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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

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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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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.

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