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Best Road Trip Ever

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Tonight in Buffalo the Golden Knights will put their eight-game winning streak on the line, trying to push one win closer to the franchise record of 10.

They’ll also attempt to do something they’ve never done before, sweep a 5+ game road trip.

The Golden Knights have taken six road trips of at least five games in their history. They’ve walked away with records ranging from an excellent 4-1-0 to a miserable 0-5-0. What they’ve never done is win all of the games, or even get points in all five of a road trip. Even on the longer trips, they’ve never had a five-game point streak inside of the six, seven, or eight-game trips they’ve taken.

Way back in early 2018, during the Golden Knights’ inaugural season, Vegas headed to New Jersey, Columbus, Detroit, Buffalo, and Philadelphia for a five-game span toward the end of the season. It started with a win against the Devils but was followed up by a poor 4-1 loss to the Blue Jackets. VGK went on to win the next three games bringing home eight points from the trip.

As of right now, only because the Golden Knights haven’t stepped foot on the ice tonight, that road trip still stands as the best in team history. Tonight, Vegas will at worst match it, and with a win or an OT loss, they can sweep a five-game trip for the first time ever.

There have been two instances in which the Golden Knights have swept four-game trips. Last year they went to Boston, New Jersey, and the two New Yorks and ripped through the four Eastern Conference teams. In the shortened season, Vegas took a quick trip down to Southern California where they beat the Kings and Ducks twice each.

A win would also push the Golden Knights to within one win of the team record for the longest road winning streak. With the win in San Jose before this trip, the streak currently sits at five. It’s one of just four times the Golden Knights have won five straight on the road. They’ve won six in a row twice and pushed one out to seven. That streak also came last year.

No matter what goes down tonight in Buffalo, this trip has been a massive success. But, if they win it, it’ll become an historic one.

Points Aside, Vegas Could Use More Offensive Impact From Jack Eichel

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The season couldn’t have gotten off to a much better start for the Golden Knights. They’re leading the West in points (14), the Pacific in goals allowed (16), and are top three in the conference goals scored (29). The Misfits are hot, goaltending has been consistent and captain Mark Stone looks like his old self. Most importantly, the team hasn’t suffered any significant injuries through nine games. All is well in Golden Knights world except for one slight concern, Jack Eichel.

In 156 minutes played, the $10 million center has eight points (3G/5A) in nine games for 0.88 points per game average. Not bad. In fact, Eichel’s eight points are tied for a team-best with Jonathan Marchessault and Chandler Stephenson. So, why is Eichel’s production being brought up? Simple, he’s not doing enough when you consider his importance, salary, and talent. Especially, when you compare Eichel to other players in his tax bracket.

Points By Top Highest Paid Forwards

Connor McDavid: 15 Points (8 Goals, 7 Assists)
Artemi Panarin: 12 Points (4 Goals, 8 Assists)
Auston Matthews: 7 Points (2 Goals, 5 Assists)
John Tavares: 10 Points (3 Goals, 6 Assists)
Mitch Marner: 7 Points (2 Goals, 5 Assists)
Jonathan Toews: 5 Points (4 Goals, 1 Assist)
Aleksander Barkov: 5 Points (5 Assists)
Anze Kopitar: 7 Points (1 Goal, 6 Assists)
Jack Eichel: 8 Points (3 Goals, 5 Assists)
Tyler Seguin: 6 Points (2 Goals, 4 Assists)
Johnny Gaudreau: 8 Points (5 Points, 3 Assists)
Matthew Tkachuk: 9 Points (4 Goals, 5 Assists)

Eichel is right in the middle of his peers in points and assists but he’s on the lower end of goals and one statistic that many find a good evaluation of a player’s offensive impact. While primary assists tend to get lost in statistical blenders, they should be weighted heavier than a secondary helper. Eichel has the same amount of first assists (2) as Nic Hague and Zach Whitecloud. Chandler Stephenson on the other hand has four assists and they are all primary. Let’s not forget he’s tied for the most points and second amount of minutes played for a forward. In a sense, Eichel’s stat line should look more like Stephenson’s.

Sure, it’s nit-picking, but compare Eichel’s first assists with the league leaders.

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Playoffs A Reminder Health Isn’t Only Factor For Success

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Watching the Stanley Cup playoffs certainly has a different feel without the Golden Knights as participants. As we’ve been over many, many times since their season finale, injuries played a significant role in why the team is on the outside looking in. Halfway through the first round, it’s clear Vegas needed more than just their health to advance.

Western Conference Playoff Summary

  • 14-0 Team Scoring First
  • 8-6 Home Team
  • 4.25 Winning Team Average Goals
  • 3.22 Average Goal Differential Per Game
  • 1.8 Power Play Goals Per Win
  • 10-4 When Scoring PPG

Down the stretch, the Golden Knights had trouble picking up the first goal of game, received very little output from their power play, and lacked the ability to climb back and win from behind. On most nights in the playoffs, those elements would be a recipe for disaster. Not surprising, early consistent scoring is paying off in the postseason. So far, there have been 14 games played in the Western Conference, the team that scored the opening goal went on to win to all of them.

Naturally, lower-scoring teams focus on winning defensive battles helping them survive in a long series. Last night the LA Kings defeated the Edmonton Oilers 4-0 and evened the series by playing their signature suffocating style. The Oilers are +7 in goal differential but are in no better shape than the Kings.

The sixth highest-scoring team in the NHL’s regular season has only mustered up three goals in three games. The Calgary Flames averaged 3.55 goals per game in the first 82 but have been held to 2 goals or less in the last three. Yet, the 2.84 goals per game Dallas Stars hold a 2-1 series lead.

Western Conference Goals Scored Per Game

  • Colorado 5.33 (1 ENG)
  • Edmonton 4.25
  • Minnesota 3.25 (2 ENG)
  • St. Louis 3.00 (1 ENG)
  • Dallas 2.00 (2 ENG)
  • Nashville 2.00
  • LA 2.50 (1 ENG)
  • Calgary 1.0

Subtract empty netters, and the averages decrease for several Western Conference contenders. Making most games much tighter than the averages show. No matter who Vegas faced off against their periodic offensive struggles could’ve haunted them in the first round.

Turn back the clock to Vegas’ run to the semifinals last year. In six games against the Montreal Canadiens, the Golden Knights averaged 2.18 goals per game, scored the opening goal twice, and were blanked on the man-advantage.

Without a doubt, the Golden Knights’ front office is tuning in nightly like all of us. We’ve heard dozens of times the NHL is a copycat league, it’s possible VGK execs are picking up plays for their grease board. Why not take a few notes on Colorado’s lethal PP, or some offensive strategies from Edmonton, Minnesota, or St. Louis. Maybe, it’s best to watch Dallas and LA’s suffocating, everything to the outside type of defense. It may be the difference between making semis or the finals.

With Or Without You Standings: Which Players Absence Hurts VGK Most?

The great modern-day philosopher Bono once wrote, and then subsequently sang like 100,000 times, “I can’t live, with or without you.”

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Unfortunately, for the Golden Knights, they haven’t had that option. 62 games into the season, not a single player has played in every game on the schedule, and just six have missed fewer than six games. They’ve been doing a lot of “living without you.”

Whose absence has hurt the most though?

For that, we go to the WOWY (with or without you) standings to find out the answer is clearly Keegan Kolesar. But seriously, it’s been Reilly Smith, Brayden McNabb, and Mark Stone.

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2022 Has Been Challenging In Many Ways For The Golden Knights

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It hasn’t been easy for the Golden Knights in 2022. Overall, Vegas has lost 14 games this calendar year and collected only 24 out of a possible 48 points. It gets even worse. Since January 1st, the Golden Knights have scored the second least number of goals in the entire league. Adding to insult, Vegas has a meager .375 winning percentage in one-goal games since January.

It’s been a challenge considering the injuries Vegas has faced but like Sunday against the Senators, the Golden Knights just need to find ways to win. So how bad has 2022 been for Vegas? Well, let’s examine the numbers.

Goals Scored In 2022

  1. Florida 119
  2. Colorado 113
  3. Toronto 113
    ** 31. Vegas 61

Goals Scored Per Game In 2022

  1. Florida 4.58
  2. Toronto 4.19
  3. Calgary 3.85
    ** 28. Vegas 2.54

It’s no secret the Golden Knights have been struggling to score. Against a below-average Philadelphia team, Vegas’ offense stunk up the joint only creating one goal on 48 shots. You can give credit to hot goaltenders or look in the mirror and accept how poorly the club shoots the puck. Fourteen games this season the Golden Knights have shot 40 or more times on net. After Tuesday’s loss, Vegas is 5-8-1 when they shoot 40+.

Highest Shooting Percentage In 2022

  1. St. Louis 12.7%
  2. Tampa Bay 12.4%
  3. Florida 12.2%
    ** 32. Vegas 7.4%

The game against the Flyers was the 11th time the Golden Knights scored 2 goals or fewer goals since the turn of the calendar year. After four postseason exits, fans are well aware scoring two goals in the playoffs won’t cut it.

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Using Numbers To Solve The Upcoming Chandler Stephenson Problem

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Chandler Stephenson has been one of the main centers of attention this season for the Golden Knights for many different reasons.

To start the year, there was a question of whether or not he was good enough to be a #1 center on a Stanley Cup-winning team. Following a playoff series that saw Mark Stone go pointless and Stephenson chip in just one point, the Golden Knights took matters into their own hands, acquiring Jack Eichel and giving themselves an unquestioned top-line center.

But all the while, Stephenson has been producing at more than a point-per-game pace playing in the #1 center role. He’s played 12 games between Max Pacioretty and Stone and has four goals and 10 assists for 14 points. That has shifted the question to, is it really wise to move Stephenson once Eichel is ready?

Then, there have been a couple of stretches in which Stephenson played without Stone or Pacioretty and continued to produce. In 16 games without either star winger, Stephenson has put up 13 points entering a new question into the ether; if he still produces without the top guys, maybe moving him down to fit in Eichel does make the most sense.

All the while, he’s been dubbed as Vegas’ most indispensable player by ESPN, he has a bit of an underground All Star campaign going, and his teammates have consistently pumped his tires often proclaiming he is the most skilled player on the team.

All of this has turned Stephenson into somewhat of an enigma. There’s just so much data pointing in so many different directions with him. I wanted to dig into some numbers to see if the picture can be made any clearer.

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Power Play Futility Stat Dump

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June 6th, 2021, in the 2nd period of Game 4 against the Colorado Avalanche. That’s the last time the Golden Knights have scored a power play goal. Since, they’ve played eight playoff games and five regular season games for a total 826 minutes and 12 seconds of hockey.

It’s gotten so bad, and doesn’t seem like it’s going to get any better any time soon, I figured it was time to look up every power play stat I can think of so we have the answers ready as the streak continues and for the moment it finally comes to a close.

Because this is all so pathetic, instead of trying to make this a composed article, you get a series of bullet points.

  • VGK have started the season 0 for 11 on the power play.
    • 0 for 28 on the power play dating back to last postseason.
    • 19:18 of PP time this season, 34:03 in the playoffs last year for 49:21 since VGK scored a PP goal
  • VGK have recorded 43 shots on goal since last scoring on the power play
    • 20 this season, 23 last postseason
  • Current streaks
    • 0 for 28 (0%)
    • 1 for 36 (2.78%)
    • 2 for 41 (4.88%)
    • 4 for 54 (7.41%)
  • VGK have experienced 0 for 16 droughts twice, both in 2018-19
    • The first one was to open the season. They went six games without scoring a power play goal.
    • The second one was in the middle of the season, they went 6-0-0 while going 0 for 16 on the PP.
  • How many power plays to start season before VGK score (counting the one they scored on)
    • 2017-18: 13
    • 2018-19: 17
    • 2019-20: 1
    • 2021: 11
    • 2021-22: 11* (and counting)
  • Power Play percentages by season
    • 2017-18: 21.0%
      • Playoffs: 18.5%
    • 2018-19: 16.8%
      • Playoffs: 27.6%
    • 2019-20: 22.0%
      • Playoffs: 18.2%
    • 2021: 16.7%
      • Playoffs: 9.3%
    • 2021-22: 0.0%
  • Not only is VGK the only team to have failed to score a power play goal this season, but every other NHL team has at least 2.
  • The longest recorded power play drought in NHL history is a bit of a mystery but is believed to be 51 by the Toronto Maple Leafs
    • In 2014 the Florida Panthers reached 43
    • The San Jose sharks reached 41 in 1997

*If there are any other stats you’d like me to look up to add to this, please post them in the comments or tag us with them on social media.*

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Golden Knights In Unfamiliar Position On The Outside Looking In

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It was exactly 1,944 days since Las Vegas was awarded an NHL franchise. They’ve been named the Vegas Golden Knights for 1,824 of them. The team played their first game 1,473 days ago and they’ve been actively competing inside of a regular season for 652 days.

Today stands as just the 95th day in which the Golden Knights have been on the outside of the playoff picture. These past few days have represented just the 27th, 28th, and 29th days in which VGK have ever sat in 7th place, and if the Flames win in Anaheim tonight it’ll be just the 3rd day in 1,944 days of existence that the Golden Knights will be in dead last in the division.

 2017-182018-192019-2020212021-22
Yes184*125*131*121*3
No0603104
 2017-182018-192019-2020212021-22
1st122*029*851
2nd60111829*1
3rd1100*292
4th122485
5th0103401
6th015301
7th025103
8th0200

The numbers are quite astounding when you considered the historic success, or really, failures, of previous NHL expansion teams. Not only have the Golden Knights reached the playoffs every season, they’ve been on the correct side of the playoff cut line for 85.5% of their days in the NHL.

Maybe even more impressive, the Golden Knights have held down the #1 spot in the Pacific or West division for 36% of the 657 regular season days. No other spot accounts for more than 20% and 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th places combine for just 14.4% of the days.

Yes, that’s right, that means the Golden Knights have been in 1st place more than twice the amount of time they’ve been anywhere in the bottom half of the division.

The latest the Golden Knights have ever been out of the postseason picture was on January 17th, 2020, one day after firing Gerard Gallant (they were in 1st place 11 days earlier).

And Friday was the first day of the first 178 regular season days coached by Pete DeBoer.

The Golden Knights aren’t back in action until Wednesday, which means they’ll have to suffer through at least two more days in an unfamiliar position.

Time To Start Cutting Back On High-Danger Chances Against

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The NHL preseason is a little like the TV show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” Where everything’s made up and the points don’t matter. However, like that show, it was always clear which comedians were better than others and which improv sketches worked the best.

For the Golden Knights, we have most of the data on who is going to play, how they are going to play, and a fairly strong expectation of what the results will be. So, in meaningless games with mish-mashed lineups, stats have to be taken with a huge handful of salt.

There is one alarming stat five games into the preseason though for Vegas, and that’s high-danger chances against. Over the past four years, the Golden Knights have consistently been one of the top teams in the league in allowing the fewest high-danger chances per game. When you couple it with how many Vegas creates, they are the best in the league since the start of 2018-19.

This preseason though, Vegas is struggling mightily in that category. Even without the game in Salt Lake City (the NHL didn’t send stat keepers to that game), Vegas has allowed more high-danger chances against than all but two teams in the NHL. Fortunately, those two teams are both division foes, Anaheim and Edmonton, but even if the Golden Knights allowed just three HDCA in that Salt Lake City game, they’d be in 2nd. Having watched that game, it was one-way traffic most of the night at the VGK net and the gap of 10 between Vegas and Edmonton might have been made up.

To sum that all up, Golden Knights goalies are seeing way too many shots from close range. So far, that number has been north of 10 per game. To put that in context, last year in the postseason, which included six overtimes, the Golden Knights allowed just 162 high-danger chances in 19 games. That’s about 8.5 per game. In the four preseason games where we have stats, that number is 42, or 10.5 per game.

To make matters worse, Vegas has created just 33 this preseason, or 8.25 per game. In the playoffs (where they struggled to score in two of the three series), they generated 171, or 9 a game.

Obviously, there are a thousand mitigating factors as to why these numbers are headed in the wrong direction, but it’s certainly something to keep an eye on as it’s abnormal for the Golden Knights, especially the Pete DeBoer-coached Golden Knights.

Here’s the craziest part (have to love small sample sizes), VGK goalies have allowed just one high-danger goal in the four preseason games with stats. The combination of Robin Lehner, Laurent Brossoit, and Logan Thompson have stopped 41 of the 42 chances and posted a .964 save percentage against them. Last year, the team with the best high-danger save percentage was Tampa Bay and they did it with a .852 save percentage.

In other words, if the Golden Knights keep allowing high-danger chances at this rate, they’ll start conceding at a very high pace moving forward.

Again, this isn’t meant to sound the alarm bells by any means, it’s simply a pattern that has popped up in meaningless games that is abnormal for a good team and nearly outrageous for this good team. There are two preseason games left, both ones in which the Golden Knights say they would like to treat as a “dress rehearsal.” That means a lineup close to their Opening Night plans and with a heavier focus on playing inside of their structure.

If the high-danger chances vanish into thin air like they probably will, the cause for concern will disappear instantly. But if the Coyotes or Sharks are constantly getting chances in close as the previous four opponents have, this could really be something to keep an eye on heading into the regular season.

**Stat compilation for this article was sourced from NaturalStatTrick.com**

Micro-Stats Shed Light On Many Golden Knights

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Last week one of the best follows on Twitter, analytics wizard @JFreshHockey, dropped a bunch of “micro-stats” from stat-tracking company InStat.

InStat goes back over games and grades events like turnovers, zone entries, puck battles, and dekes. The Golden Knights were littered throughout the top and bottom 20 lists for a variety of stats, some that were quite surprising.

We’ll start with a good one.

No surprise here, Mark Stone is awesome. The eye test has proven this out for years, but now we have a solid stat to show that when the puck is on Stone’s stick in the defensive zone, it’s coming out of the zone. Also unsurprisingly, he does it by passing the puck out as opposed to carrying it.

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