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New Power Play Setup Paying Dividends For Golden Knights’ Top Unit

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

21.7%. That’s the Golden Knights’ power play percentage this season, the 13th best rate in the NHL. It’s just 0.3% off the franchise high-water mark which was set in the 71-game 2019-20 season.

We may not quite be at the point to say the Vegas power play has completely turned it around, but there’s no question it can be scratched off the weaknesses tab, where it has been atop the list for quite some time.

The Golden Knights have scored at least one power play goal in seven of the last ten games, including three in a row, and they have outscored their opponents on special teams in six of the last ten.

I think there’s some chemistry developing. In the middle of the power play they are able to adjust better to what the other team is doing than they were last year, or more willing. More willing to move around and play different positions on the power play but still maintaining the structure of the 1-3-1. -Bruce Cassidy

Movement has been something missing for an awfully long tme and it appears the new setup the Golden Knights rolled out during the Eastern road swing has seemed to unlock it.

With Chandler Stephenson out of the lineup for two games to start off that trip, the Golden Knights were forced to bump William Karlsson up to the first unit. In doing so, they opted to shift Mark Stone to the bumper role and swap sides of the ice with Jonathan Marchessault and Jack Eichel.

So, rather than…

Stone
Eichel-Stephenson-Marchessault
Pietrangelo

The Golden Knights are now using…

Karlsson
Marchessault-Stone-Eichel
Pietrangelo

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Cassidy Wants More Player Movement On Power Play, Also Considering A Different Look With Top Unit

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Entering the season last year one of the main focal points for the Golden Knights was improving the power play. It didn’t quite happen, yet the team went on to overcome it and lift the Stanley Cup.

Despite it working out in the end, complacency is not the plan for 2023-24.

We know that it’s an area we want to improve upon from last year, I think we can all agree on that, but how how much better it can be we will find out. -Bruce Cassidy

Step one in the process of improving on the power play is figuring out who plays where with Reilly Smith no longer in the fold. The first unit appears to be settled with Mark Stone, Jack Eichel, Jonathan Marchessault, Chandler Stephenson and either Alex Pietrangelo or Shea Theodore.

The standard operating procedure with that group would be to have the defenseman up top by the blue line, Eichel and Marchessault in the circles, Stone in front of the goal, and Stephenson in the bumper. However, Cassidy says he’s intrigued by the power play setup used by Edmonton and previously used by Winnipeg when they had Patrik Laine. It calls for three players of the same handedness as part of the band of three in the middle of the power play. That would mean swapping Stone and Stephenson.

That’s something we might play around a little bit with. But we love Stoney as a drop off guy so we would be taking away a strength to try something. We have to be a little bit careful. -Cassidy

One of the biggest added benefits to this type of look is that it allows for more player movement and interchange. With all three players through the middle being right-handed, any of the three of Eichel, Stone, and Marchessault can switch spots in an attempt to disorganize the opposing penalty kill.

Cassidy loves the idea of more player moment from his power play units. It’s just getting the players to actually do it can be easier said than done.

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Power Play Taking Strides, Despite Results Since Game 1

(Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke, SinBin.vegas)

Much of the discourse following Game 4 was about officiating. Both captains spent a portion of their postgame media availability talking about calls that were or were not made, and eventually Alex Pietrangelo and Darnell Nurse each found themselves suspended for Game 5.

Early in the game, there’s no question it felt like the Golden Knights were on the wrong side of the ledger in regards to the refereeing. A soft slashing call on Theodore gave the Oilers their first power play, a retaliation penalty was called on Shea a bit later, and moments before Edmonton’s third goal Mark Stone appeared to get cross-checked into the post which went uncalled.

But, before all of it happened the Golden Knights were on the power play just 30 seconds into the game and then as the calls started to even out in the 2nd, the VGK PP had a chance to dramatically alter the game.

Timely goals, we’ve talked about that a lot, and we didn’t get them, that would be the disappointing thing. -Bruce Cassidy

However, this wasn’t like many of the previous games with power play struggles this season or postseasons of yesteryear.

I thought our sustained pressure was pretty good. We shot, we recovered, we shot, we recovered, so that’s the right mindset. -Jonathan Marchessault

Our power play generated some good looks, I’ve got to give some credit to Skinner and them blocking some shots. -Cassidy

In four power plays, the Golden Knights attempted 16 shots, 10 made it on goal, and they generated 0.82 expected goals. Compare that to the historic Oilers power play who mustered up nine shot attempts, seven shots on goal and 0.86 expected goals in about the same amount of time.

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Special Teams Cost Vegas In New Jersey

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Last night the Golden Knights lost a gut-wrenching 3-2 overtime final to the New Jersey Devils. However, there’s an argument to be made that the game was lost with 10:26 in the 3rd period. Up to that point, the Golden Knights were leading 2-1 and controlled the game with strong 5-on-5 play. With ten minutes to go, New Jersey’s Brendan Smith spoiled the flow by hooking Jack Eichel and sending Vegas to the power play.

Five-on-five we did a lot of what we asked. What let us down today was probably our power play. We didn’t generate nearly enough in terms of extending the lead. We have to find a way to generate more. That’s where I thought we could have grabbed another goal for comfort. -Bruce Cassidy

Had the Golden Knights scored on their lone 3rd period power play the outcome likely would’ve changed. Cassidy’s team failed to extend their lead and barely challenged goaltender Vitek Vanecek. Instead of closing the door on New Jersey, Vegas mustered two low-percentage shots during a crucial 3rd period power play. Not only did the score remain the same but VGK’s listless PP gave life back to a dangerous Devils offense.

New Jersey coach Lindy Ruff had a sense his team would get another chance after Vegas’ ill-fated man advantage.

You have to stay around in games. You look for that opportunity. You know you are going to get two or three opportunities. If you stay with the program, you’re looking for the opportunities. In a 2-1 game we got rewarded by a 6-on-5 goal and then we finally got our power play opportunity in overtime. -Lindy Ruff, NJD coach

All combined, Vegas recorded three shots on net in four power play minutes. To make it worse, none of those attempts came from power play specialists Jack Eichel, Phil Kessel, Alex Pietrangelo, or Chandler Stephenson. Vegas generated just six total shot attempts in their six minutes of power play time and mustered up just 0.63 expected goals.

We gave up some big chances on some careless puck play. We could’ve developed more speed. We weren’t crisp with some of our passing and some of our rush execution. We turned some pucks over in our zone that we’ve been good with. Those were plays were Vitek had to make some huge saves for us. -Ruff, NJD coach

An additional moment Cassidy left out was the poorly timed tripping penalty committed by Ben Hutton in the overtime. Unfortunately, those are the risks a team faces when forced to shift a depth defenseman in a 3-on-3 situation. Don’t get me wrong, Hutton’s 2nd period dart earned him more ice time. However, he was overmatched in overtime.

Last shot was PK coverage. We thought we had a loose puck situation so we left the good ice and it squirts out. -Cassidy

Overall, the Golden Knights missed out on a golden opportunity but the team can take some positives away from their OT loss. Vegas overcame a 2nd period deficit, earned a point against a quality opponent, and thankfully gifted a point to an out-of-conference team. At this stage in the season every point exchange matters.

The Special-est Of Teams

(Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke, SinBin.vegas)

Christmas has come early for the Golden Knights’ special teams. A pair of units that have been under massive scrutiny for the last few years (months for the penalty kill) have kicked it into high gear and are now carrying the team.

Over the past 11 games, since December 1st, the Vegas power play has converted on 12 of 30 opportunities. The 40% success rate is good for 2nd in the NHL in that span, behind only the Edmonton Oilers, and it’s on pace to be the highest power play percentage of any month in VGK history.

Over the same span, the penalty kill is sitting at just 77.8%, a touch above the team’s season-long number of 75.6%. However, in the past seven games, the Golden Knights have killed 10 of 11 power plays they’ve faced. And, they’ve scored twice on the penalty kill, meaning they’ve outscored the opposition on their power play 2-1 since the Philadelphia game, seven games ago.

For both units, it goes beyond the numbers though. On the power play, the puck is moving much quicker in the zone, the entries have been much more consistent, and puck retrieval has been stellar. The top unit of Mark Stone, Jonathan Marchessault, Chandler Stephenson, Reilly Smith, and Alex Pietrangelo are zipping the puck around with a diversity of options that’s never been seen on a Golden Knights power play.

Obviously, it’s led to a bunch of goals, 12 in the last 10 games, but it has also meant opportunities for everyone. Look at the list of power play goal scorers and who has collected the assists since December 1st.

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Power Play Variety Paying Off Early For Vegas

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Through three games the Golden Knights power play is averaging one goal per contest. A success rate that Vegas fans haven’t seen in several seasons. While it’s premature to celebrate, it’s better than shouting obscenities after failed man-advantages like fans had been used to.

You are running through different people including the more accomplished offensive defensemen here, so you may see more action from there. -Bruce Cassidy

We explained in-depth, VGK’s new look power play under coach Bruce Cassidy. One element of the strategy was getting everyone on the ice involved. The Golden Knights have three PP goals and all were scored by a different player. Not only that, seven separate players have a PP point. It’s been a cast of characters contributing on 5-on-4 situations.

VGK Power Play Points
Nic Roy (2 Assists)
Alex Pietrangelo (2 Assists)
William Karlsson (Goal)
Jonathan Marchessault (Goal)
Reilly Smith (Goal)
Jack Eichel (Assist)
Mark Stone (Assist)

Both of Cassidy’s power play units have had success, creating game-tying and go-ahead goals. Against LA, William Karlsson evened the score 3-3 midway through the 3rd period. Up in Seattle, Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly stretched Vegas’ lead on man-advantage opportunities.

Another sign Cassidy’s directions are quickly catching on is the variety of ways each power play goal has been scored. Karlsson’s PPG was a deflection from a superb Alex Pietrangelo shot-pass. The sequence began with Karlsson winning the faceoff and ended with Pietrangelo using his offensive creativity.

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Power Play Tailored To VGK’s Strengths Still Working Towards Finished Product

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The power play will be a huge emphasis from Day 1 for the Golden Knights this season. After a few seasons of struggles, Bruce Cassidy was brought in to fix it. It’s currently very much a work in progress with shifting units, systems, and options through the first few weeks of Training Camp.

At yesterday’s practice, special teams were under the microscope with the power play working entries and in-zone plays against full-speed penalty killers. Unit 1 consisted of Jack Eichel, Chandler Stephenson, Reilly Smith, Mark Stone, and Shea Theodore while the other unit was Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson, Phil Kessel, Nic Roy, and Alex Pietrangelo.

There are definitely some concepts to build on as the units grow more and more familiar both with each other and what Cassidy’s system is trying to accomplish, but the head coach sees room for improvement.

What I hope to see is a little more chemistry where we are playing with more pace. Moving the puck quicker, supporting it, automatic outs, things like that, that come naturally to you. When you are seeing pressure you are able to sustain O-zone play. I don’t think our pace is where it needs to be in terms of moving the puck quick to break pressure, but again some of that is not a lot of reps and live reps. -Cassidy

One of the most noticeable features of the Golden Knights power play under Cassidy is a lesser reliance on the bumper player than he did in Boston.

We detailed the Cassidy power play in-depth this summer, and we’re already starting to see Cassidy tweak the system to fit some of Vegas’ most talented players.

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