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Goalie Out; Great

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Any time the Golden Knights lead the league in a statistic, it’s worth noting (usually with a tweet). When they lead the entire NHL by a 2:1 margin in that stat, it’s worth a full article.

Despite playing the most games in the league (tied with seven other teams), the Golden Knights allowed the fewest empty-net goals of any team. Vegas conceded into a goalie-less net just three times during the entire 2019-20 season. Columbus came in 2nd with six and then a group of nine teams finished with nine or fewer.

There were just two teams with a Goals For Percentage above 50% with their net empty, Vegas and the New York Islanders. The Golden Knights came in with five goals for and just the three against for 62.5% while the Islanders had eight for and seven against for 53.3%. Every other team in the league conceded more goals than they scored with their net empty.

Vegas did finish with the second to lowest total time without their goalie (ahead of Boston), but when the stats are adjusted for time, it remains incredibly impressive for the Golden Knights.

Vegas ranked first in goals against per 60 with 5.65 while the next closest team, Carolina, came in at 9.25. Only four teams were under 10.0.

They also finished in the top five in Shots For/60, Corsi For/60, Scoring Chances For/60, and High Danger Chances For/60 and the top 10 in Goals For/60. This all indicates that not only were the Golden Knights terrific at keeping the puck out of their own empty net, they were also putting massive amounts of pressure on the opposing goalie and chased down crucial 6-on-5 goals on five separate occasions.

You probably remember most of the Golden Knights’ handiwork with the net empty too. The most memorable goal is Max Pacioretty’s 0.3 seconds remaining equalizer in Nashville which started a four-game winning streak. There was also Nick Holden’s game-tier at Chicago, and Vegas scored twice with their net empty in one game this season, a game in Montreal. Pacioretty and Reilly Smith tallied in the final two minutes to help earn a much-needed point at the Bell Centre.

So, when the games finally get back underway and the Golden Knights trail late, don’t give up, they’ve got a better chance than anyone in the league to tie it back up.

Regular Season Team Stats Compared After Year 3

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With the return to play format set and the league moving straight into the playoffs, the Golden Knights have now completed three NHL regular seasons. Here’s a statistical look at each season in relation to each other.

**Of course, because this season was 11 games short, stats are listed “per game” if necessary**

Points Percentage

2019-20: .606 (8th)
2018-19: .567 (16th)
2017-18: .665 (5th)

Goals For

2019-20: 3.12 (13th)
2018-19: 2.98 (13th)
2017-18: 3.23 (5th)

Goals Against

2019-20: 2.91 (13th)
2018-19: 2.76 (10th)
2017-18: 2.71 (8th)

Shots For

2019-20: 34.1 (1st)
2018-19: 34.1 (2nd)
2017-18: 32.3 (11th)

Shots Against

2019-20: 29.0 (2nd)
2018-19: 29.0 (5th)
2017-18: 30.4 (7th)

Power Play

2019-20: 21.99% (9th)
2018-19: 16.81% (25th)
2017-18: 21.37 (11th)

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Season “End” Stat Leaderboards Lacking Many Golden Knights

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When, how, or if the NHL season picks back up will probably remain a mystery for a while longer, but every day that ticks off the calendar it becomes clearer and clearer the regular season will not be completed in its entirety.

They may come back and play a few games or they may even eliminate a few games and backdate the season to the 68-game mark to make it even. Either way, the stats on the board currently are likely to be pretty close to what ultimately goes down in the record books for the 2019-20 regular season.

Despite playing 71 games, with most of the rest of the league playing fewer than 70, the Golden Knights have a player listed in the top 10 of just two standard offensive statistical categories. Max Pacioretty’s 307 shots on goal have him ranked 3rd behind Nathan MacKinnon and Alex Ovechkin and Ryan Reaves led the NHL in hits with 316.

But that’s it. No one’s in the top 10 in goals, assists, points, +/-, shooting percentage, PIM, TOI, blocks, faceoff stats, or even point shares.

Here’s a look at the Golden Knights’ highest ranking in each statistical category.

Goals
Leader – David Pastrnak: 48
VGK – Max Pacioretty: 32

Assists
Leader – Leon Draisaitl: 67
VGK – Mark Stone: 42

Points
Leader – Leon Draisaitl: 110
VGK – Max Pacioretty: 66

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Season Review: Reilly Smith

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When it comes to a top-six player, expectations are usually high. Over his first two seasons with Vegas, Reilly Smith has a total of 113 points (41 goals, 72 assists) in 141 games. He averaged 21 goals and 36 assists per season.

Coming into the season, projections were about the same, 20 goals and 35 assists. However, Smith exceeded anyone’s expectations in this shortened 2019-20 season, passing career highs in goals, shorthanded goals, game-winning goals, and shooting percentage. He earned every bit of his $5M annual salary pitching in .76 points per game.

One of Smith’s season highlights was a beautiful, breakaway backhand goal he scored on December 2nd against the New York Rangers.

Seems like I’ve gotten a lot of breakaways this year. I’ve done that move four or five times, and I’ve gotten lucky. I think it worked on a few. It’s probably one of those things that I’ll probably go back to. Hopefully, none of the goalies in the league are listening to this interview. -Reilly Smith

His backhand was so effective that his brother stole the move four days later.

We did it a week apart, and with him playing forward this year, in the past he hadn’t had as many breakaways. He made it look a lot better than I did. It is pretty cool that we did it in the same week.- Reilly Smith

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Scoring Goals In VGK Debut A Bit Of A New Phenomenon In 2019-20

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Well, it happened again. In his first game with the Golden Knights, Nick Cousins found the back of the net helping his new team take home the win. He became the 6th Golden Knights to score in his debut this season and the 3rd to do it in the last four games.

Yeah, that was fun. It’s been a crazy couple of days here with all the travel but there’s no better way to be thrown in the fire than to play a game at home and obviously it was great to contribute. -Cousins

In the Golden Knights history, 10 players scored in their debut.  The first to do it was James Neal, in the Golden Knights first-ever game. Then, both Alex Tuch and Vadim Shipachyov tallied in the same game against Boston a few weeks later. Then, it went dry for quite a while and the entirety of last season.

10/6/17 – James Neal (2)
10/15/17 – Vadim Shipachyov*
10/15/17 – Alex Tuch*
4/3/18 – Brandon Pirri
10/2/19 – Cody Glass*
10/27/19 – Nic Roy
12/3/19 – Chandler Stephenson
2/20/20 – Alec Martinez
2/23/20 – Patrick Brown
2/26/20 – Nick Cousins
*NHL debut

In total, the Golden Knights have gotten a goal from 10 of the 47 skaters to make their debut and it’s happened in 10 of the 25 games (a lot of guys debuted on 10/6/17 and 10/15/17).

The Golden Knights have had team success along with the goal scorers this year, another new phenomenon for 2019-20. In games with skaters making their debuts, Vegas was 5-4-1 in 2017-18 and 2-3-0 in 2018-19. This year, they are 9-1-0 with the only loss coming in Keegan Kolesar’s debut against Columbus.

Oddly enough, goals are far more common than assists. 10 players have scored a total of 11 goals, but in the 25 games in which Golden Knights have debuted, there have only been seven assists. Four of the seven came in the Golden Knights inaugural game in Dallas on October 6th, 2017.

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DeBoer Gives A Peek Into How He Views The Golden Knights Special Teams

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Over the course of an 82 game season, special teams will be the determining factor in a fairly large number of games. Of the 225 regular season games in franchise history, only 71, or 32%, have seen no power play goals scored by either team. In other words, in two out of every three games, special teams will change the final score by at least one goal, usually more like two or three.

It gets even more important in the playoffs as just eight of the Golden Knights 27 playoff games have been goalless from the power plays. (And we all remember how last season ended.)

So, to see the Golden Knights operating at just 19% on the power play and killing at just 76%, both below league average, under DeBoer, there would be an expectation of a bit of concern from the head coach.

I haven’t spent as much time on the power play. I mean I know it got cold there the first seven or eight games I was here. I think we only got one or two but I think long term and the history of the power play here it’s been pretty good so my concern level isn’t high there. -DeBoer

The Golden Knights put up four power play goals in five opportunities against the St. Louis Blues on Thursday, but if you throw those out, they’ve hit on just three of 31 since DeBoer took the job. That’s an 11 game span in which they are scoring at under 10%. The NHL’s worst power play team in 2019-20 is Chicago at 14%.

I thought we got back to some foundation of what it should look like the other night (against St. Louis) and we got rewarded for that.

Vegas finished last season just a shade below 17%, which saw them in 25th place at the end of the regular season. They were much better in Year 1 at 21%, but still barely ranked in the top 10. Over the course of the franchise’s history, they haven’t exactly been a juggernaut and with DeBoer they’ve struck in just four of his 12 games.

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The First 10 Games Of The DeBoer Era

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Anytime there’s a change in regime it takes time for the new person in charge to make the adjustments before the world sees results. For Presidents, we give them 100 days. For NHL head coaches, let’s go with 10 games.

Pete DeBoer’s 10th game behind the Golden Knights bench was on Thursday where he led his team to a crazy overtime win over the St. Louis Blues. It moved the team’s record under DeBoer to 5-3-2. They’ve scored 37 goals while allowing 34 with the power play operating at 22.6% and killing at 75%. Their shot share is a whopping 58.5% and the PDO has remained steady under 100 at 98.3.

Let’s start by comparing this all with Gallant, who coached the Golden Knights for 49 games before being let go.

 DeBoerGallantDifference
Record5-3-224-19-6
Point %.600.551+.049
GF per game3.703.08+0.62
GA per game3.43.04-0.36
Power Play22.6%22.1%+0.5%
Penalty Kill75%78.8%-3.8%
Shooting %10.1%9.1%+1.0%
Save %.876.900-.024

The numbers show DeBoer up a bit in most categories, but the changes are far from significant.

There have been 8 head coaching changes in the NHL this season. One is Gallant, one just happened yesterday, so we’ve got six others to work with. How did their teams stack up over the first 10 games you ask? We head back to the table!

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Blues vs. Golden Knights Has Been A Wild Ride

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The Golden Knights and Blues have locked up three times this season. All three games have been on the crazy side, with two going to overtime and the team leading at the end of the 1st period losing all three.

In five games at T-Mobile Arena, the Blues and Golden Knights have gone to overtime in four of them, with Vegas winning all four. In fact, Vegas has never defeated the Blues in regulation in nine tries.

Jonathan Marchessault became the first player in Golden Knights franchise history to score a game-winning OT goal twice against the same team.

In the three games this year, there have been six lead changes and eight game-tying goals scored. In the Sharks/Golden Knights playoff series last season, there was a total of one lead change in the entire series. In the Jets/Golden Knights Western Conference Final series in 2018 the lead never changed in five games.

In all three games, St. Louis has scored three straight goals in the game, yet Vegas has been able to overcome it two of the three times. Also, the Blues scored first in all three games. The Golden Knights record when they concede first is 9-16-6, yet they are 2-1-0 vs STL. When Vegas trails after one period, they are 6-14-2, but also 2-1-0 against STL.

There have been 26 goals scored between the two teams in the three games for an average of 8.7 goals per game. The average in all Golden Knights games this season is just barely above six.

Plus, here’s some other crazy stuff about just last night’s game.

  • Highest scoring VGK game of the season (11 goals) (tied franchise record)
  • First game in VGK history with 2 lead changes in 1st period
  • Second-time VGK has scored 4 power play goals in a game (vs TBL on 12/19/17)
  • First time a team has allowed 4 goals to the same player and won since 2016 (Ottawa beat Toronto, Auston Matthews 4 goals)

Plus, the series has had the David Perron vs Ryan Reaves drama, Oscar Dansk’s first career NHL win, William Karlsson’s first goal as a Golden Knight, and both Perron and Stastny have scored for both teams against both teams.

There are two ways in which this could be a potential playoff matchup, either as a 1st round division winner vs wild card or as a Western Conference Final. It’s not quite San Jose/Vegas or Edmonton/Calgary, but from a strictly hockey standpoint, everyone should be rooting to see these teams matchup up come April or May.

Playoff Pace For Vegas Is A Manageable 91 Points

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Before tonight’s action, the Golden Knights are on pace for 93 points and sit two behind Vancouver for the Pacific Division lead. The Pacific is commonly referred to as the worst division in the league, which it is, but the Central isn’t much better. With the exception of St. Louis, the rest of the division isn’t exactly lighting the league on fire.

Based on points, the Blues are the only Western Conference team in the top seven in league standings. Going deeper, if the league simply used points percentage regardless of conference, 10 of the 16 future playoff teams would be from the Eastern Conference (VGK is #16). Golden Knights fans should be happy that the league is split in half.

The current pace to make the postseason in the West is 91 points. It’s a whopping 99 in the East. Currently, Vegas is sitting three points ahead of the last team in the West. In a make-believe world where the Golden Knights were playing in the East they would be out of the picture entirely. At 63 points, Vegas would be fifth in the Atlantic and seventh in the Metropolitan and fifth in the Wild Card standings with at least two more games played than everyone else.

To ensure Vegas gets close to that cut line of 91 points, they’ll still need to rack up points in the majority of their remaining games. Including tonight, the Golden Knights have 26 more regular season contests. They’ll need to win at least 14 games or earn 28 points to get back to the playoffs. That means they need 53.8% of the available points, which doesn’t seem like a lot until you consider they’ve only cashed in on 56.2% to this point.

Vegas should be aiming for more than 91 points, and I’m sure they are. You don’t fire a coach and have the expectations of limping into the playoffs.

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Shorter Shifts Are “Non-Negotiable”

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With a new coach comes change.

I think every coach has some tweaks and some beliefs they want to instill. Coming in mid-season it’s going to be a little slower process and take some time. -Pete DeBoer

DeBoer has been tasked with taking over a team that knows it’s good but haven’t quite been able to sustain it consistently. The Golden Knights started out the season with two big wins against DeBoer’s Sharks, then dropped 15 of their next 24. Next, they hit a hot streak winning 13 of 19, but things quickly took a turn for the worse with Vegas losing four straight, costing Gerard Gallant his job.

Now, DeBoer is in charge and he has to figure out how much needs to be changed and where he needs to implement those changes.

From a systems point of view, there will be some tweaks but this is a well-coached team, I’m not coming in here to change everything. -DeBoer

Those tweaks will come eventually, but don’t expect to see them in the next three games.

We’ve got to take it a little bit slower for me. These games until the break I’m going to use to get to know the guys and the team. The players, I want them to play, show me what you can do, what you are capable of, and hopefully coming out of the break we can start to establish some of those things. -DeBoer

However, DeBoer did outline a few things he says he won’t wait for, those he calls, “non-negotiables.”

I was a coach have some non-negotiable things we’re going to stress and that’s attacking and playing north, stopping and defending hard, tracking back, keeping our shifts short, playing four lines. Those are the non-negotiable items for me that we’re going to try and instill right away. -DeBoer

For the most part, it’s all standard coach speak and things the Golden Knights were already doing with Gallant. But, there’s one “item” among the non-negotiables that will require a change from Vegas’ players.

“Keeping our shifts short.”

The average shift length of all players in the NHL is 45.5 seconds. 47.1 seconds for defensemen and 44.6 seconds for forwards. (as of 1/21/20)

Under Gallant Golden Knights came in way above the averages, while DeBoer’s Sharks teams have been below.

 VGKSJSNHL
Team ATOI49.244.945.5
Forwards ATOI49.144.044.6
Defensemen ATOI49.546.847.1

Vegas’ shifts are on average over five seconds longer than San Jose’s and four seconds longer than the league. The difference mostly comes down to forwards, where the Golden Knights 49.1 seconds per shift. While Gallant was at the helm, that was tied with Washington for the highest in the league. (Games through 1/14/20)

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