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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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VGK’s Head-To-Head Dominance Over Pacific Division Slipping

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Since the Golden Knights entered the NHL they’ve done nothing but dominate the Pacific Division.

Not just in the overall standings, in which the Golden Knights have won the division two of the three years they’ve competed in it, but also in the postseason where Vegas has been the last team standing three of the four playoff seasons.

One of the main reasons for this dominance has been the head-to-head play between the teams. Of the six teams still in the division (Arizona left for the Central), the Golden Knights had a combined record of 68-21-8 record coming into this season. That’s 144 points in just 97 games or a points percentage of .742. Against all other teams, VGK have earned 226 points in 194 games for a points percentage of .583.

Literally almost 40% of the points the Golden Knights have earned in franchise history have come on the backs of just six teams. But this year it hasn’t gone as well.

Record against ANA, CGY, EDM, LAK, SJS, and VAN
21-22: 2-4-0 (.333)
20-21: 21-3-0 (.875)
19-20: 13-5-2  (.700)
18-19: 18-8-3 (.672)
17-18: 16-5-3 (.729)

The Golden Knights have won just two games against Pacific Division opponents not named Seattle while dropping four. They’ve lost both division games they’ve played on the road (at LAK, at ANA) and have allowed their opponent to grab at least a point in every game but one, a game they trailed 2-0 six minutes in (vs VAN).

Winning in the division has been a staple for the Golden Knights’ success and one has to wonder what their overall record will look like if they are not amassing huge point totals against the Pacific Division.

Obviously, Seattle has helped as Vegas has beaten them twice in two tries, both in regulation. However, those games were both at T-Mobile Arena and the Kraken appear to be improving as the season progresses. The next two matchups in late March and early April may not be as easy.

There are still 18 games left against division opponents. Including Seattle, the Golden Knights have recorded eight points in the first eight games. To reach their normal pace against the division (.742), they’d need to go 15-2-1.

Making that even trickier, 10 of the 18 games are on the road, including a pair in Edmonton and Calgary who are in 1st and 2nd in the division.

Adding this all up, the fact of the matter is, the Golden Knights are going to need to play much better out of division than they ever have before to reach the playoffs.

There’s no better time than now to start that as nine of the next 10 games are out of the division.

EDMONTON OILERS 3 VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 2 (12-9-0 24 PTS)

Recap: The Golden Knights did a great job defending Connor McDavid and the Oilers for the opening 15 minutes but it wouldn’t last. Edmonton picked up two quick goals in the final two minutes of the period to take a 2-0 lead into the first intermission.

Edmonton stretched their lead early in the middle frame but Vegas quickly answered. Chandler Stephenson backhanded in his eighth of the season getting his team back within two.

Vegas came out strong in the final period outshooting Edmonton 11-2 in the first 10 minutes. Reilly Smith made it a one goal game when he tapped in his ninth of the season. The Golden Knights couldn’t find the tying goal and lost a tight divisional battle.

The Golden Knights record drops to 12-9-0 after falling to the Oilers 3-2. Vegas hits the road for a short two game road trip beginning in Anaheim on Wednesday night. Puck drop against the Ducks is scheduled for 7 PM. (Recap by Jason)

Analysis: The Golden Knights have really lived or died by their defense chipping in offensively. Tonight, they got caught trying to help out far too often and it led to what felt like an endless string of breakaways for Edmonton. VGK pushed back but couldn’t find the game tying goal before time ran out. (Recap by Ken)


Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs. Edmonton Oilers game at T-Mobile Arena.

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Despite Injuries, DeBoer’s Eyes And Stats Agree VGK Creating Enough To Chances To Score

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Through four games, the Golden Knights have lit the lamp 10 times. Four against Seattle, one against each of the Kings and Blues, and three last night against Edmonton. Only seven teams have scored fewer to this point and there are a combined six wins in 28 games between those teams.

The Golden Knights are understandably struggling to score as they fight through injuries that have $26.5 million out of the lineup. However, in the past two games, head coach Pete DeBoer has been encouraged with the offensive output.

When we take Stone, Pacioretty, and Tuch out of the lineup, we know scoring isn’t going to come easily. Actually, the last two games without those guys in I’ve found that we’ve generated enough chances offensively to score some goals. We got three tonight, could have had four or five. So from an offensive perspective, I feel better about our chances of scoring enough to win with those guys out for however long they’re out but we’ve got to get our goals against down. -DeBoer

The raw numbers bore it out too.

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EDMONTON OILERS 5 VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 3 (1-3-0 2 PTS)

Recap: The Golden Knights took the opening lead against the Edmonton Oilers 3:24 into the game. Nic Roy deflected in his first goal of the season off a point shot from Zach Whitecloud. Edmonton tied the game five minutes later on the power play. After the opening twenty minutes the game was all even 1-1.

Vegas regained their one goal advantage on another deflection from the point. This time Nolan Patrick picked up his first of the season and his first as a Golden Knight. A few minutes later the Oilers scored two straight goals to take a 3-2 lead.

Nic Hague got the Golden Knights back in the game with a laser from the high slot. The Oilers broke the tie again and never gave up the lead. Edmonton added an empty netter to finish off the game with a 5-3 victory.

The Golden Knights record drops to 1-3-0 after losing 5-3 to the Oilers. Vegas’ next game is on Sunday night against the New York Islanders. Puck drop is scheduled for 7P. (Recap by Jason)

Analysis: Well, on the plus side, this was the best game the Golden Knights have played this season. On the other side, they got out-talented by a very good Edmonton team and couldn’t avoid the turnovers enough to keep up. Plus, to make matters worse, they suffered ANOTHER injury, this time to Zach Whitecloud and according to DeBoer “it wasn’t good.” (Recap by Ken)


Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs. Edmonton Oilers game at T-Mobile Arena.

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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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Western Conference Hub Hosting Cup Final Could Benefit Western Conference Champ

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Now that playing at home appears to be on the fritz, the Golden Knights will turn their attention to playing in Western Canada, where it appears they’ll stay if they have success early in the playoffs.

Vegas will have the ability to set up shop in Alberta and stay for the entirety of the postseason, or however long they last. That shouldn’t be an advantage considering the oddities surrounding this format, but the raw numbers suggest staying west could benefit the Golden Knights.

Overall, the Golden Knights proved for a third straight season that they were a Western Conference challenger. Unsurprisingly, when on the road, they’re at their best when playing inside Pacific Division buildings.

VGK at Pacific Division
19-20: 7-3-1 (.682)
18-19: 9-5-1 (.633)
17:18 – 10-3-2 (.733)
Total: 26-11-4 (.683)

VGK at Central Division
19-20: 3-4-0 (.429)
18-19: 4-6-0 (.400)
17-18: 4-5-1 (.450)
Total: 11-15-1 (.426)

VGK at Eastern Conference
19-20: 7-6-3 (.531)
18-19: 6-9-1 (.406)
17-18: 8-6-2 (.563)
Total: 21-21-6 (.500)

The numbers really skew against the Golden Knights when you take into account who they were playing. Most of the wins were against the below-average Eastern conference teams as seven of the nine losses came at the hands of East playoff teams.

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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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