Heading into the season, the Vegas Golden Knights moved to signal the premier free agent out there, Alex Pietrangelo. Arguably, it was an occasion of the wealthy getting richer. Anytime a chosen high defenseman turns into obtainable, it is sensible to signal them. However is it nonetheless value it if such a call moved them past the cap, inflicting all types of lineup issues in the course of the season?
Let’s discover out by these defensive pairings and the way they stack up towards these of the Minnesota Wild.
Know Thy Enemy
Brayden McNabb – Shea Theodore
The Golden Knights have the flexibility to ship out what many would think about two top-pairings. Whereas Alex Pietrangelo will get all the eye — extra on him later — Theodore and McNabb draw nearly all of the mushy begins, and it’s helped flip Theodore into one of many higher defensemen within the league. McNabb and Theodore have the heaviest offensive zone begin share for any Vegas pairing, beginning 69% of their shifts there in line with Pure Stat Trick, and it will get outcomes. Amongst pairings with 200 or extra minutes, the pairing manages a 55 CF% and a 60 xGF%, rating fifteenth and eighth within the league respectively.
The pairing depends on carrying the puck out of their zone utilizing their high-level skating abilities. No dumping the puck or lazily clearing it off the glass for Brayden and Shea, no sir. As you’ll be able to see within the following chart from the superb Corey Sznajder (who has watched extra hockey than any of us might in 100 lifetimes), McNabb and Theodore rank within the higher echelon of the league of their means to stroll the puck out of their zone safely.
The brass tack numbers are eye-popping for half the pairing; Theodore had eight objectives and 42 factors in 53 video games, McNabb had a measly two objectives and eight factors in 41 video games. So the offensive manufacturing is a little tilted to at least one facet of the ice.
It is a pairing that very a lot suits into the mould of an offensive defenseman — Theodore — with a free security behind him in McNabb. What defensive Theodore lacks, McNabb makes up for by being virtually completely centered on it.
Alex Pietrangelo – Nick Holden/Alec Martinez
Alec Martinez usually holds down the fort on this 1B pairing with Alex Pietrangelo however has been out with an undisclosed foot damage. He missed the ultimate two video games of the common season, and forward of recreation one, was additionally lacking from follow. He’s nearing a return, so the Minnesota Wild possible see him sooner or later. Within the meantime, top-four defenseman Nick Holden to the rescue!
With Pietrangelo and Martinez, this can be a pairing that’s virtually as productive because the Theodore-McNabb duo. In over 250 minutes collectively, they’d a 51 xGF% and 54 CF%. As a Pietrangelo-Holden duo, they have been simply as efficient, if not significantly better, with a 58 xGF% and a 59 CF%. It’s essential to take these Pietrangelo-Holden numbers with an enormous brick of salt, as they’ve solely performed round 38 minutes of whole ice time collectively.
However they’ve been surprisingly efficient in such a small pattern.
As for the way they work, they’re comparable of their construction of the play to Theodore-McNabb; Pietrangelo does the yeoman’s work on offense, whereas Holden performs conservative. Whereas Pietrangelo is undoubtedly good, his worth to this crew is less than what they thought they have been getting with the signing. In 41 video games this yr, he’s tallied seven objectives and solely 23 factors. That’s on tempo for his worst offensive output because the 2015-16 season. Whereas a few of this can be attributed to a lower in duty and alternative, as Theodore is that this crew’s clear-cut primary, Pietrangelo has been a light disappointment.
This isn’t to say that Pietrangelo and whomever he’s paired with are dangerous, although. As you’ll be able to see within the beforehand referenced zone exit chart above, Pietrangelo is tops amongst the Vegas blueliners in his means to get the puck out of his personal zone with out giving up possession. The mixture of himself and Theodore to start out the counter-attack so successfully drives the Vegas offense and is the catalyst for all of the odd-man rushes we noticed this yr towards the Wild.
If the Wild are going to try to restrict the injury each these pairings can do — not on the scoresheet however with the circulate of Vegas’ recreation — they should stress them at their very own blueline with the forecheck and drive them to make errors.
Nicolas Hague – Zach Whitecloud
Have you ever heard the time period “bum-slayers”? These two personify that characterization.
Hague and Whitecloud are hardly premiere names amongst NHL defensemen, however these two roll. They’re second behind Theodore-McNabb with a 58 xGF% and really barely behind them with a 55.41 CF%. They’re the one Vegas pairing to be extraordinarily steady, with over 500 minutes of ice-time collectively. No different pairing tops 450 minutes collectively.
They’re a defensive-minded pair, they usually excel at it.
They’re frustratingly stout in denying zone entries, as illustrated within the chart above. They’re possible going to be tasked with foiling the Wilds second unit, whichever line which will find yourself being. However they’re no risk on the offensive finish; Whitecloud has two objectives and 12 factors in 51 video games and Hague 5 objectives and 17 factors in 52 video games.
Did I point out their dimension? Hague is a towering 6’ 6”/230 lbs, and Whitecloud is a bit more diminutive 6’ 2”/211 lbs. They aren’t probably the most threatening names on the lineup card for the Golden Knights, however they’re very efficient of their function and shouldn’t be seen as a pairing that may be exploited.
Right here’s how all the Golden Knights defensive corps stacks up: they’ve two formidable high pairings and a deceptively good third pairing. Their high two items are good however not elite. Neither of their premiere defensemen in Theodore or Pietrangelo rank within the high 30 blueliners in Evolving Hockey’s Objectives Above Alternative metric for this season. Alec Martinez does rank twenty fifth, so the Wild’s life is a little bit simpler so long as he’s sidelined.
Listed below are how the GAR rankings search for the Knights protection:
It’s solely occurred for round 180 minutes this season, however even when the Golden Knights hit DEFCON 5 and pair Pietrangelo with Theodore, they’ve been middling of their outcomes.
Going into this season, it felt just like the Golden Knight’s addition of Pietrangelo was making a stacked protection all of the extra formidable. However in actuality, that is merely a powerful protection, not the very best within the league.
The Golden Knights have needed to take care of accidents and the cap implications of dancing alongside the ceiling for a lot of the yr (they one way or the other ended up with the pocket-change quantity of simply $34,476, in line with CapFriendly.com). The results of that was an evolving rotation of defensive pairings. Right here in Minnesota, we’ve had practically the polar reverse.
The Wild have primarily had three pairings all yr:
Jared Spurgeon – Ryan Suter
Jonas Brodin – Matt Dumba
Ian Cole – Carson Soucy
Heading into the post-season, and this possible stays unchanged. In keeping with Evolving Hockey that’s factor, as they’ve the sixth finest crew protection and have allowed the least high-danger probabilities within the league in line with Pure Stat Trick.
That is their focus, and out of doors of Dumba, there isn’t a lot offense generated. Jared Spurgeon leads the way in which with seven objectives and 25 factors, which might solely rank third on the Golden Knights.
They’ve stability, routines, and habits. Trying on the defensive warmth chart for Minnesota from HockeyViz.com, they make life simple for Cam Talbot and Kaapo Kähkönen, largely protecting alternatives to the skin.
I gained’t go into the depth we did for the Golden Knights’ pairings, as you’re fairly aware of the high-level play of the Wild defensemen. They’re strong and proscribing high quality seems to be and make life hell for opposing forwards in the event that they attempt to get the cycle going.
Right here’s a have a look at how the Wild defensemen stack up as a bunch:
Barring damage or disaster, it’s unlikely we are going to see Brad Hunt. Outdoors of that, they aren’t any obtrusive weak point of their group. Even the oft-criticized Dumba has been helpful this yr.
It’s a powerful group from entrance to again.
That is shut. Very shut. However in the end, the Wild are going to have the sting on this matchup.
Pietrangelo has gotten Norris consideration previously, however there are higher defensemen on the Wild. Check out the form of alternatives the Golden Knights hand over, in comparison with the Wild’s warmth map:
The Golden Knights’ generate plenty of offense with their blueliners, they usually little doubt maintain the benefit there. On the subject of who may have the better influence on the approaching sequence total? The boys on the again finish for the Wild have gotten the sting.
All stats by way of Evolving-Hockey.com except in any other case famous.