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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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New Look 3rd Line Balances Lineup But Comes With Usage Challenges

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

William Carrier is expected to make his return to the lineup tonight after missing the previous five games. He will not, however, find his way back onto his usual line with Nic Roy and Keegan Kolesar. That spot is being filled by another recent returnee, Brett Howden.

Carrier is instead set to play on a line with Chandler Stephenson and Phil Kessel. Not only is this a new line for all three, but no pair of players on the line has played more than one game with each other this season. Stephenson and Kessel played with Michael Amadio a few games ago against the Dallas Stars, aside from that Carrier and Kessel have never been matched, nor have Carrier and Stephenson.

What makes this line interesting is the vastly different usage rates we’ve seen from each player on it. Carrier is tied with Kolesar in taking 29% of their faceoffs in the offensive zone, the fewest of any Golden Knights. Kessel on the other hand leads all forwards in offensive zone draws, seeing 60% of his dead-puck shifts beginning in the O-Zone. Stephenson lands closer to Kessel at 55%, but he has had plenty of games where the majority of his shifts start closer to his own goal, something that cannot be said for Kessel.

Based on previous usage it’s expected that Cassidy deploys the 4th line (Howden-Roy-Kolesar) in the defensive zone quite a bit tonight, it’s also probable he’ll use Eichel, Cotter, and Amadio heavily offensively. The Misfits can do either, but Cassidy has always preferred to try and pull offense out of them when together. So, where does that leave the newly formed 3rd line?

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Predicting The Golden Knights Offseason (Jason’s Picks)

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Over the next two months, the Golden Knights will tweak their roster in hopes of creating a legitimate contender. Every maneuver the club decides to make will need to keep the salary cap in consideration. Yesterday Ken shared his predictions, now here’s mine.

TRADE – Alec Martinez and a 5th round pick traded to the Detroit for a 4th round pick

There’s just no way around it, the Golden Knights need to shed salary. Trading Martinez to Detroit makes sense for both teams and the player. The Wings have space and could use an elder statesman to direct their young d-core, and mentor Calder Trophy winner Moritz Seider. Let’s not forget to mention Martinez was born and bred in Rochester Hills, MI. It’ll hurt the Golden Knights but in a cap world space is much more important than an expensive veteran with miles. This also allows some flexibility for a possible multi-year deal with Nic Hague.

TRADE – Laurent Brossoit and a 4th round pick to Dallas for 5th round pick

Brossoit is another easy candidate for some cap relief. Logan Thompson made his case to become Robin Lehner’s backup and proved he can handle the pressure of being a number one. This allows the Golden Knights front office to undo their unnecessary spending of $2.5M last summer. It might seem like an odd destination considering new Stars coach Pete DeBoer had some sharp comments after one of Brossoit’s performances in Vegas. However, there’s space and a fit for a veteran backup to support up-and-comer Jake Oettinger.

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Do Hits Matter For The Season 5 Golden Knights?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Hitting used to be a staple of the Golden Knights’ game. Over the course of the past three seasons, Vegas laid 5,392 hits in 209 games or 25.8 hits per game. They ranked in the top 5 in 2018-19 and 19-20 laying 27.4 per game in Year 2 and 26.5 in Year 3.

This season though, Vegas is near the bottom in the league, ranking 27th, with just 19.0 hits per game. They’ve laid fewer than 20 hits in exactly half of their 48 games, and have broken 30 just three times, a number they reached 31 times a few seasons ago.

The question remains though, does it matter?

In those three games in which the Golden Knights pounded their opponents into the boards, Vegas lost all of them in regulation, getting outscored 13-5 along the way. Meanwhile, in their three games in which they recorded fewer than 10 hits, they’ve gone 3-0-0 beating the Devils, Predators, and Stars all on the road by a combined score of 15-7.

So, using just the simple stat of when they hit the most vs when they hit the least, it directly corresponds to winning in an opposite manner. Fewer hits mean more wins while more hits mean fewer wins.

We need to dig a lot deeper than that though as a number of those games were decided fairly early.

VGK are 11-4-0 when they have recorded 15 or fewer hits, including a 4-1-0 record at home, where hits have been handed out a bit more leniently than on the road. On the flip side, the Golden Knights are 9-4-2 when they lay at least 22 hits on their opponent. Four of the six losses came at T-Mobile Arena, meaning they are a stellar 5-1-1 on the road when amassing at least 22 hits.

I asked Pete DeBoer about his team’s dropoff in hits and he unsurprisingly went directly to the absence of one player.

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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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