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Can Vegas Find A Friend in New Jersey?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The New Jersey Devils and Vegas Golden Knights are opposites in every which way. They both play on different coasts, the Golden Knights are built to win right now, and the Devils are way under the cap. However, the Devils are a team that may end up being one of the busiest clubs of the offseason. Sure, they’re interested in building a roster and spending money on the open market but 31 other teams might bring it directly to them. Including the Golden Knights.

We’ve talked about the Vegas goaltending and I think Lehner is the guy they’re kind of looking at. Fleury’s got one more year, who knows what he’s going to be looking at in a year. Lehner’s got some term. That one makes a bit of sense for me for Jersey. –Elliotte Friedman on 31 Thoughts Podcast

Based on consistent comments by the organization it’s unlikely Marc-Andre Fleury or Robin Lehner gets dealt but it’s interesting to hear that there is a market.

I do think they legitimately want to improve. I don’t think for them this is simply going to be about eating deals to help out other teams. I think they want functionality. –Friedman on 31 Thoughts Podcast

The Devils like their young goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood but by no means are they solidified in net. Clearly, if New Jersey traded for the Golden Knights secondary starter it would be a major upgrade. So what would Vegas get out of the deal?

With $31.5M in cap room the Devils are in a position to act like an old chum to financially strapped teams. As Friedman explains New Jersey wants to get better but is willing to take advantage of cap-strapped teams looking for a bailout.

Would it hurt the Golden Knights organization if they were to pay a high tax (picks, prospects) to unload $5M in flexibility? Of course, but it depends on what the end result is. Without Lehner the goalie tandem wouldn’t be the best in the NHL, but one of the best teams in the NHL became $5M more dangerous in the playoffs. With a creative front office like the Golden Knights have, anything is possible with that amount of cap room.

The definite feeling about the Golden Knights is they want to open up some cap room. The Devils can do that, they can take advantage of that. I don’t think it’s simply going to be ‘Hey, we’re going to use our cap space to help other people get out of theirs.’ I think it’s ‘Hey, we’re going to use our cap space and if you want us to take some one you may have to pay us.’ –Friedman on 31 Thoughts Podcast

The Devils aren’t just useful to the Golden Knights by helping them unload a goaltender but they could take on other contracts as well. It just depends on how badly Vegas wants to shed salary and get out of cap stress.

Reilly Smith Could Be The Right Bait This Offseason

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Every offseason it’s inevitable that there will be roster turnover and fans will be disappointed when the news breaks. It’s happened in each of the Golden Knights’ previous summers. After the inaugural season fan-favorite, David Perron, and several others were left out in free agency. The following year it was Erik Haula who departed after a season-long injury. Then after last year’s postseason exit, Vegas moved lovable defenseman Nate Schmidt in order to make room for Alex Pietrangelo. It might suck for fans but it’s just real the business side of hockey.

We’ve seen this reaction from the Golden Knights front office before, when they don’t win they get itchy. Rumors swirl and of course Vegas is always in the middle. Just last season, reports were the front office was attempting to unload Marc-Andre Fleury and/or Pacioretty’s contracts. Currently, the Golden Knights are apparently one of the teams haggling for Buffalo Sabres’ malcontent Jack Eichel.

What fan wouldn’t want to root for Eichel? Vegas fans would sure like to, but like last offseason, they won’t be thrilled when a popular player or two will no longer be Golden Knights. In order to upgrade there has to be casualties. The trade bait we’re talking about today is one of the few remaining original Misfits, Reilly Smith.

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GM For A Day: Ken’s 2021-22 Vegas Golden Knights

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Welcome to GM For A Day, the first in a pair of articles in which the founders of SinBin.vegas will take control of the Vegas Golden Knights and reshape the team in a way we each believe will bring the Stanley Cup to Las Vegas.

These articles are NOT meant to be taken as a prediction as to what we believe is going to happen this offseason. This is what we would do, not what we think the Golden Knights will do (that article is coming later in the week).

Today, I (Ken) am on the hot seat. I’ve been given the keys to the car and I’m ready to start wheeling and dealing. For me, the team isn’t in need of a lot of changes, especially at the top of the roster, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be active in this unique offseason.

Here we go…

*TRADE: Ryan Reaves + 5th Round Pick to New York Rangers for 3rd Round Pick*

First up on my list of moves would be trading Ryan Reaves to free up some cap space and eliminate any possibility my head coach would ever put him in the lineup. My thoughts have been well documented on the player and I believe we could find a team willing to take him off our hands for almost nothing. The Rangers’ season ended with continuous line brawls against the Washington Capitals after Tom Wilson injured Artemi Panarin. Their new coach, Gerard Gallant, is familiar with Reaves and actually was able to pull a bit of offense out of him. We move up two rounds in the draft and relieve ourselves of $1.75 million against the cap.

Next, we’re making the big move of the offseason.

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Who’s To Blame For The Golden Knights Underachieving… Again

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s a sad moment for fans when a hockey season abruptly ends like it did last Thursday. Reality sets in when a Cup run is over and the 31st franchise will have to wait another year for a chance at the ultimate prize. Unfortunately, the truth is, this was another wasted season for the Golden Knights. For the second straight year, Vegas faced an inferior opponent and couldn’t find a way to force a game seven. Their leaders, coaches, and framers failed again and almost identically in back-to-back years.

Against Montreal, the Golden Knights outshot the Canadiens 193 to 165 yet had two fewer goals in the Semifinals. Keep in mind the Canadiens were the 15th lowest scoring team in the regular season and Vegas was 3rd highest. The Golden Knights fell down the same hole last postseason against the Dallas Stars. Like Montreal, Dallas was another low scoring team that found a way to outscore the Golden Knights in the conference finals. It was inexcusable in 2020, and even more so in 2021 after the organization retooled in the offseason.

So, who’s to blame?

Players

Let’s begin with the leadership group. Captain Mark Stone has built quite the portfolio in Vegas, however, his stock continues to plummet in the playoffs. For three straight seasons, Stone has provided very little offense for the Golden Knights when they needed him late in a series. Going without a single point in the entire Semifinals was rock bottom for Stone. His failure to produce in the backend of a playoff series was evident again against Minnesota, Colorado, and Montreal.

In all fairness to the captain, he owned up to it.

I can praise (the Canadiens) all I want but ultimately it falls down on myself and the top players on this team. We had some guys that produced night in and night out. As far as myself I got skunked this series. That can’t happen. I’m the captain of this team, the leader of this team, I take a lot of responsibility for what just occurred. -Mark Stone

Another concern was the continuous slow starts for Vegas. In six Semifinal games, the Golden Knights allowed the first goal four times, and were sluggish to begin the 1st period in several other postseason contests. In the final 12 games of the postseason, the Golden Knights trailed at some point in 11 of them.

Is it possible the team leaders for Vegas couldn’t motivate their teammates enough to kick off the game on time? It’s hard to comprehend why, but it’s fair to point fingers at the men with letters; Stone, Reilly Smith and Alex Pietrangelo.

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Carp: Adversity Greets Golden Knights In Canada

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2021 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**

By and large, a trip to Canada is a pleasant experience. But there was nothing pleasant about the start to the Golden Knights’ visit to Montreal.

With a lot of issues for both the Knights, who are playing without Chandler Stephenson, their top center, and the Canadiens, who had to play without their head coach after Dominique Ducharme found himself testing positive for COVID-19, it came down to who handled their adversity better in Game 3. Ultimately, it was Montreal that was able to get the better of things Friday, winning 3-2 in overtime and taking a 2-1 series lead in the Stanley Cup semifinals.

We all know what happened so there’s no point in rehashing Marc-Andre Fleury’s gaffe playing the puck that allowed the Canadiens to tie it late in regulation. Or all the missed opportunities to get more than a couple past Carey Price in the Habs’ net.

The question is: How does Vegas respond today in Game 4?

Does the Knights’ power play, which has been woefully anemic, suddenly find new life? Do Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty rediscover their offense, even without Stephenson?

That’s a lot to digest and not much time to do so. Because even if the Knights find all the right answers today, all it does is get them back to square one with the Canadiens. It becomes a best-of-three series with two of the three in the Fortress, where the Habs took Game 2 Wednesday to tie the series.

And if Montreal prevails today? Does this team have the wherewithal to win three straight?

But that’s getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s start with the adjustments and improvements which need to be made.

First, it appears there will be a change in goal. Robin Lehner was first off the ice at the morning skate and was practicing in the “starter’s net” so that’s obviously huge.

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Optimistic Trend Leans Toward Vegas After Ugly 7-1 Defeat

There’s no getting around it, Sunday’s loss was a brutal one for Vegas. Losing 7-1 was not what anyone was expecting, including the Avalanche. Golden Knights fans need to remember that it was just one game in hopefully a long series. Vegas lost on the road to an excellent team that was well rested and highly motivated to win an important home game. But, even after falling in the opening game of the Second Round, the Golden Knights are still in good shape. Historically, they’re in great shape.

Since 2001, teams coming off of a Game 7 victory tend to perform better when they advance to play a team coming off a four-game sweep. It’s the classic rested vs. tested argument.

In a 20 year span, only fix series were matched up when one team swept their last series took on a team off a Game 7 victory. The Vegas and Colorado series is the sixth occurrence. Up until this postseason, organizations that needed a Game 7 to advance were undefeated.

Teams Coming Off Game 7 vs. Teams Coming Off A Series Sweep (2001-Present)

2001 Western Conference Finals: COL (Coming off Game 7) clinched series 4-1 over St. Louis (Coming off a sweep)

2003 Stanley Cup Finals: NJ (Coming off Game 7) clinched series 4-3 over Anaheim (Coming off a sweep)

2009 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals: CAR (Coming off Game 7) clinched 4-3 over BOS (Coming off a sweep)

2019 Eastern Conference Second Round: BOS (Coming off Game 7) clinched 4-2 over Columbus (Coming off a sweep)

2019 Eastern Conference Second Round: CAR (Coming off Game 7) clinched 4-0 over NYI (Coming off a sweep)

*2021 West Division Final: Vegas (Coming off Game 7) vs. Colorado (Coming off a sweep)

Teams Coming Off Game 7: (5-0)

It’s certainly shocking that in five previous situations the team with more games under their belt came out on top. The obvious answer would be that too much rest impacted the losing club but there are always other factors. If the Golden Knights can win four out of the next six they will keep the streak alive and be the sixth team to advance to the next round

One reason why teams coming off a Game 7 victory have found success against their next opponent is largely because of the results from Game 1. Teams coming off a sweep are 1-4 against teams coming off Game 7 in the first game of a series. Unfortunately, Vegas wasn’t able to capture the first contest against Colorado but it may not matter. In the 2009 playoffs, Carolina lost the first game to Boston and ended winning the series in seven games. The Golden Knights have the ability to accomplish that, and maybe in fewer games.

Hey, I know Vegas lost by six goals in a dreadfully lopsided game but there’s still room for optimism. A visiting team’s mission is to split the first two games of the series. In most cases, it’s difficult capturing one so the first two-game split is highly important for Vegas. Being in a situation that they can still make that happen should give confidence to the players and fans.

Carp: Don’t Overthink It, Continue The Rotation

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2021 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**

The Stanley Cup Playoffs are expected to start next weekend and it’s time for Golden Knights coach Pete DeBoer to make what will be the biggest decision of his tenure with Vegas.

Who starts in goal for Game 1?

DeBoer has three options. One, he can go with Marc-Andre Fleury, who has three championship rings. Two, he can play Robin Lehner, who has played well in the past during the postseason but whose name doesn’t appear on the Cup. Option Three is to keep the status quo and maintain the $12 million experiment and rotate Fleury and Lehner.

If he keeps the rotation going, DeBoer breaks with conventional wisdom which is you play one guy and you ride him as far as you can. But this year has been anything but conventional and should DeBoer continue to rotate his goalies in the playoffs, would it shock you if it worked?

Both have done the job and are capable of getting hot. Lehner has played well since returning from a concussion he suffered in February. At times, he has been spectacular, as was the case in overtime in Friday’s 4-3 win over the Blues. He even assisted on Jonathan Marchessault’s game-winner. But from an overall perspective, he is certainly worthy of consideration should DeBoer opt for one goalie.

Fleury has had an outstanding season. He has been dialed in since training camp and he came prepared to win the starter’s job. When Lehner went down with a concussion and missed 18 games, Fleury took on the added workload and delivered. He last lost back on April 7 and is riding an eight-game win streak.

To both goalies’ credit, they handled the rotation plan well. They appear to be supportive of each other and they are looking at winning the Jennings Trophy, which goes to the top goaltending tandem that allows the fewest goals.

Their styles are different. They have their strengths and weaknesses like any player. Both are extremely competitive, which is what you want from those who play the position.

So what should DeBoer do? Or more important, what will he likely do?

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It’s Time For DeBoer To Announce His Decision

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

On February 24th, 2020, the Golden Knights front office made a decision to address their goaltender of the future. That was reiterated last summer, when coach Pete DeBoer “announced” (via actions) Robin Lehner as the postseason starter. A move that shocked fans, media, and the Golden Knights players as well. It was a choice that put the organization in a bit of a conundrum.

DeBoer’s decision to go with Lehner created an unexpected firestorm. Marc-Andre Fleury’s agent and loyal supporter Allan Walsh went to social media and loudly voiced his anger. We all remember what happened from there so we won’t rehash. Looking back, the controversy was avoidable if communication had been more clear.

Based on how this season played out, DeBoer will have to make another tough choice. Let’s face it, he’s in a tough spot. No matter who he names as Game 1 starter some faction of Golden Knights universe will be disappointed. This is why it’s time for the Golden Knights head coach to announce his postseason starting goaltender.

If there’s any concern DeBoer’s net decision will cause another controversy then let it out of the bag now. Once the announcement is made, no matter how it’s taken, it will need time to settle. Doing it now would allow the players to get over their preferences, and solely focus on the postseason, not to mention instilling a level of public confidence for the eventual #1 goalie. But the real reason why now is the right time for DeBoer to publicly announce his starting goaltender is Fleury’s agent.

Say Lehner is named the starting goaltender, we can only assume Walsh will make noise. To combat that, the Golden Knights can get it out of the way now. Let the power agent and other Fleury supporters in the locker room sulk for a few days. It will happen, it’s human nature. Why risk tension in playoffs like last season?

It’s highly unlikely but it’s possible DeBoer hasn’t made up his mind yet. Maybe he needs the final three games to sway his decision. Vegas’ coach might also be planning on continuing with the goalie rotation. If that’s the case, it could be beneficial to announce that to the public. There’s nothing wrong with being more transparent.

Opening up doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a competitive disadvantage,in fact, in this case, it would probably mean a competitive advantage for the Golden Knights.

Carp: An Appreciation Of Greatness

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2021 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**

It has been an interesting week to say the least for the Golden Knights — both on and off the ice.

There was the celebration of a rival’s personal accomplishment. There was the clinching of a fourth consecutive playoff spot. There was an underwhelming response by the NHL and none from the team in the wake of the conviction of the police officer who murdered an unarmed African-American. And at the top of the list, a lengthy impromptu vent by a player to the league’s protocols as it pertains to COVID-19 that wound up going national.

Oh, and the team won a franchise-record ninth straight game Saturday.

But lost in all of that is the franchise’s most popular player inched closer to another milestone. And unless something crazy happens, we will see the spotlight once again shine upon Marc-Andre Fleury as he looks to continue his climb up the NHL’s all-time goaltender wins ladder.

Fleury currently has 487 wins and sits in fourth place on the career victories list. Roberto Luongo, who has 489 Ws and is No. 3, is in his sights. Fleury is scheduled to play Wednesday against Colorado, in what is a huge game for obvious reasons, and again Saturday at Arizona. He can tie Luongo with a pair of wins. That would leave only Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur ahead of Fleury — the two goalies he idolized as a kid growing up in Sorel, Quebec. Brodeur has 691 wins. It’s unlikely Fleury, or anyone else for that matter, catches him.

Roy? He has 551 victories. That number is within reach for Fleury if he can continue to play for a couple more years and have success.

The Knights have nine games left in this truncated 56-game season. Fleury will likely start in four of them, perhaps more if Peter DeBoer decides to use him in additional games. If he wins three of the four, he’ll have 490 going into next season, the final year of his VGK contract. He’ll be 37 on Nov. 28. But with Fleury, age is truly just a number. He is having one of the best seasons of his career this year and barring an unforeseen drop-off in performance, he can work his way to closing the gap between himself and Roy in half.

What would make the chase problematic for Fleury would be if the Knights chose not to resign him after 2022 and he went to a team which didn’t perform as well. He’d be 38 by then and who knows where his skill set will be at that point.

Right now, he’s in a good place physically, mentally, and spiritually. The joy has returned and when Fleury is having fun, he is tough to beat.

So we’re going to have to see what develops in the coming months. But this much we know: He’s had a remarkable career to date. He’s a sure-fire, first-ballot Hall of Fame selection. He owns three Stanley Cup rings and maybe he gets a fourth this year. He has been the face of the Golden Knights franchise from the day the team took him in the NHL expansion draft in June 2017. I will always remember the roar inside the Fortress when it was announced the team selected him and that love for Fleury has never abated.

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Special “Podcast” On Robin Lehner’s Speech

Robin Lehner made waves today challenging the NHL about policy change regarding vaccinated players and teams. The NHL strongly pushed back. We discuss the fallout from the speech, what it may do to the team, and what happens next.

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