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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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Time To Start Cutting Back On High-Danger Chances Against

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The NHL preseason is a little like the TV show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” Where everything’s made up and the points don’t matter. However, like that show, it was always clear which comedians were better than others and which improv sketches worked the best.

For the Golden Knights, we have most of the data on who is going to play, how they are going to play, and a fairly strong expectation of what the results will be. So, in meaningless games with mish-mashed lineups, stats have to be taken with a huge handful of salt.

There is one alarming stat five games into the preseason though for Vegas, and that’s high-danger chances against. Over the past four years, the Golden Knights have consistently been one of the top teams in the league in allowing the fewest high-danger chances per game. When you couple it with how many Vegas creates, they are the best in the league since the start of 2018-19.

This preseason though, Vegas is struggling mightily in that category. Even without the game in Salt Lake City (the NHL didn’t send stat keepers to that game), Vegas has allowed more high-danger chances against than all but two teams in the NHL. Fortunately, those two teams are both division foes, Anaheim and Edmonton, but even if the Golden Knights allowed just three HDCA in that Salt Lake City game, they’d be in 2nd. Having watched that game, it was one-way traffic most of the night at the VGK net and the gap of 10 between Vegas and Edmonton might have been made up.

To sum that all up, Golden Knights goalies are seeing way too many shots from close range. So far, that number has been north of 10 per game. To put that in context, last year in the postseason, which included six overtimes, the Golden Knights allowed just 162 high-danger chances in 19 games. That’s about 8.5 per game. In the four preseason games where we have stats, that number is 42, or 10.5 per game.

To make matters worse, Vegas has created just 33 this preseason, or 8.25 per game. In the playoffs (where they struggled to score in two of the three series), they generated 171, or 9 a game.

Obviously, there are a thousand mitigating factors as to why these numbers are headed in the wrong direction, but it’s certainly something to keep an eye on as it’s abnormal for the Golden Knights, especially the Pete DeBoer-coached Golden Knights.

Here’s the craziest part (have to love small sample sizes), VGK goalies have allowed just one high-danger goal in the four preseason games with stats. The combination of Robin Lehner, Laurent Brossoit, and Logan Thompson have stopped 41 of the 42 chances and posted a .964 save percentage against them. Last year, the team with the best high-danger save percentage was Tampa Bay and they did it with a .852 save percentage.

In other words, if the Golden Knights keep allowing high-danger chances at this rate, they’ll start conceding at a very high pace moving forward.

Again, this isn’t meant to sound the alarm bells by any means, it’s simply a pattern that has popped up in meaningless games that is abnormal for a good team and nearly outrageous for this good team. There are two preseason games left, both ones in which the Golden Knights say they would like to treat as a “dress rehearsal.” That means a lineup close to their Opening Night plans and with a heavier focus on playing inside of their structure.

If the high-danger chances vanish into thin air like they probably will, the cause for concern will disappear instantly. But if the Coyotes or Sharks are constantly getting chances in close as the previous four opponents have, this could really be something to keep an eye on heading into the regular season.

**Stat compilation for this article was sourced from NaturalStatTrick.com**

Will The Pacific Division Be More Challenging For Vegas in 2021-22?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

After four NHL seasons the Golden Knights have benefited by playing in the Pacific Division. Since 2017, Vegas has played 113 games against their divisional “rivals” and tallied a total of 168 out of a possible 226 points. That’s an astonishing .743 Points % against the Pacific Division in four seasons.

Hockey’s been a little bit tough with our team not being very good the last few years and not getting back to the playoffs… Things are looking up for us now. We got some new players and some young guys coming up. I’m excited for this season to start.- Drew Doughty, LAK defenseman on 32 Thoughts Podcast

Let’s be honest, it’s been easy street for the Golden Knights since they entered the league.

VGK All-Time Record vs. Pacific Division

vs. Anaheim: 20 Games (17-3-0) 34 Pts, .850 Pts %, 74 Goals For, 37 Goals Allowed, +37 Goal Differential

vs. Arizona: 20 Games (14-6-0) 28 Pts, .700 Pts %, 57 Goals For, 46 Goals Allowed, + 11 Goal Differential

vs. Calgary: 11 Games (8-3-0) 16 Pts, .727 Pts %, 42 Goals For, 31 Goals Allowed, + 11 Goal Differential

vs. Edmonton: 11 Games (6-4-1) 13 Pts, .591 Pts %, 35 Goals For, 31 Goals Allowed, +4 Goal Differential

vs. LA: 21 Games (11-8-2) 24 Pts, .571 Pts %, 63 Goals For, 60 Goals Allowed, +3 Goal Differential

vs. San Jose: 20 Games (16-1-3) 35 Pts, .875 Pts %, 78 Goals For, 40 Goals Allowed, +38 Goal Differential

vs. Vancouver: 10 Games (8-0-2) 18 Pts, .900 Pts %, 45 Goals For, 26 Goals Allowed, +19 Goal Differential

Since their existence the Golden Knights have proven to be the team to beat in the Pacific. Vegas has a positive goal differential against every team in the division and holds an overall goal differential of +123, talk about dominance. All indications show it should be the same in 2021-22.

Only a few west coast teams have kept their games with Vegas competitive but still not enough to threaten their path to the playoffs. Sure, San Jose won their seven game series in 2019 but in the regular season it’s been embarrassingly lopsided. Since that series three postseasons ago, the Sharks have been a non-factor in the Pacific, same goes for Anaheim, Calgary and Vancouver. However, two clubs that will make things more difficult for Vegas this season are the Kings and Oilers. Each team has challenged Vegas in the regular season being edged out by one game in their series history with the 31st franchise.

While it’s hard to make judgements based off two exhibition games but it’s safe to say that Los Angeles is an improved club. Even with a lack of talent in their lineup the King’s have competed in most matchups. Coming into 2021-22, LA and Knight killer Philip Danault will continue to frustrate VGK’s offensive threats. Coveted prospects are performing at a high level and LA’s star veterans could create further problems for Vegas and the rest of the Pacific Division.

There’s not much to say about Edmonton. As long as they dress Connor McDavid every game is up in the air. Same can be said for the newest team in hockey. Seattle is the biggest wildcard in the division. Based on what the Golden Knights did in their inaugural season you’d be a fool to count out the Kraken. Calgary, San Jose and Vancouver are expected to finish below Vegas but one of those three teams could make a surprising push for the postseason.

All in all, the Pacific Division is still considered relatively weak but has improved. Vegas is the only team that isn’t being doubted by analysts across the league. The other seven teams have questions to answer and it should be a tight battle for two of three divisional playoff spots. Although the Pacific may have gotten better and could make it more difficult for Vegas to run away with the division but it’s still the Golden Knights to lose.

Visiting Raiders Training Camp Is On DeBoer’s Bucket List

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

With in-person media sessions returning this season the small talk before, during, and after press conferences has made its triumphant return. It might seem meaningless from a fan perspective but these little moments are when we in the media learn more about the humans behind the players and coaches and allow us to share some of their personalities with you.

Gerard Gallant was full of gems from his obsession with Diet Coke to his love of the Zac Brown Band to his favorite peculiar postgame snack, bologna. Like it or not, the head coach is the face of the organization, and learning more about these guys allows fans to connect with the man shown on camera more than anyone else in the organization.

The pandemic struck within months of Pete DeBoer taking over as Golden Knights head coach so those moments to this point have been few and far between, but recently we’ve been getting a peek behind what seemed to be a pretty iron clad curtain. Stay tuned throughout the rest of the season as assuredly there will be many more of these, but one jumped out at me early in camp.

That nugget is his interest in the NFL. As a lifelong hockey coach who is always working during the football season, it caught me off guard a bit that he was into football. But a comment at the media room being empty on a Raiders Sunday followed by a jab at a reporter wearing a face covering that was half New York Jets and half New York Giants (to which DeBoer said “oof, I’m sorry about that”) piqued my interest into his affinity for football.

It got me wondering, have the two coaches of Las Vegas’ major professional sports ever chatted about their experiences? It turns out they haven’t yet, but not because the hockey coach isn’t interested, in fact, quite the opposite.

I reached out because I really wanted to sit in and watch part of their training camp and how they do some of that stuff, but with COVID it just didn’t work out, but that’s on my bucket list of things I’d love to do. -Pete DeBoer

What DeBoer hopes to get out of a meeting with Super Bowl winning head coach Jon Gruden is fascinating and certainly could help the Golden Knights.

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Postseason Loss To Golden Knights Still Fresh To Nathan MacKinnon

When the Golden Knights lost to the Montreal Canadiens in the conference finals last season it left a bitter taste in the mouths of the players and coaches. Go ahead and throw the fans in the mix as well, they were spitting out Bleu, Blanc, and Rouge all summer long. Clearly ending on a low note leaves plenty of room for motivation going into the next season. However, that goes for most teams in the NHL and especially one that lost in meltdown style.

No, I don’t need to (go back and watch the Vegas series). It was more of a mental thing than a physical thing for us and for me too. We got a little hesitant. –Nathan MacKinnon on 32 Thoughts Podcast

After the first two games of last season’s second round series, most Vegas fans feared the worst. Colorado looked to be the better team, were getting the lucky bounces and had won six playoff games in a row. With only two losses remaining before another season was cut short the Golden Knights woke up and stormed back to clinch the series in six games. It was by far the finest moment of Vegas’ 2021 season and one of the best in franchise history.

On the losing side of the handshake line, the Avalanche were shell-shocked. They believed their skill and speed would get them into the conference finals, especially when they were holding a two games to love lead. Learning now, Colorado wasn’t as comfortable as we may have thought after Game 2.

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New Interpretation Of Cross-Checking Could Help Golden Knights In Area They Struggle

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It seems like every year when the preseason rolls around the NHL has a different rule they want to hone in on. During the Golden Knights’ first season it was a focus on faceoff violations, a year later it was slashing, this year it’s cross-checking.

The league sent out a video showing their new interpretation of the rule, essentially indicating a renewed willingness to actually call the foul when it occurs.

Usually, these little tweaks are just something that players have to get used to and as the season goes on it becomes less and less of an issue. With this one though, if NHL refs do indeed follow through calling it the entire season, and into the playoffs, it could offer a real competitive advantage for the Golden Knights.

It’s going to be easier to get to the front of net for sure, so I think there are going to be more goals. I think it’s going to be tough for defensemen to find a solution but I think the biggest thing is going to be getting on our sticks to not allow tips. -Marchessault

Getting to the front of the net, and then succeeding when they get there, has been a thorn in the side of the Golden Knights. In playoff series against Vancouver, Dallas, Minnesota, and Montreal the area in front of goals has been a problem. Against Dallas and Montreal specifically, Vegas had a difficult time generating any traffic between the shooter and the goalie, which led to a lot of clean looks for Anton Khudobin and Carey Price.

Maybe, and this assumes the rule change is implemented and carried out over the course of an 82-game season and into the postseason, just maybe this could make life a little easier for forwards trying to get to the most dangerous area on the ice.

Well I’m probably going to take a few paddings off my shoulder pads. -Marchessault

On the other side of the ice, defensemen appear to be playing it down.

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Golden Knights Can’t Afford To Wait For Power Play To Come Around

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

4 for 43.

It’s a number that has been on the mind of every Golden Knight, every coach, and every member of the front office through the offseason and into the new year.

The Golden Knights were shutout on the power play against the Montreal Canadiens (0 for 15) contributing to an NHL worst 9.3% power play in the 2021 playoffs. In fact, it was actually the worst conversion percentage of any team to play at least 17 playoff games since power play stats started being kept in 1977-78.

It must improve.

As a group we all have to be better, individual players, the coaches, the additions, all those things. I think the fresh start will help. I really believe the power play, like the penalty kill, is a real confidence-based piece of your game. When it starts to snowball the wrong way, everything goes in. I think we fell into that last year. -Pete DeBoer

DeBoer’s hope is that the offseason will go a long way towards a reset on a unit that played an integral part in the Golden Knights’ demise.

It was really average during the regular season and obviously it was well below average during the playoffs. So I think the break, the reset, the additions, the challenge of everybody being better, it’s going to be better. -DeBoer

He’s not relying on just time to heal the wound though.

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