**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2021 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**
As another strange week in the NHL ends, it is time for a math lesson. This is a simple one, so don’t panic. And no, there won’t be a quiz at the end.
The NHL was hoping to play a 56-game schedule and have all 31 teams complete that number. But as the coronavirus pandemic rages on and more games are lost, the league may be quickly coming to the realization that playing 56 games by each team may not be feasible.
This isn’t baseball where you could play doubleheaders. You can’t play four or five straight nights either trying to make up the postponed contests. You can’t continue to overhaul the schedule and try and find vacant dates to make up all of the lost games.
So the NHL may wind up reverting back to its plan a year ago. That was to base the standings and the postseason participants on win percentage.
That means a team that plays fewer games but wins more of the ones it participated in could find itself in a better position than another which played all of its games. The playoffs could be determined by percentage points rather than wins and regular points.
Is that fair? No. But these continue to be unprecedented times and the NHL has no one to blame but itself. The league opted to start the season a month ago even though COVID-19 was not going anywhere. In fact, the trend was going the wrong way as different, more potent strains and variants were making their way to the U.S. and Canada.
If there had been random cases that caused a single player to be out short-term, everyone can handle that. You call up a guy from the taxi squad and it’s business as usual. But the reality is, virtually every NHL team in the U.S. has been touched by COVID-19 and it has wreaked havoc on the schedule.
The Golden Knights have already been hit by the virus with Alex Pietrangelo and coach Peter DeBoer having to miss games. Tuesday, Tomas Nosek left the game with Anaheim after the 2nd period following a positive test. The fact the league allowed the game to continue was incredulous. As was the case with Pietrangelo and St. Louis, the Ducks are fortunate no one was positive after Tuesday’s game given their players had been exposed to Nosek.
The Knights, who have played 12 games so far and are 9-2-1, still have four rescheduled games to play. The regular season ends May 8. That leaves 84 days to play the remaining 44 games, though the league may extend the season by a few days to help make up missed games. But essentially, they’ll be playing every other day from here on out with several back-to-backs sprinkled in.
See? That kind of math isn’t so difficult to understand.
Frankly, I don’t see the entire season being completed as scheduled. I anticipate games being canceled and the Knights’ playoff fate being determined by win percentage. As it currently stands, Vegas not only would make the playoffs easily, its .792 win percentage would have it as the No. 2 overall seed after Tampa Bay and tops in the West Division. Whether that holds up over the next two-plus months remains to be seen.=
Here are the top-10 teams Sunday morning by percentage:
1. Tampa Bay .808
2. Golden Knights .792
3. Boston .786
4. Toronto .767
5. Florida .750
6. Carolina .727
7. Philadelphia .692
8. Colorado .682
9. Montreal .667
9. St. Louis .667
The schedule is going to get tougher. Players are going to get hurt. The Knights are already without defenseman Brayden McNabb who has a broken foot and is on LTIR. Shea Theodore is banged up and has missed the last two games. Nosek is in COVID protocol. Robin Lehner is obviously dealing with an injury. So this team’s depth is being tested.
So far, the Knights are managing their injuries/illnesses. Marc-Andre Fleury is playing at a very high level and right now, the resistance by management to move him has proved to be the correct decision. But they’re going to need Lehner and have him play well.
The young defensemen are performing better than expected. Cody Glass and Keegan Kolesar are doing good things on the third line while Nic Roy takes Nosek’s spot with Ryan Reaves and William Carrier.
Which brings me to the challenge facing DeBoer going forward. How does he manage preparation, particularly on the ice, vs. proper rest and recovery for his players?
Teams that get those extra days to practice play better in the next game. We saw that against the Ducks last Tuesday.
When Gerard Gallant was coach, there were built-in maintenance days for certain players. Guys would get off their feet and not have to practice or participate in the morning skate. James Neal immediately comes to mind. The Knights did a good job of keeping Neal fresh and he had a very productive season with 25 goals.
DeBoer has been in the NHL a long time. He will likely do the same thing. If a player needs to miss a morning skate and still play that night, I’m sure that will happen.
Maybe the practices are shorter and merely working on specific things like special teams or have the centers practice faceoffs. The notion of bag skates and grinder-type workouts are very unlikely. The mental prep will likely take precedence with a lot of Zoom meetings and going over things verbally.
In the end, this may not come down to wins as much as winning percentage. So any night you don’t come away with at least a point, as was the situation Thursday, hurts. In the Knights’ case, it may be a moot point given the disparity between the top teams and the bottom feeders in the West.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you can coast. And we’ll get a feel for what the best vs. best will be like today as the Knights and Colorado kick off four straight head-to-head meetings, including next Saturday’s outdoor game at Lake Tahoe. Points are going to be important, and I would expect a playoff-like intensity at the Fortress this afternoon. After all, the Avs are someone the Knights are likely to see in the postseason so having success against Colorado these next four games will be essential, not just mathematically but mentally as well.
**Steve Carp is the author of “Vegas Born — The remarkable story of the Golden Knights.” Follow him on Twitter @stevecarp56. All of Steve Carp’s work here on SinBin.vegas is presented to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm. For over twenty-five years, the Jimmerson Law Firm has been widely recognized as one of Las Vegas’s preeminent full-service law firms. Specializing in high stakes business, civil and family litigation, the Jimmerson Law Firm has an unparalleled track record of winning when it matters most. To reach the Jimmerson Law Firm, call (702) 388-7171 and tell them SinBin.vegas sent you.**