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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.

Playoffs A Reminder Health Isn’t Only Factor For Success

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Watching the Stanley Cup playoffs certainly has a different feel without the Golden Knights as participants. As we’ve been over many, many times since their season finale, injuries played a significant role in why the team is on the outside looking in. Halfway through the first round, it’s clear Vegas needed more than just their health to advance.

Western Conference Playoff Summary

  • 14-0 Team Scoring First
  • 8-6 Home Team
  • 4.25 Winning Team Average Goals
  • 3.22 Average Goal Differential Per Game
  • 1.8 Power Play Goals Per Win
  • 10-4 When Scoring PPG

Down the stretch, the Golden Knights had trouble picking up the first goal of game, received very little output from their power play, and lacked the ability to climb back and win from behind. On most nights in the playoffs, those elements would be a recipe for disaster. Not surprising, early consistent scoring is paying off in the postseason. So far, there have been 14 games played in the Western Conference, the team that scored the opening goal went on to win to all of them.

Naturally, lower-scoring teams focus on winning defensive battles helping them survive in a long series. Last night the LA Kings defeated the Edmonton Oilers 4-0 and evened the series by playing their signature suffocating style. The Oilers are +7 in goal differential but are in no better shape than the Kings.

The sixth highest-scoring team in the NHL’s regular season has only mustered up three goals in three games. The Calgary Flames averaged 3.55 goals per game in the first 82 but have been held to 2 goals or less in the last three. Yet, the 2.84 goals per game Dallas Stars hold a 2-1 series lead.

Western Conference Goals Scored Per Game

  • Colorado 5.33 (1 ENG)
  • Edmonton 4.25
  • Minnesota 3.25 (2 ENG)
  • St. Louis 3.00 (1 ENG)
  • Dallas 2.00 (2 ENG)
  • Nashville 2.00
  • LA 2.50 (1 ENG)
  • Calgary 1.0

Subtract empty netters, and the averages decrease for several Western Conference contenders. Making most games much tighter than the averages show. No matter who Vegas faced off against their periodic offensive struggles could’ve haunted them in the first round.

Turn back the clock to Vegas’ run to the semifinals last year. In six games against the Montreal Canadiens, the Golden Knights averaged 2.18 goals per game, scored the opening goal twice, and were blanked on the man-advantage.

Without a doubt, the Golden Knights’ front office is tuning in nightly like all of us. We’ve heard dozens of times the NHL is a copycat league, it’s possible VGK execs are picking up plays for their grease board. Why not take a few notes on Colorado’s lethal PP, or some offensive strategies from Edmonton, Minnesota, or St. Louis. Maybe, it’s best to watch Dallas and LA’s suffocating, everything to the outside type of defense. It may be the difference between making semis or the finals.

VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 6 CALGARY FLAMES 1 (41-29-5 87 PTS)

Recap: Vegas trailed in Calgary after giving up a power play goal midway through the 1st period. Minutes later Jonathan Marchessault set up Jack Eichel for the game-tying goal. The game was locked 1-1 after the opening twenty minutes.

The Golden Knights’ offense turned up in the middle frame. Vegas received goals from four different goal scorers to take a commanding 5-1 lead. Evgenii Dadonov, Michael Amadio, Jonathan Marchessault, and Nic Roy all cashed in.

William Karlsson added a sixth Golden Knights goal of the game. Logan Thompson was steady in net holding Calgary to only one goal.

The Golden Knights record improves to 41-29-5 defeating the Flames 6-1. Vegas picks up two enormous points and trail the LA Kings by one point. The Golden Knights finish their road trip in Edmonton on Saturday afternoon. Puck drop against the Oilers is set for 1 PM. (Recap by Jason)

Analysis: In one of the trickiest spots of the season, the Golden Knights unleashed their best game of the year. Despite conceding first, they completely dominated the Flames from start to finish. Vegas was excellent in the defensive zone, stymied everything Calgary wanted to do in the neutral zone, and were as creative as they’ve been in a while in the offensive zone. Plus, the bold decision to start Logan Thompson paid off in spades as he was brilliant in net too. (Recap by Ken)


Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs. Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome.

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Pacific North Teams Won’t Make It Easy On Visiting Knights

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Vegas is arguably on their most important road trip of the season beginning tonight in Vancouver. Three games against three hungry Canadian teams from the Pacific Division. The Canucks are desperately scratching and clawing, the Flames are in 1st place, and the Oiler’s high-powered offense has likely fueled them to the playoffs. There’s no understating, the next set of games are vital to Vegas’ postseason pursuit.

We’re doing whatever it takes to win. Whether it’s killing big penalties or scoring big goals on the power play. We have the ability in our room. It’s just a matter of us going out there and do it. -Bo Horvat, VAN captain

Let’s start with Vancouver. As Golden Knights fans watched last week the Canucks are not a team to take lightly. The team in green and blue are riding a three-game win streak and have no room for mistakes.

We all know how we have to finish this season. There’s no point of putting all of the stress on yourself. Every game is stressful because it’s do or die. We’ll play the right way and give ourselves a chance. It’s right in front of us. -JT Miller, VAN forward

Canucks coach Bruce Boudreau has his players loose and motivated for a chance to shock the conference. If Vegas drops tonight’s game, Vancouver will be only two points behind them. Vegas fans are already scoreboard watching LA, Dallas, and Nashville games, there’s not enough energy to keep tabs on another. That’s why the Golden Knights must play sound defensively, take advantage of second chances and get their star players back to form. Most importantly, leave British Columbia with two points.

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Golden Knights Used As Example For LTIR Change At League Meetings

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

We’ll never know if the Golden Knights were trying to mimic the 2021 Stanley Cup-winning Tampa Bay Lightning. When Vegas’ front office pulled the trigger on the Jack Eichel trade, speculation grew across the league that the club would attempt to field a team over the cap in the postseason. Things have changed dramatically for Vegas since then but it didn’t stop NHL GM’s from leaving anonymous notes in the league’s complaint box.

There’s been a lot of white noise around Vegas in how they’ve treated LTIR this season. Last year’s Tampa, this year’s Vegas. At least in perception. Gary Bettman and Bill Daly could not have been more unequivocal saying Vegas has been transparent. There’s no issues with the way they’re handling their LTIR and their business. –Pierre LeBrun on TSN

The noise was loud enough that the topic of LTIR maneuvering came up yesterday at the GM meetings.

Now, is there validity to say that we get to the playoffs and we’ve got a cap of $81.5 million and fundamentally that means we should only be able to dress $81.5 million in the playoffs? Sure, that makes sense. I think you’ve gotta go back and study it. –Brad Treliving, Calgary GM to Sportsnet

It was reported that the league broached the subject out of concerns that some believed Tampa bought last year’s Cup. Sure, adding Nikita Kucherov to the lineup on Game 83 is unfair but it would be next to impossible to prove Tampa stretched out injuries.

In fact, two-time Stanley Cup-winning GM Julien BriseBois wasn’t bashful about his feelings. His club won back-to-back championships, you think the speculation or finger-pointing matters to him?

If we hadn’t won the Cup last season, perhaps we wouldn’t be the poster child, but I’d rather win the Stanley Cup and be the poster child anyway, knowing that these situations have happened in the past. In 2015, we played against the Chicago Blackhawks in the Final and they had the example of Patrick Kane at the time and won the Cup. The situation we had last year with Kucherov—there’s 32 teams and it happens; there are many teams in LTI –Julien BriseBois, Lightning GM to Sportsnet

It’s possible several teams will be over the salary cap in the playoffs. Which drives front offices to ignore cap manipulation.

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Calgary’s Historic Streak Should Concern Vegas

Yesterday the Calgary Flames posted their 10th straight victory. It’s been quite a run for a team that’s season was in peril in early January. Now, the Flames are hockey’s hottest team and has leapfrogged over Vegas for the best record in the Pacific.

During their double-digit streak, the Flames have only beaten three current postseason teams, including mopping up the Golden Knights 6-0. Calgary have been sharp in bother ends, outscoring their opponents 42-15 over that ten-game span. The Flames are getting outstanding efforts from their offense, defense, and goaltending.

I don’t put a lot into 10 in a row, unless they were 10 in a row in the playoffs. -Darryl Sutter, CGY coach

Matching Offensive Talent

What makes Calgary so dangerous for Vegas is their ability to match skill in offensive and defensive positions. Slickster Johnny Gaudreau (20 Goals, 43 Assists) is having a borderline MVP season for the Flames. He’s a 1.31 point per game player and he’s on a line with two other forwards that have scored 20 or more goals this season. Gaudreau’s center, Elias Lindholm is having a fabulous season as well and some expect he’ll pick up Selke votes. But it doesn’t end there. It’s unfair to compare the two because of injuries, but the Golden Knights have one player with 20 goals and the Flames have four. With the addition of Tyler Toffoli, the Flames will have multiple offensive options in the playoffs.

Ten in a row is nice. It looks good. We were struggling a little before we started this streak. It was nice to see it go in. Ten in a row feels pretty good. -Elias Lindholm, CGY center

With the addition of Jack Eichel, Calgary will have their hands full as well. The Golden Knights new top-line center will neutralize some of the Flames’ talent. For instance, Lindholm will be too busy covering Eichel that his offense might suffer. Eichel’s vision will find seams and his speed will create problems for Calgary’s NBA-sized defense.

I don’t think any of us expect it to be too long. (Eichel) will still be an impact player right away but we all understand it’s going to take a little bit of time for him. Even if he feels 75% of where he was a year ago that it’s pretty darn good. –Alex Pietrangelo, 32 Thoughts Podcast

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The Split Is Widening After Lopsided Defeat

Unfortunately in today’s climate, the country is split for many reasons that we won’t delve into. This unfortunate trend has become reality for Golden Knights fans as well. By now I’m sure you’ve seen the division in the fanbase. For some, it’s either you are a Robin Lehner supporter or you’re not. And of course, after Tuesday night’s debacle, the detractors were loud.

I think there are fans that have different reasons but it all comes down to this: his name is not Marc-Andre Fleury. His style is not Marc-Andre Fleury. And that’s what fans were used to since the team’s inception. Change is hard when it comes to goaltenders, especially when the face of the city is unceremoniously dumped for cap space.-Mike McKenna, Daily Faceoff

The chatter began to heat up after the Golden Knights defeated the Oilers 4-0 on Tuesday night. Backup goaltender Laurent Brossoit started the first game of a back-to-back situation and secured his first shutout of the season. After the game, many were calling for coach Pete DeBoer to elevate Brossoit as the permanent starter. This wasn’t the first time certain fans had pleaded for a swap in roles.

The Golden Knights coach could have started Lehner against Edmonton but he chose not to. Instead, DeBoer used his ace in what he considered an important game. This is what the head coach said in Calgary when asked about the status of captain Mark Stone.

This was an important game. He would’ve played if he could have. We’ll check him out when we get back to Vegas. -Pete DeBoer

That short statement should tell fans where the coaching staff stands. DeBoer dresses his best players (when available) in bigger games.

Getting back to the divide amongst the fanbase. It’s reasonable for fans to be concerned with Lehner’s overall performance this season. Fans expressing disappointment shouldn’t be charged as a hater. Most care about the team’s success, not one individual’s. So, it shouldn’t be considered trolling when pointing out that Lehner is below his career averages in Save % and Goals Allowed Average.

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CALGARY FLAMES 6 VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 0 (28-17-3 59 PTS)

Recap: The Golden Knights fell behind early, allowing three goals in the opening 13 minutes of the game. Calgary’s star forwards Johnny Gaudreau and Elias Lindholm netted the first and third for the Flames and Mikael Backlund added the middle one.

It didn’t get much better in the 2nd as Andrew Mangiapane scored his 21st goal of the season early in the period. He’d tack on another in the 3rd as well.

Vegas had multiple chances, mostly by Nolan Patrick, as the game wound down but couldn’t beat Jakob Markstrom. The Golden Knights were shutout for the third time this season.

The Golden Knights record falls to 28-17-3 after losing to the Flames 6-0. Vegas now has the next six nights off before they hit the ice again at T-Mobile Arena on Wednesday to take on the Colorado Avalanche. Puck drop is set for 7:00 PM. (Recap by Jason)

Analysis: Once again, Vegas came out of the gates incredibly slow. They allowed a ton of dangerous chances, they were caught puck watching, and they just always seemed a step behind Calgary. Unlike last night, the Flames made them pay, and pay they did to the tune of a thorough fanny whacking. (Recap by Ken)


Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs. Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome.

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Western Teams Getting Ready To Beef Up For Vegas

It’s possible several big names will be dealt on or before the NHL’s trade deadline day this year. One team we expect to be sitting this one out is the Golden Knights, unless they are sellers, but that’s for another day. The local club already made their deadline deal in November by trading for center Jack Eichel. When you consider they’ll also be getting Max Pacioretty and Alec Martinez back from injury, you could argue Vegas already won the deadline.

So, while the trade deadline may be boring for VGK fans it could be very busy for other fanbases. Specifically, teams that’ll have to face Vegas in the postseason. Some of those teams have lofty goals as well but most likely they’re not getting to the finals without going through Vegas first.

Edmonton

The Oilers are in trouble. The club isn’t scoring and they’re rapidly dropping in the standings. Even before Connor McDavid tested positive for COVID, the Oilers went on a miserable stretch scoring six goals in five games with a goal differential of -14. Currently, they’re on a five-game dip and are having a hard time digging out of it. Scoring is one problem up in Edmonton but it’s not their biggest.

It’s a brutal mistake. What are you going to do? Call it what it is. We’re playing well, and it’s a brutal mistake. Our goaltending wasn’t very good, and we didn’t get enough pucks to the net to get back in the game. -Dave Tippett, Oilers coach

With McDavid and Leon Draisital, the goals will eventually come but stopping them is a bigger concern. Tippett’s frustrations came out poorly, pointing his finger directly at goalie Mikko Koskinen. Which wasn’t taken well.

It’s not nice for anybody to be thrown under the bus. But this is how it goes in this business. When the team loses, it’s either coach or goalie who gets sacrificed. I have to be better, but at the same time we scored seven goals in my last six losses. I can’t score goals. It’s not only about goaltending when it comes to winning and losing. -Koskinen, Oilers goaltender

It’s understandable why Koskinen was iritated by his coach’s comments and good for him for responding but he should’ve kept it shorter. Now there a speculations that the goaltender has lost Edmonton’s locker room. So on top of his bloated 3.19 goals allowed average he’s creating friction. Bottom line is the Oilers are in the market for a goaltender. And surprise, surprise the biggest name on the market is tonight’s opponents netminder.

Fleury — who has a 10-team no-trade list — might be the biggest netminder name out there if available and none of the above teams has as great a need, or as much urgency to address it, as the Oilers. If Fleury was open to going to Edmonton, finding the right price could be tricky. He’s a rental and, presumably, the Hawks would need to retain cap space on his $7 million tag, so that could add an asset. With the other needs in Edmonton’s lineup, paying up for a rental at any position may not be the chosen course. But if you want someone who you could feel good about making a difference now, Fleury is it. -Rory Boylen, Sportsnet

Elliott Friedman also wrote about Fleury being an option, if the right deal was in place. The former face of the Golden Knights knows the division and has won in the West. Since 2017, the first year Blackhawk is 43-21-7 against the Pacific division and an overall record of 83-16-9 against Western Conference clubs. Fleury’s presence alone would immediately improve the problems in net for the Oilers.

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Flames Head Coach Darryl Sutter: “You’re Going To Have To Go Through Vegas” To Win The West

Apparently records don’t matter to the Calgary Flames. Even with a seven point lead, the Flames felt like the underdog in their 3-2 loss Sunday night at T-Mobile Arena. Currently, Calgary is in 1st place in the Pacific Division but are highly aware of how dangerous a healthy Golden Knights an be.

Well, they’re the best team on paper. They’re clearly the best team out West, maybe other than the team that owns the Stanley Cup, if you look at it.

It’s not even that close, to tell you the truth. -Darryl Sutter, Calgary coach

That’s high praise coming from a two-time Stanley Cup winning coach. Sutter won with teams that didn’t win their division, twice. In 2012 & 2014 the LA Kings finished 3rd in the Pacific Division yet went on to win two silver chalices. Sutter’s Kings were never considered Cup favorites but he believed they were as deep as any opponent they faced. In Sutter’s first Stanley Cup run, LA finished the season with 95 points and eliminated a 111 point Vancouver Canucks club in five games.

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