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Vegas Faces Tough But Attainable Challenge After Losing Game’s 1 & 3

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Playoff “Photographer” @BadSportsArt)

If you’ve heard it once you’ve probably heard it a thousand times on the SinBin podcast. Teams need to win odd-numbered games to clinch a series. So far, the Golden Knights haven’t done that in the Western Conference Final. While losing the first and third contests of a seven-game series isn’t ideal, plenty of teams have actually advanced in that position.

Since the 1999-2000 season, eight teams have gone on to win a conference final or Stanley Cup final after losing Games 1 and 3 of the series. Over the past 20 years it’s been accomplished four times in the Western Conference finals, three in the Eastern Conference finals, and twice in the Stanley Cup finals. Including last season’s Cup winner the St. Louis Blues, who did it twice in their championship run. Vegas is hoping to be the ninth team, starting by winning Game 4 (something all nine teams did).

Teams That Won WCF Losing Game 1 & 3
2000: Dallas Stars- won in seven (won 4, 5, 7)
2007: Anaheim Ducks- won in six (won 4, 5, 6)
2015: Chicago Blackhawks- won in seven (won 4, 6, 7)
2019: St. Louis Blues- won in seven (won 4, 5, 6)

Pete DeBoer is no stranger to the situation his current team is in. In 2012, DeBoer’s New Jersey Devils lost the first and third games of the Eastern Conference finals and stormed back to win the series in six. Seven years later he was on the other end as the coach of the San Jose Sharks. In last year’s Western Conference final, the Blues overcame defeats in game one and three to outlast the Sharks in seven.

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VGK vs CHI Series Stat Dump

It took the Golden Knights five games to put away the 12-seed Chicago Blackhawks and move on to the second round. Despite the score only favoring Vegas by just four over the five games, the Golden Knights dominated just about every other major statistical category. Here’s a look at the stats from the series.

*Stats are compiled from NHL.com and NaturalStatTrick.com**

Team Stats

Goals
VGK – 15
CHI – 11

Shots
VGK – 187
CHI – 123

Scoring Chances
VGK – 167
CHI – 117

Corsi For %
VGK – 58.1%
CHI – 41.9%

Power Play
VGK – 1/10
CHI – 1/12

Faceoffs
VGK – 49.7%
CHI – 50.3%

Giveaways
VGK – 75
CHI – 69

Takeaways
VGK – 37
CHI – 44

Hits
VGK – 184
CHI – 140

Shots Blocked
VGK – 90
CHI – 100

Expected Goals
VGK – 17.44
CHI – 10.43

Shooting Percentage
VGK – 8.02%
CHI – 8.94%

Save Percentage
VGK – .911
CHI – .920

Individual Stats

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Gear Up For A Lot Of Shea

From here on out the games matter, and once the 1st round starts, the games really matter. For Pete DeBoer, when the games matter, he rides his best players much more than Gerard Gallant did.

Last year, in the series between the Sharks and Golden Knights, in all but one game of the series a Shark led in TOI. Most games, multiple Sharks did.

Game 1
Burns – 28:25
E. Karlsson – 26:25
Theodore – 24:00

Game 2
E. Karlsson – 29:08
Burns – 28:36
Pavelski – 25:35
McNabb – 25:10

Game 3
Burns – 25:10
Braun – 22:34
E. Karlsson – 20:54
Engelland – 20:11

Game 4
Schmidt – 23:39
Burns 23:16

Game 5
Burns – 26:10
Vlasic – 23:43
E. Karlsson – 22:20
Hertl – 21:14
Pavelski – 20:59
Couture – 20:27
Dillon – 20:25
Theodore – 20:03

Game 6
Burns – 42:04
Vlasic – 37:14
E. Karlsson – 36:40
Braun – 36:12
McNabb – 35:34

Game 7
Burns – 39:37
E. Karlsson – 33:46
Hertl – 30:22
Kane – 29:30
Stone – 28:53

Game 4, where Vegas won 5-0, is the only game in which a Golden Knight led the game in TOI. In Games 2, 5, 7, there was a Sharks forward with more time than any Golden Knight.

This continued throughout the playoffs for DeBoer and he’s expected to do the same with his top guys now that he’s in Vegas. Which means get ready to see a lot of Shea Theodore.

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Goalie Out; Great

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

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

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

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

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

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

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

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

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

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

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

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

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

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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