It won’t come in Game 1, but there will come a time where Luca Sbisa is needed, and he’s a nice weapon to have in waiting. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)
As the Golden Knights head into their Second Round series with the Sharks they do so as healthy as they’ve been all season. There’s only one active player listed on the injury report and he’s considered ready to play when the team needs him.
It’s incredible, but the Golden Knights might just be the deepest team of any left in the playoffs. When they drop the puck against San Jose, Vegas will have a perennial 20 goal scorer and their highest paid forward on the bench sitting alongside a defenseman that one was considered “shut down” for the Golden Knights and only lost that title due to injury, not a decline in play.
They get even deeper when you throw in Oscar Lindberg, a penalty killing forward with excellent hands and solid speed, Brad Hunt, a power play specialist defenseman, and Ryan Reaves, a physical specimen waiting to unleash some fury into a series.
Coming off a first round sweep and allowing just three goals in 14 periods, no lineup changes are expected for the opening game of the series to begin later this week. However, that depth is going to be needed eventually, and we’re here to illustrate not just how many players the Golden Knights have to fill-in in case of injury, but how wide-ranging they can be allowing All Star head coach to feel comfortable no matter what happens.
Heavy haul for a healthy scratch (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)
On the day of the trade deadline, the Golden Knights sent three future draft picks, a 2018 1st, a 2019 2nd, and a 2021 3rd round pick, to the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for Tomas Tatar.
Tatar is a perennial 20 goal scorer, he’s got great speed, a good shot, and looked to be the perfect fit for the Golden Knights. Through 20 games with Vegas, that hasn’t exactly been the case, and now Tatar is set to be a healthy scratch in Game 3 of the first round of the playoffs.
The initial question is whether or not giving up three picks for a player that can’t crack the lineup was worth it. The answer is still incomplete, even with tonight’s benching, because Tatar wasn’t only added to help the Golden Knights for the 2018 playoff run. He has multiple years left on his contract and could still turn out to be a useful top six forward in Vegas.
However, part of the high price tag on Tatar at the deadline was getting him for this playoff season. McPhee traded Brendan Leipsic and figured he’d found an upgrade in Tatar. He hasn’t been. Instead, he’s been nothing more than a competent player who now can’t get in the lineup over a player Vegas claimed for free on the waiver wire back in December.
This is not a failure of a trade, yet, but it is a bold move that shows All Star head coach Gerard Gallant does indeed have full control over his lineup. He was handed a player that was supposed to be an upgrade, and his GM paid a massive price to get him, and yet Gallant still feels comfortable sitting him in the biggest situation of the year.
Here’s more good news, Tatar has never had consistent linemates. He should be better if/when that happens in the future. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)
There is good news for the Golden Knights, and that’s depth. If Vegas continues in these playoffs they will encounter injuries, and likely at least one to a significant player. Having Tatar available to fill that void absolutely has value, the same goes for Ryan Reaves if a bottom six forward were to be forced out. However, it’s not a good look for McPhee who still has the Filip Forsberg for Martin Erat trade hanging over his head.
Time will tell on the trade as a whole, but this decision tells us a lot about the organization, including the most important part, Tomas Tatar is the 13th best forward on this roster on April 15th, and unless that changes it will go down as an avoidable disaster at the Golden Knights first trade deadline.
After last night’s victory in Philadelphia, the Golden Knights are 6-4-0 without 40-point producing forward James Neal. At times during the 10-game intermittent stretch, Vegas has struggled to put the puck in the net. For instance, the Golden Knights have been shutout or held to one goal nine games this season, three of them have been in Neal’s absence.
Carpy Deuces chipped in with a big one last night. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)
Without Neal, the Golden Knights have scored 31 goals in those 10 games. Forwards Alex Tuch, Ryan Carpenter and Cody Eakin stepped up offensively for Vegas. Plus, all three Tomas’s lit the lamp, and the blue line added some help on the scoreboard as well over this span.
VGK “Bottom-6″/Defenseman Goals During Neal’s Absence
02/19: Lost 2-0 vs. Anaheim
02/21: Won 7-3 vs. Calgary Goals by Ryan Carpenter, Alex Tuch, Luca Sbisa, Tomas Nosek, Cody Eakin
02/23: Won 6-3 vs. Vancouver Goals by Tomas Hyka, Tomas Nosek
02/27: Lost 4-1 vs. LA
03/02: Lost 5-4 vs. Ottawa Goals by Colin Miller, Carpenter
Since being acquired from the Detroit Red Wings, Tomas Tatar has played in four games. He has one goal, seven shots on goal, a -5 rating, and an average ice time of 15:36. The team is 1-3-0 in those four games.
Now, before we go killing the new guy, let’s start by pointing out that he’s played on four different lines, all with significantly different characteristics. Tatar has played with Hyka and Eakin, Perron and Haula, Tuch and Eakin, and Carpenter and Eakin. To this point, none of them have been a match, but of course, we are judging each on a single game.
The fact of the matter is that Tomas Tatar is not coming out of the lineup anytime. He’s far too talented on the power play, way too fast, and has too much skill to be taken out of the lineup in favor of a Tomas Hyka, Oscar Lindberg or William Carrier.
The initial plan when Tatar was brought in was for him to slot into the Leipsic/Lindberg/Hyka third line wing slot. The main question though is whether or not he will fit with Tuch. In just a short time together, Tuch and Tatar have not been a match. Their Corsi For % is just 35%, they’ve allowed eight shots on goal while just creating one, and have yet to create much by way of scoring chances. In fact, for a majority of the game in which they played together, they were hemmed in their own end.
James Neal: Third Line Winger? (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)
If Tuch and Tatar are not a fit together, that means one of them must make their way onto the Haula/Perron/Neal line. In James Neal’s absence, Tuch has quietly become a force on the second line. He was moved up when Neal went out in the first Kings game, and it took a little while for them to gel. But when it did, they’ve become a versatile offensive line that has put up big advanced stat numbers since. Against Columbus, that line outshot the Blue Jackets 15-3 and accounted for the Golden Knights only goal.
Insurance for the future, and help for now? That’s the perfect package for McPhee. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)
By now fans have to believe in George McPhee’s vision. He’s presented a first-place team, a projected Jack Adams winning coach, and an aggressive front office mentality. While the sensational headlines were all about Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson, the Vegas GM worked on an important last-minute insurance deal.
VGK was deep into Erik Karlsson trade talks up to the final minutes before the deadline and when it became clear it wasn’t going to get done, VGK traded with DET for Tomas Tatar.
Newly acquired winger Tomas Tatar wasn’t a replacement for not landing Karlsson. Instead, McPhee traded for a player who could help win now and later. Later being the key.
Tatar comes in, that all but solidifies that James Neal is not coming back. -Nick Kypreos, Sportsnet
McPhee was in a real win-win situation. He elected to make three deadline deals but could’ve easily stood pat.
We were very aggressive. We were buyers at this deadline. We had many discussions with many teams over the past three weeks and explored a lot of things but as we decried today we are very happy with what we accomplished and how we improved. -McPhee
In my eyes, McPhee’s stock rose even higher after the Tatar deal and the Karlsson rumors. I’m not saying his efforts weren’t genuine but you couldn’t have pitched a better marketing plan.
The Ottawa Senators will tell you ‘no they were not close to a deal.’ Whatever offer was on the table from the Vegas Golden Knights … was not sufficient and wasn’t close to what Ottawa would consider acceptable doing a deal. -Bob McKenzie, TSN
Some analysts were puzzled when they heard McPhee had given up three draft picks to receive Tatar. However, when you calculate age, production and term, a player like Tatar was more valuable to the organization, especially when the team is facing tough decisions this summer.
When you ask anyone with a hockey brain why the Golden Knights have been so good this year, the word “balance” will inevitably come up. Balance insinuates that all four lines and all three pairings have played a major role to the success Vegas has experienced to this point.
This team has done a lot of winning, but they’re going to have to do a lot more to prove George McPhee right. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)
That success has come to the tune of 86 points in 61 games, an 11 point lead in the Pacific Division, and a season-long tussle with the Lightning for the best record in the entire NHL. The Golden Knights are the best team in the Pacific Division, and if they aren’t the best in the league, they are right up there among them.
You can point towards George McPhee and front office building the team, All Star coach Gerard Gallant for pulling the right strings to get them to mesh together, and/or the players for taking that chip on their shoulder and coming together to become a force in the NHL quickly. But no matter which way you point, you’re pointing to a winner.
So when the deadline rolled around, it was reasonable to think the Golden Knights would stand pat with their first place roster and focus on the next game at hand (I learned that statement from Turk). Then, they didn’t.
I don’t think that we need to do anything really, but if there are opportunities to make the club a little bit better – one percent, two percent, three percent – you do it if it’s not going to affect chemistry and if you’re not going to take anything out of the lineup. -George McPhee
Wait, I thought Reaves was supposed to be the fighter? (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)
The Golden Knights acquired Ryan Reaves, a 6’1″ 225 pound mammoth of a man most known for his toughness, grit, and physical presence on the ice. McPhee craftily gave up nothing but The Creator’s money to make this happen. Then McPhee went out and added Tomas Tatar, a consistent 20+ goal scorer from the Detroit Red Wings for a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd pick.
In theory, the team got better, but it’s the last part of McPhee’s statement that brings up a legitimate concern.
Tatar and Reaves are going to play. That means players like Ryan Carpenter, Cody Eakin, William Carrier, Tomas Hyka, Oscar Lindberg or others will be forced out of the lineup.
We’re obviously very confident with our group but it’s up to George (McPhee) to do what he wants. Obviously, I think that everyone’s aware of the chemistry that can be changed if you add too many guys or the wrong piece. You’ve seen it with teams in the previous years. Last year they added (Martin) Hanzal in Minnesota and we (St. Louis) knocked them out in the first round. A guy like Haula, who I thought was playing really well on the third line, he gets bumped down to the fourth line, it changes his role. You understand teams trying to get better but in my opinion, you’ve got to make sure the guys who got you there have to be the guys that keep driving the bus. -David Perron
Hopefully Tatar and Haula can move past the hit that caused this tussle. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)
We went into the deadline wanting to improve our team and we did that. We had surplus picks and a lot of cap space and we used them to do these deals. We still have surplus picks and surplus cap space. -George McPhee
We’ve known (they are all in for us) for a long time. They kind of gave us a game plan of what the next three years look like for the organization, but things change quickly. For us, no one thought we were going to be anywhere near where we are right now. You’ve got to adapt so the people upstairs they are the brains behind everything, they are the ones pulling the strings. As players, we know that we have something good going and we are going to keep challenging. -Luca Sbisa
We’ve believed in them all year long. They’ve played very very well so far. We wanted to keep them together to see what they could accomplish. If we could help them, we wanted to, and we believe we did that, and we didn’t take anything out of our lineup to do that. -McPhee
We’re pretty tight. We started from scratch and the chemistry worked right away. It’ll be fine. It’s just one guy. Everyone will take him in and I’m sure it’ll be fine. -Marc-Andre Fleury
(Tatar)’s a real quality person. We did our homework on that and we did our homework on Ryan Reaves. Tatar is very excited to be here, so there will be no chemistry issues, in fact I think it enhances our locker room. -McPhee
(Tatar)’s a younger player, he’s only 27. He’s quick, he’s competitive, and he can score. -McPhee
We just want him to fit in with our group. He’s a character guy, he’s a veteran guy and he can help our team win. I think you guys know from day one that I try to play four lines as much as I can. If they are playing well everybody’s going to play, so obviously if he’s playing he’s going to play more than four minutes. -Gallant
Especially since I’ve been the guy that’s gotten pushed out the last couple years, it’s difficult at first, it’s hard to see the big picture of what can happen. As we saw last year a lot of things happened for me and I ended up getting to play when guys hurt, so you need that kind of depth. -Nate Schmidt