Only one playoff team ends its season on a win. That team gets to lift the Stanley Cup and proclaim themselves champions of the hockey world. For everyone else, including the Vegas Golden Knights, the year ends in disappointment. This series looks at who performed well – and not so well – for the VGK in the bubble.
You could begin and end this list with Shea Theodore. His production at both ends of the ice really separates him from the pack and leads all playoff performers for the Golden Knights.
Just look at the numbers: Led the VGK in assists (12) and points (19), tied for second in goals (7) behind only Alex Tuch. His plus-7 rating was second only to Alec Martinez at plus-11. He also led the VGK with 80 shots.
To me, an even more telling statistic is his placing second in TOI (22:24) to only Nate Schmidt. Theodore played all 20 Golden Knights playoff games and logged a lot of minutes in all situations. Theodore played in the big moments and played in them often.
Consider that only Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman has more goals by a defenseman than Theodore in this playoffs. Those two are the only names found in the Top-25 playoff goal scorers when it comes to defenders. When it comes to point totals, only Dallas’ Miro Heiskanen’s breakout 25-point effort is better among blueliners than Theodore’s 19 points.
Theodore showed us that he will be a core component of the Golden Knights D corps for years to come. At only 25-years-old, he should go nowhere but up.
In the 2020 bubble, Tuch doubled his career playoff output from 12 to 24 points. He led the VGK with eight goals and three game-winning goals. Tuch was also third with a plus-5 rating, tops among VGK forwards, and placed fourth with 12 points.
Not too bad for a guy who really didn’t have a settled line position during the round-robin. When he did get a chance to fill in for the injured Max Pacioretty, he didn’t look out of place. Tuch showed his potential to be a top-six scoring threat for years to come.
Another young Vegas player at only 24, Tuch showed that he could put pucks in the net despite the pressure of the post-season. It was also nice to see him rebound from a disappointing regular season with only eight goals and 17 points in 42 games.
When the Vegas sent a pair of second-round picks to the Los Angeles Kings for veteran defenseman Alec Martinez, I got excited. Many of the trades that put teams over the edge aren’t superstar acquisitions. They’re players brought in with a purpose. This was exactly that type of deal, meant to shore up the defense for a deep run.
The 33-year-old Martinez brought two Stanley Cup rings from LA and a veteran presence that was needed on a blue line with only two other defensemen over 30 (Deryk Engelland – 38 and Nick Holden – 33). His Corsi-For Percentage (56.9) and Fenwick-For Percentage (59.1) were up from his numbers in the regular season after the trade. He also led the team with a plus-11 mark while placing third in TOI at 22:05, just 19 seconds average behind Shea Theodore.
Vegas would do well to retain Martinez for a few more seasons to help promote growth and stability for developing defenders like Theodore, Zach Whitecloud, and Nicolas Hague.