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Pacific Division: Group of 8 With Only 3 Contenders?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s been no secret that over the past six seasons, the Pacific Division was regarded as one of the leagues least competitive. Let’s face it, for basically the entirety of the Golden Knights’ existence three or four teams were annually counted out of contention before the puck hit opening night ice. Vegas is the only team to reach the Stanley Cup Final in that span and the Golden Knights became the first Pacific division team to win the Cup since 2014.

Heading into the 2023-24 season, the division looks to play out the same way it did last year. Of course, it’s foolish to eliminate teams before the season begins but would anyone be surprised if Anaheim, San Jose, or Vancouver missed the 2024 playoffs? According to Sportsnet, they wouldn’t be.

Whether it’s a repeat from Vegas, a breakthrough for Edmonton, or something of a Cinderella story from Los Angeles or Seattle, might the 2024 Stanley Cup champion come out of the Pacific Division again? Might this division also house the team that “wins” the first-overall selection? –Sportsnet.ca

According to William Hill, the Pacific Division is expected to be conquered by the Edmonton Oilers (+180), the reigning champions (+210) or the LA Kings (+440) in 2024. The divisional odds are not much different from last season’s expected winners. Vegas came away with division with Edmonton and LA filling out the top three Pacific clubs. As you go further down the list, the prices drastically get larger, suggesting that it would be a major surprise if any team outside of the top three took the division.

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VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 7 ANAHEIM DUCKS 2 (32-18-4, 68 PTS)

Recap: The Golden Knights were home for the first time in six games to host the Anaheim Ducks. Paul Cotter scored the only goal in the first period giving Vegas a 1-0 lead after the opening 20 minutes. 

Both teams exchanged goals in the middle frame. Brett Howden scored his second of the season assisted by Keegan Kolesar and Nic Roy.

Vegas’ offense really turned on in the final period. The Golden Knights received goals from Shea Theodore, Phil Kessel, Jack Eichel Michael Amadio, and William Carrier. The game ended in blowout style. 

The Golden Knights’ record improves to 32-18-4 crushing the Ducks 7-2. Vegas will host the Sharks this Thursday for their next game. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 PM.

Analysis: Like many games the Ducks have played in this season, the Golden Knights dominated territorially the entire game. They scored quick but then the chance generation slowed down through the middle of the game. In the 3rd they ramped it back up by getting pucks on net again. The Ducks then quit and VGK turned it into a rout. Easy win against the league’s worst team.  (Analysis by Ken)

Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs. Anaheim Ducks at T-Mobile Arena.

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ANAHEIM DUCKS 3 VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 2 (24-12-2, 50 PTS) – SO (2-0)

Recap: The Golden Knights traveled south of LA for the second game of a back-to-back against the Anaheim Ducks. Anaheim opened the scoring 3:27 into the game and doubled their lead nine minutes later. Mark Stone quickly cut the Ducks lead in half with a 1st period shorthanded goal. After the opening 20 minutes, Anaheim held a 2-1 advantage.

Anaheim continued to commit penalties and put Vegas on the power play in the middle frame. Altogether, the Ducks handed the Golden Knights five power plays in the first 27 minutes of the game. Unfortunately, VGK couldn’t take advantage of any of them but they were able to even the score 2-2 with a 5-on-5 goal from Ben Hutton. 

The game slowed down in the final period with each offense struggling to get any momentum. The game needed overtime and eventually a shootout to settle a winner. Anaheim would score the first two and pick up the two points. 

The Golden Knights’ record drops to (24-12-2) losing to the Ducks 3-2 in a shootout. Vegas will head back home for their last game of 2022 on Saturday against the Nashville Predators. Puck drop against the Predators is scheduled for 12 PM. (Recap by Jason)

Analysis: Lil Jon got his wish tonight as VGK fired shot after shot after shot on goal. What did not happen though was the goals part. VGK scored twice, once on a shorthanded breakaway and the other on a fluky own goal off a Ducks skate. Another game where finishing is the problem and this one hurts a bit because that has to be a free two points. (Analysis by Ken)

Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs. Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center.

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Vegas Needs To Finish The Year Strong Before The Heat Turns On In 2023

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Last night Vegas missed out on a golden opportunity to stash away more money in the bank before their busy season begins. So what, they lost to Buffalo. It’s only one game and a win tomorrow would keep Vegas on pace to cross the 50-point mark by year-end. We’ll get into January later, but for right now the Golden Knights have four more games to focus on in 2022.

Starting tomorrow night, the Golden Knights are set to play statistically some of the league’s worst defenses and offenses. Putting it lightly, the remaining schedule is as soft as Santa’s beard.

VGK’s Remaining 2022 Schedule

  • Weds, 12/21: vs. Arizona (10-15-5, 25 Pts)
    81 Goals Scored – 28th
    106 Goals Allowed – 22nd
    .414 Points % – 28th
  • Fri, 12/23: vs St. Louis (16-15-1, 32 Pts)
    92 Goals Scored – 22nd
    113 Goals Allowed – 26th
    68% Penalty Kill – 30th
  • Tues, 12/21: at Los Angeles (17-12-5, 39 Pts)
    109 Goals Scored – 6th
    122 Goals Allowed – 31st
    70.9% Penalty Kill – 28th
  • Weds, 12/22: at Anaheim (9-20-3, 21 Pts)
    77 Goals Scored – 29th
    133 Goals Allowed – 32nd
    3 Regulation Wins – 32nd

Some would argue that St. Louis and LA aren’t walkovers and they tend to get up for games against Vegas. However, both are struggling to keep the puck out of their own nets and have two of the worst penalty kill units in the league. The Golden Knights will likely attack the net knowing there are holes in each team’s defense. If it plays out, Vegas should be in a position to expose weaknesses in LA & St. Louis’ special teams. Both clubs are manageable but it won’t be as easy as the Golden Knights other two opponents.

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Bum Slaying: VGK Gladly Collecting Points From League’s Worst

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

At the end of the NHL regular season when teams are planning for the postseason or the golf course, it’s unlikely for the players, coaches and managers to huddle around and go over how they reached their fate. For losing clubs, it’s a quick clean out of their lockers and get out of dodge to their summer destinations. For the fortunate 16, they’re preparing for a potentially long run in the playoffs. However, for prognostication purposes, it is important to note how successful teams got to their ultimate goals.

After last night’s 2-1 OT victory over the hapless Philadelphia Flyers, Vegas extended their Western Conference best record to 41 points. It wasn’t the prettiest, but a win is a win when fighting for a seat in the playoffs.

When you break down how the Golden Knights picked up their points, you’ll notice that they’re taking care of business when facing lesser competitors. This is exactly what all playoff hopefuls do throughout a long 82-game regular season. Call it bum slaying, padding stats, or anything you’d like but those points are vital to any team fighting for the postseason.

Points from Non-Contenders: (22)

  • 10/13: VGK 1 vs CHI 0
  • 10/25: VGK 4 @ SJ 2
  • 10/28: VGK 4 vs ANA 0
  • 11/03: VGK 5 @ OTT 4
  • 11/05: VGK 6 @ MTL 4
  • 11/10: VGK 7 @ BUF 4
  • 11/17: VGK 4 vs ARI 1
  • 11/21: VGK 5 @ VAN 4
  • 11/23: VGK 4 vs OTT 1
  • 11/28: VGK 3 @ CBJ 2
  • 12/03: VGK 4 @ DET 1
  • 12/08: VGK 2 vs PHI 1

Now to be fair, the Golden Knights have not taken advantage of all low-level opponents. Vegas lost three times to inferior lineups, all occurring at T-Mobile Arena. For the most part, all three were uncompetitive and the Golden Knights lost by a total of eight goals. In the trio of games, the road team scored two or more goals that went unanswered by Vegas. It’s okay to have a stinker but several at home vs sub .500 teams are wasting VGK fans’ hard-earned money. Thankfully, Jonathan Marchessault didn’t let that happen again last night in OT.

Missed Points From Non-Contenders (6)

  • 11/12: STL 3 @ VGK 2
  • 11/15: SJ 5 @ VGK 2
  • 11/26: VAN 5 @ VGK 1

For Vegas to keep up their 104-point pace they’ll need continue bullying inept franchises crashing for Connor Bedard. Half of the teams in the NHL have roster weaknesses and are capable of exposing on a nightly basis. Through 29 games, the Golden Knights have jumped on mistakes, ill-timed penalties, poor goaltending, and turnovers. It’s been the team’s identity all season under coach Bruce Cassidy. In addition to their 22 “bum slaying” points, Vegas will have 15 more opportunities against the league’s worst to cushion their conference and divisional lead.

Now of course the NHL is a professional league with incredibly skilled players. Even the worst organizations have the ability to defeat star-studded lineups. Just ask the Boston Bruins, who lost to the Arizona Coyotes last night in Arizona. That’ll wake up a team. Hopefully, not by Sunday evening.

VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 4 ANAHEIM DUCKS 0 (7-2-0 14 PTS)

Recap: The Golden Knights took advantage of a power play in the 1st period when Chandler Stephenson jammed home a goal from right out in front.

In the 2nd, it was an open game for a while until Vegas struck on the penalty kill. Then, the floodgates opened as William Karlsson added a tipped shot and Nic Roy scored on a breakaway. It was 4-0 at the end of 40.

The 3rd period was useless aside from the fact that Logan Thompson completed his second shutout of the season.

The Golden Knights record continues to climb to 7-2-0, defeating the Ducks 4-0 on Nevada Day. Next up is the Jets before the Golden Knights head out for a tricky five-game eastern road trip. Puck drop on Sunday against Winnipeg at T-Mobile Arena is scheduled for 5:00 PM. (Recap by Ken)

Analysis: It took a while for the game to really get going, but once it did it turned into a classic VGK vs ANA game. The Golden Knights cleaned up their act in the defensive and neutral zones and the Ducks began to break down all over the ice in every situation. Stephenson took advantage of a PK and goaltending mishap, Smith buried a 2-on-1 on a friendly-fire-led break, and Roy finished a chance born out of the Ducks seemingly having never seen what happens when a puck bounces. Give credit to VGK across the board though, it starts with how you defend against these horrible teams. If you make life tough on them, they’ll make it very easy on you.  (Recap by Ken)

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VGK Set To Advance Next Postseason Against Weak Pacific

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Throughout team history, Vegas averages 102 points over an 82 game season. This season, 102 points would’ve earned Vegas a third place finish in the Pacific Division and a seven game series against Edmonton. There’s a strong case that a healthy Golden Knights roster would’ve given the Oilers a run for their money.

There are no excuses and we need to have a good start and go from there, but this is part of playoff hockey and you’re going to go through adversity. There are no easy games and no easy series, so we’re going to be prepared to go .-Ryan Nugent Hopkins, EDM forward

So far, only the Central Division has had a team eliminated. In a few days, it’s possible two of three Pacific Division teams are sent home packing as well. Sure, Calgary is up a game but Dallas hasn’t been an easy opponent. In the other western series, the Oilers have fallen right into the trap of the underdog Kings. It’s premature but none of the three Pacific teams are looking like favorites to win the Stanley Cup.

Let’s say the Golden Knights are healthy enough next season to make the playoffs. If they top off at 102 points they would likely be the second or third team coming out of the Pacific. In that case, Vegas would be guaranteed to face off against a divisional rival. Chances are the familiar faces will be in play in 2022-23. Which statistically favors the Golden Knights.

It’s not just about scoring. There’s a lot more to the game than that.-Daryl Sutter, CGY coach

Since 2017-18, Vegas has a total of 464 points. The Golden Knights have earned more than a third from inside their division. Excluding the now Central Division Coyotes, the Golden Knights have tallied 176 Pacific Division points in 119 games. That’s a hearty .676 winning % against the teams Vegas faces most and in the opening rounds of the playoffs.

Golden Knights fans have now watched how predictable the Pacific division has been for half a decade. LA in and Vegas out was the only real surprise over that period. The landscape will likely stay the same next season.

When the oddsmakers set the lines for next season’s divisional leaders the Golden Knights are likely to be the favorite. Other teams have areas to address as well. Calgary will have to make some big decisions, so will Edmonton, San Jose and Vancouver. LA’s quick climb to the postseason will be interesting if it keeps up, especially if a healthy Vegas team is rolling. In year six no matter what changes have been made the Golden Knights will have a chance to fight for the division and form a path to another conference final. It’s that easy, depending on offseason changes.

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