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5 Most Intriguing Non-Former Player Return Games

Photo from @GoldandSteelVGK on X/Twitter

The 2024-25 schedule will be dominated by the returns of many former Golden Knights and Stanley Cup champions. From Jonathan Marchessault’s emotional return on the final home game of the year to Chandler Stephenson’s visit with the Kraken, Alec Martinez’s appearance as a Blackhawk, and original Misfit William Carrier’s arrival with Carolina there will be plenty of marquee games on the calendar.

However, those are just some of the most interesting games on the schedule for this season. Here are the five most intriguing non-return home games this year.

Utah Hockey Club
November 2nd, 2024

Technically, the Utah Yeti, I mean Hockey Club, are not a new franchise. But, new jerseys, new fans, new ownership, and the proximity of the team to Vegas will make it feel like another new team for VGK fans. Beyond the obvious hoopla of playing a team for the first time in franchise history, there’s also a revenge factor for the 7-4 loss in April in which the Golden Knights allowed six goals in the 3rd period for the first time in franchise history.

Edmonton Oilers
December 3rd, 2024

Despite not playing in the postseason last year, the rivalry between these two teams will still be as strong as ever. Last time the Oilers visited T-Mobile Arena the Golden Knights ended their historic winning streak. VGK still feel like they own Edmonton despite the Oilers entering this matchup as the reigning Western Conference champions. The Conn Smythe winner will be in the building (there should be two, but that’s a different story) and Edmonton will always be a good measuring stick game somewhat early in the season.

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Dallas’ Run To The Conference Finals Painful Reminder For Vegas Fans

Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke, SinBin.vegas

Growing up in Boston I witnessed my share of shortened seasons. Historically, after a Bruins postseason exit, my father would begin rooting for the team that eliminated them from the playoffs. It was his way of coping after another failed season by the B’s. On May 5th, after the Golden Knights were eliminated I gave my son the same advice. Now, I’m dealing with a hockey-crazed eight-year-old breaking curfew in hopes that the Dallas Stars capture a Stanley Cup trophy of their own.

You get both previous Stanley Cup champions [in Vegas and Colorado]. What a gauntlet. I just couldn’t be prouder of our group… we’ve got a mix of older and younger guys, but they were just fantastic. Just hard to believe with a gauntlet like that, that you’re only halfway there. But we’re going to enjoy and need the time off here, and get ready for the next round. -Pete DeBoer, DAL coach

However, watching Dallas’ run to the Western Conference finals is truly bittersweet. Most will agree, had Vegas beaten the number one seed in Game 7, they would be looking at their fifth conference finals appearance. After the Avalanche lost a top player to another postseason distraction, the Golden Knights probably would have found their way back to the league semifinals like the Stars have.

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VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 4 COLORADO AVALANCHE 3 (44-28-8, 96 PTS) – OT

Recap: The Golden Knights got off to a tough start against the Colorado Avalanche. Colorado opened the scoring seven minutes into the game and doubled their lead moments later. After 20 minutes the reigning Stanley Cup champions trailed 2-0.

Vegas’ offense continued to struggle generating offense in the middle frame. Tomas Hertl tipped in what appeared to be the Golden Knight’s first goal but it was called off because of goalie interference. Before the break Colorado scored to take a three goal lead.

Quickly into the final period Ivan Barbashev began Vegas’ comeback attempt. The Golden Knights were awarded a final frame power play which William Karlsson took advantage of it. Karlsson later tied the game 3-3 with his 30th goal of the season. Tomas Hertl deflected a Jack Eichel shot in overtime to come back and win 4-3.

The Golden Knights record improves to 44-28-8 defeating the Avalanche in OT. Vegas will suit for their second to last regular season game of 2023-24 on Tuesday night against the Chicago Blackhawks. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 PM. (Recap by Jason)

Analysis: The Golden Knights were nowhere to be found for the first 40 minutes of this game. But, after a backhanded wraparound goal got them on the board, they started cooking. William Karlsson was the regulation hero burying two and then Tomas Hertl tipped in the game-winner in OT. What a comeback and the Golden Knights are still alive to grab the 3rd seed in the Pacific. (Analysis by Ken)

Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs. Colorado Avalanche at T-Mobile Arena.

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Which Potential Playoff Matchup Is Best For The Golden Knights?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

This surely won’t come back to bite me in the butt in a few weeks. But, enough of you are asking so, we’re doing it.

With eight games to play and about two weeks left in the regular season, the Golden Knights are in excellent position to make the playoffs for the 6th time in seven seasons. The way the standings shake out there are reasonably four teams Vegas could face in the opening round. They are the Dallas Stars, Colorado Avalanche, Vancouver Canucks, and Edmonton Oilers.

Which team presents the best matchup for the Golden Knights, and which is the worst? Here’s how I see it.

(In order of hardest to easiest matchup)

Colorado Avalanche
Record: 47-21-6 (100 points, .676 points percentage)
Goals For/Against Per Game: 3.77 / 2.99
vs. VGK: 1-1-0

The Avalanche of old are back this season and will be a major problem for whoever has to play them in the first round. This year’s team is much deeper than last year’s or even the year VGK beat them in six games. Nathan MacKinnon is having the best season of his career, which is pretty amazing considering how great his career has been, and the defensive unit might be the best in the league. My main concern with this matchup is the style of game a team must play to beat the Avs in the playoffs. It’s a heavy forecheck and strong backchecking game that frustrates the top players and forces them to make mistakes. The best version of VGK can pull it off but we haven’t seen that version much this season and there are a lot of new pieces in the lineup. So, doing it four times out of seven is a tall order. The weakness remains in goal which is something Vegas could certainly exploit. Alexander Georgiev has posted just a .901 save percentage this year and his history in the playoffs is limited and not overly impressive.

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Goals Allowed In 3rd Period Stalling Golden Knights In Standings

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Maybe, we’re overly concerned because it’s fresh on everyone’s mind. On Tuesday in Nashville, the Golden Knights coughed up a three-goal lead in the final 20 minutes of their overtime loss to the predatory Predators. It was the 10th time this month that Vegas has allowed an opponent to tie the game or take the lead in the final frame. It seems out of character for a reigning Stanley Cup champion known for their impeccable defense. Unfortunately, VGK’s suit of armor hasn’t been as effective lately.

We had a great 40 minutes. It’s just playing that complete 60 is something we have to get better at, obviously. When you have a lead like that, teams start to cheat a lot and produce offense. I don’t think we handled that well. – Noah Hanifin

Since the beginning of March, the Golden Knights have allowed more 3rd period goals than every other NHL team with the exception of the wretched San Jose Sharks. In 12 games this month, Vegas gave up 26 3rd period goals and their opponents are averaging 2.2 in the final frame alone.

VGK’s Month Of 3rd Period Generosity

  • 03/26/24 @ NAS: 3 (Game-Tying)
  • 03/25/24 @ STL: 1 (Game-Tying)
  • 03/21/24 vs. SEA: 1 (Game-Tying)
  • 03/19/24 vs. TB: 3 (Go Ahead/Game Winning, ENG)
  • 03/17/24 vs. NJD: 1 (Go Ahead)
  • 03/14/24 @ CGY: 4 (Game-Tying, Game Winning, ENG)
  • 03/12/24 @ SEA: 3 (Game-Tying, Go Ahead)
  • 03/09/24 @ DET: 2 (Game-Tying)
  • 03/04/24 @ CBJ: 3 (Game Winning, ENG)
  • 03/02/24 @ BUF: 4 (PPG, ENG)

VGK’s monthly total is far and away the most of any Western Conference contender. The nearest team is the Winnipeg Jets, who have allowed 14 goals in March.

Same goes for Vegas’ divisional foes. Vancouver, Edmonton and LA have allowed 13 3rd period goals or fewer since March 1st. There’s no way around it, the differential should be concerning for Golden Knights fans.

3rd Period Goals Allowed in March By Western Conference Contenders

  • 32nd – VGK: 26
  • 18th – WPG: 14
  • 15th – EDM: 13
  • 9th – DAL: 10
  • 5th – LAK: 8
  • 3rd – NAS: 6
  • 2nd – COL: 5
  • 1st – VAN: 5

It’s a stark difference between Vegas and the seven other clubs in the West with high hopes in the postseason. It should be noted that the Golden Knights have been impacted by injuries and illnesses this month. However, a battered lineup isn’t a good enough excuse for allowing 20 more goals than Colorado or Vancouver. One of those teams could be hosting the Golden Knights next month in the opening round of the playoffs. One 3rd period score could decide a series.

Sadly, March isn’t an outlier for the reigning champions. Over 72 games, the Golden Knights have allowed the 8th most 3rd period goals. This season, Vegas has given up 86 goals in the final 20 minutes. The allowance rate has severely impacted Vegas’ placement in the Western Conference standings. Thankfully, their 3rd period holes won’t be enough to cause the Golden Knights to miss the postseason cut line.

It’s not the end of the world. You’re going to have those nights, but we’ve been building in the right direction. We’ve been a lot closer to our game, and I thought we did a lot of things well. – Bruce Cassidy

Now, there are elements throughout the month that should be positively highlighted. Along with the Kings and the Predators, the Golden Knights have allowed the least amount of (6) 2nd period goals this month. To have an even more half glass full type attitude, Vegas only gave up (9) 1st period goals in March. If VGK can hold opponents to 0.8 goals through 40 minutes in the playoffs, 3rd period results are likely to change for the better.

Second Half Schedule Allows Vegas To Enter The Playoffs Well Rested

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Since January 27th, the Golden Knights have had 16 days off and suited up for only six periods of game action. It may not seem like much, but it allows for the reigning champions to heal, prepare, and most importantly rest up for their final 30 regular season games and their perennial deep postseason run.

The Golden Knights have played 156 games since October 11th, 2022, so any extra days off should be taken advantage of.

We haven’t (rested players) other than maybe late in the year. Would I do it in the middle of January? Probably not. First of all, players don’t want to come out of the lineup even when they’re hurt, so there’s dealing with that part of it. -Bruce Cassidy, September 2023

It goes without saying, playing an extended amount of hockey is what every fan and player dreams of when a new season begins. However, a deep run can interrupt a reigning champion’s repeat attempt.

When the Avalanche were eliminated in seven games to the Seattle Kraken last year, it was their 191st game played since October of 2021. Their short summer full of celebrating in ’22 was anything but that ten months later. With the spacing out of VGK’s final 30 contests, it’s possible rest can keep them off the golf course until mid-June.

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Golden Knights Remain In Decent Position Compared To Former Reigning And Eventual Champions

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights have completed exactly half of their title-defending season. They started as hot as hot can be setting the new record for most wins in a row to begin a season for a reigning champion. Then, as injuries started to pile up, they hit the skids a little bit and have fallen to 10th in the league in points percentage.

It hasn’t been pretty for the last month or so, but Vegas still finds themselves in a solid position. At the midway post, the Golden Knights are still clearly in the playoff picture, sitting eight points north of the cut line.

After 41 games, the Golden Knights have a points percentage of .622. It’s the 4th best mark in their seven seasons, slightly below their franchise average of .659 at this point in the year. .622 equates to 102 points at the end of the season, which would be good enough to make the playoffs every single year since the current format has been adopted. And, .622 is the exact average points percentage at the halfway point of the season for the last six Stanley Cup runners-up.

Golden KnightsDefending ChampEventual ChampEventual Runner-Up
22-23 (COL/VGK/FLA).683.549.683.488
21-22 (TBL/COL/TBL).610.720.768.720
20-21 (TBL/TBL/MTL).707.707.707.573
19-20 (STL/TBL/DAL).561.707.643.610
18-19 (WSH/STL/BOS).585.659.463.610
17-18 (PIT/WSH/VGK).732.524.646.732
AVERAGE.659.644.652.622

VGK’s current points percentage has them behind all but one of the last six eventual champions at this point in the season. They are also now well behind where they sat a year ago. In 2022-23 the Golden Knights amassed 57 points through 41 games, six points better than they are right now.

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