One of the biggest complaints surrounding the Golden Knights this season has been about their supposedly porous defense. Check out Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or chat with fans in the stands, most people believe the Golden Knights aren’t good enough defensively to win the Stanley Cup.
However, as the title of this article says, Vegas actually has one of the league’s best defenses. Pick a metric, goals against, shots against, shot attempts against, penalty minutes taken, penalty kill, scoring chances against, high danger chances against, all of them, literally every single one, the Golden Knights are in the top five in the NHL (see all below).
It gets even better when you add offense into the mix. They are top three in Corsi For %, Scoring Chance %, and High Danger Chance %. That means they create far more shot attempts, scoring chances, and high danger chances, than they allow.
Individually, the Golden Knights have seven defensemen with more than 1.7 point shares. All seven of them combine to have created 17.9 point shares, or in other words, the Vegas defense (and that’s defensemen’s defense only) have accounted for 28.8% of the Golden Knights’ points this season. The defense as a whole, including the forwards, have accounted for 32.3 points or 52.1% of the season total. To compare, Calgary’s defense has accounted for 31.9 points or 44.9% of the season total and San Jose’s defense has 25.7 point shares or 39.5% of their total.
Last year the Golden Knights allowed 2.74 goals against per game, this year they’ve allowed 2.67. Last year Vegas finished 8th in the league in goals against, at the break, they sit in 5th. Last year they allowed 30.7 shots against per game (7th in NHL), this year they allow 28.4 (2nd in NHL).
Oh, and many people will point to the guy between the pipes. Yes, Fleury has been tremendous, but he was actually better a year ago. His save percentage, goals against, and GSAA were all better in 2017-18 than 18-19. Team (not just Fleury) save percentage is .003 lower this year than last year. And, a majority of the stats indicating defensive success are goalie-independent.
No matter which way you slice it, the Golden Knights are better defensively than they were a year ago and they are among the best defenses in the NHL, easily top five.
Scoring is up across the NHL as each game averages 6.1 goals a game. The Golden Knights are going to allow goals, like around 80 of them, in the next 30 games, but every time it happens you don’t have to scream “This defense stinks!” because quite frankly, it doesn’t.