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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.

Golden Knights Will Be Without Shea Theodore For A Few Weeks At The Least

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Bad news struck on the off-day as the Golden Knights announced Shea Theodore is out week-to-week after undergoing a successful surgery on an upper-body injury.

It’s unclear exactly what happened to Theodore as the last game he played he did not miss and shift including a full 90 second shift in overtime.

The Golden Knights have really missed Theodore as they have gone winless since his injury. They’ve scored just five goals in the three games he’s been out and the power play has suffered mightily hitting on just one of the last 13 opportunities without him.

Losing Theo is a little bit different because he’s our most dynamic offensive (defenseman) and we can’t automatically replace a lot of what he does. He’s a game-changer with some of the plays he’s made this year and that will probably affect our transition offense game. -Cassidy

Struggling without Theodore is not a new phenomenon for the Golden Knights. Last year, Shea missed 27 games in the regular season. Vegas went 13-9-5 in those games for a .574 points percentage. With Theodore, the Golden Knights were 38-13-4, good for a points percentage of .727.

Theodore missed two stretches of games last season, the longer of which came at a similar time in the season. From December 11th to January 27th the Golden Knights went 9-9-2 with a goal differential of -4. Oddly, the slip came more on the defensive end where Vegas went from allowing 2.66 goals per game over the first 29 games to 3.25 over the next 19 without Theodore.

The situation was a bit more dire last year as on top of Theodore, Pietrangelo and Whitecloud were also out of the lineup at the same time. Vegas turned to Daniil Miromanov and Brayden Pachal to pick up the slack.

Right now, along with Theodore, Alec Martinez is also expected to be out of the lineup for at least a few more games. It appears Miromanov is getting closer to returning from his long-term injury, but that’s not expected to happen in the next few games either.

In Edmonton, Ben Hutton came through with a clutch goal late in the 3rd period to give Vegas life and eventually help them steal a point on the road. If the Golden Knights are going to survive this long stretch without Theodore, Hutton is going to need to be an offensive contributor but he has to be careful to not over extend himself.

Hutton will jump into the play every once in a while. He has good instincts that way. We just have to make sure he does it at the right times. He’s been known to be late sometimes. So we need him to make good decisions on when to try and grab a loose puck. When he does, he can do some good things. -Cassidy

The Golden Knights have learned how to overcome injuries and they’ll have to do it again. That being said…

There’s only one Theo on our team and when he’s out it’s not something you can just tap on the shoulder to do. -Cassidy

“You Just Keep Pushing And You Believe You Are Going To Come Back”

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Frustration is a huge part of hockey. No matter how well a team is playing, there will come points in every season where a game just does not seem to be going the right way. The Golden Knights faced that last night as they fell behind the Philadelphia Flyers and couldn’t seem to find their way back.

At the end of the 2nd period, Vegas had attempted 43 shots yet only 15 made it to the goalie. They were struggling to navigate a gummed-up neutral zone, and the Flyers’ physical brand of hockey was forcing a much tighter game than the Golden Knights had been used to early this season.

However, these Golden Knights aren’t like most teams in the NHL. As reigning Stanley Cup champions, they’ve seen it all, and a few tough periods will not discourage them.

We trust our game. Sometimes we get away from it but we are a veteran group and we’ve been together long enough that we know when to pull it in and get back to what we do best. We’ve done a good job of that these first seven games. -Brayden McNabb

3rd period dominance has been a theme as Vegas has raced out to the best start as a defending champion in NHL history. Last night, they made a few adjustments in the final intermission, came out, and started applying endless pressure on the Philadephia net until the dam eventually broke.

The 2-0 3rd period score ups VGK’s goal differential to +8 in the final frame over seven games. The Golden Knights have outscored their opponents in six of the first seven 3rd periods with the lone outlier a 1-1 tie against Dallas.

You just keep pushing and you believe you are going to come back even when you are down. We just trust it because there’s no crystal ball telling you what’s going to happen so you just have to do what we do best and it’s worked out so far. -McNabb

A huge reason why it has worked out is the variety of players Vegas has seen step up in the 3rd period of games. Brayden Pachal, Jonas Rondbjerg, Nic Roy, and now Paul Cotter have all scored late-game goals to help the Golden Knights win. Sure, Jack Eichel and William Karlsson have come up with a few big ones too, but it truly can be anyone on any night for this team.

Sometimes you need one guy to go in and make a move like that and it’s pretty on par with what he’s done in practice so it’s great to see him get it done. -Theodore on Cotter’s goal

The train keeps rolling on Friday afternoon with a rematch with the feisty Chicago Blackhawks. There may not be a crystal ball to tell us the outcome of that game, but if the Golden Knights keep playing like they have in the 3rd period, we may not need one to know.

2023-24 Fantasy Rankings: Where Do Vegas’ Stars Land?

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Yesterday, many Americans were glued to their TV sets or streaming devices watching the first Sunday of the NFL season. For some, professional football is a religion. They wake up, turn on the pregame show, grill up some brats, and most importantly set their fantasy lineups. The NHL is not known for being a mass fantasy sport but it’s widely popular among diehard puckheads. This week the best 2023-24 fantasy player rankings came out and several Golden Knights made the experts’ draft list.

Let’s start with the most desired.

#32 – Jack Eichel

While the championship center is ranked the highest on the Golden Knights he’s far behind some of his contemporaries. Obviously, Connor McDavid is ranked first overall but fourteen other centers were ranked ahead of Eichel. It’s not a knock on the World Champion but a compliment to the structure of the Stanley Cup Golden Knights.

Eichel had his lowest average time on ice in his career last season, as Vegas likes to roll four lines in a balanced attack. Given that, and the fact Eichel has missed substantial time in all but two of his NHL seasons, it’s tough to count on him for more than 70 games and 70 points. –Michael Amato on Sportsnet.ca

#92 – Mark Stone

Let’s be fair, dozens of teams would select Stone before the 92nd pick but in fantasy sports, points are the only figure that matters. The Golden Knights captain can do a little bit of everything, and much better than anyone else. However, he isn’t a scoring winger like David Pastrnak, Matthew Tkachuk, or Mikko Rantanen. Not to mention Stone’s past injury absences will likely scare fantasy GMs from drafting him any higher. If picking pockets were a statistic in fantasy hockey then that’s a different story. In that case, Stone would be selected much higher than 92.

The only thing holding Stone back in fantasy is health. His numbers are always solid but he just misses so much time due to injuries, and the odds of that improving as he’s now 31 seem slim. Don’t reach too high for him. –Amato on Sportsnet.ca

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Call Me Crazy, But … (Jason’s 2023-24 Picks)

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Here we go, it’s Day 2 of making crazy predictions (here are Ken’s from yesterday). I truly believe a couple of my predictions will come true this season. Especially, the one about Jack Eichel squaring off against Connor McDavid.

Call me crazy, but Shea Theodore will pass his career high in goals in 2023-24.

There have been theories floating over the past several seasons that Alex Pietrangelo’s presence impacted Theodore’s growth. It’s an easy assumption, considering Theodore was the Golden Knights’ biggest threat in the 2020 postseason. The Original Misfit registered seven goals in the bubble and 12 assists to go along with his breakout performance. Months later Pietrangelo was acquired and appeared to slow Theodore down.

The 28-year-old flashed some skill in the Stanley Cup Final and there’s reason to believe it will carry over to October. After playing in Bruce Cassidy’s system for 76 games, Theodore is in a position to flourish offensively. Look for Theodore to top 15 or more goals this season. Maybe enough to earn a few Norris Trophy votes.

Call me crazy, but there will be a goalie controversy at some point during the season.

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VGK’s Top 6 Stanley Cup Playoff Saves

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The success of the Golden Knights goaltenders in the 2023 playoffs will be talked about for years to come. Heck, it’s already being studied by other organizations. We’ve gone over the top offensive plays, so let’s turn our attention to the few that kept the puck out of the net.

6. Brossoit Dazzles in Game 2 vs. Winnipeg

Golden Knights fans will never forget which goaltender began the 2023 Cup run. Adin Hill earned Conn Smyth votes and a massive post-playoff payday but Laurent Brossoit will always have a special place in team history. Brossoit started eight games, eliminated Winnipeg, and picked up another win in the second round. In his group of playoff games, Vegas’ opening goalie made a few outstanding saves that some might have forgotten. His stop in a deciding Game 5 is worth watching on a loop. After making the initial save, Brossoit was forced to desperately slide across the crease and stop a wide-open shot. The Jets offense was stunned. If it hadn’t been a blowout, LB’s save would have been ranked higher.

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Starting The Misfits

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The opening shift of a Stanley Cup Final game is not typically a time to get sentimental with decision-making. The Golden Knights still needed to win one more game to reach the mountaintop, and they knew they were facing a team that had been in a 3-1 hole before and dug themselves out.

For Bruce Cassidy though, he knew the time was right.

To start Game 5, Cassidy went off script of both his forward lines and standard operating procedure and chose to tug on some heartstrings instead.

The starting lineup he selected was Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson, Reilly Smith, Shea Theodore, and Brayden McNabb. Five of the six original players from the inaugural season that began Vegas’ love affair with the Golden Knights.

I apologized to Will Carrier, I told him, I’m sorry, I can only start one left winger. -Bruce Cassidy

Cassidy reunited the greatest line in Vegas history and used McNabb and Theodore to start a game for the first time during the entire postseason. It was a risk, but he knew it was one worth taking.

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