Unproven. That was the buzzword coming into the season when it came to the Golden Knights’ plans in the net.
A 25-year-old undrafted rookie with 19 NHL starts under his belt, a 26-year-old who has bounced around a few franchises and never yet established himself as a starter, and a 29-year-old career backup. That’s the VGK goalie room.
On the outside looking in I think people automatically assumed it was going to be not good, and I get it on paper, but the game is not played on paper. -Bruce Cassidy
With Laurent Brossoit on the shelf, through 10 games, the tandem of Logan Thompson and Adin Hill leads the league in goals against per game and save percentage and has backstopped the Golden Knights to the top of the standings in the Western Conference.
Their .941 save percentage is 14 points higher than any other team in the league and 40 points better than the league average. The 17 goals allowed are three fewer than the next closest team, the Calgary Flames, who have only played seven games. Of teams that have played 10 games thus far, VGK is the only team to allow fewer than 30 goals.
Quite simply, you can’t ask for much more.
At the end of the day, I’m happy for them. They’ve both worked hard. They’ve both, when it was their turn, took the ball and ran with it. -Cassidy
But while the story of the season may seem to be about the goaltending, it’s been the play in front of them that’s the real reason for the incredibly hot start.
According to MoneyPuck.com, at 5-on-5 the Golden Knights have allowed just 12 high-danger shots in 10 games. Meanwhile, they’ve allowed 264 low-danger shots. It’s the 3rd least high-danger shots against per game while allowing the most low-danger per game. Even when you throw in other situations like power play and 6-on-5, the Golden Knights still rank in the top five in the league in each category.
Both Thompson and Hill have been below league average in stopping high-danger chances. Thompson has been much better than Hill saving 83.3% of the high-danger chances against, while Adin sits at 77.8%. Both of their “high-danger save percentages above expected” are in the negative while they rank 4th and 7th in the same category against low-danger chances. Even at medium-danger, Thompson sits right at league average while Hill is a bit below.
The Cassidy system asks its goalies to stop the easy ones, and VGK goalies have done an incredible job of it so far. Of the 317 low-danger shots Vegas goalies have faced in all situations, the Golden Knight have allowed just one goal. Thompson has a perfect save percentage against the ones he’s faced while Hill is at .992.
Of course, this is an incredibly small sample size, and it’s bound to change over the course of the next 72 games, but it’s been a strong indicator that the Cassidy defensive system has taken hold and is helping the inexperienced goaltending duo early on.
So far so good. I think we’re playing good in front of them, good team defense. When we have broken down they’ve done their part. We don’t want to rely on them to be the guy that wins games for us every night and so far the team has bought into that and they’ve trusted whoever is in there to get it done. -Cassidy
It’s been good. We both like each other on and off the ice. And the team has had a great start to the season too, it hasn’t just been the goaltending. The D-men have done a great job in front of us. Hopefully we can keep it rolling and keep racking up wins. -Hill
Cassidy had a specific plan coming into the season. Both in how he planned on deploying his goalies as well as how he expected his team to play in front of them. Both have gone perfectly to script through the first month of the season.
Logan’s played six and Adin was four and that was our plan and we were going to stick to it unless something went haywire. We were not going to deviate because one of the guys had a poor outing and we weren’t going to deviate because one guy pitched a shutout. Now twice Logan has pitched a shutout and not gone in the next day which people will say ‘this coach is cuckoo’ but this was the plan for October for two young guys to not over tax them. They are both good solid goaltenders and I thought we’d play well in front of them. We taught it well in camp and guys have bought into it, so I’m not surprised they’ve played well. -Cassidy
Also, there’s been one massive aspect thus far this season that the Golden Knights did not experience a year ago.
We’re healthy too, don’t forget. So we’ve got the same group in front of them learning the process every night so we’ve gotten better as well. -Cassidy
So far, it’s gone about as well it as possibly could. Team defense has been elite, the goalies have done their jobs, and the wins have stacked up.
Keeping it going is the next test, and that begins this week with a tricky five-game road trip to the East coast.