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Vegas’ Top Line May Need A Postseason Nickname

In years past, certain forward lines have taken the postseason by storm and helped their teams win the Stanley Cup. Affectionately known as the HBK line, Carl Hagelin (16 points), Nick Bonino (18 points) and Phill Kessel (22 points) surprisingly combined for 56 points en route to the Pittsburgh Penguins fourth championship in franchise history.

Years earlier the LA Kings were also lucky enough to have an acclaimed line of their own. Going by the nickname, That 70’s Line, Jeff Carter (25 points), Tyler Toffoli (14 points), and Tanner Pearson (12 points) caught fire in the regular season which continued into LA’s run to the cup. Each wearing a jersey number in the 70’s, the line totaled 51 points in 26 games.

Keep in mind both of these famed triplets were support lines, that massively overachieved. Without them, however, their clubs wouldn’t have been so dangerous. Good news for Golden Knights fans, Vegas had their own explosive line in last year’s postseason, and expectations are even higher in 2020.

In their seven-game series against the Sharks, Mark Stone (12 points), Max Pacioretty (11 points) and Paul Stastny (8 points) were offensively unstoppable. The trio combined for 31 points in the series loss, averaging a whopping 4.4 points per game. The veteran line made up for 44% of the Golden Knights offense against San Jose. Just silly when you think about it.

Can Vegas expect the same this postseason? And is it possible it can get better? I don’t see why not considering coach Pete DeBoer upgraded at center with William Karlsson in the middle.

All three players have the skill to excel in the postseason. Karlsson added 15 points in 20 games in 2018, and Pacioretty and Stone lived up to their billing in 2019. Combine their playoff averages together and the top line’s production will scare the bejesus out of an opponent.

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Playing Oddsmaker On First Golden Knights Captain

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

He hinted at it months ago, yesterday he made it as clear as can be.

We’re not going to name a captain before we go back. We will have one prior to the start of next season. -Pete DeBoer

Normally, we leave the oddsmaking up to the best sportsbook in the world, William Hill, but today, I’m going to take my shot at setting the odds on who will wear the “C” when the Golden Knights stitch it on a jersey for the first time.

Mark Stone 
-450

Stone is the massive betting favorite for a number of reasons. First, he’s the best player on the team and it’s not really all that close. That’s not always a prerequisite to be the captain, but it certainly helps. Next, DeBoer has lauded his leadership qualities since the moment he got to Vegas (Gallant did too when he first got Stone). He’s the right age, has an extended contract with the team, is clearly invested deeply in the team’s success as illustrated by his over-the-top celebrations, and he’s been an alternate captain during the entirety of the 2019-20 season.

If it’s anyone other than Stone, it’ll come as quite the surprise, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other worthy candidates.

Nate Schmidt
+500

Most Golden Knights fans know Nate Schmidt as the loud, goofy, jokester that he comes across as in interviews, commercials, and skits, but Schmidt is, and has been, a real leader on this team for a long time. He was named the Golden Knights Player’s Association representative, he’s been an alternate captain at times during each of the first three seasons, and whenever anyone mentions the leadership group of the team he’s included.

He’s incredibly talkative on the ice, both in serious and joking manners and he’s even more talkative when you stick a microphone in his face after the games. He’s not your quintessential captain, but he certainly represents the Golden Knights.

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Shots Shots Shots Shots Shots Shots, Everybody

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

In the shortened 2019-20 regular season the Golden Knights led the NHL with 34.5 shots on goal per game. In fact, since they entered the league Vegas has averaged the second-most shots per game over that three-season span.

Vegas led the entire NHL in 19-20 with 28 victories when they won the SOG battle. That’s 71% of their total wins for the season. The Golden Knights went 28-12-7 (.670), and are now 92-43-13 (.665) in franchise history when they’ve outshot other teams. Compare that to their 11-12-1 (.479) record this year when they were outshot and 35-37-9 (.488) all-time.

In 22 games as Golden Knights coach, DeBoer’s club outscored opponents 19 times, and went a stellar 13-4-2.

The bulk of the shots come mostly from the Golden Knights top-six forwards. Max Pacioretty led the team averaging 4.32 shots per game, followed by Jonathan Marchessault. Shea Theodore and Alex Tuch do their part as well, both creating several scoring chances per night. When DeBoer gets all of his weapons firing on net, opposing goaltenders have to play at their best, or else it’ll likely be a long night.

VGK Shot Leaders

Max Pacioretty: 4.32 S/GP
Jonathan Marchessault: 3.56 S/GP
Shea Theodore: 3.08 S/GP
Mark Stone: 2.58 S/GP
Reilly Smith: 2.38 S/GP
Alex Tuch: 2.33 S/GP
William Karlsson: 2.19 S/GP

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DeBoer: “I’m A Believer In A Captain”

Since the beginning, the Golden Knights have had 23 captains. Technically, they’ve had about 10 with a variety of players wearing “A’s” through the first three seasons, but the underlying mantra of “23 captains” has been a part of the fabric of the Golden Knights’ locker room since they first got together back in September of 2017.

With the new coach in town, that could be changing in the very near future.

I’m a believer in a captain and I think we have a lot of candidates in that dressing room. I’m still getting to know the group, but that’s something I’ll have to discuss with Bill Foley and George and Kelly and see what their feeling is on it. -Pete DeBoer on VGK Q&A Podcast for season ticket holders

Vegas is one of five teams in the NHL currently without a captain. They are also the only team that has not had a captain in any of the previous three years. No captainless team has won the Stanley Cup since 1972.

I think the reason we didn’t have a captain in Vegas, to begin with, was the identity of this team, basically coming out of expansion you were getting all these guys that were left unprotected or traded for, was the strength of the team was going to be in the group. -DeBoer

That reason was repeated time and time again by management, coaches, and the players during the Gallant era. DeBoer thinks the time is near that the first “C” is stitched into a Golden Knights jersey.

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Season “End” Stat Leaderboards Lacking Many Golden Knights

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

When, how, or if the NHL season picks back up will probably remain a mystery for a while longer, but every day that ticks off the calendar it becomes clearer and clearer the regular season will not be completed in its entirety.

They may come back and play a few games or they may even eliminate a few games and backdate the season to the 68-game mark to make it even. Either way, the stats on the board currently are likely to be pretty close to what ultimately goes down in the record books for the 2019-20 regular season.

Despite playing 71 games, with most of the rest of the league playing fewer than 70, the Golden Knights have a player listed in the top 10 of just two standard offensive statistical categories. Max Pacioretty’s 307 shots on goal have him ranked 3rd behind Nathan MacKinnon and Alex Ovechkin and Ryan Reaves led the NHL in hits with 316.

But that’s it. No one’s in the top 10 in goals, assists, points, +/-, shooting percentage, PIM, TOI, blocks, faceoff stats, or even point shares.

Here’s a look at the Golden Knights’ highest ranking in each statistical category.

Goals
Leader – David Pastrnak: 48
VGK – Max Pacioretty: 32

Assists
Leader – Leon Draisaitl: 67
VGK – Mark Stone: 42

Points
Leader – Leon Draisaitl: 110
VGK – Max Pacioretty: 66

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Season Review: Reilly Smith

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

When it comes to a top-six player, expectations are usually high. Over his first two seasons with Vegas, Reilly Smith has a total of 113 points (41 goals, 72 assists) in 141 games. He averaged 21 goals and 36 assists per season.

Coming into the season, projections were about the same, 20 goals and 35 assists. However, Smith exceeded anyone’s expectations in this shortened 2019-20 season, passing career highs in goals, shorthanded goals, game-winning goals, and shooting percentage. He earned every bit of his $5M annual salary pitching in .76 points per game.

One of Smith’s season highlights was a beautiful, breakaway backhand goal he scored on December 2nd against the New York Rangers.

Seems like I’ve gotten a lot of breakaways this year. I’ve done that move four or five times, and I’ve gotten lucky. I think it worked on a few. It’s probably one of those things that I’ll probably go back to. Hopefully, none of the goalies in the league are listening to this interview. -Reilly Smith

His backhand was so effective that his brother stole the move four days later.

https://twitter.com/nhl/status/1204137562081771523?lang=en

We did it a week apart, and with him playing forward this year, in the past he hadn’t had as many breakaways. He made it look a lot better than I did. It is pretty cool that we did it in the same week.- Reilly Smith

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Tuch, Engelland, Karlsson, Smith, Theodore Owned “Player’s Locker” Officially Open In Downtown Summer

(Photo Credit: @tomkaplan on Twitter)

First, they took over your TV’s. Then they took over your local tavern. Now, they are taking over a local restaurant.

A group of five Golden Knights, led by Alex Tuch, have officially opened the first NHL player-owned sports bar in Las Vegas. Deryk Engelland, William Karlsson, Reilly Smith, Shea Theodore, and Tuch took over Wolfgang Puck’s previous place in Downtown Summerlin, and with the help of Puck and his staff, have opened the “Player’s Locker.”

I brought it to a few different guys on the team. It was guys that I saw were going to be here for a long time. Shea Theodore was one of the first ones I went to. We’re really close and I just wanted other guys that really showed interest. I think we have a really good group and I’m really excited about it. -Alex Tuch

The restaurant had its “soft opening” Saturday and has a grand opening in the works soon. It’s a mix of upscale Wolfgang Puck inspired food with a bar food twist. The menu includes one dish named after each player.

  • Tuch’s Reuben Sandwich (pastrami, swiss cheese & coleslaw on rye, chips)
  • Engelland’s Fish & Chips (tartar sauce, malt vinegar)
  • Karlsson’s Vegan Burger (“beyond meat” vegan patty, vegan cheese & fixins)
  • Reilly’s Cheese Curds (fry sauce)
  • Shea’s Gooey Deluxe (salted caramel chocolate chip cookie, vanilla ice cream)

The full menu also includes Wolfgang Puck favorites like spicy brick chicken (my personal favorite), filet mignon steak frites, salmon en papillote, taco pizza, and house-made meatballs.

https://twitter.com/clarkdumont1/status/1221584014080823297

Tuch hasn’t stopped raving about his item since the first moment the news of the restaurant went public.

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The Smiths Secret Weapon

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

In early December, the NHL tweeted out a GIF of two comparable goals scored by Reilly and Brendan Smith. Not only were their backhand moves remarkably identical, but they pulled it off in the same week.

https://twitter.com/nhl/status/1204137562081771523?lang=en

The Smith brothers are only two years apart so naturally they grew up working on the same skills, drills, and moves. Was this some secret family backhand that was passed down?

No. It’s honestly a pretty standard move to do on breakaways. We did it a week apart, and with him playing forward this year, in the past he hadn’t had as many breakaways. He made it look a lot better than I did. It is pretty cool that we did it in the same week.- Reilly Smith

After telling him to quit being modest, Smith opened up about executing his lethal backhand. A skill he considers vital to his offensive success.

I never really used a curve that was so big, it was a straighter curve. Mine’s relatively straight, and I just get more off from my backhand that way. I was always given the ability to have a pretty good backhand growing up. It’s just something that I’ve worked on.- Reilly Smith

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

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Five Golden Knights Players Opening New Restaurant With Wolfgang Puck In January

Alex Tuch, William Karlsson, Deryk Engelland, Reilly Smith and Shea Theodore are teaming up with celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck to create a sports bar called “Wolfgang Puck Players Locker.”

The opportunity to be a partner in the first-ever sports restaurant in Vegas is something I couldn’t pass up. I am very excited to work side by side with one of the greatest chefs in the world, Wolfgang Puck. -Alex Tuch

The restaurant is taking over the old “Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill” in Downtown Summerlin in between California Pizza Kitchen and Shake Shack. There will be a brand new menu including “traditional sports fare”as well as an “innovative new beverage program” which will surely include both Engelland and Ryan Reaves’ beers.

We are thrilled to be partnering with members of the Vegas Golden Knights here in Las Vegas, the new hockey capital of the world. We have created a unique and one-of-a-kind sports dining experience around great food and the best players in the NHL! -Wolfgang Puck

The restaurant is being re-designed around a “floor-to-ceiling display of more than 100 custom glass lockers.” Each of the five Golden Knights will have their own dedicated locker.

There will also be two outdoor patios, one dog-friendly, as well as an expansive bar area, and a private dining room named “The Players Lounge” which is expected to host the five VGK owners consistently.

Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill will remain open until mid-January, at which time it will undergo a brief, one-week remodel before re-opening its doors as the new Wolfgang Puck Players Locker. Additional details will be announced in the coming months. -Press Release

Golden Knights Award Campaigns

I was watching TV last night when I saw an ad for a candidate running for President in 2020.  That got me thinking. We’re already a month into the NHL season, should we start the campaign for Golden Knights to win individual awards?

I was still lukewarm on the idea, seeing as Vegas has only played 13 games and the awards show is seven months away. But then, my mind was instantly changed.

A second ad for Tom Steyer!

I figured if Tom is already trying to get my vote in November of 2020, it’s fair for me to start talking/writing about Mark Stone winning the Hart, Cody Glass for Calder, or Valentin Zykov for Masterton (he’s got about as much a chance as Tom 2020, right?)

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Hart Trophy – Most Valuable Player
VGK Candidate: Mark Stone

Stone currently sits in 9th place in both goals and points through the first month of the season. Of course, in order to win the Hart, he’ll need to jump into the top five at the very least, but a 100+ point effort from one of the league’s best defensive forwards would definitely warrant consideration. If Stone can keep on this pace, he’ll be pushing the century mark and he’ll likely be doing it for a team that’s running away with the Pacific Division by March. Honestly, it will probably take an injury or two to a few of the main candidates, but the longer Stone stays in the top 10 in points, the stronger the candidacy will get.

Vezina Trophy – Top Goaltender
VGK Candidate: Marc-Andre Fleury

Fleury currently leads the league in wins, minutes, saves, and point shares for goalies. He’s posted a .928 save percentage and 2.30 goals against average, both of which are better than the numbers Andrei Vasilevskiy put up en route to his Vezina last year. Fleury has made a countless number of incredible saves and is the main reason the Golden Knights are 8-5-0 rather than 5-8-0. Vegas seems once again primed to run him out there 60+ times this season which means he should be at or near the top in every statistical category for goalies when the season is over. It’s literally the only thing he hasn’t done in his career. Hopefully this is the year.

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