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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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System Tweak May Change The Style Of Game Golden Knights Are Used To Seeing

(Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke, SinBin.vegas)

If you watched last night’s season opener between the Golden Knights and Seattle Kraken you probably noticed a bit more of a wide-open game than we’ve grown accustomed to seeing in Vegas since Pete DeBoer took over.

At first blush, most of the credit for that would seem to belong to the expansion team, coming in with a highly aggressive style in all three zones, one that both caused them to fall into a 3-0 hole but also climb out of it. But, a tweak to the Golden Knights system may have played as big a role in the look and feel of that game as well.

If there’s one thing the Golden Knights know they must do this season, it’s learn how to generate more offense than they have when the going gets tough in the playoffs. It was going to take some soul searching, some creativity, and a willingness to try something new.

This has been a historically great rush team. We all know rush dries up in the playoffs, everybody is more diligent in their checking. So, how do you create more rush? -Pete DeBoer

The answer the Golden Knights came up with is what Alex Pietrangelo dubbed a “new neutral zone.” It’s a systematic tweak Pete DeBoer and his coaching staff have implemented into the Golden Knights forecheck as the opposing team exits their own zone and makes their way through the neutral zone.

We’ll get into the X’s and O’s of it as the season progresses, but the simple way to describe the difference is in the Golden Knights’ increased willingness to try and jump passing lanes and/or hound the player receiving the first pass.

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2021-22 VGK Opening Day Trivia: Who Am I?

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There’s nothing more exciting than Opening Night. It’s a new season with new players, new rivals, and new objectives. As we prepare for tonight’s matchup against the 32nd franchise let’s have a little fun.

2021-22 Golden Knights Opening Night Trivia: Who Am I?

Surprise, I have the most opening night points in franchise history with 4 (2 Goals, 2 Assists). Who am I?

Click for answer
Mark Stone

 

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to suit up and join the boys tonight but I’ll be cheering loudly. Not sure if you remember, but last season I scored the franchise’s only opening night empty net goal. Who am I?

Click for answer
Alex Tuch

 

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Micro-Stats Shed Light On Many Golden Knights

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Last week one of the best follows on Twitter, analytics wizard @JFreshHockey, dropped a bunch of “micro-stats” from stat-tracking company InStat.

InStat goes back over games and grades events like turnovers, zone entries, puck battles, and dekes. The Golden Knights were littered throughout the top and bottom 20 lists for a variety of stats, some that were quite surprising.

We’ll start with a good one.

No surprise here, Mark Stone is awesome. The eye test has proven this out for years, but now we have a solid stat to show that when the puck is on Stone’s stick in the defensive zone, it’s coming out of the zone. Also unsurprisingly, he does it by passing the puck out as opposed to carrying it.

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VGK Fantasy Hockey Outlook

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

If you are anything like me, when you play fantasy sports you have to have at least one player from your favorite team on your roster. You’d think being a fan of the Golden Knights would make this easy. Vegas has been one of the top three or four teams in the NHL each of the past two seasons and are right there again this year. However, fantasy hockey and actual hockey are much different.

NHL.com has released a whole host of fantasy hockey lists from Top 250 to sleepers to rookies to watch and the Golden Knights are notably absent on many of these lists. But, when they added it all up, VGK found themselves in 4th on the overall team rankings. Very confusing, let’s go through it.

The Golden Knights have eight players in the NHL Top 250. The first guy on the board doesn’t come until #24 though, that’s Robin Lehner. Then we find Max Pacioretty (#33), Mark Stone (#43), Alex Pietrangelo (#54), Shea Theodore (#63), William Karlsson (#138), Alec Martinez (#152), and Jonathan Marchessault (#164). Alex Tuch is also listed in “Key Injuries” which means he would likely have been in the Top 250 as well.

Lehner certainly earns the Golden Knights a lot of weight in the fantasy world and actually, Laurent Brossoit behind him helps out as well. The pair are ranked 4th in the NHL in fantasy goalie tandems behind the Islanders, Lightning, and Avalanche.

One slightly surprising omission is Peyton Krebs on the rookie list. Spencer Knight and Cole Caufield headline the list, but names like Marco Rossi, Jamie Drysdale, and Quinton Byfield made the cut. In fact, there are even a few “other” rookies listed and Krebs couldn’t even get his name included there.

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Hunting Career Highs: Forwards

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Part 1 of this article was on Tuesday, now we’re moving on to Part 2 where we are looking at the Golden Knights forward group. Again, we’re looking for the statistic each player is most likely to surpass their career-high in.

Mark Stone
Stat: Even-Strength Assists
Career High – 31

Mark Stone is a superstar, there’s really no way around it. He’s been one for a few years too, so hitting career-highs in just about anything won’t be easy. But the one number that jumped off the page was even-strength assists. I’d expect Stone to be pushing 40 assists this year (his career-high in a season is 42), and with VGK’s power play struggles most of them should come at 5-on-5. Plus, he’s awesome at 3-on-3 which could nab him a few more.

Other options: Assists (42), Games Played (80), Shorthanded Goals (1)

Max Pacioretty
Stat: Shots
Career High – 307

Pacioretty is a high-volume shooter, especially since he’s been in Vegas. It’s not uncommon to look up and see him on the board with five, six, or seven shots in a game. In 2019-20 he amassed his career-high 307 shots in just 71 games. This year, assuming he gets to around 80 games, he could easily be pushing 350. His numbers did pull back a bit last year, which is concerning, but he’s not exactly a guy with a lot of reachable career-high options.

Other options: Faceoffs Won (51), Assists (34), Power Play Goals (10)

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5 GM Do-Agains We Wish The Golden Knights Could Make

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

We started out with the do-overs, moves made by the Golden Knights we wished could be redone. Today, we’re flipping the script and looking at some of the best moves in team history. These are moves that unequivocally advanced the roster and have made the Golden Knights much better.

Note: This is all post-Expansion Draft, otherwise it would have just been an Expansion Draft recap article.

Here we go…

5) Trading Colin Miller for a 2nd and a 5th

Even though the Golden Knights have never truly replaced Miller, especially on the power play, the value they were able to get out of a player who was a healthy scratch in a VGK playoff game is immense. Miller has simply not been the same player in Buffalo, amassing just 23 points in two seasons where he had 41 and 29 in each of his two seasons in Vegas.

Miller’s contract looked decent at the time but it’s now headed towards a pretty significant overpay for his performance. It’s hard to say where he’d be in his career had this trade never happened, which is why it’s not higher on this list, but the return on investment Vegas got for the player who has been in Buffalo is excellent.

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Which Golden Knights Have the Best Odds To Win Individual Awards In 2021-22?

Last year the Golden Knights got back atop the individual awards podium when Marc-Andre Fleury took home the Vezina Trophy. Before that Vegas had seen wins by William Karlsson (Lady Byng), Deryk Engelland (Messier), Gerard Gallant (Jack Adams), and George McPhee (GM of the Year) all in 2017-18.

With a stacked roster and the expectation of being a Cup contender once again, there’s a good chance a VGK player could win another individual award this year. Recently, William Hill listed all of their awards futures on the mobile sports app and all are available to bet right now. Here are the VGK candidates.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Norris Trophy (Best Defenseman)

Shea Theodore: +2500
Alex Pietrangelo: +2500
Alec Martinez: +6000

As the odds suggest, this truly is a toss-up between Theodore and Pietrangelo. While Shea had the much better regular season and finished 6th in the voting a year ago (and the year before), the postseason put in by Pietrangelo was the closest thing the Golden Knights have ever seen to a Norris-level performance. Martinez was stellar in the playoffs but his chances of being a true Norris finalist are probably long gone.

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Playoff Pietrangelo Proves He’s Worth The Money

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

When the Golden Knights inked All-Star defenseman Alex Pietrangelo to a jaw-dropping $61.6M contract it sent a strong message to the rest of the NHL. In the past Vegas’ front office gleefully spoke about “big game hunting,” and they did just that by signing the former St. Louis Blues captain to a 7 year/$8.8m AAV contract. In the end the money was well spent, even if the majority was earned in 19 postseason games.

At first glance, or really first 34 glances, the 2019 Stanley Cup champion looked pedestrian. Sharp skating, good defense but he was a step behind. Surely, Pietrangelo needed time to fit and understand coach Pete DeBoer’s plan of attack. Local fans are familiar with adjustment periods after Max Pacioretty’s leap in year two as a Golden Knight. Either way, the 31-year-old didn’t impress right out of the gate.

Pietrangelo’s First 34 Regular Season Games
2.78 Shots Per Game
0.47 Points Per Game
17 Points (4 Goals, 13 Assists)

The 2008 4th overall pick began showing signs of improvement with less than a month remaining in the regular season. It was almost like Pietrangelo said to himself ‘it’s go time.’ From that moment forward the slick shooting, right-handed defenseman became more involved offensively and was, for extended periods, the Golden Knights most lethal weapon. Vegas’ alternate captain was increasingly more comfortable and more impactful when the games mattered the most.

Pietrangelo’s Final 7 Regular Season Games
4.3 Shots Per Game
0.85 Points Per Game
6 Points (3 Goals, 3 Assists)

The last seven games of the regular season were a postseason warm-up for Pietrangelo. In 19 postseason games, the first-year Golden Knight was arguably Vegas’ most reliable skater. He finished the postseason leading the team in minutes played, shots on net, and power play points. Only William Karlsson had more playoff points and points per game. The 31-year-old played up to his pricey contract and performed like a Stanley Cup winning captain.

Pietrangelo In 19 Postseason Games
4.0 Shots Per Game
0.63 Points Per Game
12 Points (3 Goals, 3 Assists)

Over his career the 13-year veteran has averaged 0.59 points per game, its nearly identical to his 0.56 points per playoff game. As Vegas fans painfully know, points are tougher to come by in the postseason.

To be honest, I thought the conversation after year one would be how Pietrangelo’s contract would end up financially haunting the organization. Based on his early play, you couldn’t blame management for having some buyer’s remorse, but then playoff Pietrangelo appeared and the cost and commitment didn’t matter. The front office paid for the player fans watched in June, not January.

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