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VGK Set To Advance Next Postseason Against Weak Pacific

(Photo Credit: 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.

Playoffs A Reminder Health Isn’t Only Factor For Success

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Watching the Stanley Cup playoffs certainly has a different feel without the Golden Knights as participants. As we’ve been over many, many times since their season finale, injuries played a significant role in why the team is on the outside looking in. Halfway through the first round, it’s clear Vegas needed more than just their health to advance.

Western Conference Playoff Summary

  • 14-0 Team Scoring First
  • 8-6 Home Team
  • 4.25 Winning Team Average Goals
  • 3.22 Average Goal Differential Per Game
  • 1.8 Power Play Goals Per Win
  • 10-4 When Scoring PPG

Down the stretch, the Golden Knights had trouble picking up the first goal of game, received very little output from their power play, and lacked the ability to climb back and win from behind. On most nights in the playoffs, those elements would be a recipe for disaster. Not surprising, early consistent scoring is paying off in the postseason. So far, there have been 14 games played in the Western Conference, the team that scored the opening goal went on to win to all of them.

Naturally, lower-scoring teams focus on winning defensive battles helping them survive in a long series. Last night the LA Kings defeated the Edmonton Oilers 4-0 and evened the series by playing their signature suffocating style. The Oilers are +7 in goal differential but are in no better shape than the Kings.

The sixth highest-scoring team in the NHL’s regular season has only mustered up three goals in three games. The Calgary Flames averaged 3.55 goals per game in the first 82 but have been held to 2 goals or less in the last three. Yet, the 2.84 goals per game Dallas Stars hold a 2-1 series lead.

Western Conference Goals Scored Per Game

  • Colorado 5.33 (1 ENG)
  • Edmonton 4.25
  • Minnesota 3.25 (2 ENG)
  • St. Louis 3.00 (1 ENG)
  • Dallas 2.00 (2 ENG)
  • Nashville 2.00
  • LA 2.50 (1 ENG)
  • Calgary 1.0

Subtract empty netters, and the averages decrease for several Western Conference contenders. Making most games much tighter than the averages show. No matter who Vegas faced off against their periodic offensive struggles could’ve haunted them in the first round.

Turn back the clock to Vegas’ run to the semifinals last year. In six games against the Montreal Canadiens, the Golden Knights averaged 2.18 goals per game, scored the opening goal twice, and were blanked on the man-advantage.

Without a doubt, the Golden Knights’ front office is tuning in nightly like all of us. We’ve heard dozens of times the NHL is a copycat league, it’s possible VGK execs are picking up plays for their grease board. Why not take a few notes on Colorado’s lethal PP, or some offensive strategies from Edmonton, Minnesota, or St. Louis. Maybe, it’s best to watch Dallas and LA’s suffocating, everything to the outside type of defense. It may be the difference between making semis or the finals.

Vegas Needs Consistency To Manage Challenging Schedule

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Overall, it wasn’t a great weekend for the Golden Knights. They were unable to secure more than three points on their three-game road trip. The Kings, Predators, and Stars all won games as well. Time is running out. So, after an unrewarding weekend the Golden Knights need to quickly find consistency in their game and will need a little luck along the way as well.

Let’s start off positive. The Golden Knights play the 26-42-7 New Jersey Devils tonight at home. NHL computer models predict Vegas will defeat New Jersey fairly easily, so tack on two points to their total. That places them with 89 points, one point behind LA, and two behind Dallas and Nashville. With five games left that keeps Vegas in the hunt. At this late stage of the season that’s all you can really ask for.

We knew we weren’t going to run the table. We talked about that two weeks ago. We were going to drop some points along the way. We’re still right in the thick of things. -Pete DeBoer

After tonight’s game against the Devils, the Golden Knights schedule becomes more demanding. On paper, Vegas has the lineup to win out. Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty’s legs and lungs are building back to form. Thinking optimistically, if they contribute in all remaining games the Golden Knights can win most, if not all.

We’ve got to find a way to score goals in these tough games. In tight, especially. Teams are going to really tighten up in the D-zone here moving forward so we’ve got to find a way to bear down up front. -Alex Pietrangelo

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Recap: The Golden Knights came out strong against the Kings at T-Mobile Arena. Late in the period Evgenii Dadonov gave Vegas the first lead of the game with his 15th of the season. 

Just :39 seconds into the middle frame Chandler Stephenson doubled VGK’s lead 2-0. LA got within one mid-way through the period but Vegas responded five minutes later. Mattias Janmark regained the Golden Knights two goal lead with a shorthanded goal. After 40 minutes Vegas held a 3-1 advantage. 

The Kings had several chances heavily outshooting the Golden Knights in the final period. Logan Thompson was strong in net to preserve Vegas’ lead. Alex Pietrangelo and Michael Amadio sealed the game with two late period goals. The Golden Knights win back-to-back games for the first time since March 6th.

The Golden Knights improve their record to 34-26-4 dropping the Kings 3-1. Vegas will try and make it a three game winning streak on Monday in Minnesota. Puck drop against the Wild is set for 5P PT. (Recap by Jason)

Analysis: For the second straight game the Golden Knights looked like the Golden Knights, but in different ways each night. In this one, they were stellar through the neutral zone and made life very difficult on the Kings the whole night. Penalty killing was a massive story as well with the Golden Knights killing off three while adding a shorty. (Recap by Ken)

Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs. Los Angeles Kings at T-Mobile Arena.

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Recap: The Golden Knights looked to end their losing streak by hosting the LA Kings for their third of four matchups this season. Vegas’ offense started off hot scoring two goals in the 1st period. Top forwards Max Pacioretty and Reilly Smith gave the Golden Knights a 2-0 lead. LA cut the lead in half late in the period trailing Vegas by one in the opening frame.

The Kings evened the score :30 into the 2nd period with a power play goal. Pacioretty regained Vegas’ lead adding his second of the night. LA tied the game 3-3 late in the period and took the momentum into the 2nd intermission.

Both teams played conservatively and defensively in the final period. Neither team allowed any quality opportunities and the game needed an overtime period to decide a winner. LA took the two points with a beautiful passing sequence for the game winning goal.

The Golden Knights record drops to 28-18-4 falling to the Kings in overtime. Vegas hits the road for the next two games beginning in San Jose on Sunday evening. Puck drop is set for 5 PM. (Recap by Jason)

Analysis: The Golden Knights had a strong game in the offensive zone but they struggled to get there and stay there with any consistency. They took advantage of their chances when they did though. A few transition chances and a power play goal let the Kings back in it. (Recap by Ken)

Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs. Los Angeles Kings at T-Mobile Arena.

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Recap: The opening 20 minutes in Los Angeles were wild. Both clubs looked sluggish to start but around the midway point of the period the game opened up. First Reilly Smith gave Vegas a 1-0 lead on the power play and Keegan Kolesar tipped in another :26 seconds later. LA immediately answered to cut the lead in half but Jonathan Marchessault regained Vegas’ two goal lead moments later. Altogether, the two teams combined for 4 goals in 1:16.

Vegas continued to pressure LA in the second period scoring twice to take a 5-1 advantage. LA would earn one back with a shorthanded goal to pull within three.

The Golden Knights took a 6-2 lead after Marchessault’s second goal of the game and 16th of the season. LA inched closer but never threatened Vegas’ advantage.

The Golden Knights record improves to 21-12-0 defeating the Kings 6-3 in LA. Vegas returns home for a six-game homestand beginning on Friday. The Golden Knights and Ducks will face off on New Year’s Eve. Puck drop is set for Noon. (Recap by Jason)

Analysis: The game was messy for about the first five minutes. Then the Golden Knight started scoring and never stopped. It wasn’t exactly the best hockey game in the world, but the Golden Knights were much better than the Kings. Like much much much better. (Recap by Ken)

Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs. Los Angeles Kings game at Arena.

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

(Photo Credit: 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.

Uncharacteristic Defensive Lapses Haunting VGK To Start Season

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Pick a stat, any stat really, and it’ll paint an ugly picture of how poor the Golden Knights have been defensively through three games. It’s something that’s been out of the norm for the Golden Knights as a franchise and even more so since Pete DeBoer took over 21 months ago.

Many will point to the guy standing between the pipe simply because the name on his back does not roughly translate to Flower, but the reality is the Golden Knights have gotten above average, bordering on great, goaltending through three games.

The problems lie with the skaters in front of Robin Lehner. It’s not just the six playing defense though, it’s the entire group of 18, albeit a different group so far in each of the first three games.

We gave up probably 10 Grade A chances in the 1st period which should be the number for the entire game. We’re not going to win games playing like that. -Reilly Smith

It’s a small sample size of just three games, but the Golden Knights lead the league on a per-game basis in shots against, scoring chances allowed, and high danger chances allowed. They are second in shot attempts conceded and expected goals against, and they are in the top 10 in literally every other negative category NHL stats keep.

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Recap:  The Golden Knights and Kings faced off for their first of four matchups this season. Vegas struck first nine minutes into the opening period after Shea Theodore wristed his first goal of the season from the blue line. Los Angeles tied the game off a rebound and took the lead on a screened shot past goaltender Robin Lehner. After 20 minutes the Kings lead 2-1.

Los Angeles added to their lead three minutes into the middle frame. Newly signed Philip Danault stung the Golden Knights once again with his first goal as a King. Captain Anze Kopitar stretched LA’s lead to 4-1 with his second of the game.

Vegas coach Pete DeBoer replaced Lehner with backup Laurent Brossoit for the final period but it wouldn’t matter. Drew Doughty scored the Kings second power play goal of the night to end any shred of hope of a Vegas comeback.

The Golden Knights record drops to 1-1-0 after their 6-2 defeat in LA. Vegas will have a few days off to prepare for their next opponent on Wednesday night. Puck drop against the St. Louis Blues is scheduled for 7PM. (Recap by Jason)

Analysis: The Golden Knights did not look good from the drop of the puck on this night and despite taking a lead (thanks to a major goalie mishap) it never got better. The 2nd period could go down as one of the worst in a long time for the Golden Knights as they allowed two goals and lost Mark Stone to what looks like a serious injury. DeBoer pulled Lehner for the 3rd, and Brossoit allowed a goal on the very first shot he saw. If it could go wrong, it did. (Recap by Ken)

Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs. Los Angeles Kings game at Staples Center.

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Recap: The Golden Knights traveled back home to face off against the LA Kings in back-to-back nights. Undrafted prospect Daniil Miromanov gave Vegas the first lead of the game with his second goal in consecutive games. 

Defenseman Alec Martinez doubled Vegas’ lead in the second period, scoring a one-timer on the power play. Martinez’ goal was the fourth on the man-advantage this preseason. Fellow veteran William Karlsson stretched VGK’s lead to 3-0 :18 seconds into the third period and Miromanov poked in another six minutes later. Vegas goaltender Laurent Brossoit stopped all 37 shots on net to secure the shutout. 

The Golden Knights even their preseason record to 2-2 with their 4-0 victory against the Kings. Vegas will have a few days off and prepare for another exhibition game against the Colorado Avalanche. Game is scheduled for 6 PM PT from Denver, Colorado. (Recap by Jason)

Analysis: The first period was a bit of a struggle but as the game went on VGK started to take over. Daniil Miromanov also put forth the most impressive preseason performance since Tyler Wong’s hat trick in the Golden Knights’ very first preseason game. (Recap by Ken)

Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs. Los Angeles Kings preseason game at T-Mobile Arena.

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