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How Historically Bad Playoff Power Plays Affected Next Season And Postseason

The Golden Knights’ power play in the postseason was bad. Literally historically bad. It was one of 15 teams in the last 30 years to play at least 10 playoff games and register a power play percentage under 10%.

Looking back over the other 14 teams who went through horrific postseason power play slumps is a bit concerning for the future of the Golden Knights’ power play.

First, I’ll show the numbers, then we’ll dissect them.

TeamRegular SeasonPlayoffsNext Regular SeasonNext Playoffs
TOR (99-00)17.84.716.123.1
MTL (14-15)16.55.616.215.0
VAN (06-07)17.26.017.1Missed
STL (16-17)21.36.715.5Missed
SJS (06-07)22.47.016.314.3
NYR (16-17)20.27.721.2Missed
PHI (19-20)20.87.719.2Missed
NSH (15-16)19.78.718.916.9
CBJ (19-20)16.48.815.4Missed
NYR (12-13)15.79.118.212.6
WSH (93-94)18.19.119.913.6
VGK (20-21)17.89.3??????
NYI (92-93)21.69.420.15.9
CAR (18-19)17.89.622.313.8
DET (03-04)20.19.6LockoutLockout

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History Indicates Golden Knights Can Grab Control Of Series Tonight Despite Game 1 Loss

It’s one game. One home playoff game that slipped away from the Golden Knights. Sure, the fanbase has the right to be concerned with the lack of offense after Sunday’s 1-0 overtime loss, but historical data points to a victory tonight would put Vegas back in the driver’s seat.

When the Golden Knights lost Game 1 at home to the Wild, their odds to win the first-round seven-game series dropped to 42.9 percent. The first outcome of a series is incredibly important but even more so for the visiting team. The Wild greatly upped their chances by squeaking out a 1-0 overtime win in Game 1. If the series evens out tonight, Vegas will seize the momentum and snatch series control away from Minnesota.

That’s a good team we played against. It was a hard game but we’ll build off that. We got a lot more to bring. For Game 1 we did a lot of good things. -Jordan Greenway, MIN forward

The first two contests in a seven-game series are intense and physical. Not that the remaining games aren’t emotional but each club understands the importance of gaining early control. When a visiting team wins Game 1 it adds more pressure on the home team to even the series. Without that split, Vegas would be putting their Cup chances on ice as the series shifts to Minnesota.

Historically, when a home team splits the first two games they go on to advance 55% of the time.

Then, Vegas can take a stronghold on the series if they win up in Minnesota. Playoff data shows the team that wins Game 3 has a 65% chance of closing out the series. For even more optimism, if Vegas wins Game 3 on the road their odds increase to 71 percent.

Regardless of who plays with who we’ve got to get scoring and we’ve got to get depth scoring and we’ve got to be dangerous throughout our lineup.-Pete DeBoer, Vegas coach

In the second game of a playoff series coach, Pete DeBoer has a .500 record in 14 appearances. After a Game 1 loss, his record in a Game 2 (4-2) perks up. Tonight’s result could be the biggest in his career and securing a victory could guide Vegas across ten thousand lakes.

VGK Lead West Division In Playoff Experience, But Not By Much

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

From the two elite teams at the top to the solid pair in the middle to the dumpster fire group on the bottom, the West has been anything but a gauntlet for the four teams that qualified for the postseason.

Vegas and Colorado ran away with it pacing not only the division but also the entire NHL. St. Louis and Minnesota each had their good and bad moments but neither were ever really in grave danger of missing out on the best time of the year.

But now, we’re here, and it’s all erased. From here, it no longer matters how many times you beat the Kings or Ducks, instead, it’s who can withstand a pair of seven-game series, emerge the true champion of the division, and represent the West in the NHL’s Final Four.

A lot is made at this time of year about experience. Whether we’re talking about Stanley Cup Champions or just NHL playoff experience in general, it’s always better to have it than not. For the Golden Knights, they have plenty of it.

We’ve been through that road the last three years. We’ve had good rounds and bad rounds and we know what to expect. We have a lot of playoff experience as a group. Obviously we’re not going to have an easy path if we want to go all the way but we have the gamers in that locker room that I’m confident we can go a long way here. -Jonathan Marchessault

In fact, the Golden Knights actually have more playoff experience, by games played, than any other team in the West Division. But not by much.

Playoff Experience
Vegas – 1,086 games
St. Louis – 1,035 games
Minnesota – 783 games
Colorado – 778 games

The Golden Knights are led by Marc-Andre Fleury, who has been on a team that’s qualified for the playoffs an insane 15 consecutive seasons. He, with Robin Lehner, have Vegas atop the goalie experience chart by a wide margin.

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Playing With Less Than 18 Skaters Less Than Ideal For Golden Knights

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

This season the Golden Knights are one of the league’s best teams when playing shorthanded… after the game starts. They lead the NHL with an 86.7% penalty kill percentage and have allowed just 17 power play goals against, three less than anyone else in the league and nine fewer than anyone in the division.

However, there’s another type of shorthanded the Golden Knights have been battling all season due to the salary cap. Last night, after a late scratch of Jonathan Marchessault, the Golden Knights were forced to play with just 11 forwards. It became the third time this year Vegas dressed a lineup short of 18 skaters.

Last night, the Golden Knights’ offense was anemic. They barely generated anything in the offensive zone, they put up one of their lowest shot outputs of the season with just 25, and they were shut out for the 3rd time in 2021.

Unsurprisingly, playing with less than the allowed number of players has not gone well for the Golden Knights. In the previous two instances in which they played a player short, Vegas failed to win either. They came on back-to-back nights on the final day of March and the first day of April.

On March 31st, Vegas lost 4-2 to the Los Angeles Kings. They controlled a majority of the possession in the game with a 60.4% Corsi but generated just two goals. In their own end, they gave up two 1st period goals and eventually fell into a 4-1 hole late in the 2nd. That game Vegas was without Ryan Reaves due to a late scratch and played with just two players on their fourth line.

The very next night, due to a suspension to Chandler Stephenson and an injury to Zach Whitecloud, Vegas was down to just 16 skaters. They chose to play 10 forwards and six defensemen. The Golden Knights got caught in a bit of a track meet with the Minnesota Wild but battled hard in the 3rd period to get the game to overtime. Vegas dropped the game in shootout.

Thus, three times out of 49 games the Golden Knights have been without a full complement of 18 skaters. They are 0-2-1 in those three games which leaves them with an incredible 35-10-1 record in the other 46.

It remains unknown what the Golden Knights roster will look like tonight as Marchessault’s status is up in the air and no other call-up has been made. If they play a man short, it could spell trouble once again. The good news is the buck stops on May 12th when the regular season ends. Once the playoffs begin, the salary cap disappears and roster limits are no longer in place. It might hurt Vegas between now and then, but when the games really matter, it’s the last thing Golden Knights fans need to worry about.

VGK Defensemen Struggling To Get Shots To The Net

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When Pete DeBoer came on as head coach of the Golden Knights one aspect of the game we expected to see change was the way the team was going to try and generate offense. Where Gerard Gallant teams thrived in transition and on opportunistic chances, DeBoer wanted to bring a much more reliable style of offense to the fold.

One piece of that is generating offense from the back to the front. The concept is to work the puck in deep and then send it low to high back to the defensemen. From there, the defensemen can make a number of decisions about what to do with the puck, but if a shot lane is there with traffic in front, that’s the preferred choice.

This was majorly successful with Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson in San Jose, it worked with Andy Greene and Marek Zidlicky in New Jersey and it worked with Jay Bouwmeester and Bryan McCabe with the Panthers. Now, with Vegas, Shea Theodore and Alex Pietrangelo are among the top five players on the team in shots per game and the Golden Knights lead the West division (and the NHL) in points from blueliners.

There is one concern with this strategy though, and that’s when shot attempts from defensemen are blocked or don’t hit the net. Blocked shot attempts have a chance to quickly lead to rushes the other way while missed shots force forwards to work to recover the puck and can lead to easy breakouts.

A bit of excellent research from JFreshHockey shows us that a few Golden Knights are struggling at the skill of hitting the net from the point.

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VGK Playoff, Division, Stanley Cup Probabilities

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The Golden Knights are in the midst of a three-game slide, the first regular season losing streak since Pete DeBoer took over as head coach back in January 2020. They’ve fallen four points behind the division-leading Avalanche but have a game in hand. Meanwhile, after dropping four points to the Wild, Vegas still hold a two point advantage on Minnesota.

With a little more than 60% of the season gone we have a pretty good idea of where everyone inside of the division stands. However, due to the division-only scheduling, comparing team to team across divisions can be a bit trickier.

That’s why I like to rely on the stat geeks. I love to keep tabs on three prediction machines that use drastically different methods to come up with their probabilities. They are MoneyPuck.com, Hockey-Reference.com’s Playoff Probabilities page, and Dom Luszczyszyn from The Athletic’s Playoff Projections.

We’ll start with MoneyPuck. Their model uses a game predictor based on a variety of factors such as team strength, health, home/away, rest, and even more in-depth stats like expected goals and special teams percentages. They run 100,000 simulations daily to come up with their probabilities.

Make Playoffs
VGK 99.7%

Points Projection
VGK 75.5

West Division
VGK 24.5%

Stanley Cup
VGK 7.3%

Next is Hockey-Reference. This is is very much statistical-based. Rather than trying to guess the outcomes of upcoming games, it uses every stat possible to give a percentage chance each team has to win each game. They run 1,000 simulations daily.

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The West Division Is Essentially A College Mid-Major

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

There’s an old saying in sports that goes something like “you can only play what’s in front of you.” The idea is that a team has no control over the level of competition on their schedule. Their job is to simply go out and handle that competition night in and night out.

The Golden Knights have been doing just that. 30 games into the season, Vegas leads their division and stands in 2nd place in the entire NHL in points percentage. They have an impressive +33 goal differential, winning streaks of four, five, and six games, and haven’t lost more than two games in a row all year.

It’s all great and would be easy to proclaim the Golden Knights among the clear-cut Stanley Cup favorites this season, but here’s the problem.

This year, due to the unbalanced shortened schedule, it does matter who you are playing.

Because each team is strictly playing teams inside of their division, strength of schedule absolutely matters when discussing the overall ranking of teams.

The West is the only division in the NHL to contain three teams (SJS, LAK, ANA) that missed the 24-team playoff last season. The East has two (BUF, NJD), while the North (OTT) and Central (DET) each have one.

All seven of those teams currently sit on the outside of the playoff picture and one of the seven represents a team in dead last in each of the four respective divisions. Ottawa, Buffalo, Detroit, New Jersey, Anaheim, and San Jose are all unquestionably terrible NHL teams. Maybe you can make the case the Kings have taken a small step in the right direction, but even that could be considered a stretch.

Thus, playing in the West offers a massive advantage to the five teams that did reach the playoffs last season. On each of their schedules, they play 24 games, or 43% of the schedule, against non-playoff teams. Compare that to teams in the East who get just 16 or those in the North and Central that get eight or nine.

In determining the best team in each division, the schedule is balanced and thus fair, but when trying to figure out how teams across divisions stack up, records and stats from the West must be taken with a grain of salt, similarly to how we do with college sports. When collegiate sports are judged in determining bowl games or the NCAA tournament, conference, and competition, matter. An undefeated team in a conference with weak competition is often considered much worse than a team with many losses in a challenging conference. This year, the West Division is the NHL’s equivalent of college football’s Big East or basketball’s Mountain West.

I went through all 31 teams to show how many points each have racked up against the seven non-playoff teams from last year, plus how many games are left on the schedule to score even more easy points in the back half of the season.

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VGK Records In Unusual Situations

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights have played 264 regular season games in franchise history. That includes two full 82 game seasons, last year’s 71 game COVID shortened season, and the 29 this season. The majority of those are night games that are aired on ATT Sportsnet with the Golden Knights wearing grey jerseys at home and white jerseys on the road.

But, sometimes there are abnormal situations, like yesterday. The Golden Knights played a nationally televised game, on the road, in an early timeslot yesterday, and came out a bit flat.

A few tweeters mentioned they thought the Golden Knights struggled when the game is aired on NBC or NBCSN and they also believed early road games are a challenge as well. So, I looked it up, and they were right on both accounts.

National TV
2021: 3-3-0 (4 left)
2019-20: 2-2-0
2018-19: 3-5-1
2017-18: 2-2-1
TOTAL: 10-12-2

Early Road Games (Before 4:00 PM PST)
2021: 0-2-0
2019-20: 0-2-0
2018-19: 3-6-1
2017-18: 4-0-1
TOTAL:  7-10-2

In fact, the Golden Knights have lost five straight early road games and haven’t won one since December of 2018.

Another hot topic this season has been jersey and helmet colors. After three seasons of grey and white jerseys and helmets, the Golden Knights unveiled gold jerseys, gold helmets, and red Reverse Retro jerseys. They’ve been pretty darn good in everything but the helmets.

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Golden Knights Lead The NHL In Off-The-Ice “Stat”

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One of my favorite parts of media availability from coaches, players, or management is when they spit out a verifiable stat. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does it gives us a little peek into how in-depth some of the metrics these guys are using. Plus, it often offers a window into where their focus has been and what they are looking at to improve upon.

Every time I hear one I like to go back and look up the number to see if the person was spot on, overexaggerating or under-exaggerating because I believe you learn something from each.

The goal isn’t to catch the person in messing up the stat because trust me, I’ve screwed up hundreds of them speaking off the cuff while covering this team the past five years, but instead it’s to learn something about their mentality on a certain subject.

If the number is spot on, they’ve probably either done the research or saw the number from someone who did. When it’s off, we learn whether they believe it’s a bigger deal or not as big a deal than it really is

Usually, it’s in-depth stuff like 2nd period face-off percentage or shooting percentage on the blocker side of the goalie, you know, specific hockey stuff. But yesterday we got one that was far different from typical hockey stats, and it came from a question on the importance of sleep.

(Getting sleep) is easier said than done particularly when we’ve got I would guess maybe the most kids in households per player than any team in the league. Petro’s got four, Reaves has got three, and Patch has five. So I think your best intentions are to get eight hours but anybody with kids has been there, you get home at two or three in the morning from a road trip, you know the kids are bouncing on your bed at 7 AM because they haven’t seen you in 10 days. It’s not easy with the family dynamic but God bless our players wives because I think they do a phenomenal job of trying to help in that area. -Pete DeBoer

The way DeBoer said it, he certainly hasn’t done the research on this himself, but the fact that he has the feeling like this team is up near the top in children per player means something… especially if it’s not right.

When I heard him say it, my first thought was, oh man this is going to really suck trying to verify, but luckily, someone has already done the research for us. Apparently, there’s an Instagram account dedicated specifically to this very topic. It’s called NHL Wags & Babies and they use the handle @hockeywags. (They are missing two teams, but I don’t feel like doing that research so we’ll ignore them.)

Here’s the list.

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Penalty Kill Success In Playoffs Set Up To Continue Into 2020-21 Regular Season

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Every time a coach gets fired special teams seem to be a focal point in evaluating the transition from one coach to the next. The move to go from Gerard Gallant to Pete DeBoer was no different in Vegas.

After the disastrous #NotAMajor penalty kill that ended the 2018-19 season, Gallant’s Golden Knights struggled on the penalty kill in 2019-20 which, at least in small, part led to his release. Vegas killed at just 78.9%, good for 19th in the NHL. When DeBoer came in, the system completely changed, and the results got even worse as the players tried to adapt on the fly. DeBoer’s VGK ended the regular season killing at a miserable 70.7%, worse than all but two teams in the league in that span.

Enter a global pandemic, the pause, the pre-playoff training camp, and a playoff run to the Western Conference Final, and the VGK PK turned elite. The Golden Knights killed at an 85.5% rate in the playoffs, by far the best penalty kill numbers the team has seen in a complete regular or post season.

If the Golden Knights continue to succeed at that rate while playing a man (or two) down, that alone would justify the coaching change. It seems unrealistic, but history shows us that it is possible. Over the past decade, 25 teams have killed at a rate of 85.5% or higher for a full season, including five who did it in the 48-game 2012-12 season.

The Golden Knights return each of their top seven skaters in shorthanded minutes from the dominant penalty-killing postseason. The only main player Vegas is losing is Nate Schmidt, who averaged about 90 seconds a game on the kill, but he’s being replaced with Alex Pietrangelo who should easily be able to fill that void.

Plus, the setup for this season bodes well for DeBoer’s pressure penalty kill. Not only does he get another training camp to further implement the system, but they only have to scout seven opponents as opposed to the normal 30. The decrease in number of unique opponents will allow the coaching staff to hone in on tendencies that should assist the penalty kill even more.

Also, the teams in the division don’t exactly boast electric power plays. Anaheim, LA, and San Jose each finished in the bottom 10 in the NHL last year, while Colorado and Arizona were both below the league average. St. Louis’ was elite, finishing 3rd in the NHL, but their leader in power play points just so happens to be on the Golden Knights now. (Minnesota was decent finishing 10th.)

The shorter the season, the more important a role special teams plays in any team’s success. The Golden Knights stack up well against the division at 5-on-5, but power play and special teams numbers could be the great equalizer. The Vegas power play needs work from last season, but if the penalty kill can continue the success they had in the bubble, this team should be in for a pretty dominant season.

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