Through six games of the regular season, the Golden Knights have netted just 11 goals and have yet to score more than two in any game. No matter how you slice it, that’s a problem.
The first excuse you’ll hear is about the posts. Those complaints are legitimate as the Golden Knights are currently tied for the league lead in post hits with eight. Eight more goals would look great, however, that’s horribly unrealistic to expect because post hits happen to everyone. Last year, the Golden Knights hit 57 posts on 5,020 shot attempts. That’s about 1.13% of shot attempts that hit the pipes. In the 393 shot attempts they’ve had this year this year, the numbers say the Golden Knights should have hit the posts 4.46 times. So, we’re only talking 3.54 more goals over six games, and that’s if the pucks go in instead of off the pipes. More likely, and you’ll see why in a second, at least a few of those 3.54 shots were probably lucky to hit the post rather than sail wide.
But that’s only a tiny part of the story. The big part of the story has nothing to do with puck luck or goaltending or anything else, it’s simply that the Golden Knights are not hitting the net enough on their shots. In fact, they rank 2nd in the NHL with 92 missed shots (behind San Jose) and they lead the league in having their shots blocked with 108. That’s 200 shots they have taken that have not made it to the goalie. Last year Vegas averaged about 28 shots blocked or missed last season, this year the number is over 33.
Jonathan Marchessault leads the NHL in missed shots with 14. Reilly Smith and Shea Theodore both have nine, ranking them in the top 15. Erik Haula and Max Pacioretty each have seven.
Maybe worse is the Golden Knights through percentages. A “through percentage” is the percentage of shots that are taken that actually make it to the goalie. It’s specifically important for defensemen when taking shots from the point. Last year, Nate Schmidt brought up the rear with a through percentage of 40.4% on the season. Sbisa was around 42%, Miller and McNabb at about 45%, Engelland, Merrill, and Hunt near 50%, and Shea Theodore had an excellent 55% through percentage.
Contrast that to this year. Not a single Golden Knights defenseman is over 46.7% and three (Engelland, Merrill, Miller) are all under 37%. In a word, brutal, across the board. Even Theodore, who is the best the Golden Knights have, has seen his dip 12 points to 43%.
Controlling the number of shot attempts, otherwise known as having a +50% Corsi For Percentage, is seen by the advanced stats community as winning the possession battle in the game. The Golden Knights have done that, and well, but like any stat, it doesn’t tell the whole story.
Vegas is shooting the puck a lot, but way too many are not hitting the net, which is a heck of a reason why they aren’t going in. It’s not puck luck or great goaltending causing this either, it’s decision making. Vegas has been far too hasty in taking the first shot available to them rather than making the extra play to get a good shot. That, and guys just simply aren’t shooting accurately enough. (Looking at you, first and second lines.)
Both need to change, and quickly. The possession is there, the chances are there, now they just need to start finishing them. Hopefully a little home-cookin’ makes that happen.