Every NHL arena has a group of five people who sit in the press box collecting “advanced” stats. They’re tracking things like time-on-ice, shots on goal, missed shots, blocks, faceoff wins and losses, hits, takeaways, giveaways, penalties, among others.
At T-Mobile Arena, they sit in the booth press box and they are constantly yelling out things like “Block by 15!” or “Hit! 28 on 44,” as they enter the information into the NHL’s proprietary data tracking system.
Because these people are humans, there tend to be discrepancies in how certain stats are judged. Though the league has strict set standards, in practice there will be differences from rink to rink. What qualifies as a hit? Who won the stalemate faceoff? Was that shot actually blocked? There are humans making these decisions, and they are doing it in a split second while the action is going on.
One of those discrepancies has seemingly aided the Golden Knights to lead the league in a stat that is one of the few which allows us to quantify defense.
The stat is takeaways, and after 11 games the Golden Knights lead the league by 30. Vegas has 121 takeaways, while the next closest is Colorado with 91. Toronto has 88, and Calgary 87. Comparing it to the bottom of the league, Buffalo brings up the rear with 40, or a difference of seven takeaways per game from Vegas.
There’s no question the Golden Knights are proficient at stealing the puck from opponents. Mark Stone is arguably the best in the league at it. Reilly Smith, William Karlsson, Shea Theodore, and Brayden McNabb are all good at it too. But, the stat really comes into focus when you compare Vegas’ takeaways at home vs on the road.
vs SJS 15
vs BOS 15
vs CGY 14
vs NSH 18
vs OTT 19
at SJS 9
at ARI 4
at LAK 3
at PIT 8
at PHI 6
at CHI 10
The Golden Knights average 16.2 takeaways per game on home ice. They average just 6.7 on the road. That’s nearly 10 takeaways per game difference between home and road. Something is clearly amiss.
But it’s not just for the Golden Knights, the stat extends to the road team as well at T-Mobile Arena. All five teams that have visited Vegas have left with either their season-high or second-highest number of takeaways in the game this year against the Golden Knights.
There have been 12 games this season in which a team has recorded at least 14 takeaways in a game. Seven of them were at T-Mobile Arena. In Vegas’ five home games, neither team has had fewer than 10 takeaways in any of the five. There have been 144 games this season, meaning 288 team games, only 72 of them have resulted in a team recording double-digit takeaways. 20 of the 72 (28%) have occurred at T-Mobile Arena.
The Golden Knights have six players in the top 30 in the league in takeaways. Smith leads VGK with 12, Karlsson and Stone have nine each, Glass has eight, and Theodore and Pacioretty each have seven.
The stat is clearly judged more leniently in Vegas than it is in any other arena in the league. Vegas’s average of 16.2 per game would translate to 1,328 over an 82 game season. Since 1997-98 when the league began keeping the stat, only 2 teams have ever reached 1,300.
With home and away games included, the Golden Knights are on pace for 902 takeaways this season. That would put them in 19th place for the most in the history of the NHL. The team currently sitting in 18th had 901 in 2018-19.
That team was the Vegas Golden Knights.