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Latest Round Of Power Rankings Ignoring VGK’s Past Success

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If last night’s 6-3 win over the Pacific-leading Vancouver Canucks was any indication of how the Golden Knights will perform in the playoffs, the league better take notice. The reigning champions are back to form and are looking like a club prepared to repeat. However, outside of the 702 there are skeptics in every corner of the NHL map.

Going into last season’s playoff the Golden Knights were on the shortlist of favorites to win the Stanley Cup. This year, the 2023 champions are being overlooked by many who cover the league. In the latest release of numerous NHL power rankings, most critics buried Vegas as if they were some substandard Wild Card beneficiary.

Western Conference Playoff Polling Averages

  1. COL – (1.5)
  2. DAL – (2.3)
  3. EDM – (3.0)
  4. VAN – (3.5)
  5. NAS – (4.7)
  6. WPG – (6.2)
  7. LAK – (6.7)
  8. VGK – (7.3)

We compiled data from ten different power rankings and calculated the average for each contending Western Conference team. Those references include: CBS Sports, Daily Faceoff, ESPN, Hockey News, MoneyPuck, NHL.com, Seattle Times, Sportsnet, TSN, and USA Today.

In the Western Conference ,among contenders, the Golden Knights were at the bottom or close to it in most power rankings. LA and Winnipeg were the two closest in the eyes of various judges.

USA Today: 1. COL, 2. CAR, 3. NYR, 4. FLA, 5. EDM, 6. DAL, 7. NAS, 8. BOS, 9. VGK, 10. TB, 11. VAN, 12. TOR, 13. PHI, 14. LAK, 15. WPG, 16. WAS

Only USA Today’s rankings had Vegas higher than the seventh-best club in the conference.

TSN: 1. COL, 2. CAR, 3. VAN, 4. EDM, 5. NAS, 6. NYR, 7. DAL, 8. FLA, 9. LAK, 10. TOR, 11. WPG, 12. BOS, 13. TB, 14. VGK, 15. MIN, 16. NJD

On the flip side, the folks up north at TSN aren’t expecting a Golden Knights championship repeat. Maybe they’ll reconsider after they pushed around Canada’s most successful team. TSN analysts are fair but tough. They boldly excluded two Eastern Conference playoff teams from their Top 20. The Sports Network did note that facing the Golden Knights would be a rotten reward for any division champion.

That said, earning a first-round playoff matchup against a wild-card team won’t be the win it’s been in previous years. The two teams occupying those spots right now are the Nashville Predators, 15-0-2 in their past 17 games, and the defending champion Vegas Golden Knights. -TSN

Sportsnet: 1. NYR, 2. COL, 3. DAL, 4. VAN, 5. CAR, 6. BOS, 7. NAS, 8. FLA, 9. TB, 10. EDM, 11. LAK, 12. TOR, 13. WPG, 14. WAS, 15. STL, 16. VGK

Canada’s second major hockey network wasn’t much kinder on Vegas. They had to remind fans about the Golden Knights mediocrity since Christmastime. Maybe their recent play will gain higher marks in Sportsnet’s next power rankings.

23 teams — including the frequently-maligned New Jersey Devils and Pittsburgh Penguins — have a better points percentage than Vegas’ .488 mark since Dec. 15. Good thing the Knights had built a huge buffer by posting the third-best mark (.726) to that point. –Ryan Dixon on Sportsnet.ca

NHL.com: 1. NYR, 2. COL, 3. VAN, 4. DAL, 5. FLA, 6. BOS, 7. CAR, 8. NAS, 9. WPG, 10. EDM, 11. LAK, 12. TOR, 13. TB, 14. VGK, 15. WAS, 16. PHI

Last week we begrudgingly pointed out the Golden Knights horrendous 3rd period meltdowns. The NHL’s Dan Rosen emphasized that shortcoming in his latest power ranking. On a positive note the Golden Knights have only allowed one third period goal to start April.

The Golden Knights must, must, must be better in the third period. This isn’t just because they 4-1 lead after two periods against the Predators on Tuesday only to lose 5-4 in overtime. It’s not a recency bias. It’s longer than that. They are minus-12 in third-period goal differential in March, 26-14. They gave up the three in the third to the Predators on top of allowing three to the Lightning in a 5-3 loss, four to the Calgary Flames in a 4-1 loss, three to the Columbus Blue Jackets in a 6-3 loss and four to the Buffalo Sabres in a 7-2 loss all this month. They’re winning a lot of games going into the third period and then they give it away. – Dan Rosen on NHL.com

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Which Potential Playoff Matchup Is Best For The Golden Knights?

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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

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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 Unfazed By Delusional Oilers Hype

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The Edmonton Oilers’ historic streak came to a close on Tuesday in a typical, and most predictable fashion, by losing to the Golden Knights. The same team that ended Edmonton’s playoff dreams and sent them into an offseason and then early season, spiral spoiled their chance at becoming NHL immortals.

Since December 21st, the two Pacific contenders were heading in different directions. In that timeframe, the Golden Knights lost first-place to the Vancouver Canucks and the Oilers leapfrogged several teams in the division. However, all of that came to a halting crash on Tuesday after the better team came out on top.

It’s always a tough game in this building, we were expecting that. Disappointing, but we move on. It’s been a while since we’ve done that, and you forget sometimes how bad you hate losing. It’s a good reminder. -Connor McDavid, EDM captain

For the umpteenth time, Vegas proved to be more well-rounded. Just like in the 2023 postseason, the reigning champions are better coached, defend and protect the net better, and have an overall better lineup than the Oilers. Sure, there are no players in VGK’s lineup that match skills with Edmonton’s Connor McDavid or Leon Draiaitl but the comparison ends there. While the Golden Knights possess a Stanley Cup-winning roster, the Oilers are a two-man motor that perennially over-exhausts.

We’re back in the hunt, and we’re not content by any means. I think we worked hard to get ourselves into this position, but we lost tonight to a team in our division that we played a lot over the last couple years. It’s gonna leave a bad taste in our mouths. -Darnell Nurse, EDM defenseman

This summer I hammered the Oiler’s inflated confidence heading into the 2023-24 season. Some of it may have come from the exaggerated expectations by dozens of Canadian hockey analysts but Edmonton’s optimism was completely shattered 12 games in. Now that Edmonton has bounced back and is projected to qualify for the playoffs, their sole focus should be directed toward Vegas. To win the Western Conference, the Oilers will most likely have to face the Golden Knights. Going off past history, Vegas will likely prevail on the big stage in under seven games. Tuesday’s poorly designated ESPN+ matchup was just a sample.

Edmonton defenseman Darnell Nurse had a realistic reaction to their first loss in 46 days. On the other hand, Nurse’s captain hasn’t accepted that the Golden Knights are the more complete team. Likely, for a second straight season.

There’s a lot of things we’ve got to do, there’s a lot of things they’ve got to do to get to that situation. Obviously, we’d love to play Vegas in a playoff series again. Makes for great hockey. -McDavid

When asked who the Oilers current rivals were, McDavid veered away from his notorious robotic responses. A geographical rival is one thing but choosing the LA Kings over the reigning champions is puzzling and almost impossible to take seriously.

Good question. For me, it’s Calgary, then L.A., right now. I’d say those two. -McDavid

Has McDavid turned into the most delusional superstar in sports?

VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 3 EDMONTON OILERS 1 (30-15-6, 66 PTS)

Recap: The Golden Knights hit home ice for their first game back since the All-Star break. Vegas hosted the Edmonton Oilers in an attempt to snap their historic winning streak. Edmonton took the opening lead with an early shorthanded goal. Vegas’ Nic Roy tied the game later in the period, scoring his tenth of the season.

The 2nd period featured strong goaltending by both teams. Adin Hill made several key saves to keep Edmonton from taking a lead. After 40 minutes the game was locked in a 1-1 tie.

It didn’t take long in the final period for Vegas to take their first lead. After a big stop by Hill, Chandler Stephenson went the other direction and scored on a one-time pass in front of Edmonton’s net. William Karlsson added an empty net goal to give the Golden Knights two-goal cushion. Hill continued to frustrate the Oilers in the final minutes and preserved Vegas’ 3-1 win.

With the win, the Golden Knights record improves to 30-15-6, and ended the Oilers 16-game win streak. Next, Vegas will hit the road to face the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night. Puck drop is scheduled for 6 PM. (Recap by Jason)

Analysis: In the first game after the All Star break it took VGK a bit to get their sharpness back but they had their defending legs from the beginning. Edmonton pushed and pushed and pushed but they couldn’t ever get enough chances in close. Even when they did get good opportunities, Adin Hill was there to stop them every step of the way. (Analysis by Ken)

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

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Record-Chasing Oilers Are Not The Same Team VGK Eliminated Last Year

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When the Edmonton Oilers step on the ice at T-Mobile Arena tomorrow they’ll be chasing history. With a win, they tie the NHL record for most consecutive wins at 17. They also have a chance to make it 15 straight games allowing two or fewer goals. And, they can officially clinch the regular season series against the team that eliminated them from the playoffs last year.

Then, there’s the Golden Knights, who on paper have a lot less to play for, but would love nothing less than to continue tormenting a team that is quickly becoming their most hated rival.

Vegas has to enter this game with plenty of confidence. They are still the reigning champs and there’s not a player on the roster who has forgotten the playoff series from nine months ago.

But, this is not the same Oilers team from last year though. It starts with a systematic change that may have just been inspired by the Golden Knights.

They’ve changed their D-Zone system from last year. It looks very familiar because I’ve coached it for 15 years so I recognize it when I see it. -Bruce Cassidy

Edmonton’s former head coach Jay Woodcroft attributes the system to “the team that had the best record in the NHL last year” but it’s also the same one Cassidy installed the moment he became the head coach of the Golden Knights.

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Vegas In Strong Position In The Pacific Despite Model’s Third Place Finish

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Earlier this month LA King’s general manager Rob Blake addressed the media to assure head coach Todd McLellan’s job was safe after their stretch of awful results. First, the Edmonton Oilers struggled out of the gates, fired their coach, and almost ended their playoff future. Now, the Oilers are on a historic tear rattling off 14 victories in a row. It’s been a wild roller coaster ride for both contenders and the division. Despite being banged up, disrespecting the game, and playing like a beer league hockey club they haven’t dealt with as much adversity as their Pacific Division brethren.

I don’t think you ever have to be perfect, but you need to be good for longer stretches. We’ve missed some guys that are difference makers, and then you get teams now that I think are closer to how they think they’re playing their game for a full 60. It’s just that time of year where the better teams will start separating. So obviously we want to be one of those. We do have to be a better version of ourselves for longer if we expect to get points. – Bruce Cassidy

There’s no doubt that the Golden Knights have had their share of discouraging performances in 2023-24. At times there’s been a lack of finish, scoring droughts, and sloppy play but based on their last handful of outings (ignoring the Devils game) the reigning champions are sitting in a good position in their division. Even without some of their impact players on the ice, Vegas has averaged 4.0 goals per game and allowed 2.40 over a five-game span. Obviously, it is only 15 periods and one overtime, but the reigning champions have done enough to put themselves in position to compete for a top playoff spot.

Hockey Reference’s Pacific Division Playoff Probabilities

  1. Vancouver Canucks: 111.4 Points, 81.3% to win Pacific Division
  2. Edmonton Oilers: 101.8 Points, 7.7% to win Pacific Division
  3. Vegas Golden Knights: 101.6 Points 7.7% to win Pacific Division
  4. Los Angeles Kings: 98.1 Points, 3.2% to win Pacific Division
  5. Calgary Flames: 87.2 Points, 0% to win Pacific Division
  6. Seattle Kraken: 87.2 Points, 0.1% to win Pacific Division
  7. Anaheim Ducks: 68.4 Points, 0% to win Pacific Division
  8. San Jose Sharks: 60.2, 0% to win Pacific Division

According to Hockey-Reference.com, the Golden Knights are projected to finish the season second or third in the Pacific Division with 101 points. Vegas and Edmonton are neck and neck according to HR’s model with Vancouver expected to finish ten points ahead of both.

However, it’s too early to call. The reigning champions have 33 games remaining, including ten divisional games. Being in the position they are in; a healthy lineup should easily make it a race to the top.

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