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Colorado Proving Teams Can Slow Down McDavid In Western Conference Final

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

In 14 lifetime games against the Vegas, Connor McDavid, the world’s most electric player, has 17 total points. That’s an average of 1.21 points per game. It’s exciting for the fans but not for the Golden Knights. To be fair, most NHL franchises have been torched by McDavid as he’s averaged 1.58 points per game over the past four seasons.

However, in the Western Conference Final, the Colorado Avalanche seem to have figured out how to at least slow him down. Through three WCF games, the Avalanche have held McDavid to 3 points. Well below his 1.44 career points per playoff game and 2.17 he had in the first 12 playoff games this year.

Colorado deserves high marks for successfully executing a plan to slow down Edmonton’s captain. It’s similar to how the Golden Knights handled Avs superstar Nathan MacKinnon.

A couple of mental mistakes, a couple of positioning mistakes. That’s what a team like Colorado does to you. The second that Colorado was up a couple of goals they went into lockdown mode. Colorado knew they had enough to win then they locked it down. That’s what good teams do in the playoffs. –Matt Kassian, Oilers Analyst and Former player to TSN

By limiting McDavid the Avalanche have taken away the Oilers’ biggest weapon and their identity. Edmonton isn’t as effective, fast, nor as threatening without their one-two punch of McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

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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.

EDMONTON OILERS 4 VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 0 (41-30-5 87 PTS)

Recap: The Golden Knights traveled to Edmonton for the last game of their three game road trip. The Oilers broke the seal late in the opening period to take a 1-0 advantage into the first intermission.

Vegas attacked early in the period outshooting Edmonton 7-2 but couldn’t even the score. Logan Thompson was sharp in net to keep his team within one goal.

Edmonton stretched their lead to 3-0 scoring two goals in the first five minutes of the final period. Late in frame the Oilers tapped in another goal to make it a four-goal affair.

The Golden Knights’ record drops to 41-30-5 falling 4-0 to the Oilers. Vegas failed to get any closer in the standings and return home with only three points in three games. The Golden Knights next face the New Jersey Devils on Monday night. Puck drop against the Devils is set for 7 PM. (Recap by Jason)

Analysis: Vegas was strong defensively for most of the game, but they fell into a similar trap of not being able to get shots in close enough. They threw 39 shots at Mike Smith, but not nearly enough of them were dangerous and as the Oilers put a couple on the board, the defense started to lapse as well. Another frustrating loss as the Golden Knights just didn’t do enough. (Recap by Ken)


Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs. Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Place.

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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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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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VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 4 EDMONTON OILERS 0 (28-16-3 59 PTS)

Recap: The Golden Knights got off to a good start to the second half of the season up in Edmonton. Bottom six forward Brett Howden opened the scoring with his eighth of the season. Howden continues his hot stretch adding a goal in four consecutive games. Reilly Smith and William Karlsson connected for a shorthanded goal late in the period to give Vegas a 2-0 advantage.

Alex Pietrangelo tripled the Golden Knights lead early in the middle frame with his seventh of the season. Vegas goaltender Laurent Brossoit blocked all nine Edmonton shots carrying a 3-0 edge into the 2nd intermission.

It took Vegas only 14 seconds to extend their lead to 4-0 in the final twenty minutes. Smith picked up a second point of the night scoring his 13th goal of 2021-22. Brossoit was flawless in net earning his first shutout of the season.

The Golden Knights record improves to 28-16-2 defeating the Oilers 4-0. Vegas travels to Calgary and will faceoff against the Flames tomorrow night. Puck drop in Calgary is set for 6:30 PM. (Recap by Jason)

Analysis: A smash and grab is the best way to describe this one. The Golden Knights were essentially run out of the building in the 1st period, yet used a few opportunistic moments to take a 2-0 lead. From there, they settled in with the lead and coasted to victory. (Recap by Ken)


Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs. Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Place.

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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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