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Injuries Affecting Golden Knights Defensive Continuity

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Continuity is crucial when it comes to defending in the NHL. Playing with the same defensive partner for an extended period helps in every aspect. Last year, the Golden Knights had that luxury to start the season and in the playoffs. This year, they haven’t, and it’s starting to show.

Last year, Vegas used the same set of six defensemen for each of the first 20 of the first 21 games. Those six defensemen then went on to play 21 of the 22 playoff games with the exact partnerships from the beginning of the year. This season, Vegas has been forced to cobble together their lineup from Opening Night.

Before the season even began, both Zach Whitecloud and Alec Martinez were sidelined. By the time Martinez returned, Alex Pietrangelo had gone out. When Whitecloud returned, Hague was out. When Hague returned, Martinez went back out and then Theodore followed right behind him.

Vegas has used their preferred group of six defensemen just one time this season. This has led to a major shift in the minute load each player has had to take on.

(Thru 31 games)2023-24 Minutes2022-23 MinutesDifference
Pietrangelo628540+88
McNabb622627-5
Theodore467633-166
Hague434505-71
Hutton40066+334
Whitecloud313500-187
Martinez270619-349
Korczak2470+247
Pachal22314+209
Miromanov0103-103

The minutes that were being eaten up by Theodore, Martinez, Whitecloud, and Hague last season have gone to Ben Hutton, Kaedan Korczak, and Brayden Pachal this year.

In addition, it has meant a ton of different pairings. Last year over the 82-game regular season and 22-game postseason run, the Golden Knights used 19 different defense pairings. This year, through just 31 games, they are already at 15.

The Golden Knights have remained a strong defensive team through all of it, but it’s clearly been slipping a bit in the last few weeks.

NHL Edge Data Shows VGK’s Hardest Shot, Fastest Skater, And Most Distance Travelled

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

After years of teasing it, the NHL has finally released the advanced stats gathered from player and puck tracking data. All of the stats can be found at NHL.com/edge including team, skater, and goalie specific numbers.

One of the most interesting numbers tracked is distance travelled. Jack Eichel led all Golden Knights last season travelling the most distance in a single game. On March 3rd against New Jersey, Eichel skated almost four miles in his 23 minutes of ice time. He finished the game with a total distance of 3.89 miles travelled, almost a full mile more than the league average of 2.92 per game.

Eichel also led the team in distance travelled per 60 minutes played. Brett Howden was a close second and Paul Cotter leads the pack so far in 2023-24.

(Measured in miles)2022-232023-24
Eichel10.079.79
Howden9.909.97
Amadio9.899.66
Karlsson9.869.94
Stephenson9.709.84
Kolesar9.639.67
Barbashev9.549.96
Cotter9.5110.04
Roy9.519.75
Marchessault9.489.28
Dorofeyev9.49.34
Carrier9.289.55
Theodore8.959.13
Stone8.918.9
Hague8.578.23
Hutton8.328.61
Pietrangelo8.328.36
Whitecloud8.25N/A
McNabb8.027.99
Martinez7.967.70

Another good piece of data is the hardest shot. Sine the data has begun beign tracked in 2021-22, the Golden Knights have seen two shots recorded at over 100 mph. One by Alec Martinez last year, and one by Nic Hague against Anaheim this season. Eichel, Dorofeyev, and Amadio recorded the hardest shots by forwards last season.

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Eichel & Draisaitl Agree Playoff Series Came Down To Depth

(Photo Credit: @_jkarsh on Instagram)

On the night of May 15th, 2023, after the Golden Knights eliminated the Edmonton Oilers in the second round of the 2023 NHL playoffs Jack Eichel and Leon Draisaitl walked into two very different locker rooms. Eichel was promptly drenched with celebratory champagne and puffed on Ashton Aged Maduro’s with his jubilant teammates. Draisaitl stepped into a locker room that was emotional, furious, and unsatisfied with how their season abruptly ended. In fact, it was in that moment Oilers captain Connor McDavid sternly stated that he and his teammates were on notice.

We’ve heard the story now from a few places, that he cleared all but the closest team staff out of the room and laid down the parameters for his franchise going forward. That the window for learning how to win was slamming shut, and the time for applying those lessons — and winning Stanley Cups — has officially begun. – Mark Spector on Sportsnet.ca

Now, both Pacific Division contenders are preparing for a new 82-game regular season with a mutual agreement on how that six-game series ended in mid-May. In Elliotte Friedman’s latest 32 Thoughts blog, Draisaitl noticed the difference of quality bench players on VGK’s side.

At the NHL/NHLPA media tour in Las Vegas, Jack Eichel said the difference between Edmonton and Vegas in that second-round series was depth. Leon Draisaitl conceded that, but added, “We couldn’t get to our top game…They didn’t make those little mistakes we made and that was the difference.” –Elliotte Friedman in 32 Thoughts

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4 Golden Knights Ready To Breakout

(Photo Credit: @_jkarsh on Instagram)

Just about every player to step on the ice for the Golden Knights this season will have already fulfilled their goal as a hockey player. Now, they are all working together to do it again. Individually though, there’s room for improvement for many players on the Vegas roster. With a few departures and an 82-game season in store, there will be opportunities for many Golden Knights, especially the younger ones, to take a step forward. Here are four candidates who could be in store for breakout seasons.

Brett Howden

Howden’s career high in points in a season is just 23 and he scored only 13 for the Golden Knights last year. Of course, his contributions in the playoffs ramped up significantly after he found himself as the third wheel on a line with Mark Stone and Chandler Stephenson. Howden scored five goals (including an OT GWG in the WCF) and added five assists for 10 points in 22 playoff games.

This year, he’ll likely start the season right back in that same spot on the second line and might even find his way onto a power play unit. Howden’s skill set clearly matched up well with Stone and Stephenson which should equate to a lot more playing time than he’s seen in the past. Last season he averaged just 13:04 per game. That number jumped by almost a minute per night to 13:59 in the playoffs. It’d be easy to project him to play closer to 15:00 a game this season as long as the chemistry holds with his linemates.

He’s never reached double-digit goals nor has he eclipsed 25 points in a season in his career. He has a great chance to do both, and potentially much more, this year.

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VGK Put Forth “Best All Around Defensive Game” In Game 5

(Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke, SinBin.vegas)

Since Game 1, the Golden Knights and Oilers series hadn’t seen a game within three goals in the final 10 minutes. So, while much has been learned about the matchup between the two teams, close defensive hockey was still a question mark.

That was until last night.

Following the kill of a major penalty that brought the score from 4-2 to 4-3, the Golden Knights put on a clinic in how to defend the most potent offense in the NHL this season.

I thought it was our best all around defensive game. Our team has responded well to situational hockey in the playoffs when we’ve had the lead. We understand the value of easy chances against so we’re making the other team work. We did a really good job of that last night and I think we are good 5-on-5 with the lead. -Bruce Cassidy

Vegas became an entry denial machine that stifled the Oilers for the entire 3rd period, not allowing them to erase the one goal deficit. Edmonton generated a measly four shots on goal in nearly 10 minutes of 5-on-5 hockey. And, the Oilers mustered up just 0.21 expected goals in the 3rd period with all ten skaters on the ice, less than half of what they accumulated in each of the first two periods.

Good gaps, check with our feet, staying tight and defending as five as we have all year. I thought we executed plays really well and we won those battles and got the clears when we needed to and got a couple big stops which you need. There’s a lot to build off of there and I thought we executed well. -Nic Hague

It was all highlighted by one shift though, a shift that wasn’t even played in the defensive end of the ice.

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Hot, Cold, And William Karlsson

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights have been on a nice run since the All Star break, losing just one game in regulation and cementing their place in the Western Conference playoff picture.

Along the way, there have been a few big-time performers stepping up consistently helping lead VGK to goals and eventually wins. Despite all the winning though, there have been a few disappointments as well, players that will need to step up their game if the Golden Knights want to achieve the ultimate goal by season’s end. And then, there’s been William Karlsson.

We’ll start with the good.

Hot

Jack Eichel
8 goals, 6 assists, 14 points, +10 rating

There’s really no point in doing this list without starting with #9. Eichel has been on his best run as a Golden Knight since the calendar flipped to February and there are no signs of him slowing down. He’s scored goals in seven of the 12 games since the break, and has been on the score sheet with at least a point in nine.

Plus, the goals have been big ones. Eichel gave the Golden Knights a 3rd period lead against both New Jersey and Dallas, he scored twice in the 2nd period to put VGK ahead against Carolina, and his power play goal against the Flames sparked the Golden Knights’ comeback.

And on top of all of it, he just flat-out looks like the best player on the ice most nights. His powerful skating stride is breathtaking and his shotmaking ability at full speed is spectacular.

Shea Theodore
3 goals, 9 assists, 12 points, +8 rating

Theodore returned from his nasty knee injury a few days before the break. He didn’t quite look himself in those games and the results showed. Since, he’s been every bit of the dynamic puck-moving defenseman the Golden Knights knew they had when they signed him to a long-term deal four years ago.

He’s driving offense from all three zones again and putting teams on their heels with his ridiculous puck-handling ability. In the last nine games, Theodore has recorded at least four shots in five of them and he’s averaging nearly 22 minutes of ice time a night, lightening the load on Alex Pietrangelo.

Scoring from the blue line is not exactly the main focal point of the Bruce Cassidy offensive system, but when Shea is going like he is, the offense looks so much more potent.

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NIC HAGUE SIGNS 3-YEAR EXTENSION

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The contract stalemate that kept RFA Nic Hague out of the entire Training Camp and all seven preseason games has come to an end today as he and the Golden Knights agreed to a three-year contract worth $2,294,150 per season.

Hague becomes the sixth highest-paid defenseman on the team and will remain an RFA under Golden Knights control when this contract expires following the 2024-25 season.

Nic loves being a Golden Knight and we love having him. It was slower than all of us would have liked but the good news is he’s now under contract. -Kelly McCrimmon

Hague is expected to join the team in Los Angeles tomorrow but will not play in the season opening game.

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