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Latest NHL Power Rankings: VGK A Multimillion-Dollar World Of Imagination

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Since the start of the new year the Golden Knights haven’t been at their best. Vegas is 1-2-2 in 2022 but still managed to add four points to their Pacific Division leading 23-14-2 record. It’s been awhile since we’ve seen the Golden Knights dominate opponents like they did throughout the month of December, which may have changed minds across the league. When in reality, Vegas picked up four points in five games without playing up to their potential and missing a myriad of starters.

Every so often we like to check in on NHL power rankings across the league. Vegas was a preseason Top 5 team but ever since the injuries piled up they’ve mostly been stuck in double digits. According to aggregate site Power Rankings Guru, this week the Golden Knights checked in at #11.

The consensus was, Vegas had an incredible month of December but took a step back once the calendar year ended. A little dramatic if you ask me.

Let’s start with the league’s site. Vegas rounded out the top ten for the second straight week on NHL.com. Up until they’re fully healthy expect Vegas to be ranked in bottom part of the top ten.

NHL.com – #10 (Previously #10)

The Golden Knights won an NHL record 14 straight regular-season games decided in overtime before losing 5-4 to the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday, the first time they lost in OT since Dec. 19, 2019 (5-4 at the Vancouver Canucks).

ESPN had a little fun by publishing a Disney themed NHL power rankings. Greg Wyshinski and crew went light on Vegas, only dropping them one position.

ESPN – #12 (Previously #11)

To honor this magical place, and with no small amount of corporate synergy, we’ve decided to use this week’s NHL power rankings to match all 32 teams with the Disney World attractions — rides, food, characters — that best fit their vibes.

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. A multimillion-dollar world of imagination that offers thrilling rides, lasting memories and the unwavering feeling that it never goes quite as far as you’d like it to go. That weird feeling in your stomach about the Golden Knights in the playoffs is not because you drank too much blue milk …

Sportsnet has routinely had Vegas outside of the top ten. One of the reasons for the lower grade is the injuries to Jack Eichel, Max Pacioretty and Alec Martinez. Once those three impact players return I’m sure SN will raise the local boys in their rankings.

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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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Pacioretty’s Commitment To Improving Himself Paying Off Early This Season

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Max Pacioretty is known as a streaky scorer. When he gets hot, the goals come in bunches. But never before has he been as hot as he is right now.

Pacioretty has scored in six straight games and has 10 goals and 17 points in his 10 games this season. He’s tied for second on the team in goals despite playing 12 fewer games than Jonathan Marchessault and he’s only behind Chandler Stephenson, Reilly Smith, Alex Pietrangelo, and Mark Stone in points, despite playing at least five fewer games than all of them.

Sometimes they go in and you’ve got to be prepared for when they don’t. Playing with great players always helps and getting the opportunity to score always feels good but you want to win. -Pacioretty

This isn’t the coincidence he’s making it out to sound though. Pacioretty is a hockey junkie and he never stops trying to improve his game.

I live and breathe training, nutrition, any little advantage I can get by making the right decisions. As I get older in my career this is an area I have to try and explore to try and last as long as I can and keep my speed as best as I can. –Pacioretty on Agent Provocateur podcast

Recently he’s spoken about working on his game with Golden Knights’ skills coach Misha Donskov in an effort to fit more into Pete DeBoer’s offensive system.

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A Dip Into Max Pacioretty’s Cold Gameday Routine

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The list of why professional athletes are professional athletes and the rest of us are just fans is a long one that probably doesn’t need any more entries added to it. But,  we’re going to add one anyway.

Max Pacioretty was recently on the Agent Provocateur podcast with his agent, Allan Walsh, where he discussed his gameday routine, one that clearly shows he is much closer to a machine than a normal human being.

I wake up, go to the rink, eat breakfast, get treatment, stretch, roll out a little bit, then go on the ice for pregame skate. Then I do a little bit of a lift. Cold tub. Eat lunch, come home, nap. I do my Normatech (recovery boots that “flushes your legs and squeezes them with air”), then some breathing stuff and meditation.  Wake up from the nap, have a snack, go to the rink, another cold tub. Meetings. (Pre-game) Warm-up. Another cold tub. Go out on the ice and play the 1st period, then another cold tub. And then after the game probably another cold tub as well. -Pacioretty on Agent Provocateur podcast

Yes, you read that right, four to five dips in a tub of water filled with ice cubes every single game day.

Just something to shock the body, and makes your feel a little bit more fresh. -Pacioretty on Agent Provocateur podcast

It’s just one of the things that makes Max Pacioretty, Max Pacioretty. This is a guy who has played more than 800 games in the NHL. He’s one of the league’s elite scorers and a veteran that’s respected by players across the league. He’s established, has signed a massive contract, and is probably better than 99.9% of people in the world at playing hockey the moment he rolls out of bed, yet he puts himself through the harshness of dipping his entire body into a cold tub five times a day just to get a tiny edge.

You get in these routines and it’s not even superstitious, I just feel better while doing it. And mine’s not even too crazy, a couple guys have weirder things but it does help me I think. -Pacioretty on Agent Provocateur podcast

I’m literally shivering just writing this article and I had to put on a coat while I was listening to him describe it, but it should serve as a reminder of the incredible rigors these guys put themselves through to entertain us night in and night out for an 82-game season.

It’s not fun, getting in that ice bath is never fun but you feel like if you can go through that you can go through anything. -Pacioretty on Agent Provocatuer podcast

If this doesn’t make you respect Max Pacioretty, and all NHL players for that matter, I’m not sure what will.

**Make sure you give a listen to the Agent Provocateur podcast with Pacioretty as it does a great job of telling his story both in Montreal and then once he got to Vegas. Here’s the link.**

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?

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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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