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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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Teams Bidding To Beef Up For Future Postseason Matchup With Vegas

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The NHL trade deadline is five days away and like the Golden Knights, teams are eager to improve their rosters before the postseason begins. Certain names have been front and center but as of now, Vegas, nor their adversaries have acquired any impact players with the exception of the Dallas Stars. The Central Division leader traded for in-demand defenseman Chris Tanev late last month. The swap is significant since Tanev is a right-handed defenseman and we all know there’s nothing that’ll catch a coach’s attention more than an available right-handed defenseman.

It’s a huge luxury. When you get a lefty and lefty (on defense), you lose about a third of your ice when you play your off hand. Just offensively, you lose a third of the ice. You get some good looks when you jump into holes because you’re on your off hand. Having two lefties, passing for your partner is a little different spot than when you have a lefty-righty. There is an adjustment for everybody who does that. It is a luxury these days. -Barry Trotz in 2019

Two teams that Vegas defeated in February, Edmonton and Toronto, are now open buyers for a RHD. Right off the break, the Golden Knights ended the Oilers historic 16-game winning streak. In that game, Edmonton dressed three LHD and three RHD. Four of the six were -1 or worse, including their two righties. After that matchup, the Oilers are feverishly targeting an upgraded right-handed defenseman. On Tuesday in Toronto, the Maple Leafs were forced to dress six left-handed defensemen. The Golden Knights forecheck exposed Toronto’s unbalanced blue line pressuring the entire left-handed defensive unit.

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VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 6 DALLAS STARS 1 (18-5-5, 41 PTS)

Recap:  The Golden Knights were hoping to sweep their two-game road trip with a victory against the Dallas Stars. Chandler Stephenson snapped his goalless streak with the first goal of the game. Zach Whitecloud followed up with his second of the season. The Stars cut the lead in half 2-1 but Mark Stone would regain VGK’s two goal lead before the first intermission.

After a three goal 1st period the Golden Knights added to their lead in the second frame. Nic Roy stretched Vegas’ lead to 4-1 with his fourth goal of 2022-23.

Pavel Dorofeyev gave the Golden Knights a 5-1 lead over the home team in the final period and Paul Cotter joined the scoring party to make it a commanding 6-1 Vegas lead.

The Golden Knights record improves to 18-5-5 defeating the Stars 6-1 in Dallas. Vegas will now return home for a four game home stand beginning tomorrow night against San Jose. Puck drop against the Sharks is scheduled for 7 PM. (Recap by Jason)

Analysis: As they typically do against the Stars, the Golden Knights kept Dallas away from the front of the net for the majority of the game and it led to lots of shots from the outside and not much danger. It’s been pretty astounding how VGK continue to own Dallas. (Analysis by Ken)

Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs. Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center.

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VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 2 DALLAS STARS 1 (14-4-2, 30 PTS) – OT

Recap: The Stanley Cup champions were looking to close out their five-game road trip on a high note with a victory in Dallas. Michael Amadio opened the scoring 10:26 into the game, scoring his third of the season on the power play. Vegas held on to a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes of action.

Dallas outshot Vegas 17-6 in the middle frame, and it paid off with less than one minute remaining. The Stars evened the score 1-1 at the 19:17 mark of the second period.

Both teams battled it out in the final 20 minutes. Vegas had a few solid chances to snap the tie but couldn’t find the go-ahead goal in regulation. Jack Eichel ended the game in overtime with an incredible individual effort in front of the net.

The Golden Knights record improves to 14-4-2 defeating the Stars 2-1 in Dallas. Vegas finishes their road trip with 5 points and remain in 1st place in the Pacific Division. The reigning champions will host Arizona on Saturday night. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 PM. (Recap by Jason)

Analysis: A typical DeBoer-coached team came out and made life very difficult on the Golden Knights. They couldn’t find a way to generate many shots through the middle of the game and were spending a lot of time in the defensive zone. However, in the 3rd, they started putting the puck in deep a bit more and won a lot more stick battles to generate more chances and penalties. In the end, like in most VGK/DAL games, it took OT and a fortunate play went VGK’s way. (Analysis by Ken)

Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs. Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center.

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Cup Champs Finally Face A Challenging Opponent

(Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke, SinBin.vegas)

Normally, after a team wins a championship the opposition tends to be heavily motivated the following season. Through three games, the Stanley Cups champions have been underwhelmed with their early season competition. That changed last night against the Dallas Stars.

That was an intense game, it was a fun game. It felt just like a playoff game again. You’re fighting for every inch. That’s why we play until the very last second. We know what to expect. We have a target on our back. -Keegan Kolesar

Opponents have struggled to get off quality shots and create scoring chances. Which has led to an abundance of offensive zone time for Jack Eichel and others. With the exception of Dallas, Vegas has been living in the opposition’s defensive zone.

The lineup is defending, scoring, and stopping like it’s the Stanley Cup Finals. So, of course they’re spending most of their time in the lead. Last night was the only outlier, but Vegas still managed to earn more points in the waning minutes.

2023-24 VGK vs Opponents

  • VGK: 3.75 Goals Per Game
  • Opponents: 1.50 GPG
  • VGK: 33 Shots Per Game
  • Opponents: 26.1 SPG
  • VGK: 21.79 Hits Per Game
  • Opponents: 16.71 Hits Per Game
  • VGK: 15.67 Shots Blocked Per Game
  • Opponents: 19.71 SB Per Game
  • VGK: 13.3% Power Play Percentage
  • Opponents: 0% PP Percentage vs. VGK

Expectedly, the physicality so far has had a sniff of playoff intensity. There have been several fights, including two last night, a two-game suspension, and dozens of post-whistle scrums. Unsurprisingly, the Golden Knights are in the top ten in hits per game, penalties drawn per game, and have been sent to the box for fighting 4 times in 4 games. Even the youngsters in Anaheim took shots Vegas’ veterans.

After their shootout victory against Dallas, the Golden Knights will be facing another team with past emotions and motivation. Dallas pushed Vegas until the bitter end, Winnipeg on Thursday, and LA later this month should bring the same intensity. All three have reasons for revenge. Realistically, those are the toughest two matchups left in October. It won’t be until November that Vegas will get a chance to flash their championship jewelry to Calgary, Vancouver, and the embittered Edmonton Oilers.

They were locking up on defense pretty good in their own end. It was a great tip from Karlsson. Just a big play at big time. We know as a group we’re never out of a game. -Adin Hill

Unlike their other three opponents, the Stars came out hard, physical, and left T-Mobile Arena with a point. At this early stage in the NHL, only a handful of teams will travel to Las Vegas and perform that way. The way the Stanley Cup champions are built, there won’t be many times they’re out of a game.

The formula to the playoffs is already a pace ahead for the Golden Knights. They’ve collected their first eight points and it wasn’t all that hard. Vegas took care of their preliminary soft schedule and battled it out with Dallas in OT/SO. They’ll look to do it again to another playoff casualty on Thursday.

VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 3 DALLAS STARS 2 (4-0-0, 8 PTS) – SO (2-1)

Recap:  The Golden Knights and Dallas Stars met up for a rematch of the 2023 Western Conference Finals. Both clubs had early chances but came out empty-handed after the opening 20 minutes.

The offense came alive in the middle frame. First, the Stars snapped the scoreless tie 5:52 into the period. Seven minutes later VGK defenseman Kaedan Korczak evened the score with his first career NHL goal.

Vegas began the final period on a two-man advantage but Dallas was able to kill it off and preserve the 1-1 lock. Minutes later the Stars took the lead off an offensive zone faceoff shot. The Golden Knights heavily pressured the Stars in the final five minutes allowing William Karlsson to tie the game off a deflection. Each team had chances in overtime but the game was decided in a shootout. Shea Theodore and Jonathan Marchessault beat Dallas’ goaltender to remain undefeated.

The Golden Knights record improves to 4-0-0 defeating the Stars 3-2 in overtime. Vegas will fly north to Winnipeg for a game with another team they eliminated in the postseason. Puck drop against the Jets is scheduled for 5 PM. (Recap by Jason)

Analysis: It was a very cagey game involving two teams playing simple safe hockey. Both forechecks gave the other team trouble while most of the goals came off shots from a long way away. It also was a lot more physical than we’re used to seeing in early-season games. (Analysis by Ken)

Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs. Dallas Stars at T-Mobile Arena.

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Stanley Cup Final Q&A w/ David Dwork on Florida Panthers

As we do every series we welcome a guest to preview the series from the other side. In this Q&A we have David Dwork of TheHockeyNews and Channel 10 in South Florida. David has covered the Panthers for over a decade and grew up a fan of the team so there are not many that know them better than him.

Follow David on Twitter and read his work at TheHockeyNews.com.

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