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Will The Pacific Division Be More Challenging For Vegas in 2021-22?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

After four NHL seasons the Golden Knights have benefited by playing in the Pacific Division. Since 2017, Vegas has played 113 games against their divisional “rivals” and tallied a total of 168 out of a possible 226 points. That’s an astonishing .743 Points % against the Pacific Division in four seasons.

Hockey’s been a little bit tough with our team not being very good the last few years and not getting back to the playoffs… Things are looking up for us now. We got some new players and some young guys coming up. I’m excited for this season to start.- Drew Doughty, LAK defenseman on 32 Thoughts Podcast

Let’s be honest, it’s been easy street for the Golden Knights since they entered the league.

VGK All-Time Record vs. Pacific Division

vs. Anaheim: 20 Games (17-3-0) 34 Pts, .850 Pts %, 74 Goals For, 37 Goals Allowed, +37 Goal Differential

vs. Arizona: 20 Games (14-6-0) 28 Pts, .700 Pts %, 57 Goals For, 46 Goals Allowed, + 11 Goal Differential

vs. Calgary: 11 Games (8-3-0) 16 Pts, .727 Pts %, 42 Goals For, 31 Goals Allowed, + 11 Goal Differential

vs. Edmonton: 11 Games (6-4-1) 13 Pts, .591 Pts %, 35 Goals For, 31 Goals Allowed, +4 Goal Differential

vs. LA: 21 Games (11-8-2) 24 Pts, .571 Pts %, 63 Goals For, 60 Goals Allowed, +3 Goal Differential

vs. San Jose: 20 Games (16-1-3) 35 Pts, .875 Pts %, 78 Goals For, 40 Goals Allowed, +38 Goal Differential

vs. Vancouver: 10 Games (8-0-2) 18 Pts, .900 Pts %, 45 Goals For, 26 Goals Allowed, +19 Goal Differential

Since their existence the Golden Knights have proven to be the team to beat in the Pacific. Vegas has a positive goal differential against every team in the division and holds an overall goal differential of +123, talk about dominance. All indications show it should be the same in 2021-22.

Only a few west coast teams have kept their games with Vegas competitive but still not enough to threaten their path to the playoffs. Sure, San Jose won their seven game series in 2019 but in the regular season it’s been embarrassingly lopsided. Since that series three postseasons ago, the Sharks have been a non-factor in the Pacific, same goes for Anaheim, Calgary and Vancouver. However, two clubs that will make things more difficult for Vegas this season are the Kings and Oilers. Each team has challenged Vegas in the regular season being edged out by one game in their series history with the 31st franchise.

While it’s hard to make judgements based off two exhibition games but it’s safe to say that Los Angeles is an improved club. Even with a lack of talent in their lineup the King’s have competed in most matchups. Coming into 2021-22, LA and Knight killer Philip Danault will continue to frustrate VGK’s offensive threats. Coveted prospects are performing at a high level and LA’s star veterans could create further problems for Vegas and the rest of the Pacific Division.

There’s not much to say about Edmonton. As long as they dress Connor McDavid every game is up in the air. Same can be said for the newest team in hockey. Seattle is the biggest wildcard in the division. Based on what the Golden Knights did in their inaugural season you’d be a fool to count out the Kraken. Calgary, San Jose and Vancouver are expected to finish below Vegas but one of those three teams could make a surprising push for the postseason.

All in all, the Pacific Division is still considered relatively weak but has improved. Vegas is the only team that isn’t being doubted by analysts across the league. The other seven teams have questions to answer and it should be a tight battle for two of three divisional playoff spots. Although the Pacific may have gotten better and could make it more difficult for Vegas to run away with the division but it’s still the Golden Knights to lose.

Offseason Additions And Subtractions In The Pacific Division

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights are back at home in the Pacific Division where they have dominated the competition over the past four seasons. A lot has changed since 2019 though. The NHL’s newest team, the Seattle Kraken, are now in the Pacific, Arizona has left for the Central, the Canadian teams all look much different now, and the trio of California teams each ready to see if their rebuilds can start taking shape.

Everyone here already knows all about the Golden Knights and the Kraken are a complete wild card heading into this year, so let’s take a look at the key additions and subtractions from each of the other six teams in the Pacific.

Anaheim Ducks

Add: Greg Pateryn, Danny O’Regan
Subtract: Haydn Fleury, Danton Heinen, Andy Welinski

For a team that is supposed to be in the middle of a rebuild, this was a shockingly boring offseason for the Ducks. They still have a bevy of prospects that could break through at any moment, but looking at what we saw last year coupled with the mild offseason, Anaheim is probably the worst team not only in the Pacific but in the entire NHL.

Calgary Flames

Add: Blake Coleman, Nikita Zadorov, Tyler Pitlick, Trevor Lewis, Andy Welinski
Subtract: Mark Giordano, Josh Leivo, Derek Ryan, Dominik Simon

Losing Giordano hurts, a lot, but they did well to bring in usable players to replace what went out this offseason. Coleman will likely be an excellent option to play somewhere in their strong top-six and it will allow for a bit more depth through what has been a fairly weak 12-man forward group the last few years. One of these times Zadorov is going to find the right fit and become the player most believe he can become, and this certainly might be it. The rest of it is somewhat of a depth reshuffle which is always good for a team that struggled the year before. Calgary likely won’t challenge Vegas atop the division, but they could be a sneaky tough team and they are always a pain in the butt to play against.

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Probabilities Of Each Opponent Based On Round-Robin Seed

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The NHL is a league built on parity. Winning the Stanley Cup is as much about matchups (and luck) as it is the skill of any given team. This year, the matchups have a chance to vary wildly as the league is re-seeding teams at the conclusions of the play-in and first rounds.

Unlike the eight teams with set play-in round matchups, the Golden Knights seed throughout the tournament is dependant on their performance in three round-robin games. The round-robin not only determines who the Golden Knights will play in the 1st Round, but it also determines the opponent in the 2nd round as well.

With four games in the play-in round, there are 16 possible outcomes between the eight teams. Using William Hill odds, we ranked them from most likely to least likely to occur. Then, using those rankings, we are able to show the probabilities of which team the Golden Knights would be most likely to face depending on which seed they end up with in the round-robin. (An explanation of how I arrived at these numbers is at the end of the article.)

 #1 Seed#2 Seed#3 Seed#4 Seed
Edmonton (5)59.6%
Nashville (6)33.0%22.3%
Vancouver (7)19.1%28.4%10.5%
Calgary (8)10.4%22.9%16.8%4.1%
Winnipeg (9)8.7%19.3%14.2%3.5%
Minnesota (10)13.8%20.6%7.6%
Arizona (11)26.7%18.1%
Chicago (12)40.4%

As you can see from the chart, there’s a significant advantage to finish atop the round-robin. Finishing first eliminates the possibility of a matchup with Edmonton, Nashville, or Vancouver, while coming in fourth takes away any chance to play Chicago, Arizona, or Minnesota.

Compare that to this chart, how Vegas has played against each of these eight teams.

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Potential Realignment Shouldn’t Affect Golden Knights

The NHL pause has become the newest, most addicting daily soap opera. Every morning fans wake up to read the latest news on the NHL’s plans to restart the season. Yesterday, Commissioner Gary Bettman shared his optimism with the NHL network.

We have a great deal of flexibility in terms of when we can start. There’s no magic for next season of starting in October as we traditionally do. If we have to start in November or December, that’s something that will be under consideration. We’re going to try and make good, prudent, careful judgments. This isn’t a race to be first back. When we come back, we want it to be at the right time, for the right reasons, under the right circumstances. -Gary Bettman, NHL Commissioner

Now that the players and owners are engaging in daily conversations it shows the effort to recover the season from both sides. One scenario NHL officials have mulled over was originally conceived by Major League Baseball.

MLB is considering a three-division, 10-team plan in which teams play only within their division – a concept gaining support among owners and executives. It would abolish the traditional American and National Leagues, and realign the divisions based on geography.

The plan, pending approval of medical experts and providing that COVID-19 testing is available to the public, would eliminate the need for players to be in isolation and allow them to still play at their home ballparks while severely reducing travel. -USA Today

TSN’s Bob McKenzie weighed on the possibility of the NHL taking the realignment approach, specifically reducing travel which allows players to play in locations closer to their homes and families.

If they get four sites, and we kind of assumed it would try to be done divisionally if they try to get the 19-20 season finished up. Four NHL sites, one for each division. There is the possibility that they would just say ‘well the Atlantic division is going to based out of Toronto. We’re not going to do can’t that, Florida and Tampa Bay can’t get from Florida up to Toronto. We’ll put them with some of the Metro teams, and move one of those Metro teams.’ You could do some mixing and matching on geographical lines versus divisions. -Bob McKenzie, TSN Analyst

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VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 5 CALGARY FLAMES 3 (38-24-8 84 PTS)

Recap: The Golden Knights needed a strong start to their game in Calgary, and they got one. Vegas scored two first period goals giving themselves a 2-0 lead after the opening 20 minutes. Depth players Tomas Nosek and Nick Holden pitched in offensively to help their team take a two goal lead.

William Karlsson set up Max Pacioretty to extend the lead to 3-0 early in the 2nd period. It was Pacioretty’s 32nd goal of the season and his 8th on the power play. Calgary went on to score two straight goals to get within one. After two periods, the Golden Knights held a 3-2 edge.

Calgary tied the game 3-3 late in the 3rd period. However, Vegas came right back and scored two goals in the closing minutes. The Golden Knights outlasted the Flames 5-3.

Vegas’ record improves to 38-24-8 and sit alone in first place. Their road trip continues tomorrow in Edmonton for an important Pacific Division game. Puck drops at 6PM. (Recap by Jason)

Analysis: For the first time in a while it was the 1st period that ended up being the Golden Knights savior. They controlled play and capitalized on two great chances in the 1st, then rolled it into an awesome start to the 2nd to amass the three goal lead. A few costly mistakes helped Calgary get back in the game, but overall a solid game from start to finish for the Golden Knights and a well-earned division win on the road. (Analysis by Ken)


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

  • A dive into usage under DeBoer

Ken’s Three VGK Stars
*** William Karlsson
** Shea Theodore
* Nate Schmidt

Misery Loves Company: VGK Not Only Team To Experience Four Straight 3-0 Deficits

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights found themselves in a three-goal hole late in the 1st period against the Blues. It felt like the sky was falling until Vegas stormed back to win the game 5-4 in overtime.

Three nights later, once again, Vegas saw 3-0 on the scoreboard, this time against Pittsburgh. Back-to-back games falling behind by three felt improbable, yet once again they stormed back only to come up a bit short.

A couple nights later, it happened again! 3-0 turned to 4-0 against the LA Kings and it’s officially reached epidemic levels.

Then, Saturday. 1-0 in the 1st. 2-0 in the 2nd, and what do you know in the 3rd, 3-0 again for the fourth straight game.

All we could do was shout things that Jackie Chiles would say. “That’s deplorable, unfathomable, improbable!”

Here at SinBin.vegas, our first thought was, this has to be historic. 3-0, four games in a row, there’s no way anyone else has done this in a decade. Wrong!

In fact, a team currently residing in 1st place in the Pacific Division did it just two months ago.

The Calgary Flames fell behind 3-0 against the Coyotes, Golden Knights, Avalanche, and Blue in four straight games from November 16th to the 21st.

Falling behind 3-0 in a game isn’t nearly as rare as it would seem. Every single team in the NHL has done it at least once, and 24 of the 31 teams have done it at least three times this season.

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VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 6 CALGARY FLAMES 0 (10-9-3 23 PTS)

The Golden Knights were determined to break their five-game losing skid against the Calgary Flames on a Sunday afternoon in Las Vegas. William Karlsson got the memo and opened up the scoring with his seventh goal of the season. Vegas battled and kept Calgary off the board and skated into the 1st intermission 1-0.

Both teams traded penalties to begin the 2nd period but the Golden Knights would take advantage of messy play. Paul Stastny made a great move and snapped a shot passed Calgary’s goaltender. After 40 minutes Vegas held on to their 2-0 lead.

Max Pacioretty, Cody Eakin, Mark Stone, and William Karlsson all added third period goals to take a commanding 6-0 lead. Marc-Andre Fleury was once again brilliant and stopped all 34 shots on net to record the season’s first home shutout.

Vegas’ record improves to 10-9-3 and break their five-game losing streak. The Golden Knights next take the ice on Tuesday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 PM. (Recap by Jason)


Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs Calgary Flames at T-Mobile Arena

  • Carp’s Sunday column about today’s game.

Ken’s Three VGK Stars
*** Max Pacioretty
** William Karlsson
* Marc-Andre Fleury

 

VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 6 CALGARY FLAMES 2 (3-2-0 6 PTS)

The Golden Knights hosted the Calgary Flames in a Pacific divisional battle. Both teams were in search of their third victory of the season.
Vegas jumped on the board first 3:24 into the game on Tomas Nosek’s third goal of the season. Both teams would trade power plays but neither would convert. The 1st period ended 1-0 good guys.
In the 2nd Calgary scored two quick goals to take the 2-1 lead. After settling down, Mark Stone tied the game with his third goal of the season. William Carrier and Paul Stastny added two more in the period to give Vegas the 4-2 lead after 40 minutes of action.

Golden Knights forward Ryan Reaves put his team up by three scoring his first goal of the season. All three fourth-line forwards scored for Vegas in their commanding 6-2 victory.
Vegas improves their record to 3-2-0 with a victory over Calgary. The Golden Knights will have a quick turnaround as they travel to LA to face the Kings tomorrow night. Puck drops at 7 PM. (Recap by Jason)


Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs Calgary Flames at T-Mobile Arena

  • Steve Carp’s Sunday article on VGK players rising to the occasion to overcome injuries.

Ken’s Three VGK Stars
*** Ryan Reaves
** Tomas Nosek
* William Carrier

San Jose Or Calgary; Who Do You Want First?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

If the Golden Knights were to achieve the pipe dream of getting into 2nd place, they probably needed to win in Calgary last night. However, even had that happened, the chances of Vegas going on to not only pass the Flames, but also the Sharks, is about as likely as the Golden Knights giving out a detailed injury report.

So, it’s become fairly clear that Vegas’ opponent in the first round will be the Pacific Division runner-up, either Calgary or San Jose.

The Golden Knights have completed their regular season slate against the Flames going 2-2-0 winning the home ones and dropping the away games. Of course, it should be noted that both games Vegas played in Calgary were on the back-end up back-to-backs and Marc-Andre Fleury did not start either.

As for the Sharks, Vegas is 1-1-0 with two road games to play. The Golden Knights dominated San Jose in the first meeting 6-0 before blowing a two-goal lead to lose the second matchup. The next two are on March 18th and 30th.

The question is, which team would Vegas rather play first. Naturally, it shouldn’t matter as the Golden Knights are likely to have to beat both of them to make it back to the Western Conference Final, but still, it’s an interesting debate as the Sharks and Flames go back and forth with the division lead.

Here’s a quick rundown of the two teams and how they stack up against the Golden Knights.

 CalgarySan JoseVegas
Record42-20-741-19-838-27-5
Points919081
Points Percentage.659.662.579
Home Record21-7-523-5-521-10-4
Away Record21-13-218-14-317-17-1
Goals For/Game3.493.622.99
Goals Against/Game2.833.042.77
PP%21.9%25.4%17.5%
PK%79.5%81.0%81.6%
Shots/Game32.336.334.4
Shots Against/Game28.828.429.1
5v5 Goals/Game2.122.382.07
Hits/Game15.218.527.9
Giveaways/Game13.810.19.6
Takeaways/Game9.79.010.7
Corsi For % (5v5)53.254.754.2
PDO1.0101.001.992
Scoring Chances For/Game (5v5)22.223.424.7
Scoring Chances Against/Game (5v5)20.019.920.1

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CALGARY FLAMES 6 VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 3 (38-27-5 81 PTS)

It was another horrid start in Calgary for the Golden Knights allowing a pair inside the first eight minutes of the 1st. Vegas struck back with a goal from Brandon Pirri but Calgary extended the lead back to two at the first intermission. Vegas came out flying the 2nd though scoring two quick ones. An unsuccessful power play slowed the momentum and a late period goal, with a little help from a goalie interference call that wasn’t, gave the Flames their lead back again.

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

  • Who would you rather play in the 1st round? Calgary or San Jose.

Ken’s Three VGK Stars
*** Deryk Engelland
** Reilly Smith
* Mark Stone

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