Vegas will have the ability to set up shop in Alberta and stay for the entirety of the postseason, or however long they last. That shouldn’t be an advantage considering the oddities surrounding this format, but the raw numbers suggest staying west could benefit the Golden Knights.
Overall, the Golden Knights proved for a third straight season that they were a Western Conference challenger. Unsurprisingly, when on the road, they’re at their best when playing inside Pacific Division buildings.
The numbers really skew against the Golden Knights when you take into account who they were playing. Most of the wins were against the below-average Eastern conference teams as seven of the nine losses came at the hands of East playoff teams.
In the shortened 2019-20 regular season the Golden Knights led the NHL with 34.5 shots on goal per game. In fact, since they entered the league Vegas has averaged the second-most shots per game over that three-season span.
Vegas led the entire NHL in 19-20 with 28 victories when they won the SOG battle. That’s 71% of their total wins for the season. The Golden Knights went 28-12-7 (.670), and are now 92-43-13 (.665) in franchise history when they’ve outshot other teams. Compare that to their 11-12-1 (.479) record this year when they were outshot and 35-37-9 (.488) all-time.
In 22 games as Golden Knights coach, DeBoer’s club outscored opponents 19 times, and went a stellar 13-4-2.
The bulk of the shots come mostly from the Golden Knights top-six forwards. Max Pacioretty led the team averaging 4.32 shots per game, followed by Jonathan Marchessault. Shea Theodore and Alex Tuch do their part as well, both creating several scoring chances per night. When DeBoer gets all of his weapons firing on net, opposing goaltenders have to play at their best, or else it’ll likely be a long night.
VGK Shot Leaders
Max Pacioretty: 4.32 S/GP Jonathan Marchessault: 3.56 S/GP Shea Theodore: 3.08 S/GP Mark Stone: 2.58 S/GP Reilly Smith: 2.38 S/GP Alex Tuch: 2.33 S/GP William Karlsson: 2.19 S/GP
Golden Knights winger Max Pacioretty was one of three players to accumulate 300+ shots in the regular season. The two other players were Nathan McKinnon and Alexander Ovechkin; prestigious company. However, when you break it down by types of shot, Pacioretty led the entire league with 192 wrist shots. A shot in which #67 is known for.
Pacioretty must’ve come into the season focused on letting his wrist shot go more often than he did 2018-19. In his second year with the Golden Knights, the 31-year-old forward released 94 more wrist shots. Which worked out nicely for his club.
Not only did his wrist shot release go up but so did its effectiveness. Pacioretty added nine more wrist shot goals in 2019-20 and ended up having statistically one of his better seasons. His 0.93 points per game was a career-high for the 12-year veteran.
Pacioretty totaled 30 SOG in last season’s playoffs series against San Jose, scoring five goals in seven games. Unsurprisingly, 23 of 30 were wrist shots, and four of his five goals were from wrist shots. Any goalie should know what to expect from Pacioretty, the problem is whether they can save it or not.
Pacioretty’s pinpoint lasers create challenges for opposing goaltenders, especially when they’re being screened. His goal in Game 4 against the Sharks’ Martin Jones illustrates exactly how nasty and nearly impossible his wrister is to stop.
Yesterday was a tough day for the NHL and their attempt to award a 2020 Stanley Cup champion. News broke that the Tampa Bay Lightning temporarily shut down their facilities due to three players and two staff members testing positive for Covid-19. The anxiety escalated even more when it was reported that Toronto Maple Leafs superstar Auston Matthews tested positive as well. Leaving fans concerned for the players and their return to the ice.
Locally, it’s been quiet. According to GM Kelly McCrimmon, none of the Golden Knights players have contracted or been exposed to the coronavirus.
Since NHL clubs were permitted to open their training facilities on June 8, all players entering these facilities for voluntary training have been subject to mandatory testing for COVID-19… All players who have tested positive have been self-isolated and are following CDC and Health Canada protocols. The NHL will provide a weekly update on the numbers of tests administered to players and the results of those tests. The league will not be providing information on the identity of the players or their clubs. -NHL PR
With the latest news from around the league, the question around Las Vegas is how will this affect the Golden Knights and their preparations?
So far 11 NHL players have tested positive since June 8th. However, over 200 players have been tested multiple times and results came back negative. While the positive test news may sound grim, it doesn’t appear it will delay the opening of training camps scheduled to begin on July 10th. Even if more players fall ill, according to the league it won’t impact the Golden Knights groundwork.
The league had a conference call with all of the general managers tonight, and I think the word is ‘let’s see where this goes.’ I don’t think there’s any movement at this point in time of changing the opening of camps on July 10th. I think they’ve set it so the final day of the Stanley Cup Final, if it happens on schedule is October 5th. -Elliotte Friedman, SportsNet
We’ve broken down two out of the three round-robin teams (Colorado and Dallas) the Golden Knights will be facing, so let’s finish it off with the St. Louis Blues.
vs. St. Louis: (2-1) 4-2 L, 5-4 W OT, 6-5 W OT
Let’s start with this, all three games between Vegas and St. Louis were highly entertaining. It’s hard to forget former Golden Knight David Perron hugging current Golden Knight Max Pacioretty’s leg, which then led to seven different roughing penalties. Vegas was fortunate to win the two OT games because of two improbable comebacks. In both victories, the Golden Knights trailed the Blues after two periods of play. They will need some of that never-give-up mentality in the round-robin, especially with Jordan Binnington in net. However, it’s unlikely St. Louis will blow many more three-goal leads.
Areas of Adjustment
Keep your heads on straight
The Golden Knights will have to improve their discipline against St. Louis. Not only for the fear of the Blues strong power play, but also because St. Louis can successfully agitate teams. They pestered their way to the Stanley Cup final last season, and they clearly enjoy annoying the Golden Knights.
Against St. Louis, Vegas averaged only six minutes in penalties per game, however in their second matchup the Golden Knights spent 12 minutes in the box. Granted many were matching penalties but when the Blues power play hit the ice they took advantage. St. Louis scored the opening and overtime forcing goals on the power play. Take those away and Vegas probably wins the game in regulation. Vegas turned the tables on St. Louis in their third matchup, scoring four times on man-advantages including on in OT. Their four power-play goals were the most scored in one game for the Golden Knights.
The Golden Knights are the better team at even strength so if they keep from being dragged into the muck, they should be able to handle the Blues.
Contain Offensive Defensmen
It’s no secret St. Louis has elite weapons on the blue line. Three of their top five season leaders in shots were defenseman, Alex Pietrangelo led the entire team with 225 shots on net. In the three meetings with the Golden Knights, the Blues got 23 shots and 10 points from defensemen. Vegas will have to get in the way of some of those shots or make it tough altogether for St. Louis’ D-men to get one off.
Continuing with our Round Robin adjustments, next we examine the Dallas Stars and the challenges the Golden Knights face. Dallas ended the shortened season with a solid 82 points, but a low goal differential of +4. The Stars scored the second least goals in the Western conference but also allowed the second least in the NHL. The two reasons for this are their defensive style and outstanding goaltending, both which have shown up against the Golden Knights.
vs. Dallas: (1-1) 4-2 L, 3-2 W OT
In both games this season, Dallas scored the opening goal of the contest. As mentioned above, the Stars are a low scoring team that can hold on to a lead better than most so that first goal feels like a much bigger hole against Dallas than anyone else in the Western Conference.
Record when Dallas Scores First: 23-5-4 Record when Leading After 1st Period: 17-2-1 Record when Leading After 2nd Period: 23-1-2
As you can see the Stars do a good job of locking down the opponents’ offense when holding a lead. However, the Golden Knights are also outstanding when scoring first, and lost out on a measly six points in 35 games when they held a lead after two periods.
Record when Vegas Scores First: 26-6-2 Record when Leading After 1st Period: 19-3-3 Record when Leading After 2nd Period: 31-2-2
The numbers show that Vegas is in fact a better club holding a lead, and they allow almost a half goal more goal per game than Dallas. The Golden Knights winning percentage is .764 when they score first to the Stars’ .718 which is why the game’s first goal is crucial. This is especially important if the goaltending holds an edge over the shooters in the round-robin stage which we believe it may.
Penalties were an issue again for the Golden Knights when they played the Stars back in November. Vegas awarded Dallas two power play opportunities in the first period, one in which Alexander Radulov scored the opening goal. The Golden Knights were called for three early penalties and the game was essentially lost after the first twenty minutes.
It’s only three scheduled games, but the round-robin sets up to be a difficult week for the Golden Knights. Colorado, Dallas, and St. Louis are highly competitive teams that each have had their success against Vegas this season. In seven combined games, the Golden Knights winning percentage is .428 (3-4-0), and all three of their victories came in overtime. Thus, the Golden Knights collected six points in that seven-game span but gave out 11.
Over the next week, we will breakdown where things went wrong against each of the three round-robin teams and identify the areas in which the Golden Knights can adjust to correct the issues. Today we start with the Avs.
vs. Colorado: (0-2) 6-1 L, 7-3 L
Vegas was overmatched in both games against the Avalanche. In their first meeting, the Golden Knights allowed seven goals on 40 shots on net. The most goals and shot total from an opponent all season. In their second matchup, Colorado scored six goals and took 38 shots on net, the second most goals against, and third most shots allowed by an opponent.
The Avalanche’s special teams were also a problem for Vegas. The Golden Knights totaled 17 PIMs in their 7-3 loss against the Avalanche on 12/23. Putting aside Deryk Engelland’s five for fighting, Vegas was called for tripping, cross-checking, delay of game, and two high-sticking penalties. It was the Golden Knights third-most penalty minutes served all season and it hurt them. The Avs took advantage scoring two power play goals and starting 56% of the faceoffs in the Golden Knights defensive zone. It wasn’t just Colorado’s power play that gave Vegas trouble. In total, the Avalanche scored three power play and two shorthanded goals this season against the Golden Knights.
Even more concerning is in six periods of play vs. the Golden Knights, the Avalanche scored two or more goals in five of them. So goaltending will need to be a big factor for Vegas, no matter which goaltender is in net. Oh and by the way, neither Marc-Andre Fleury nor Robin Lehner were able to hold the Avalanche from scoring.
Fleury vs. Colorado: 0-2, .713 GAA, .828 SV% Lehner vs. Colorado: 1-1, 5.59 GAA, .822 SV%
Areas of Adjustment
Clean it up
It all starts with the penalties. Both games against Colorado were played under Gallant, when the penalty kill was actually more successful than it has been under DeBoer. However, no matter which PK strategy Vegas uses, Colorado has a high probability of shredding it. The Avs ability to enter the zone with speed will give the passive forecheck PK fits. The simple solution is to stay out of the box, but that’s easier said than done against a high-tempo team. The key will be to avoid the foolish penalties. No offensive zone penalties, delay-of-games, or too-many-men calls. If Vegas can avoid those, the three or four they give in the D-zone shouldn’t be the difference in the game.
Maybe as importantly, when the Golden Knights have the man-advantage, they absolutely cannot concede as they have twice this season against Colorado. It’s one thing to let power plays go without scoring, but giving up shorties can and will sink the Golden Knights.
Finally, clean exits of the zone will be crucial. In the first two games, the Colorado forecheck ate up the Golden Knights breakouts at times. That turned into quick offense for the Avs and Vegas falling into holes they couldn’t get out.
Q. Hi SinBin, I’m so excited the players are taking the ice this week for practice. Normally, I would try and attend as many as I could so I can root on the boys, but now practice is locked out for fans. I’m worried the players won’t have a productive skate-arounds without the fans in the building. I, along with other fans get loud and encourage the players to power through tough practices. Golden Knights fans are so loyal that we bring the same energy to City National Arena as we do to the T-Mobile Arena. I know fans are locked out for good reasons, but I’m concerned for their focus after the long layoff. Do you think the players will miss the crowds, flag waving, and ‘Go Knights Go’ chants at the CNA?
Locked out Lisa
A. I have some good news and some bad news. Let’s start with the good. The players are hitting the ice for the first time in months, and there’s a lot riding on what happens when they get back to playing games. The players may appreciate quieter practices so they can get back to playing shape and focus their attention solely on the round-robin. Another reason why the lack of fans might be best at the time being is because like all of us, the players have been locked at home with the kids and significant others for months. Some peace and quiet time on the ice might be beneficial for some of the Golden Knights.
Here’s the bad news. Players have told us how they enjoy the fans attending practice so I’m sure some will miss your positive cheers, signs and even the flag waving. Now it’s time to prepare for the path to the Stanley Cup, they’ll be focused with or without fans in the building. It really isn’t bad news.
So, Lisa, save your voice and wrist strength for next season’s practices. Hopefully, life will be back to normal by then. In the meantime, Go Lisa Go!
Q. Dear SinBin, with the recent news of the NHL playoff format there seems to be an end in sight to the pause, however I fear I may not make it to that point. My family and I are season ticket holders and thoroughly enjoy going to the Fortress and watching the VGK In action. With that said, the biggest problem in our household is the absence of the games on television. My 8 yr old son likes watching the games on tv with me and my wife and with that being absent it’s caused a lot of unrest. I’ve tried watching the classic replays with my wife and son but even my kid is like “Dad, we already know who wins and I remember this game, why are we watching a game we were at, that we’ve watched before”? Etc, etc. Just to keep the peace I’ll let him watch Netflix, I swear to god if I have to watch another episode of Garfield (his latest binge) or the Boss Baby series I’m going to lose my mind. Once he’s asleep my wife insists on trying to make me like her shows like How to get away from murder, the first 48 and stuff like that. Oh god, Is she trying to kill me? Am I the problem? Is my son trying to drive me crazy so that she has an excuse to “do away with me”? Help me please!
Restless, paranoid and fearing for my life, Robb aka R-O-Double B @vgkfan702
A. Robb you are a good man. You have sacrificed your peace and tranquility for your family during the lockdown. I commend you for trying but as you found out kids can re-watch literally anything other than sporting events. Garfield and Boss Baby are constantly on at my house as well, and there’s nothing more uncomfortable than being forced to watch women’s programming. Especially shows about wives hiring hitmen. So I feel ya. Although, it could be worse. Have you ever been told to sit down and watch the Shahs of Sunset? Holy sh*t!!!
While you may have to occasionally look over your shoulder at home, I think you’re safe from being clipped, hit or whacked. Your wife and son are probably feeling cabin fever as well. Thankfully, the league is slowly starting to resume so that should calm your family down just a bit. Remind them that everyday is a day closer to watching their Golden Knights play again. I am concerned for your safety once you explain to your son that he won’t be able to attend any of the games. I expect you’ll be inundated with more annoying kids shows and couch time with your wife’s favorite crime and punishment programs. Hang in there RO-Double Robb, August is only 54 days away.
The Golden Knights must feel confident after clinching their second Pacific Division title in three seasons. The fact they’ll bypass a five game qualifying series isn’t half-bad either.
Now, with the announcement to re-seed after each round, the round-robin isn’t just for a tune up any longer. With the importance of a top seed, will the Golden Knights go all out to on win the tournament, or get prepared for a “real” playoff series?
When you look at the statistics of the goalies Vegas will face in the round robin, it’s going to take terrific goaltending to clinch the top seed. St. Louis starts a 26-year-old Stanley Cup winning goaltender who won 30 games this season. Dallas’ Ben Bishop is 6’7, and has finished top-three in Vezina Trophy votes three times. And Colorado has two goaltenders that are undefeated against the Golden Knights this season. So, if it’s Marc-Andre Fleury or Robin Lehner they’ll be evenly matched on the other side of the ice.
2019-20 Round-Robin Goaltending Statistics
St. Louis: 2.68 Goals Allowed Per Game (5th-NHL)
Jordan Binnington: 2.56 GAA, .912 Save %, 30-13-7 Record, 28 Quality Starts vs. Vegas: 1-0-1, 3.92 GAA, .901 SV%
Dallas: 2.52 Goals Allowed Per Game (2nd-NHL)
Ben Bishop: 2.50 GAA, .920 Save %, 21-16-4 Record, 27 Quality Starts vs. Vegas: 1-0-1, 2.48 GAA, .917 SV%
Colorado: 2.71 Goals Allowed Per Game (6th-NHL)
Pavel Francouz: 2.41 GAA, .923 Save %, 21-7-4 Record, 17 Quality Starts vs. Vegas: 1-0, 3.00 GAA, .906 SV%
Philip Grubauer: 2.63 GAA, .916 Save %, 18-12-4 Record, 17 QS, Injured on 02/15 vs. Vegas: 1-0, 1.00 GAA, .962 SV%
It’s one of the worst kept secrets, the city of Las Vegas is the front runner to become one of the NHL’s playoff hubs.
I think out West that Vegas is virtually a lock. I don’t know that there’s one perfect place but I sense that Vegas has an inside track.-Ray Ferraro, Ray & Dregs podcast
With the decision still in the hands of the league, TSN insider’s Ray Ferraro and Darren Dreger spoke with Commissioner Gary Bettman about the plan to return to play and the selected hubs. Which could impact the Golden Knights and our city.
Ep. 32 @rayanddregs guest @NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman talks hub cities, potential Canadian 14-day quarantine rule workarounds and timelines to make a final decision.
— The Ray & Dregs Hockey Podcast (@rayanddregs) May 29, 2020
I’m going to have to make a decision collectively on this probably in about three weeks. I think in two weeks we’ll start narrowing down even further. Somewhere around three weeks we’re going to have to pull the trigger and start finalizing the arrangements and make our deposits. -Bettman
Over the past two months, we’ve covered every reason why Las Vegas makes sense to the NHL, but the decision really falls on the local and state governments. Bettman’s mention that any decision was still weeks away helps the city government assess the logistics. Once elected officials make their decision, the NHL can choose Las Vegas or not. Personally, I have a feeling that both parties would like to come to an agreement.