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Time To Start Cutting Back On High-Danger Chances Against

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

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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Hunting Career Highs: Forwards

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Part 1 of this article was on Tuesday, now we’re moving on to Part 2 where we are looking at the Golden Knights forward group. Again, we’re looking for the statistic each player is most likely to surpass their career-high in.

Mark Stone
Stat: Even-Strength Assists
Career High – 31

Mark Stone is a superstar, there’s really no way around it. He’s been one for a few years too, so hitting career-highs in just about anything won’t be easy. But the one number that jumped off the page was even-strength assists. I’d expect Stone to be pushing 40 assists this year (his career-high in a season is 42), and with VGK’s power play struggles most of them should come at 5-on-5. Plus, he’s awesome at 3-on-3 which could nab him a few more.

Other options: Assists (42), Games Played (80), Shorthanded Goals (1)

Max Pacioretty
Stat: Shots
Career High – 307

Pacioretty is a high-volume shooter, especially since he’s been in Vegas. It’s not uncommon to look up and see him on the board with five, six, or seven shots in a game. In 2019-20 he amassed his career-high 307 shots in just 71 games. This year, assuming he gets to around 80 games, he could easily be pushing 350. His numbers did pull back a bit last year, which is concerning, but he’s not exactly a guy with a lot of reachable career-high options.

Other options: Faceoffs Won (51), Assists (34), Power Play Goals (10)

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Hunting Career Highs: Defensemen And Goalie

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Though hockey is a team sport and the ultimate goal for every player involved is hoisting the Stanley Cup, individual numbers matter too. Each guy is always looking to build what they’ve done so far in their respective careers. With a pair of shortened seasons in the books, the last two years, and the Golden Knights primed to be one of the best teams in the NHL, many players have a chance to put up career-high numbers in numerous statistical categories.

We’re taking a look at each individual player and choosing the statistic they are most likely to set their career high in this season. Today we start with goalies and defensemen, later in the week we’ll move on to forwards.

Robin Lehner
Stat: Wins
Career High – 25

Lehner has his name engraved on the Jennings Trophy twice in the past three seasons. He has also received Vezina votes in two of those years. He did both of those as part of a goalie tandem though. Before that, he was the starter in Buffalo but for just two seasons, neither of which were his best. Now, Lehner has been handed the reins in Vegas and will likely be looking at 55-60 games in the net. His career-high mark in wins is just 25, the year he came in 2nd for the Vezina. Assuming health, he should get there with ease.

Other options: Shutouts (6), Quality Starts (32), Games Started (58)

Shea Theodore
Stat: Points
Career High – 46

Shea is the perfect guy to break through statistically this year because he doesn’t even need to improve his game to do it. In the 71 game season, in which he finished 6th in Norris, Theodore posted 46 points, an awesome number, but very reachable with 11 more games. He improved on it last year going off for 42 in 53 games. That’s 0.8 points per game. To set his career-high this year, he’ll need just 0.57 points per game.

Other options: TOI (1,588), Assists (34), Shots (219), Goals (13), Power Play Points (16)

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Can Alex Pietrangelo And Shea Theodore Succeed Simultaneously? Last Year Raises Concerns

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The moment the Golden Knights inked the mega-deal with Alex Pietrangelo the identity of the defense changed. Where VGK had previously been seen as a balanced group, Pietrangelo’s addition turned them into a collection of six defined by the two superstars. With Shea Theodore’s emergence the year prior and Pietrangelo captaining the Stanley Cup winner the year before, Vegas’ pair could be put up against any other defensive duo in the league.

Then the season came.

Theodore started off red hot amassing 14 points in his first 15 games while Pietrangelo took some time to settle in. Over the course of the year both missed time but throughout the balance of the regular season, it was clear that Theodore was the better performer. In fact, he earned himself 109 Norris votes, good for 6th place, where Pietrangelo did not receive a single vote.

Then the postseason came. And it flipped.

Pietrangelo was the best player in a Golden Knights jersey for the entire 19 game run while Theodore faded to the background going pointless in 10 of the first 12 and 13 of 19 playoff games. Pietrangelo racked up four goals including a stretch where he scored three of the team’s four total goals while Theodore lit the lamp just once in 439 minutes.

Due to the shortened season and the nature of the playoffs, the sample sizes are both fairly small. However, it seems like much more than a coincidence that when Theodore was on Pietrangelo was not, and vise versa.

I wanted to take a simple statistical approach to looking at this odd phenomenon before potentially diving deeper into it tactically and/or systematically. So, I went back over the 38 regular season games and 19 playoff games that featured both Pietrangelo and Theodore. I was focused on the two simplest stats, goals and points.

Over the course of the two seasons, before the pair played together, Theodore had scored 25 goals and 83 points in 150 regular season games. He ramped it up scoring nine times and adding 27 points in 27 playoff games. Pietrangelo’s scoring numbers are similar. In 141 regular season games he scored 29 goals and 93 points while he added four goals and 25 points in 35 playoff appearances.

Goals Per Game
Theodore – .19
.17 regular season
.33 playoffs
Pietrangelo – .19
.21 regular season
.11 playoffs

Points Per Game
Theodore – .62
.55 regular season
1.0 playoffs
Pietrangelo – .67
.66 regular season
.71 playoffs

The idea of acquiring Pietrangelo was to add his blue line production to the already excellent production Theodore had been generating. In theory, rather than having one defenseman scoring every fourth or fifth game, Vegas would have two. They’d also have two guys generating more than a half-point per game meaning there should rarely ever be a night where neither are on the board.

It didn’t pan out that way though. Here are their numbers this season in the 38 regular season games and 19 playoff games both were active,

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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

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

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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