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“Feels Like We’ve Been Down 2-0 For A Month”

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights are no stranger to the playoffs. They’ve been there every year in the history of the franchise. But they’ve never been in a true playoff chase before and have really never been in a position in which there’s a true chance they don’t qualify.

While the cliche states “the playoffs have already started for us” the fact is it’s not quite the same. Due to the nature of the schedule and compounded by the mathematic oddity that comes with the loser point, simply winning games isn’t always enough when you are hunting down a playoff spot.

Vegas has found themselves in the win column in eight of the past 12 games and have picked up a total of 17 points since March 24th. The previous 21 games they picked up the same total of 17 points. The climb from these 17 has not matched the fall from the previous 17 though.

On February 8th, the Golden Knights led the Pacific Division in points and points percentage. 34 days and 17 points won later, they had fallen to 4th in the Pacific, 12 points out of 1st, and on the wrong side of the playoff cut line. It was a drastic fall and it happened in the matter of just over a month.

On March 24th, the Golden Knights were still a point out of a playoff spot and beginning a stretch of the schedule that looked very winnable. They did just that and have continued by beating playoff caliber teams like Calgary, Nashville, and Washington. Last night’s OT victory pushed them to 8-3-1 yet they haven’t moved an inch in the playoff standings. 28 days later, Vegas still sits on the outside looking in, now two points behind Dallas who has a game in hand.

Simply put, winning alone isn’t good enough, and it’s an unfamiliar feeling for the Golden Knights.

It feels like we’ve been down 2-0 in a playoff series for about a month here. We’ve been doing a good job and winning games but you don’t get that much closer, you don’t get to 2-2 if you win two in a row. -Mattias Janmark

It’s the perfect analogy and you can tell it’s wearing on the Golden Knights players. They’re doing their part, but it still hasn’t been good enough.

Yet.

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Kevin Iole’s Deadline Blueprint

This season, diehard VGK fan and legendary combat sports columnist Kevin Iole will be delivering columns a few times a month on usually on Sundays. Today, Kevin lays out what he believes is the correct course of action for the Golden Knights at this deadline.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The trading deadline is Monday and in the first four years of the VGK’s existence, it was a joyous time. We were like children waking up on Christmas morning to see what Santa left under the tree.

There was no question that the Golden Knights were going to add at the deadline in any of those four seasons. The question was how big would they go?

This season figured to be no different. But then, the Knights have gone 11-14-4 since Jan. 1 and just completed an 0-5 road trip largely against the dregs of the league. The win against Florida last night was great, but it doesn’t change what has happened over the course of the last three months.

This time, the trading deadline arrives and the Knights are a team in disarray, no longer a Stanley Cup contender and perhaps a team that may play its way into the draft lottery.

The deadline will still come, and it’s clear the VGK need a lot of work — for next season. The bulk of that can be done in the summer, but this trade deadline can give it a start.

Here are moves I would make if I were Knights GM Kelly McCrimmon to help fortify the team for a run at the 2023 Stanley Cup:

1. Shut down Alec Martinez for the remainder of the season: There is something seriously wrong with the guy, and it goes well beyond getting cut in the face by a skate in November. Nobody in the game is tougher than Martinez, and the fact he’s not playing five months later is an ominous sign.

This season is lost; even if they somehow miraculously sneak into the playoffs, they’re not winning the Stanley Cup this year. So shut down Martinez for the remainder of the year and hope he comes back in September fully health.

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DeBoer Committed To Using Depth Forwards More On Penalty Kill

As the Golden Knights head into the 2021-22 season there’s not a lot they want to change. They’ve been to the conference finals in back-to-back seasons, they tied for the President’s Trophy last year, and they’ve been consistently one of the winningest teams in the NHL since their inception.

But, since they haven’t reached the mountaintop yet they know they can’t stand pat and expect things to be different this time around.

Speaking with the media on the first day of Training Camp, head coach Pete DeBoer clued us in to one such place he’s looking for change in his forward group.

What we saw last year was I felt we overplayed some of our top guys, especially penalty killing situations. When we talked in the summer about building this team out with Kelly and George, I’m a big believer that we’ve got to have at least a couple penalty killers in the depth of the lineup so that you’re not overtaxing the top guys, you can save them a little for offensive situations. -DeBoer

Last season, the Golden Knights’ primary penalty killers were William Karlsson, Reilly Smith, Mark Stone, and Chandler Stephenson, all top-six players.

Regular Season PK TOI
Total (Per/game)

William Karlsson – 99:29 (1:47)
Reilly Smith – 91:02 (1:43)
Mark Stone – 74:12 (1:21)
Chandler Stephenson – 69:47 (1:22)
Tomas Nosek – 51:04 (1:21)
Alex Tuch – 41:24 (0:45)
Nic Roy – 41:14 (0:49)

Playoffs PK TOI
Total (Per/game)

William Karlsson – 24:21 (1:17)
Reilly Smith – 26:09 (1:23)
Mark Stone – 25:48 (1:21)
Chandler Stephenson – 23:14 (1:27)
Tomas Nosek -4:04 (0:41)
Alex Tuch – 11:36 (0:37)
Nic Roy – 10:16 (0:32)

With Tomas Nosek off to Detroit and Alex Tuch injured for the first few months, this concept of using depth players to penalty kill opens the door for a number of guys. The chief among them is newly acquired Brett Howden.

Howden has averaged 1:44 of penalty killing time per game over the past few seasons for the Rangers and has been reliable doing it. This could be a hint that Howden has an inside track into the Golden Knights’ lineup early in the season.

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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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Tuch’s Injury Creates Power Play Opportunities And Roster Options

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s been a tough week for Golden Knights fans. First the organization traded away two fan favorites only to have word come down that Alex Tuch will be out for six months with an injured shoulder. That’s a lot of difficult news in only five business days in the middle of summer.

Sticking with who’s left, filling Tuch’s role for an extended period of time will be difficult for coach Pete DeBoer. The good news is the roster has several options to help create offense, but will it be enough to improve Vegas’ lackluster power play?

(Dadonov) was a player we identified as a priority. We had him ahead of all players that were available in Expansion. That effectively addressed the need of adding one good foward. -Kelly McCrimmon

This week general manager Kelly McCrimmon acquired forward Evgenii Dadonov from Ottawa as another weapon to aid the power play, where he’s found high levels of success. Since his return to the National Hockey League in 2017-18, the 31-year-old Russian has registered 25 power play goals. In that span, he’s tied in PPG with offensive studs like Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin. Even more impressive, Dadonov posted those numbers without scoring on a man-advantage last season with Ottawa.

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Predicting The Golden Knights Offseason

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The offseason is about to truly get going. Rosters freeze in a couple of hours, expansion lists are due slightly after that and will be released to the public tomorrow. That’s when the fun begins as each team will surrender a player to the Seattle Kraken and the deals will start coming through. Shortly after that the NHL Draft, then free agency. In the next two weeks, a whole lot of teams will look different, and the Golden Knights could be one of them.

Yes, we waited until the absolute last minute for this but now is the time. Jason and I worked together on our offseason predictions for the Golden Knights. Here’s exactly what we think will happen and what the roster will look like come Opening Night 2021-22.

NOTE: This is a guess at what we believe the Golden Knights will do. This is not an endorsement for any of these moves. (We’ll get to that when they are actually made.)

Free Agency

Alec Martinez – Unsigned

It’s simply going to cost too much for the Golden Knights to retain the two-time Cup winner. After his excellent showing in the playoffs, while playing on a broken foot, the soon-to-be 34-year old will be looking to cash in one last time. We expect him to hit the market on July 28th and sign quickly for at least $5 million AAV.

Mattias Janmark – Unsigned

George McPhee has never been a big fan of rentals, but since Kelly McCrimmon officially took the GM chair they have gone down this road a bit more. Nick Cousins was acquired and walked a few months later in free agency and we expect the same from Janmark. It’ll be interesting to see how much he can fetch on the open market as he hits unrestricted free agency for the second year running. He’s signed for $2.3 and $2.25 each of the last two years and may be headed towards that number again.

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Projecting The Probability Of Golden Knights Offseason Moves

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights could add a few pieces around the edges. They could go for the blockbuster and trade for Jack Eichel, Seth Jones, or Vladamir Tarasenko. They could do absolutely nothing. The options in Vegas this offseason are endless.

I, like all of you, have absolutely no clue what is actually going to end up happening, but I, like all of you, have fun trying to figure it all out and making guesses.

Next week we’re going to be publishing a series of articles giving our final guesses. Jason and I will take turns playing GM for a day and coming up with our perfect offseason if we were in charge, and then we’ll collaborate for what we think the guys who are actually in the front office will do.

But before then, let’s play the guessing game using percentages.

Will a goalie be traded?

Yes – 15% (10% Lehner, 5% Fleury)
No – 85%

For a variety of reasons it didn’t happen last season and many of those same reasons still exist now. Plus, unlike last year when they were two years away, the Golden Knights are now one year away from lowering the $7 million cap number on Fleury and having both goalies under contract at a much more affordable price. Biting the bullet for one more year seems like the runaway favorite, but 15% isn’t nothing.

Will the Golden Knights trade for Jack Eichel?

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Mattias Janmark Doesn’t See Similarities In How Wild And Stars Defend The Golden Knights

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Anyone else feeling a bit of deja vu from the last playoff run?

The Golden Knights seem to be able to generate chances but the puck just will not go in the back of the net. Through two games Vegas has attempted 144 shots with 70 of them making it to Cam Talbot. He’s stopped all but three despite consistent pressure from the Vegas offense.

To most, including myself, it reminds me of the Dallas series, and the back-end of the Vancouver series before it. But to Mattias Janmark, who was on the Stars team that ended Vegas’ season last year, he doesn’t see the parallels. When asked if the Wild are defending the Golden Knights in a similar way, he took a moment to think about it and then said “not really.” He went on…

It’s hard because I was on the other side. I don’t think (Minnesota) plays too much of the same style as we played in Dallas. I don’t see too many similarities but I think in the playoffs all the series are similar in some ways. It’s always hard to score in the playoffs. -Janmark

One place in which Minnesota is very different from Dallas is in their commitment to block shots. In 123 minutes of hockey, the Wild have stepped in front of 40 Vegas shots. Meanwhile, in 5 games, or 304 minutes, the Stars blocked just 60 Golden Knights shots.

Another difference is where the shots are coming from for the Golden Knights. The first heat map is from this series while the second is against Dallas.

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Film Breakdown: Mattias Janmark’s Direct Style Of Play

The newest Golden Knight has made an immediate impact in Vegas seeing time on both the 2nd and 3rd lines and contributing a goal and two assists in six games.

It’s the style of play that has impressed me the most though, and that’s exactly what I highlight in today’s film breakdown.

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GOLDEN KNIGHTS ACQUIRE MATTIAS JANMARK (F) FROM CHICAGO

The Golden Knights have acquired forward Mattias Janmark from the Blackhawks for a 2021 2nd round pick and a 2022 3rd round pick. The deal was brokered through San Jose who acquired a 5th round pick.

Chicago retained 50% of Janmark’s salary and then San Jose retained 50% of the remaining salary leaving Vegas on the hook for 25% or $562,500.

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