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Advanced Stats Say Dallas Dominated The Golden Knights, So How Did VGK Stay Afloat?

Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke, SinBin.vegas

One goal short.

In the seven game series between the Golden Knights and Stars, each team scored exactly the same number of goals, 16, but in the end, Dallas got one more when it mattered most and ended VGK’s bid to defend their crown as Stanley Cup champions.

Stats from the series do not indicate that it was as close as the final tally shows though. Over seven games, Dallas posted 65 more scoring chances, 36 more at high-danger, and amassed seven more expected goals.

Based on those numbers, the Golden Knights were fortunate to have even made it to Game 7. However, Game 3, despite going to overtime, was dominated by the Stars, so much so that it skewed the numbers on the series.

Game 3
Score: 3-2 DAL
Expected Goals: 5.41-1.42 DAL
Scoring Chances: 50-23 DAL
High-Danger Chances: 27-4 DAL

So, what do the numbers look like without Game 3?

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Game 7: By The Numbers

Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke, SinBin.vegas

The defending champions (let’s go, I still get to write that), are headed to Dallas for the two best words in sports. Game 7!

Let’s dig into some history of the winner-take-all game.

VGK’s Game 7 History

2021 First Round vs Minnesota Wild: VGK wins 6-2 (Highlights)

It was a back-and-forth game until the middle of the 2nd period when Max Pacioretty, who was playing his first game of the series, unlocked the 2-2 tie and send the Golden Knights racing towards the finish line. Zach Whitecloud extended the lead and then Mattias Janmark netted two in the 3rd period to complete the Game 7 hat trick.

2020 Second Round vs Vancouver Canucks: VGK wins 3-0 (Highlights)

Unlike the Game 6 we just watched, this one in the Bubble was a bit of a snoozer. Both teams struggled to generate much of anything until the 3rd period breakthrough came. Not before Robin Lehner’s epic diving stop that prompted the legendary “big man can move when he wants to” comment from the Panda after the game. A Shea Theodore power play goal gave the Golden Knights the lead and they’d tack on two empty netters to make the final score look a lot different than the actual game.

2019 First Round vs San Jose Sharks: SJS wins 5-4* (No one needs highlights)

Ohhhhh the #NotAMajor game. Honestly, it was probably the best actual hockey game in the history of the franchise but it’s also one I think we all are fine with forgetting about right now (aside from Marchessault’s epic rescue job at the end of regulation). And no, I’m never going to stop putting an asterisk on it.

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Jack Eichel Is Playing Far More Than William Karlsson, That Must Change

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

On every hockey team, there’s a hierarchy when it comes to time on ice. Every team has a top line that includes a #1 center, a workhorse defenseman, a first power play unit, and preferred penalty killers. This leads to an uneven, but expected, range of times on ice for each of the 18 skaters.

This year, Alex Pietrangelo leads all Golden Knights in time on ice, averaging 23:38 per game. Jack Eichel is the leader among the forwards at a healthy 20:33, nearly two minutes more than he played a year ago. Chandler Stephenson and William Karlsson lag by two and three minutes with Stephenson at 18:30 and Karlsson at 17:45. That distribution is normal for a team with three excellent centers.

Something peculiar has been happening recently though. In the 5 games before one Eichel was ejected from, Eichel has amassed 28 more minutes than Karlsson for an average of more than five and a half extra minutes per game.

Yesterday, I asked Bruce Cassidy for his preferred distribution between the centers and he replied that a five-minute difference is too much, and instead, it should be closer to two or three minutes. He continued to hypothesize that it could have to do with added power play time and extra shifts with the team trailing.

However, the numbers have not borne it out.

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VGK Not Matching Historic Day Game Success This Season

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights are back in action with an early game in San Jose this Presidents Day. It will be Vegas’ 6th game this season with a puck drop prior to 5pm local time. The first five haven’t been kind to the Golden Knights as they enter with a record of 1-2-2.

In the first two, the Golden Knights used late 3rd period goals to push the games to overtime but couldn’t beat Chicago at home or Philadelphia on the road. The two regulation losses came in December at Florida and the Winter Classic in Seattle. VGK’s lone win was a 6-1 drubbing of the Stars in Dallas.

Historically, the Golden Knights have been good in day games posting a record of 20-13-5 in franchise history.

2023-24: 1-2-2
2022-23: 5-1-0
2021-22: 4-0-1
2020-21: 3-2-0
2019-20: 0-2-0
2018-19: 3-6-1
2017-18: 4-0-1

Coming into this season VGK had won nine of their last 11 day games but the results have not continued this year. With the Kings and Oilers charging behind the Golden Knights, an easy win in San Jose this afternoon would be nice.

VGK’s Path To Winning The Pacific Division

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Right now the Golden Knights currently sit in 2nd place in the Pacific Division. Well, that is if you are going by the total number of points earned in all games played so far. If you go by points percentage, the more accurate representation of where each team stands, the Golden Knights drop down to 3rd behind tonight’s opponent, the Edmonton Oilers.

Both Vegas and Edmonton are looking up at the Vancouver Canucks who have posted an incredible 71 points in the first 49 games of the season. They are on pace to finish the year with a whopping 119 points, breaking the franchise record by 2 points (the 2010-11 that went to the Cup Final).

If they are to continue playing at that pace, it’s going to be nearly impossible for the Golden Knights, Oilers, or Kings to catch them. In fact, for it to happen, Vegas would have to earn 55 of the final 64 points available on their schedule.

However, that’s not what is expected of the Canucks. Also, the Oilers have won 16 games in a row and have ripped off a record of 26-6-0 since they fired their head coach on November 12th. That’s probably not continuing either.

So, let’s look at some more realistic milestones that these teams could potentially hit and compare what the Golden Knights, and others, would have to play to match or beat them. We’ll start with the Canucks.

If Vancouver…
Play .700 (117 points)

EDM must play .786
VGK must play .831
LAK must play .900

If the Canucks tie their franchise record for points in a season and finish the season at a .700 points percentage in the final 33 games, the Golden Knights would need to record 53 of the final 64 points, playing at a .831 points percentage to tie them. For comparison, last year’s team went 22-4-5 after the All Star break. That’s a points percentage of .790, which isn’t even close. But, what if Vancouver plays a little worse?

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Golden Knights Record In Every Jersey

They always say “You are what you wear.” So, let’s look at the Golden Knights’ records when they wear each of their six different jerseys.

**Stick tap to NHLUniforms.com for the images of the jerseys.**

Gray Jersey (2017-2020 Home)
Overall: 130-59-14 (.675)
Gray Helmet: 117-54-14 (.670)
Gold Helmet: 13-5-0 (.722)
Playoffs: 22-12
Stanley Cup Final: 1-2

White Jersey (2017-Current Away)
Overall: 156-107-30 (.584)
Home: 5-4-3 (.542)
Playoffs: 23-19
Stanley Cup Final: 1-3

Gold Jersey (2021-Current Home)
Overall: 58-21-3 (.726)
Road: 3-0-0 (1.000)
Playoffs: 9-3
Stanley Cup Final: 3-0 *Won Cup*

Red Jersey (Reverse Retro 2021)
Overall: 3-2-0 (.600)
Road: 0-1-0 (.000) *Lake Tahoe*

Black Jersey (Reverse Retro 2022-23)
Overall: 3-5-0 (.375)

Winter Classic (2024)
Overall: 0-2-0 (.000)
Road: 0-1-0 (.000) *Winter Classic*

Outperforming xG Is The Secret To Success

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

A mystery surrounding the Golden Knights, since Bruce Cassidy became the head coach, has been the correlation between expected and actual results.

Last year in the playoffs, Vegas was expected to score 73 goals while allowing 72. In reality, they scored 88 while allowing just 57. Thus, they outplayed the expected results by 30 goals in 22 games.

The numbers haven’t been as staggering this year, but the Golden Knights remain an outlier to the expected goals system. NaturalStatTrick.com’s expected goals have VGK at +6 (150-144) while their actual goal differential is +25 (157-132).

There are all sorts of reasons why the Golden Knights’ numbers skew this way, but it’s all somewhat hypothetical and there’s not one clear reason, so we’re going to leave that alone for today. Instead, we’re going to focus on areas in which the numbers have shown some significance.

We’ll start super simple. When the Golden Knights finish a game with more expected goals than their opponent, they are 14-5-2, when they finish with fewer, they are 14-9-4. It’s definitely an indicator of success on a game-to-game basis, but not nearly as much as you might expect. There’s a .122-point percentage difference for the Golden Knights. The Oilers are much more indicative with a difference of .202 (22-9-1 when win xG, 6-6-0 when lose xG).

Where it’s mattered a little more is when the Golden Knights win the xG battle by a significant margin. When VGK post at least a 60% expected goals percentage, they are 6-2-1, while when they are at 40% or less, they are 3-2-2. A difference of .151 points percentage, a bit more than the .122.

The biggest difference for the Golden Knights is how they perform compared to their expected goals. In theory, the more expected goals you rack up, the more likely you are to score. However, for Vegas, that hasn’t always been the case. They’ve generated at least three expected goals in 18 games this season, but they are just 9-7-2 in those games. When they’ve actually scored three or more, they are 24-2-4.

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