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Penalty Kill Minutes Are “Out There For Somebody,” Eichel Took Many In First Preseason Game

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

In his first preseason game of the year, Jack Eichel was the first player over the boards on multiple occasions when the Golden Knights were tasked with killing a penalty.

We didn’t use him a lot on the kill (last year). With Reilly Smith’s minutes, they’re out there for somebody. -Cassidy

Eichel played 2:19 of shorthanded time and took three faceoffs with a teammate in the box. Only once all season (including pre and postseason) last year did Eichel play more on the penalty kill than he did last night.

Without Nic Roy as a right shot center we used Jack for draws, so he started a lot of the kills. It’s something I talked to Jack about doing a little more of so we’ll see how it goes. He’s a smart guy, can pressure pucks, and you saw it with our kill tonight, I thought it was pretty effective. -Cassidy

While everyone’s fairly certain Eichel will dominate on the penalty kill the same way he does just about every other aspect of the game, there’s a cost that comes with it, and Cassidy isn’t blind to it.

With the PK, that’s something we can build into his game, it’s at what expense? How many minutes does he get? Or are you better off spreading it around to other guys to keep them in the game more. -Cassidy

Last night, Cassidy chose to limit Mark Stone and Chandler Stephenson’s time on the penalty kill in favor of taking a look at players like Mason Morelli, Jonas Rondbjerg, Jakub Demek, and Jakub Brabenec. He’s considering doing the same in the regular season with a pair of fourth liners.

Both Kolesar and Carrier, I brought that up last year that I’d like them to kill more, it didn’t work out that way, no fault to them, I used other people. They’ve been killing now against our guys in practice for a year so there’s an opportunity for those two. There’s a little bit of by committee this year for that particular spot. -Cassidy

Managing minutes is going to be a massive story all season for the Golden Knights. Cassidy has already made it clear he’s not willing to give players games off for rest, so he’ll have to do pick and choose his spots inside of games instead.

There are many reasons it’s so hard to repeat as champions in the NHL, workload is among the strongest of them. Having Eichel as an option to help kill penalties is certainly beneficial for the Golden Knights, but he can’t be overused. Cassidy is keenly aware of it, he’ll just have to get reasonable contributions from others to make sure he can actually stick to it.

Replacing Reilly Smith On The Penalty Kill

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The #PowerKill is no more. With the departure of Reilly Smith, the Golden Knights have a fairly sizeable hole to fill on their penalty kill. Not only must Vegas find a suitable partner to skate with William Karlsson, but they are replacing nearly 15% of their overall forward power play time with the loss of Smith.

Last year, only seven forwards in the entire NHL skated more on the penalty kill in the postseason than Smith. Smith was on the ice for 36:51 shorthanded minutes in the playoffs and another 102:57 in the regular season. Only Chandler Stephenson and Karlsson played more than Smith.

Bruce Cassidy did not use many players on the penalty kill over the course of the season. Just seven players reached at least 25:00 of shorthanded time in the regular season and only six skated at least 20:00 in the playoffs.

Shorthanded Time On Ice (Regular Season)
Karlsson – 127:34
Stephenson – 114:03
Smith – 102:57
Roy – 80:01
Stone – 52:13
Howden – 40:36
Eichel – 26:10

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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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Battle Of Depth Tilting Towards Dallas

(Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke, SinBin.vegas)

For the first 10+ games of this playoff run one of the most consistent parts of the Golden Knights’ game has been their 4th line. No matter what has been going on with the group ahead of them, the grinders on the 4th line have gotten the job done night in and night out.

The Western Conference Final started out that way as Teddy Blueger came up with the go-ahead goal in the 3rd period. In Game 2 the 4th line was the only group that had any consistent success at 5-on-5, out-attempting the Stars 10-3, out-chancing them 3-0, and managing multiple high-danger chances without allowing one.

From there though, and especially in the past two games, it’s headed in the wrong direction for the depth players in gold.

Our 4th line didn’t do what it typically does in terms of puck possession in the O-Zone and then they were forced to play and got outworked in the D-Zone. So that’s something I expect to change. Whether Howden’s on that line, Blueger, or Nic Roy, they have to do a better job against their 4th line. Give credit to that line for Dallas, they outplayed our guys. -Cassidy

The group of Radek Faksa, Fredrik Olafsson, and Luke Glendening dominated the Golden Knights’ 4th line in Game 5 including the massive goal that tied the game. That group posted a 92% expected goals share against the VGK 4th line and did not allow William Carrier, Keegan Kolesar, and Brett Howden anything near the front of the net.

In many ways, it set the tone for the rest of the team.

That was one part of the game where that slot battle comes into play and that urgency tilts the game in their favor. When our 4th line is going well like that, our game goes better. They did some good things but they have to get back to who they are and their identity. -Cassidy

Vegas had troubles in many areas of the ice last night, including giving the puck away 24 times, but the largest area of concern is directly in front of the net. After being basically even through two games, the Golden Knights now trail 63-48 in high-danger chances in the series. Even as good as Adin Hill has been, the Stars have scored five goals from high-danger chances in the past two games, they had just three in the first three.

That’s our group, next man up. We got contributions from everyone. I mean that’s a gutsy win being down a couple of guys and coming in here. I like our group and I wouldn’t bet against them. -Pete DeBoer

To turn this around and secure that final win, the Golden Knights must get back to getting contributions up and down the lineup. Vegas’ depth has made line matching difficult for opposing coaches, especially in road games. With Game 6 taking place at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Vegas is going to need everyone to get back to playing the way they were.

VGK Won’t Stray From Plan To Open Periods Despite Oilers’ Firepower

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Right before the national anthems at every Golden Knights home game, the public address announcer introduces Vegas’ starting lineup to the crowd. If you didn’t know better, you’d probably expect to hear names like Jack Eichel, Mark Stone, or William Karlsson. But, instead, almost every night it’s Nic Roy, William Carrier, and Keegan Kolesar.

Throughout his time behind the Vegas bench, Bruce Cassidy has always preferred to start his fourth line. He says it’s to “set the tone” or “get the team playing the right way” and while those cliches are all good and well, what he really means is he wants a simple start that will keep anything crazy from happening.

The Golden Knights’ 4th line plays a very elementary style of hockey. Get the puck, gain the center red line, send it to the back glass, and then go hit people until they get it back. There’s nothing flashy about it, and most of the time it doesn’t generate much offensively. What it also doesn’t do though is allow the other team much of anything. If Vegas wins the draw, there’s a really good chance it’ll be 200 feet away from the Golden Knights’ goal in seconds. If they lose it, the trio of Roy, Carrier, and Kolesar are excellent at locking down the neutral zone and forcing a dump-in the other way. Again, nothing flashy, and likely nothing really happening.

It’s been successful against pretty much every team in the NHL this season, and it’s a strategy that’s not new to Cassidy. Both Pete DeBoer and Gerard Gallant liked to deploy the fourth line to open games as well.

However, the Edmonton Oilers offer something much different than every other team in the league. Not only do the Oilers have the best player in the game, they also have arguably the second-best player, and to start games and periods, they often send them both out together.

They feel they have an advantage putting Draisaitl and McDavid together, and they’re right, they are two of the best players in the world and they are dynamic, so I get it. But we have to try and counter it the best way possible. -Bruce Cassidy

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If William Carrier Is Ready For Game 5, Who Comes Out?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights are flying high right now having beaten the Jets three straight times and taken a commanding lead in the first round series. Vegas is one win away from repeating their performance in the 2018 Western Conference Final and moving on to a date with the Oilers or Kings. When they arrived back in Las Vegas, they got some unexpected excellent news. After suffering a pretty gruesome-looking knee injury in early March, William Carrier participated in practice today and may be ready to play as soon as tomorrow.

Carrier is having the best year of his career, leading the Golden Knights in game-winning goals with seven and posting career highs in goals (16) and points (25). But, with the team playing as well as they have, Bruce Cassidy has to make a difficult decision on what to do with his lineup in Game 5.

The way I see it, Cassidy has six options to choose from. Here’s a look at all six, ranked in order of which I believe would be best for the Golden Knights, with the worst option first.

Brett Howden

Following the two-goal game, it would be awfully harsh to take Howden out of the lineup right now. He’s been an excellent fit with Chandler Stephenson and Mark Stone since finding his way on their left-wing this series, and his physicality has helped make life difficult on the Jets. There have been moments this season where Howden has gone invisible offensively but this is not one of them. Taking him out for Carrier wouldn’t be a great move.

Keegan Kolesar

Offensively, Kolesar is clearly not the most impactful player in the Golden Knights’ lineup, but he adds a dimension to the lineup that otherwise isn’t there without him. His physical forechecking has been tough on the Jets and his multiple early-game big hits have seemed to knock Winnipeg off their game a bit. Kolesar’s defensive game doesn’t get enough credit too. He’s consistent along the walls, willing to block shots, and makes good decisions in helping the Golden Knights exit. Throw in the fact that he scored a goal in this series, and replacing him with a cold Carrier would be a mistake at this point.

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VGK Have Plenty Of Younger Players, But Most Of Their Offense Comes From Players North Of 30

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

This season, the Golden Knights’ top two scorers are smack dab in the primes of their careers. Chandler Stephenson’s All Star campaign has the 28-year-old on 50 points in 61 games while Jack Eichel leads the team with 22 goals and has tallied 45 points in 48 games.

The next group of players on the Golden Knights’ scoring list are not exactly in their primes though. Six of the next seven top scorers (so 6 of 9 overall) are at least 30 years old. The first player under the age of 26 on the stat sheet is Paul Cotter, checking in as the 13th-highest point producer on the team, and expected to be a healthy scratch tonight.

Simply put, the Golden Knights are old, or at the very least, their most effective players are old.

47.9% of the offense has come from 10 players aged 30 or above. Only five teams in the NHL have received more ice time from 30+-year-old players, and three of them have won a Stanley Cup in the last six seasons. VGK’s 240 points from 30+-year-olds is 4th most in the league behind Washington (373), Pittsburgh (311), Boston (277), and the New York Islanders (255).

In the present, that’s really not a problem at all. The problem lies in the group of younger players behind 30+’s. The Golden Knights have used 20 players under the age of 30 this season, so there are plenty of 20 somethings to choose from. However, outside of Eichel, Stephenson, William Carrier, and for his age Cotter, that group has not made much of an impact.

Despite ranking outside of the bottom 10 in games played, VGK rank in the bottom five in goals, assists, points, and points per 60 by players aged 25 or younger.

Now, you may be saying, “ok, but Eichel is 26, add him in.” With Eichel included, the Golden Knights rank 25th in goals, 28th in assists, 26th in points, and 29th in points per 60 by players aged 26 or younger.

It looks even worse in graphical form, including when you add in 27-year-old Shea Theodore, and 28-year-olds Stephenson and Carrier

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