After years of teasing it, the NHL has finally released the advanced stats gathered from player and puck tracking data. All of the stats can be found at NHL.com/edge including team, skater, and goalie specific numbers.
One of the most interesting numbers tracked is distance travelled. Jack Eichel led all Golden Knights last season travelling the most distance in a single game. On March 3rd against New Jersey, Eichel skated almost four miles in his 23 minutes of ice time. He finished the game with a total distance of 3.89 miles travelled, almost a full mile more than the league average of 2.92 per game.
Eichel also led the team in distance travelled per 60 minutes played. Brett Howden was a close second and Paul Cotter leads the pack so far in 2023-24.
(Measured in miles)
Another good piece of data is the hardest shot. Sine the data has begun beign tracked in 2021-22, the Golden Knights have seen two shots recorded at over 100 mph. One by Alec Martinez last year, and one by Nic Hague against Anaheim this season. Eichel, Dorofeyev, and Amadio recorded the hardest shots by forwards last season.
Reilly Smith served as an alternate in all 22 playoff games and each of the 78 regular season games he suited up last season. His time as an alternate dates back as far as the Golden Knights’ very first home game on October 10th, 2017 against Arizona (“and we beat the shit out of them”) and he’s worn the “A” more than 300 times while donning steel grey and gold.
But, with Smith set to wear a different shade of gold next season in Pittsburgh, Vegas will need a permanent replacement.
Last year, Alex Pietrangelo and Smith were the alternates for just about every game each participated in. Pietrangelo will likely continue to serve as an alternate as he plays into year four of his seven-year contract with the Golden Knights. The other spot is up for grabs.
There are a host of candidates who could potentially take over for Smith.
Wild Bill leads the list because he served as the alternate to the alternates in the only game missed by Pietrangelo or Smith in the postseason. Game 5 against the Edmonton Oilers saw Pietrangelo sidelined serving his one-game suspension for slashing Leon Draisaitl. Wearing the “A,” Karlsson posted a sweet assist to Smith for the go-ahead goal in the 2nd period and led the team with 24 shifts on that night.
As an original Misfit, Karlsson makes perfect sense to take over for Smith. He’s played more than 500 games as a Golden Knight, rarely missing a game, and is a perfect example of how Cassidy likes his forwards to play. Plus, after the “You Guys Were Greater” speech, it’s hard to argue he’s not a natural leader.
Much has been said about the Stanley Cup-winning Golden Knights’ defensive unit. Throughout the 82-game regular season, four playoff rounds, and five finals games, VGK’s blue line was a major reason for the team’s championship run. In fact, Vegas’ defensive wealth compares to past Stanley Cup winners. Each team over the past dozen or so years has had one of the league’s elite defensemen anchoring their backend. The Golden Knights were blessed with one D-man that will be etched into silver twice.
You simply don’t win a Stanley Cup without an elite top-pair defenceman:
After the Golden Knights were eliminated by the Dallas Stars in the 2020 Western Conference Finals, the organization made a bevy of transactions. Center Paul Stastny and defenseman Nate Schmidt were jettisoned for cap room making way for one of the worst-kept secrets in team history. While the moves felt controversial at the time, the front office arguably overbid but got their man. Without publicly acknowledging it, Vegas’ front office successfully ripped Pietrangelo from the heart of the St. Louis Blues organization. It’s not a coincidence that the Blues have only one playoff series win since losing their former captain.
He was the captain of the team and been a real good player for a number of years for the Blues, won a Cup and he was a big part of it for sure. But that’s the game and people move on. -Craig Berube, STL November, 2020
With a victory tonight, the Golden Knights will be one win closer to claiming the franchise’s first Stanley Cup trophy. Through two games Vegas is scorching Florida in the offensive zone while allowing just three goals in six periods. For all intents and purposes, the 2023 Stanley Cup Final has been a one-sided mismatch.
We’ve approached every game in the playoffs the same way. We try to take it, everyone says, one at a time, but we’ve got our backs against the wall, obviously. We’re down by two, but we’re coming home. Love our team, love our resiliency. We’re going to go out and give our best effort, play our best game tomorrow and go from there. -Marc Staal, FLA defenseman
While the right things are being said from the Panthers’ locker room, they understand tying the series over the next two games is a tall order. Sure, they recovered after falling behind in their opening round. However, the Golden Knights are not playing like an opening round team. No, Vegas is competing like one of the all-time great Stanley Cup teams. The statistics and outcomes highlight VGK’s dominance.
Highest Scoring Stanley Cup Teams In Stanley Cup Final:
2023 Vegas Golden Knights – 6.0 Goals Per Game (2 Games)
1980 New York Islanders – 5.2 GPG (5 Games)
1991 Pittsburgh Penguins – 4.6 GPG (6 Games)
1981 New York Islanders – 4.3 GPG (6 Games)
2010 Chicago Blackhawks – 4.2 GPG (6 Games)
Last season, the Cup-winning Colorado Avalanche scored 20 total goals in six contests. The Golden Knights are eight goals away from matching the Avalanche’s total in only six periods. If their pace continues, Vegas will rank among the best offenses in Stanley Cup Final history.
Most pundits expect the Panthers to snap out of their two-game funk and threaten the Golden Knights series lead. Considering the flow Vegas is on right now, it wouldn’t be wise to count them out in South Florida. Especially, considering how VGK have feasted on the road.
I love the road, to be honest, where all the guys are together, having team dinners, playing cards all together, hanging out. We have such good team chemistry this year that we have a lot of fun. There’s no dull moment with that group of guys. -Jonathan Marchessault
The key battleground coming in this Stanley Cup Final was the war between each team’s strong relentless forecheck and the opposing breakout. The team that was more successful winning the clashes in each zone would not only generate the majority of dangerous scoring chances but also control the flow of the game.
Through two games, the battles in both attacking zones have been a landslide in favor of the Golden Knights.
Vegas has consistently broken the pressure of the Panthers which has allowed them persistent exits, many of which are controlled. On the other end of the ice, the Golden Knights’ forecheck has caused issues for Florida leading to lots of dump, chip, and rim outs, all of which have helped to feed the VGK transition game.
Typically, the credit for the forecheck goes to the forwards while that of the breakouts goes to the defense. In the case of the Golden Knights, veteran defenseman Alec Martinez believes most of the praise on both ends goes to the Vegas front line.
As a defense group we’re doing a pretty good job of getting it to the forwards in good positions but even though we try to get it to them in those spots it doesn’t always happen. The forwards have done a really good job of making plays on the wall. That’s probably one of the most difficult situations to be in during a game of hockey. You get a bouncing puck or one that’s rimmed around and those can be the difference in a hockey game and our forwards are doing a really good job with those. -Martinez
He continued with appreciation for his teammates for their work on the other end of the ice.
The way that our forwards backcheck and reload, that allows us to stay up. Often times when the D have good gaps it’s because the forwards are working back and kind of squeezing them along the blue lines or in the neutral zone. While I’d like to take credit as a D corps, it’s truly a five-man connected unit, it’s a team game, and those forwards allow us to keep some of those plays in and be aggressive too. -Martinez
A couple of wins away from his third trip to the mountaintop, there aren’t many better in the league than Martinez at understanding what must happen for a successful forecheck or breakout.
The Golden Knights are delivering it in the defensive zone and bringing the heat in the attacking zone and the Game 2 goal scorer has taken notice.
As the series shifts to Florida with the Panthers in dire straights, the intensity on both ends is likely to ramp up. Vegas has followed the roadmap so far and if they can withstand the added heat the Panthers bring at home, they’ll likely be bringing a 35-pound silver alloy friend back on the plane with them.
When the Golden Knights are playing at their best it starts in the defensive zone, or more specifically, how quickly they are getting out of the defensive zone.
For Vegas to be consistently successful, they need the game to be under their control in all three zones. From generating large numbers of chances based on extended offensive zone time, to having the proper setup through the neutral zone, to breaking the puck out of the defensive zone, each piece relies upon the next.
Last night against the Florida Panthers, the Golden Knights saw both ends of what it looks like when the breakouts are going well and when they are not.
For almost a 20-minute stretch from the middle of the 2nd period to the 12-minute mark of the 3rd the Golden Knights could not consistently break the puck out of their defensive zone. It led to mountains of chances for the Panthers and one of the longest shot droughts Vegas has experienced all season.
It culminated in a 5-on-3 power play for the Panthers that could have buried the Golden Knights in what appeared to be a winnable game. VGK’s penalty kill stepped up and from that moment on, the breakouts improved which started the ball rolling towards a three-goal 3rd period and Vegas’ 8th comeback win of the season.
We got better when we played a little bit more north-south because they are a very aggressive team. We forced their D to pinch down on us to keep a puck alive because when they don’t, now you are in foot races for odd-man rushes. -Bruce Cassidy
If you look back to the 2020-21 NHL season you’ll recollect just how dangerous the Golden Knights were. They outscored their opponents by 1.21 goals per game and ended the season with a remarkable +63 in scoring differential. Vegas was a legitimate Cup favorite and was destined to face the Colorado Avalanche for Western conference supremacy. One reason why the Golden Knights had so much success throughout the shortened 56-game season was the support they received from the blue line.
With the addition of Alex Pietrangelo, VGK’s defense in 2021 was among the top scoring clubs in the NHL for points from the men who man the points. Between the group, Vegas’ d-men posted 142 points. Lead by Shea Theodore (8 Goals, 34 Assists), several Golden Knights defenders had career highs in points per game.
So, is it possible to duplicate their blue line scoring in the upcoming 2022-23 season?
We’ve broken down how new coach Bruce Cassidy has a slightly different mindset than previous coach Pete DeBoer when it comes to defensive involvement. Of course in Cassidy’s system blue liners will have the opportunity to score but not as much as they did in the past.
14-year veteran Alec Martinez not only registered his highest points per game average (0.60) but was also a dangerous power play weapon. The two-time Stanley Cup winner scored 3 PP goals in 2021, the most he scored in seven previous seasons. Martinez even lead the Golden Knights struggling man-advantage with two PP goals in the 2021 postseason.
Most fans expect Pietrangelo and Shea Theodore to actively help out offensively but can the rest of the defensive unit step up like they did in 2021? With the lack of natural scoring forwards, even under Cassidy, Golden Knights’ defensemen should have ample opportunities to pitch in. To qualify for the postseason VGK may be forced to rely on crucial points from the point.
What’s the saying? Oh right, it takes a village to win a Cup.
Each year NFL and NCAA football experts publicly predict the fate of every franchise or program in the country. Many have made a living off their accuracy. I’m an enormous college football fan and found Phil Steele to be an incredibly knowledgeable analyst. Steele’s must-read annual season preview is jam-packed with valuable information. Historically, he’s been successful in forecasting whether teams will improve or decline from their previous season. Steele and his fellow prognosticators like to use certain formulas to lead them to their conclusions.
Some ways to project a team’s rise or fall is through certain factors, even unlucky factors. These can be costly turnovers, execution breakdowns, and yep, even injuries apply. For fun let’s use Steele’s formula to predict if the Golden Knights will improve next season.
The Turnover Battle
One fumble or interception can critically change a football game. Obviously, we cannot compare the severity of football turnovers to a giveaway in hockey. Sure, a giveaway (GvA) can lead to a scoring opportunity but NHL players aren’t benched for surrendering a puck to make a line change.
Last season Vegas turned the puck over 8.20 times per game. They were 16th in the league with a total of 681 giveaways in 2021-22. A stark difference from the previous season.
Although Vegas turned the puck over at a higher rate than half the league, it wasn’t a drastic change from franchise averages. In fact, the organization’s best team had more giveaways than last season’s non-playoff lineup. Overall, the Golden Knights are 10th in the league for the least amount of giveaways since 2017. That alone suggests improvement to Vegas’ puck protection problems.
Tight Game Outcomes
Another metric to project improvement is a club’s record in one-score games. The college football galaxy usually balances itself out and teams that lose close games go on to win more of them the following season. The same can happen in hockey, or at least with the Golden Knights. Last season Vegas lost the seventh most one-goal games and won the 12th most one-goal games. Roughly 30% of VGK’s season was decided by one score. Since 2017, the Golden Knights are fifth in the NHL with 89 one-goal victories. Historically, Vegas has won the majority of tight games. That should reappear.
It doesn’t matter which sport, unexpected injuries will topple any team. The Golden Knights had never been as depleted as they were last year. Injuries to Mark Stone, Reilly Smith, Alec Martinez, and others gutted the roster and were a huge reason for the team missing the playoffs. We should anticipate injuries but it’s safe to say it won’t be like last season. Based on their five-year history, Vegas fans can expect a healthier lineup in 2022-23.
No matter what formula you use or how ridiculous the exercise was to get the conclusion, all signs point towards the postseason for the Golden Knights. Fans should expect exciting and successful hockey. Vegas should have better outcomes in tight games and fewer injured players. If all comes to fruition, the Golden Knights will most certainly compete for a top seed in the Pacific Division. They may struggle to score but Vegas is talented enough to make a run. With a healthy Martinez, Smith, and Stone the Golden Knights are a much more intimidating team. It’s just too bad they can’t sign some of the blue-chip prospects from Alabama or Georgia.
Over the next two months, the Golden Knights will tweak their roster in hopes of creating a legitimate contender. Every maneuver the club decides to make will need to keep the salary cap in consideration. Yesterday Ken shared his predictions, now here’s mine.
TRADE – Alec Martinez and a 5th round pick traded to the Detroit for a 4th round pick
There’s just no way around it, the Golden Knights need to shed salary. Trading Martinez to Detroit makes sense for both teams and the player. The Wings have space and could use an elder statesman to direct their young d-core, and mentor Calder Trophy winner Moritz Seider. Let’s not forget to mention Martinez was born and bred in Rochester Hills, MI. It’ll hurt the Golden Knights but in a cap world space is much more important than an expensive veteran with miles. This also allows some flexibility for a possible multi-year deal with Nic Hague.
TRADE – Laurent Brossoit and a 4th round pick to Dallas for 5th round pick
Brossoit is another easy candidate for some cap relief. Logan Thompson made his case to become Robin Lehner’s backup and proved he can handle the pressure of being a number one. This allows the Golden Knights front office to undo their unnecessary spending of $2.5M last summer. It might seem like an odd destination considering new Stars coach Pete DeBoer had some sharp comments after one of Brossoit’s performances in Vegas. However, there’s space and a fit for a veteran backup to support up-and-comer Jake Oettinger.
The Golden Knights are not afraid to quickly erase their mistakes. As aggressive and encouraging as that is it usually ends up costing them a hefty price to do so.
Sort of like losing a deposit after terminating a timeshare you foolishly signed up for the day before. Of course, it sounded great at the time. The vacation club, the free drinks and lunch, the tour of the facility, heck they even threw in three free nights at Excalibur! How could you possibly say no to the guy pressuring you as if his life depended on your enrollment?!?
It seems likely the Golden Knights will once again be wheeling and dealing for cap space this summer. Under their current situation, Vegas will need to rid themselves of several contracts this offseason.
It may be ridding themselves of contracts they recently signed (Martinez, Brossoit) one they traded for last Summer (Dadonov), or even a few that now look like overpays from the past (Karlsson, Pacioretty, Lehner). Whatever direction they head it won’t end well from a return on investment standpoint for the Golden Knights. Whether it be shipping expendable prospects, retaining salary, or most detrimental, trading away another draft pick with another unwanted player.