

It was later revealed by Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic that Stone’s injury was to his back. What we found out Saturday night though was that this was something Stone had been dealing with for quite a while, and that it finally appears to have been solved.

With the medical staff, myself, the physical training staff we’ve done a good job getting it solved, getting my body into a position to feel comfortable on the ice, which I hadn’t for maybe a while and I kind of fooled myself into thinking I felt great. I’m happy now that I was able to take that time. -Stone

Stone missed just one game last season and six the year prior, while participating in all 39 playoff games the Golden Knights played.

After each season he was asked if he was playing injured at any point during the playoff run, both times he firmly answered “no.” It seems now though that maybe he was and he didn’t even really know it.

I felt like tonight was the first time I actually felt comfortable coming back into a game so I made my return tonight and I feel good going forward that I’m going to get through the season and I feel as strong as ever. -Stone

Stone has consistently been one of, if not the, best player on the Golden Knights for the last three years, and it seems he’s been doing it while not even operating at full health. Now, he’s back, and “as strong as ever.” That has to be terrifying for the rest of the NHL to hear.

How 122 Minutes Changed The Direction Of The Golden Knights Season

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s amazing how quickly the tides can turn for a professional sports team. For example, the Atlanta Braves were floundering below .500 in late June, holding the tenth worst record in the National League. Now, Atlanta is three games away from winning the World Series. Okay, maybe the Golden Knights two game Central sweep isn’t of the same magnitude but the tone surrounding the team and the fanbase is a stark difference from what it was on Tuesday afternoon.

There’s no arguing who’s lineup was more talented over the past two games and especially on Tuesday night. Down to their bare bones the Golden Knights did something that not even the organization expected to happen, win back-to-back road games in Colorado and Dallas. It was a tall order but coach Pete DeBoer and his makeshift roster performed as if Mark Stone was leading the way. However, the absence of Stone and others were replaced with gutsy performances by the current, less-talented Golden Knights.

Clearly, DeBoer got through to his players before the road trip began on Tuesday. In case it wasn’t loud enough the de facto leaders (Pietrangelo, Marchessault, Smith, Karlsson, Martinez) made sure the message was heard. Based off their last six periods (and OT) the healthy players were highly motivated and reminded the league on back-to-back nights that their season wasn’t finished.

It was a gutsy road trip. It was a gutsy win again today, short bench, had more guys leave during the game, so we were basically playing three lines. Guys dug deep all week. Tough circumstances and guys found a way. It was a real character test and I thought we did a great job. -Pete DeBoer

One of the reasons Vegas was able to survive and collect four enormous road points was the brilliant play from their goaltenders. As expected, Robin Lehner was Colorado’s foil, and backup Laurent Brossoit put his team in a position to win the game down the stretch in Dallas. Without sharp goaltending this week would look a lot bleaker. Several times over the last two games Vegas could have lost confidence and let the game get away from them. Up 2-1 in Colorado, the Avalanche had more than a period to tie the game but Lehner and his teammates refused to let that happen.

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Can The Golden Knights “Find” Three Goals Per Game?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

After Wednesday’s loss to the St. Louis Blues, Vegas coach Pete DeBoer said his team needed to find a way to score three goals per night. Averaging 3+ goals per game almost guarantees an NHL team, and specifically the Golden Knights, a victory or at worse an overtime loss.

In 2020-21, the Golden Knights were 35-2-1 when they scored three or more goals in a game. Also, ten games ended in an overtime period or shootouts capturing at least one point.

So let’s pretend the Golden Knights will be without their weapons for 20 games. It could be more, hopefully less, but the length of time Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone are on the shelf won’t matter for this exercise.

The idea here is to try and add up averages to see if it’s actually possible for this lineup as currently constructed to reach three goals consistently.

Thanks to DeBoer, he solved the first part of the equation for us.

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How Much Lost Offense Can Vegas Make Up?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Since their arrival, Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone have been Vegas’ two statistical heavyweights. The captain is a point per game (0.99) player and his linemate isn’t far behind (0.86), so it’s safe to say their impact will be missed. Without Pacioretty and Stone for an extended amount of time, the Golden Knights will need to find scoring from within to make up for that massive loss of offense.

% Of Team Offense From Pacioretty and Stone

2018-19: (246) VGK Goals Scored
Pacioretty (32) and Stone (5) combined for 11% of team goals

2019-20: (224) VGK Goals Scored
Pacioretty (32) and Stone (21) combined for 25% of team goals

2020-21: (190) VGK Goals Scored
Pacioretty (24) and Stone (21) combined for 24% of team goals

In a full NHL season, Pacioretty and Stone score on average a quarter of Vegas’ goals. While they’re out, other Golden Knights players will have to make up for that lost offense. All fingers will point to the Misfit line but coach Pete DeBoer can’t rely solely on them. Since the inaugural 2017-18 season, the trio of William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, and Reilly Smith have added offense on a nightly basis. Which is a big reason why all three players have scored the most points in franchise history. The Misfit line will need to find ways to add more but Vegas’ coach is already expecting a quarter of his offense to come from them as it is.

Misfit Line Contribution

2017-18: 92 Goals (WK 43, JM 27, RS 22)
Misfits combined for 34.5% of team goals

2018-19: 68 Goals (WK 24, JM 25, RS 19)
Misfits combined for 28% of team goals

2019-20: 64 Goals (WK 15, JM 22, RS 27)
Misfits combined for 28% of team goals

2020-21: 46 Goals (WK 14, JM 18, RS 14)
Misfits combined for 24% of team goals

The construction of the Golden Knights roster is heavily reliant on the top-six and somehow the team will need to replace the missing offense in order to set up for a late playoff run.

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DeBoer Finds Positives As Injuries Mount

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Even before their trip to Los Angeles on Thursday night, the Golden Knights were fighting through a rash of injuries. Now, it appears they’ll be without two thirds of their top line and two of the best players on the roster for a significant period of time.

*Always stay up-to-date with the newest information by checking out out Injury Report*

Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, Alex Tuch, Nic Roy, Brett Howden, and William Carrier all missed practice today, a practice in which the defensemen actually outnumbered the forwards. (Evgenii Dadonov was absent too, but it was described as a maintenance day).

Obviously, this is not ideal for a team expected to run away with the Pacific Division, but that won’t stop the Golden Knights’ head coach from searching for positives.

The first of which was schedule related. The Golden Knights have a five day break between their second and third games of the season, the second longest break between games this season after the All Star break.

I think the fact that we don’t play until Wednesday will give us the opportunity to get more guys out here. I think everybody likes the idea after a stinker of getting out and playing the next night but the reality of it is we’ve got 3 or 4 guys that wouldn’t have been available tonight or tomorrow night so it’s probably not a bad thing. -DeBoer

He’s also aware though that the worst of the injuries are to the best players of the group. DeBoer is hoping being without Stone and Pacioretty can actually be a good thing for his team.

I told our group this morning that the silver lining of this I’m hoping this might be the best thing to happen to us. You take out guys that you rely on for offense every night. You’ve got to play with detail, you’ve got to have that defensive foundation, you’ve got to be prepared to win 2-1, 3-2. We’ve got to get that back, we haen’t had enough of that. -DeBoer

The team has two more practices before their next game which starts a three game homestand against St. Louis, Edmonton, and the New York Islanders.

Adversity is here, but the Golden Knights appear ready to attack it head on.

Assessing VGK’s Options Without Mark Stone And Max Pacioretty

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights came into this season touting “the deepest forward group in team history.” Due to a rash of injuries, that depth will be put to the test quickly this year and may ultimately determine the fate of the Golden Knights’ fifth season.

With Alex Tuch sidelined until at least January and Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty seemingly joining him with serious injuries, the options are starting to look limited on Pete DeBoer’s lineup choices.

Eventually, he’ll get Nic Roy, William Carrier, and Mattias Janmark back, but even then, it’s challenging to come up with a lineup that will truly strike fear in an opponent.

Here’s the most likely solution Vegas could turn to.

Marchessault-Karlsson-Smith
Janmark-Stephenson-Dadonov
Krebs-Patrick-Kolesar
Carrier-Howden-Roy

The Misfits return to the top of the lineup and will have to carry a massive load both offensively and as the clear best defensive line of the four. The good news with this group is there isn’t a major weak spot. Sure, there would likely be games where certain lines struggle, but as long as the Misfit Line produces, they should be able to survive.

The next option is to swap a Dadonov and Kolesar in the middle-six to try and build an offensive line and a defensive line.

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