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How should Golden Knights approach deadline?

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A year ago, the Vegas Golden Knights were taking the NHL by storm and shocking the hockey world. Not only did they make the playoffs, they also finished at the top of the Pacific Division by picking up 109 points in 82 contests. General manager George McPhee was incredibly aggressive at the trade deadline. His main acquisition didn’t pan out, but the team still found a way to get to the Stanley Cup Final.

At this time last year, it became clear that Vegas was pushing hard to land Erik Karlsson from the Ottawa Senators. Right up until the deadline, they felt like they had a chance to get him. Unfortunately for McPhee, that didn’t work out. So instead, he decided to give up a first-rounder in 2018, a second-rounder in 2019 and a third-rounder in 2021 for Tomas Tatar.

Tatar, who is a capable top-six winger, just never fit in with the Golden Knights. It was the first time he had been traded in his career and he just couldn’t find a way to fit in to their magical run. The 28-year-old even served as a healthy scratch on more than once.

So, they decided to ship him to Montreal as part of a trade for Max Pacioretty. In that deal, they also gave up another second-round draft pick and prized prospect Nick Suzuki.

Should McPhee be as aggressive this year as he was in 2018?

The odds of Vegas going on another magical run are slim. Yes, they’re currently sitting in third place in the Pacific, but the magic that was around the team last year doesn’t appear to be there. As we mentioned, they already made a splash in training camp by landing Pacioretty from the Canadiens. Do they really have to make another one?

Thanks to the expansion draft, the Golden Knights were able to acquire multiple first-round picks and some young players. But Tatar and Pacioretty cost them several assets.

McPhee has some quality youth in the pipeline, but it’s important to keep in mind that he was forced to build the pipeline from scratch just two years ago. It might not seem obvious right now, but that pipeline still needs building. The Golden Knights have all of their own picks in the first five rounds and they also have two more in the third round and two more in the fifth round. So in all, they have nine picks in the first five rounds. They also have three more second-round picks in 2020.

When you have that many picks, you can afford to let one or two go, but holding on to their early picks should be a priority. Trading away a first, second and third in a package should be out of the question. Making a depth move makes a lot more sense.

As we saw last week, the market dictates that a player like Brian Boyle is worth a late second-rounder. Boyle is a useful player, but he’s not an impact player. He’s a solid addition for a team hoping to go on a run.

With his team struggling (they’ve lost three games in a row and they have just three victories in their last 10 games), McPhee should look at adding depth to his roster by sending a middle-round pick to a team selling off veteran rentals. He can’t sit there and do nothing, but he shouldn’t feel the need to trade away more key assets. Eventually, they’ll pay the price if they keep doing that.

So trading for guys like Matt Duchene, Mark Stone, Artemi Panarin and Wayne Simmonds should be out of the question. It would be nice to get one of those high-end rentals, but it’s probably not wise in the long run.

MORE: Gallant blasts Golden Knights for ‘soft’ play

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Auston Matthews reaches 100 career goals

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It looked like Auston Matthews scored the 100th goal 8:52 into the second period of Thursday’s game against the Golden Knights, but that tally was ultimately attributed to Patrick Marleau. No big deal; Matthews “corrected” that less than five minutes later with an emphatic power-play goal.

Matthews also ended up scoring his 101th goal as well in this game, generating two goals and one assist overall in the Toronto Maple Leafs’ impressive 6-3 win against Vegas.

With Matthews missing 20 games last season, and being limited to 43 of 57 games so far in 2018-19, it’s tempting to wonder how many more goals Matthews might have … but 100 isn’t too shabby for a 21-year-old.

One nice thing about Matthews’ 100th goal is that it was more typical of his style than the would-be 100th goal that counted.

(You can watch Marleau’s goal here, and you’d probably agree it would have been a little anticlimactic. Sportsnet compiled all 100 of Matthews’ goals, as you can see in the handy video above this post’s headline.)

Beyond the aesthetic value of that milestone goal, it might be interesting to consider Matthews’ career so far, through 101 goals and 187 games. Here’s a breakdown.

187 regular-season games: 101 goals, 84 assists for 187 points, almost a point-per-game. Matthews’ has fired 607 shots on goal, which translates to 3.24 SOG per game.

Through his career so far, Matthews has scored 22 of his 101 goals on the power play, while he hasn’t netted a shorthanded goal yet. That’s less surprising when you realize that Matthews has spent a little less than five minutes of his career shorthanded so far. One can imagine that Matthews’ aggressiveness and IQ could make him a shorthanded breakaway threat, if Mike Babcock ever veers from his current path of using Matthews only at even-strength and on the man advantage.

Before Thursday’s actions, Matthews’ 99 goals ranked him fifth among players since 2016-17, the year he came into the NHL. That comes despite missing all that time with injuries; if you look at goals per game, Matthews’ .53 only trails Alex Ovechkin, who comes in at .55 sine 2016-17.

It’s no surprise that Matthews joins Patrik Laine, Paul Kariya, and even Ovechkin as players who got there so quickly. (Pavel Bure, Eric Lindros, and Teemu Selanne really blazed impressive paths, though.)

Matthews reaching this milestone is quite impressive, and might soothe some of the concerns regarding the $11.6 million cap hit is five-year extension will carry beginning in 2019-20.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Gallant blasts Golden Knights for ‘soft’ play

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The Vegas Golden Knights saw a 2-2 tie devolve into a 5-2 loss against the Arizona Coyotes, and coach Gerard Gallant was not happy on Tuesday.

After the loss, Gallant reportedly had a word with players in the locker room. When asked about the message he sent, Gallant told The Athletic’s Jesse Granger “none of your business” — before giving his team the business.

“It was a 2-2 game, and all of a sudden we try to get cute again and start making drop passes and passes through the slot,” Gallant said. “I didn’t like the way we played. There was no passion in our game. No aggressive forecheck. We played a soft game.”

*Shakes hand to signify a take that’s too hot to touch.*

If there are two things hockey coaches disdain, they are softness and cuteness. Care Bears be warned.

But Gallant likely knows that it’s foolish to get too high or too low from one loss, even if he legitimately sees a lack of passion in one of those 82 games.

Instead, it might be that Gallant is trying to wake his team up. The Golden Knights are pretty securely placed at third in the Pacific Division, as the Sharks and Flames are far too sturdy for them to pass them, while no one else is much of a threat to push Vegas into the wild-card ranks.

Complacency is a threat to any team through a grinding, marathon season, yet it’s an especially big worry when you don’t have a ton of movement.

(As an aside: it’s surreal that the Golden Knights are dealing with the plights of prosperity so early in their existence, isn’t it?)

When you look at recent developments, it’s easy to see why Gallant might be frustrated, if not outright concerned.

After rattling off a seven-game winning streak from late December to early January, the Golden Knights have gone 4-8-0, generating the third-worst record in the NHL since Jan. 10. They’ve generated fewer points than the struggling Oilers and Senators during that slump, only besting the truly moribund Avalanche and Ducks.

The wider signs aren’t all bad. They’re still outshooting their opponents by a considerable margin, and they’ve remained a stout possession team since the calendar hit 2019.

It makes sense that Gallant would like to keep his team awake, and not accept these defeats, even if there’s a “nature of the beast” element happening here. Gallant’s taken measures such as briefly moving Reilly Smith away from William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault, with the goal of sending wake-up calls.

A lot of what Gallant is doing carries logic, although he might want to heed an unspoken wake-up call of his own when it comes to the most important position in the sport.

With the Golden Knights wedged in that third spot without much room to move, Gallant should break with his bad habit of leaning heavily on his starter, in this case with 34-year-old Marc-Andre Fleury.

Fleury already came to Vegas with a ton of mileage, and his 50 games played leads the NHL by a three-game margin. While the Golden Knights play a sound enough game that he’s only faced the third-most shots in the league, one cannot disregard the total workload. Since memorably joining the Golden Knights, Fleury’s played in 96 regular-season games, plus that 20-game playoff run.

We’ve seen much younger goalies such as Braden Holtby and Andrei Vasilevskiy admit they’ve broken down under too many starts, and for all we know, many other goalies have been worn out but haven’t said so on the record.

As much as Gallant wants to make every game count, the bottom line is that the Golden Knights would almost certainly have a better chance at another magical playoff run with an energetic Fleury.

Gallant might not like it, but sometimes the “soft” way is the right way.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

The Buzzer: Seguin shines, JVR leads comeback, Kucherov dominates

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Three Stars

1. Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars. After all of the drama earlier this season the Dallas Stars are looking like a playoff team, and not surprisingly, the two players that took the most heat from their CEO — Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn — are a big reason why. Seguin was dominant on Tuesday night in a 3-0 win over the Florida Panthers, figuring in on all three Stars goals, scoring two and assisting on another.

2. James van Riemsdyk, Philadelphia Flyers. The Philadelphia Flyers probably deserved a better result on Monday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins, but things have a funny way of working out. It looked like they were headed for a second consecutive loss for most of the night until they stormed back for a third period rally against the Minnesota Wild. James van Riemsdyk scored two goals on the night, including the game-winner on the power play with less than five minutes to play in regulation. The playoffs still seem like a long shot, but they are definitely looking like a team that is on the right track.

3. Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning. The matchup of the night was in Tampa Bay where the best team in the Eastern Conference — the Tampa Bay Lightning — faced off against the best team in the Western Conference — The Calgary Flames. The Lightning showed that for as good as the Flames may be, they are still the top team in the NHL right now and cruised to a 6-3 win. Leading the way was Nikita Kucherov with a four-point night, which is already his fifth four-point game of the season. He is now up to a league-leading 88 points on the season.

Other Notable Performances From Tuesday

  • The Columbus Blue Jackets completely shut down the Washington Capitals in a 3-0 win. The Capitals managed just seven shots on goal through the first two periods and rarely seemed to be a threat to score. It was one of the Blue Jackets’ best showings of the season. Yes, just as they did after their previous win over the Capitals, there were some Evgeny Kuznetsov bird celebrations being done on the ice and also in the stands from fans.
  • The Boston Bruins received a four-point night from Brad Marchand in a big win over the Chicago Blackhawks.
  • The St. Louis Blues remained hot with their seventh win in a row to continue solidifying their playoff spot.
  • Mark Scheifele scored a pair of goals for the Winnipeg Jets in a 4-3 win over the New York Rangers.
  • Teuvo Teravainen scored two goals for the Carolina Hurricanes in a 4-1 win over the Ottawa Senators as they kept pace in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Highlights of the Night

Jeff Skinner shows off his quick release to help lift the Buffalo Sabres to a 3-1 win over the New York Islanders.

Jimmy Howard boosted that trade value for the Detroit Red Wings by backstopping them to a 3-2 win over the Nashville Predators, thanks in large part to these saves right here.

Columbus’ win over the Capitals was not just about defense. It also had this slick passing play completed by Nick Foligno to help put the game away late in the third period.

 

Factoids

  • Vladimir Tarasenko‘s point streak is at a career-high nine games. [NHL PR]
  • No goalie in the NHL has more shutouts since the start of the 2016-17 season than Sergei Bobrovsky [NHL PR]
  • The Toronto Maple Leafs scored three power play goals in 1:49 on Tuesday night, the fifth-fastest sequence in franchise history. [NHL PR]

Scores

Buffalo Sabres 3, New York Islanders 1

Columbus Blue Jackets 3, Washington capitals 0

Boston Bruins 6, Chicago Blackhawks 3

Dallas Stars 3, Florida Panthers 0

Carolina Hurricanes 4, Ottawa Senators 1

Tampa Bay Lightning 6, Calgary Flames 3

Winnipeg Jets 4, New York Rangers 3

St. Louis Blues 8, New Jersey Devils 3

Detroit Red Wings 3, Nashville Predators 2

Philadelphia Flyers 5, Minnesota Wild 4

Toronto Maple Leafs 5, Colorado Avalanche 2

Arizona Coyotes 5, Vegas Golden Knights 2

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Saros sets career high with 47 saves as Predators stave off Golden Knights

Associated Press

Try as a team might, sometimes the hot goalie at the other end is just too strong on a given night.

Juuse Saros was that hot goalie, and he stifled the Vegas Golden Knights at nearly every juncture in a 2-1 win for the Nashville Predators on Wednesday Night Hockey on NBCSN.

Saros made a career-high 47 saves in place of Pekka Rinne, who was given the night off on the last day of hockey before the all-star break. And he was certainly up to the task, stopping 37 straight after allowing his only blemish on the night in the first period.

Ryan Johansen‘s ninth of the season came just 52 seconds into the second period to cancel out Max Pacioretty‘s first-period goal. Johansen returned to the fold on Wednesday after serving a two-game ban for trying to decapitate Winnipeg Jets forward Mark Scheifele last week.

Nick Bonino fired home the game-winner past Marc-Andre Fleury 3:01 later. Fleury, to his credit, was his usual self, stopping 25 shots. The run support just never came, despite all of Vegas’ best efforts.

Saros has been on a roll lately, winning four of his past five starts. His season didn’t start the way he would have liked and came into the game with a .908 save percentage. But after Wednesday’s performance, he’ll leave Vegas with a .914.

With the loss, the Golden Knights will have to wait to become the first team in NHL history to reach 30 wins in its first two seasons of existence. Vegas has lost two in a row.

For Nashville, the win puts them level on points (64) with the Jets for the top spot in the Central Division, although the Jets have four games in hand and are currently on their mandated player break. Nashville has won two straight and six of their past 10.

Meanwhile, there was an alleged chomp on the finger(s) of P.K. Subban during the second period. You can read more by clicking the link there, but the quick summary is that Subban accused Pierre-Edouard Bellemare of taking a bite after one of Saros’ saves right at the end of the period. Subban had his hand in Bellemare’s face, and there was no clear angle of the bite, but Subban’s reaction certainly made it seem like something happened.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck