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Continued Reliance On Offense From Defense In New System?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Over the course of his first few weeks as the head coach of the Golden Knights, Bruce Cassidy has shared quite a bit of information on his preferred systems of play. One of the constants that has come up is his appetite to see the puck on the sticks of the forwards a bit more in the offensive zone.

That’s not to say Cassidy is completely against the low-to-high play the Golden Knights have grown accustomed to using, but it’s not going to be Plan A as it has been for the past few years.

With it comes a fairly large concern due to the point distribution Vegas has seen over the past few seasons under Pete DeBoer.

Last year, Vegas defensemen scored 47 goals or 18% of the total output for the team. They had three players (Pietrangelo, Theodore, Whitecloud) with at least seven goals and saw the blue line generate almost a quarter (24.2%) of all team points.

Offense from defensemen has become a staple of the Golden Knights’ identity and they’ve just hired a head coach that certainly does not operate his offensive system the same way.

In his five full seasons behind the bench in Boston, defensemen never accounted for more than 34 goals in a season, typically amassed between 11-12% of the team’s goal-scoring output, and saw just three players in the last four years combined (McAvoy, Krug, McAvoy) score seven or more goals in a season.

 GoalsGoals/Game% of Team GoalsPointsPts/Game% of Team Points
2021-22 VGK470.570.1791672.040.242
2020-21 VGK360.640.1891422.540.275
2019-20 VGK340.480.1521331.870.230
2021-22 BOS310.380.1231411.720.201
2020-21 BOS180.320.1101001.790.223
2019-20 BOS320.460.1411442.060.236
2018-19 BOS310.380.1211551.890.222
2017-18 BOS340.410.1271621.980.223

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Hero vs Heel: VGK Swapped Roles, Now Do They Need To Swap Back?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Down the stretch of the regular season, there was a common refrain from most hockey fans, (four-letter word) the Golden Knights.

It seemed like everyone outside of the Vegas fan base was openly, and strongly, rooting against the Golden Knights, almost finding the adversity VGK were facing to be comical. Whether it was tweets directly from other teams or Twitter accounts banding together, it was definitely in vogue to cheer for anyone else in the Western Conference.

The Golden Knights took notice.

Everyone does, everyone roots against us, but it’s all about the guys that we have in that locker room, the ones we battle with. There’s nothing much else you can do. -Shea Theodore

But they still aren’t exactly sure why.

It’s a great question, I have no idea. -Theodore

I’m sad to think of (how the perception has changed.) We would see the last few games that the whole NHL was rooting against us. It’s sad to think that but it’s not necessarily because of one person that it happened like that. It’s just an accumulation of a few things that people were just irritated with us. -Jonathan Marchessault

Usually it’s something players shrug off as uncontrollable and in many ways unimportant, but when you look at the shift in perception from the Expansion team that reached the Cup final to the Year 5 team that miss the playoffs, it’s impossible to ignore.

The question becomes, is it healthy, is it helpful, and can it be harnessed?

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Golden Knights 2021-22 Locker Cleanout Press Conference Audio

(Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke, SinBin.vegas)

The Golden Knights conducted their season-end media availability today at City National Arena. This is the complete unedited audio of every press conference.

0:00 – 31:47 – Pete DeBoer

31:47 – 1:07:24 – Kelly McCrimmon

1:07:24 – 1:23:10 – Alec Martinez

1:23:10 – 1:39:20 – Max Pacioretty

1:39:20 – 1:48:27 – Shea Theodore

1:48:27 – 2:01:44 – Jack Eichel

2:01:44 – 2:13:20 – Zach Whitecloud

2:13:20 – 2:26:48 – Mark Stone

2:26:48 – 2:38:01 – Jonathan Marchessault

2:38:01 – 2:47:46 – William Karlsson

2:47:46 – 2:57:56 – Brayden McNabb

Kevin Iole’s Deadline Blueprint

This season, diehard VGK fan and legendary combat sports columnist Kevin Iole will be delivering columns a few times a month on usually on Sundays. Today, Kevin lays out what he believes is the correct course of action for the Golden Knights at this deadline.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The trading deadline is Monday and in the first four years of the VGK’s existence, it was a joyous time. We were like children waking up on Christmas morning to see what Santa left under the tree.

There was no question that the Golden Knights were going to add at the deadline in any of those four seasons. The question was how big would they go?

This season figured to be no different. But then, the Knights have gone 11-14-4 since Jan. 1 and just completed an 0-5 road trip largely against the dregs of the league. The win against Florida last night was great, but it doesn’t change what has happened over the course of the last three months.

This time, the trading deadline arrives and the Knights are a team in disarray, no longer a Stanley Cup contender and perhaps a team that may play its way into the draft lottery.

The deadline will still come, and it’s clear the VGK need a lot of work — for next season. The bulk of that can be done in the summer, but this trade deadline can give it a start.

Here are moves I would make if I were Knights GM Kelly McCrimmon to help fortify the team for a run at the 2023 Stanley Cup:

1. Shut down Alec Martinez for the remainder of the season: There is something seriously wrong with the guy, and it goes well beyond getting cut in the face by a skate in November. Nobody in the game is tougher than Martinez, and the fact he’s not playing five months later is an ominous sign.

This season is lost; even if they somehow miraculously sneak into the playoffs, they’re not winning the Stanley Cup this year. So shut down Martinez for the remainder of the year and hope he comes back in September fully health.

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McPhee Stresses Defense With Former NHL Defenseman He Drafted

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Late in overtime Golden Knights’ defenseman Alex Pietrangelo made an unfortunate turnover costing them an extra point in Carolina. The miscue stung but in reality, earning one point in a game that seemingly looked over was a nice parting gift. Unfortunately, players don’t see it that way. Especially, the players that make game-ending gaffes.

If it weren’t for Pietrangelo’s work in regulation it’s possible Vegas never even forces overtime. And for that, coaches, teammates, and some fans tend to cut heavily used defensemen some slack. Last night was a good example of that. It was Pietrangelo’s team-leading 29th shift of the game when his soft pass was scooped up by Andrei Svechnikov.

If you’ve got a good defense then you can be in every game. –George McPhee on Alz Caps podcast

McPhee joined one of his former draft picks, 12-year NHL veteran Karl Alzner on his podcast to talk some puck and the importance of reliable defensemen.

**The whole interview can be found here. It’s an excellent listen for any VGK fan.**

It’s clear the Golden Knights organization values top-tier defensemen. Acquiring Shea Theodore around the expansion draft, making an in-season trade for Alec Martinez, and inking Alex Pietrangelo to a loaded seven-year commitment should be enough evidence.

You’ve seen it with the Caps and you can see it with our team and other teams that have a lot of injuries this year. You can lose some forwards and hang in there. You start losing defenseman and you’re in trouble. –McPhee on Alz Caps podcast

For reference, McPhee’s first two picks in Washington were defenseman. Overall, while managing the Capitals McPhee selected 38 defensemen and nine of them in the first round. Including, choosing Alzner fifth overall in 2007. Clearly, it’s a position McPhee heavily values.

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Golden Knights Shining With Own Net Empty

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Throughout the course of this season the Golden Knights have been in survival mode. Whether the reasons have been self-inflicted or not, this version of the Golden Knights hasn’t looked anything like the ones we’ve grown accustomed to watching in the past.

Often times we hear coaches talk about the process over the results. Basically saying that over a long season it’s more important how a team is playing than whether or not they get a win on any given night. This season, the process for the Golden Knights hasn’t been great. They’re allowing far too many chances, the power play is pushing historically bad levels, and they aren’t finishing the opportunities to the same degree they are capable of. The results have been ok, but everyone’s aware they could be much worse.

There is one place where the process has been stellar, if not elite. It’s when the Golden Knights have trailed late in a game and have been forced to remove their goalie to push for the comeback goal.

Vegas has spent 11:40 with their net empty this year which has resulted in just one goal for and three against. Not exactly the results a team is looking for with the goalie pulled, but not terrible. However, the process has been excellent, and there was no better display of it than last night.

Trailing by two, Pete DeBoer opted to pull Laurent Brossoit from the goal with 4:08 left in the final period. At that moment, Vegas had Alex Pietrangelo, Shea Theodore, Nic Roy, Reilly Smith, Chandler Stephenson, and Jonathan Marchessault on the ice.  With the help of a timeout 68 seconds in, all six of those players put in more than three minutes of ice time in the final four, and Pietrangelo and Theodore were on the ice for a three minute and 47 second long shift.

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Golden Knights Must Manage Minutes Amidst Injuries

(Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke, SinBin.vegas)

It’s no secret the Golden Knights are banged up. Heck, I think I’ve started every one of the last 10 stories I’ve written with some version of that statement. But the fact of the matter is whether it’s the play on the ice, the discussions off it, or anything in between, it’s affecting everything surrounding the team right now.

One such place we’re seeing that effect is in playing time. The Golden Knights have played a lot of hockey and traveled three times (one of which had complications) in the past eight days. Pete DeBoer is convinced fatigue is one of the main reasons his team threw away a three goal lead last night.

It’s that time of year, you look around the league and there’s a lot of blown leads. Teams don’t quite have things locked down yet. I think you combine that with five games in eight nights this week and some tired guys. We put some big minutes on guys with some of the injuries and I think we ran out of a little bit of gas and lost some momentum there. -DeBoer

Of the Golden Knights top four minute-getters at forward and defense, six are on pace to set career highs in average time on ice per game.

 This SeasonLast SeasonCareer High
Stephenson19:4818:0618:06 (20-21)
Smith19:0117:5218:37 (15-16)
Karlsson18:5618:4018:52 (19-20)
Marchessault18:2717:2518:09 (18-19)
Pietrangelo26:2324:2626:18 (15-16)
Theodore23:2822:3322:33 (20-21)
Martinez22:3022:3422:52 (17-18)
Hague17:5516:0016:00 (20-21)

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Can The Golden Knights “Find” Three Goals Per Game?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

After Wednesday’s loss to the St. Louis Blues, Vegas coach Pete DeBoer said his team needed to find a way to score three goals per night. Averaging 3+ goals per game almost guarantees an NHL team, and specifically the Golden Knights, a victory or at worse an overtime loss.

In 2020-21, the Golden Knights were 35-2-1 when they scored three or more goals in a game. Also, ten games ended in an overtime period or shootouts capturing at least one point.

So let’s pretend the Golden Knights will be without their weapons for 20 games. It could be more, hopefully less, but the length of time Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone are on the shelf won’t matter for this exercise.

The idea here is to try and add up averages to see if it’s actually possible for this lineup as currently constructed to reach three goals consistently.

Thanks to DeBoer, he solved the first part of the equation for us.

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2021-22 VGK Opening Day Trivia: Who Am I?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

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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Shea Theodore’s Contract Looks Better And Better By The Day

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Three years ago defenseman Shea Theodore held out of training camp to force his hand which nudged the Golden Knights to offer him a 7 year/$36M contract. From that moment forward Theodore became an emerging star and was considered one of the more vital players on the roster.

“If you’re going to do a long-term deal, you have to get the right numbers. Really have to trust your instincts, trust the experience, trust the scouting reports from your pro staff, trust the analytics data, and make a good decision. We rely on all those resources to make a good decision and we think we made one here and time will tell.”- George McPhee, September 2018

Remember, McPhee didn’t have to offer Theodore anymore than the required qualifying offer (slightly above the league minimum) and the player’s only recourse would have been to sit out the entire season. However, both parties came to an agreement locking in the young defenseman until the 2024-25 season.

https://twitter.com/stheodore17/status/1044457951983894528

When the contract was signed Theodore became the 45th highest-paid defenseman in the NHL. Three years later, he’s a top-echelon player but dropped to the 53rd most expensive d-man in the league. Today the deal looks even better than it did three seasons ago and it looks like it’s only going to get better. The front office’s gut feeling secured a great player and a long-term, team-friendly deal. It was all about the early investment for the organization.

Since 2018-19, Theodore has kept up with the NHL’s best blueliners in games played, goals, points, and shots. He’s also become one of the league’s most effective 5-on-5 offensive defensemen.

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