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VGK’s Deadline Overhaul Impacted By Lack Of Chemistry

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s been years since Golden Knights fans have felt the empty feelings of a first round exit. Excluding the dreadful missed playoff season of 2022, Vegas has only one other first round defeat. It stunk back then and stinks again this spring.

Now that the team has been eliminated, cleaned out their lockers, and begun making summer plans, it’s time to begin diagnosing the 2023-24 season. There’s an abundance of discussions but we’ll take our time addressing them. After all, we have an unexpectedly longer summer than in years past.

How much better did the Golden Knights get after the trade deadline?

Post trade deadline the Golden Knights received extremely high grades for their late season wheeling and dealing. Completing packages for Noah Hanifin, Tomas Hertl, and Anthony Mantha, the Golden Knights put the league on notice. All signs pointed to a deep run in the playoffs with Vegas’ new flashy lineup.

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Above, Below, or Meeting Expectations: Far Too Many Golden Knights Fall Into The Wrong Category

Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke,

The Golden Knights are defending Stanley Cup champions.

For the last 11 months here at we’ve used that sentence to start just about every article, literally every podcast, and everywhere else possible. Tonight might be the last time we get to use it.

That is unless the Golden Knights get improved performances from a bunch of players in Game 6 and 7.

Being the reigning champions, and bringing back a roster that is similar, if not improved on paper, means Vegas doesn’t need anyone to exceed expectations. Instead, they simply need everyone to play to their ability and they should once again be the best team in the NHL.

Through 5 games in this first round series against the Stars, that is not happening. More than half of the roster is falling short of their expectations, while just a few are exceeding them.

To illustrate this, I’ve broken the team down into those three categories, exceeding expectations, meeting expectations, or below expectations. For the Golden Knights to retain their title as defending Stanley Cup champions for even one more day, a bunch of players are going to have to take a step up from the category they’ve resided in currently in this series to at least one step higher.

**These are listed in order. For “exceeding,” first is the player most exceeding their expectation. For “meeting,” first is the player closest to exceeding, last is the player closest to below. For “below,” first is the player closest to meeting, last is the player below by the most.

Exceeding Expectations
Brayden McNabb, Logan Thompson, William Carrier

There’s a legitimate argument that Brayden McNabb has been VGK’s best player in this series. If you told me that was going to be the case coming in, I’d be certain the Golden Knights are behind in the series, and that’s exactly where they are. He’s been offensively involved and even better than his already high level defensively.

Thompson and Carrier are in a similar spot as both have been very good but their best moments have come in losing efforts so they get lost a bit. Thompson was out of control good in Game 3, but the team was so bad it didn’t end up making a difference. Carrier scored a wraparound goal on a wonderful individual effort, but the game-tying 1st period goal was the last Vegas scored.

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It’s Time For Vegas’ Best Game

From ESPN broadcast

It’s time.

It’s time for Mark Stone. It’s time for Alex Pietrangelo. It’s time for Chandler Stephenson and Jonathan Marchessault and Shea Theodore and William Karlsson. It’s time for the roster littered with Stanley Cup rings. It’s time for the team that went all-in at the deadline. It’s time for the lineup so stacked it’s drawn the wrath of the NHL world.

Everything is in place. Now, the players have to do it.

The front office has restocked the team to give them every chance under the sun possible to repeat. The coach has presented them with a plan that has proven to work. He subsequently pressed all the buttons at the same time to see if he could shock the system.

In this series and especially in the last three games, Vegas’ best players have not been good enough. Stone, Hertl, and Stephenson have not been on the ice for a single 5-on-5 goal. Karlsson has been out there for just one. Marchessault hasn’t come through with a clutch  late-game goal. And let’s not even get started about whatever is going on with Alex Pietrangelo.

Simply put, based on the analytics, the Golden Knights are fortunate to still have a chance to rescue their title defending season.

They can’t wait any longer and the task is as tall as it’s ever been.

They’ll face their first elimination game since 2021 and have to beat a team (and goalie) brimming with confidence. Then, they’ll have to break Pete DeBoer’s perfect 7-0 record in Game 7’s.

But if there’s anyone that can do it, it’s the Golden Knights.

We’ve seen it, literally just seven days ago the reigning champions were the favorites to win the Western Conference. They’ve shown the ability to lock down the Dallas Stars powerful offense. They’ve shown the strength to hold the puck in the offensive zone and wear down a 5-man defense unit. And they’ve been able to break one of the better goalies in the league.

It’s going to take Vegas’ best game and then an even better game after it. And it’s going to take a great performance from the captain, a controlled one from their first alternate, and a step forward by the Conn Smythe, the trade deadline acquisitions, and the rest of the depth of the team.

There’s only one way forward and it all rests on the shoulders of the players. No more excuses.

Time to rise up like the champions.

VGK’s Heaviness Contributing To 2-0 Series Lead

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

We heard it way back after the 2017-18 Stanley Cup finals, the Golden Knights needed to get bigger and stronger. Or in hockey lexicon, Vegas needed to get heavier. So, they did.

They traded for Ryan Reaves (6’2″, 225) around the 2018 deadline, completed a late offseason deal for Max Pacioretty (6’2″, 217), and they traded and signed Mark Stone (6’3″, 217) minutes before the 2019 trade deadline expired. So, the organization did what they said they, get heavier. And it didn’t stop there.

Size matters, especially at this time of year. They lean on you all night and they wear teams down because they lean on you. It’s impressive because there are times when they get a lead where they’re not trying to score. They’re controlling the territory of the game, and you don’t get any second chances. Every puck is confronted in your own zone and there’s no free ice anywhere. There’s got to be tactic changes when you play that team because of their weight and size. It’s fun to watch that team play that type of playoff hockey. – Ken Hitchcock, former NHL coach on Bob McCown Podcast

Over the years Vegas introduced Nic Hague (6’6″, 230) to their lineup, took a chance on monster goaltender Adin Hill (6’6″, 215), picked up Nick Holden (6’4″, 210), added depth with Ben Hutton (6’3″, 201), brought in Nic Roy (6’4″, 202), signed a mega-deal with Alex Pietrangelo (6’3″, 215), and are currently starting large Logan Thompson (6’4″, 205) in net. Easy to say, the Golden Knights set out to be heavy, and they were rewarded with a Stanley Cup trophy last year.

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Hertl, Hanifin, Stone Have VGK Power Play Exuding Confidence

From ESPN broadcast

The Golden Knights’ new look power play with everyone in the lineup had instant success in Game 1. They struck for the first goal of the game less than a minute into the early opportunity on a penalty drawn by the 4th line, and then potted another just three seconds into their second opportunity late in the period.

Two goals in exactly 60 seconds of time with the man-advantage is not something the Golden Knights are used to. With Mark Stone, Tomas Hertl, and Noah Hanifin all back in the lineup, for the first time in a long time Vegas has two bonafide top units.

PP Unit 1

PP Unit 2

The 2nd unit, I mean those guys were our 1st unit for a long time and they’re no slouches either. -Cassidy

It’s the first unit though that got the job done in Game 1, and it’s been especially strong since #48 has entered the lineup.

Look at our power play numbers compared to where they’ve been all year. They’ve been through the roof with Hertl. Hanifin has been getting pucks there too which helps. It could be a short sample size but I believe (getting to the net) is one of Hertl’s best skills sets and it’s particularly evident on the power play. -Cassidy

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Tomas Hertl’s Hot And Cold Debut Revealed How Bruce Cassidy Intends To Use Him

(Photo from of @GoldenKnights on Twitter)

The long-awaited debut of Tomas Hertl finally came last night and it was a bit of a mixed bag for the Czech.

Hertl logged a massive 20:20 on 21 shifts in his first game as a Golden Knight including time on the power play, penalty kill, and a pair of mega shifts (1:45 and 2:05) down the stretch with Vegas chasing the game-tying goal.

I wasn’t bad, but I know I will be better. After 10 weeks sometimes I lost my legs or a couple of easy pucks and hopefully that won’t happen moving forward. But it was nice to be back on the ice. -Hertl.

Despite starting, and playing most of his time, on the left wing with Chandler Stephenson and Michael Amadio, Hertl was active in the faceoff circle. He took eight faceoffs and won five of them. This was the first place in which we saw a true specialist utilization of Hertl by Bruce Cassidy.

With 3:47 left in the game, following a TV timeout, and VGK trailing by one, Cassidy created a super-line of Hertl, Jack Eichel, and Jonathan Marchessault. Hertl went into the circle to take the faceoff but was tossed out by the lineman for an apparent false start. Eichel lost the ensuing draw to J.T. Miller and the line was unable to generate anything offensively.

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Tomas Hertl Offers Lineup Options Galore For VGK In All Situations

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights’ newest power forward will not be able to step on the ice to make his VGK debut for at least a few weeks. When Tomas Hertl does though, the options he presents to Bruce Cassidy are endless.

The 6’3” 215-pound Hertl is an option in multiple spots on the power play, has played significant penalty kill minutes, and can be used in both 6-on-5 situations. Plus, and maybe the most important bit of versatility he offers is that he can play center or wing, and has done a bunch of each in his career.

I always say every centerman can play winger but from winger to center is way harder. I don’t know what is the plan when everyone is healthy but I’m ready for everyone. In my 11 years, I’ve probably played half and half. -Hertl

His arrival leaves the Golden Knights with a glut of options up the middle, assuming health. Jack Eichel, William Karlsson, Chandler Stephenson, Nic Roy, Brett Howden, Michael Amadio, and now Tomas Hertl are all legitimate options to play center.

We’ve used Stephenson on the wing more than anyone so he’d probably be the natural candidate but we also used Nic Roy last year. So, I don’t have an answer for that yet but let’s get him here and then we’ll decide. -Cassidy

Hertl’s strong faceoff percentage likely gives him the upper hand on many of the other options beyond Eichel and Karlsson. Still, his advanced stats may be the ultimate tipping point that leads him to remain in the center pushing someone else to the wing in Vegas.

Per San Jose Hockey Now’s Sheng Peng, Hertl’s blocked pass rate has skyrocketed this season going from 3.58 per 60 minutes up to 4.57. That took Hertl from 93rd among all NHL forwards all the way up to 9th. In addition, his puck battle win and loose puck recovery rates rank in the top 10 as well.

His penalty kill rates are also excellent which means he should allow Cassidy to replace either Jack Eichel or Mark Stone on the PK which will not only lighten their minute load but also go back to offering Vegas an excellent post-kill line that can hop over the boards right after the penalty expires.

No matter how it all plays out, the options Hertl offers to the Golden Knights will be valuable both now and in the future. That’s something VGK fans will quickly learn to love if they haven’t already.

A lot of fans at the gala told me ‘Three days ago I hated you, now I love you.’ -Hertl

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