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Last 10 Games Typically Tell VGK’s Future In Playoffs

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

There’s always a belief in the NHL that it’s crucial to be hot going into the postseason. For the Golden Knights, it has absolutely proven to be the case in their five previous trips to the playoffs. In the four seasons they ended the year well, they went on extended runs to the Conference Final or beyond. In the two years they stumbled down the stretch, they missed the playoffs and were eliminated in the First Round.

Vegas is currently 3-1-0 in the first four of the final 10 games of this year’s regular season and they have a playoff berth all but officially wrapped up. There are games still on the schedule against two of the three possible opening-round opponents, Vancouver and Edmonton. Here’s a look back at the history of how the season finished and how it turned out.

Last 10 Games: 6-1-3
Playoffs – 16-6 (Stanley Cup Champions)

The Golden Knights were winning and scoring in bunches down the stretch last season. They scored three or more goals in 11 of the final 13 games and posted at least four in eight of them. A pair of dominant wins over the Seattle Kraken ended the regular season and helped lock up the #1 seed in the Western Conference. That meant a home game to start the playoffs, which was a dud, a 5-1 loss to Winnipeg. VGK would go on to win each of the next four and start the Second Round with a win as well.

There were two games against an eventual playoff opponent in the final 20 games of the season, a pair of games played consecutively against the Oilers. VGK won in Edmonton and fell at home three days later.

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Despite Dire Injury Situation, Golden Knights Are Still In Excellent Playoff Position

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights have now lost four consecutive home games and four of the last five games overall. They’ve also posted a record of just 3-4-0 since the All Star break and truthfully haven’t played all that well in any of the seven games.

Mark Stone has been diagnosed with a lacerated spleen which will likely see him out for the remainder of the regular season, Jack Eichel has missed each of the last 15 games and is expected to miss at least a few more, and William Carrier, Pavel Dorofeyev, and Brett Howden are all out of the lineup for the foreseeable future. And on top of all of it, the Golden Knights are about to embark on their longest road trip of the season.

Trust me, I understand how anyone can read all of that and feel like the season is quickly slipping away. But, when you examine what the Golden Knights have left on the schedule and where they currently sit in relation to the rest of the Western Conference, it’s really not that bleak.

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Golden Knights Saw Remarkable Scoring Increase From Regular Season To Playoffs

(Photo Credit: @_jkarsh on Instagram)

The last two postseasons before the Golden Knights won the Stanley Cup they experienced a similar issue that derailed each season. A team that rarely struggled to score suddenly couldn’t find the back of the net against teams like Vancouver, Dallas, and Montreal.

Then, in 2023, that issue disappeared. On their 22-game run to the Cup the Golden Knights scored at will against four vastly different styles of team. Vegas averaged four goals per game, leading all teams this postseason. 4.00 is nearly half a goal better than any other VGK team has ever posted in the playoffs and 1.2 goals per game better than the last time the Golden Knights were there.

Playoff Scoring Per Game
2022-23: 4.00
2020-21: 2.79
2019-20: 2.85
2018-19: 3.57
2017-18: 2.85

The main catalyst for this was scoring from forwards. 10 Golden Knights forwards saw their scoring pace increase in the playoffs compared to the regular season. The leader among them was Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Marchessault who went from 0.75 points per game in the regular season to a whopping 1.14 per game in the playoffs.

Michael Amadio, Brett Howden, and Mark Stone all saw increases of at least 0.2 points per game and Jack Eichel added 0.19 per game in the playoffs.

William Karlsson led the pack in goal-scoring difference from the regular season to playoffs. Karlsson scored just 0.17 goals per game, or less than one every five games, to scoring 0.50 per game in the playoffs, or one every other game. Both Chandler Stephenson and Marchessault also added at least 0.22 extra goals per game in the playoffs which means just taking those three players alone, the Golden Knights were getting an extra goal per game compared to the regular season.

Here’s the full chart to show the delta (DIFF) between each players’ goal (G/GP) and point (P/GP) scoring in the regular season (RS) and the playoffs (P).

**Use landscape mode if viewing on a mobile device.**

Jonathan Marchessault0.370.590.220.751.140.39
Michael Amadio0.240.310.070.400.630.23
Brett Howden0.
Mark Stone0.400.500.100.881.090.21
Jack Eichel0.400.27-0.130.991.180.19
Zach Whitecloud0.
Alec Martinez0.
William Karlsson0.170.500.330.650.770.12
Ivan Barbashev0.260.320.060.700.820.12
Chandler Stephenson0.200.450.260.800.910.11
Nicolas Hague0.
Phil Kessel0.170.00-0.170.440.500.06
Nicolas Roy0.220.14-0.080.460.500.04
Teddy Blueger0.
Keegan Kolesar0.110.09-
Brayden McNabb0.010.00-
Reilly Smith0.330.18-0.150.720.64-0.08
William Carrier0.290.11-0.170.450.33-0.12
Shea Theodore0.150.05-0.100.750.62-0.13
Brayden Pachal0.
Ben Hutton0.100.00-
Alex Pietrangelo0.150.05-0.100.740.48-0.26

No Golden Knight averaged more than 0.4 goals per game in the regular season while four did in the playoffs (Marchessault, Stone, Karlsson, Stephenson). Also, not a single Golden Knight reached a point per game in the regular season while three did in the playoffs (Eichel, Marchessault, Stone).

Because the Golden Knights were so proficient at scoring, it allowed two of their most important offensive weapons to focus more on their primary jobs. Alex Pietrangelo and Shea Theodore saw both of their goals per game and points per game decrease in the postseason. Between the two, Vegas received 0.3 goals per game and 1.5 points per game in the regular season. Those numbers dipped to 0.1 goals and 1.1 points per game in the playoffs. It seems like a lot, but the 0.1 goals per game was made up by Mark Stone alone.

Add it all up, and offense was never a problem for Vegas during this playoff run, and it’s ultimately the main reason they all have their names engraved on the Cup.

VGK May Break Season Scoring Record, But Scoring In The Playoffs Remains A Major Concern

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Yesterday I published a piece looking at all of the records the Golden Knights could potentially break this season. From blocks to faceoffs to road points percentage, it wasn’t terribly surprising to see how many records may fall this year.

However, there was one that did catch me a bit off guard and it made me question one of the strongest beliefs I’ve had about this team for the past few seasons.

The 2022-23 Golden Knights are 41 goals from breaking the franchise record for most goals scored in a season. With 12 games to go, they’ll need to score 3.4 per game to set the new high water mark. Considering this year’s team is averaging 3.24 per game this year, it absolutely could happen, or at the very least could come down to a goal or two difference.

Yet here I sit here with the core belief that the Golden Knights are lacking the proper level of offense necessary to win the Stanley Cup. And after doing some digging into the numbers, I still believe it.

So how can a team on pace to score well over three goals per game and possibly break the scoring record set by the legendary team that won 13 playoff games still be short offensively?

The first reason is that this year’s team is more boom or bust than the 2017-18 team.

In 82 games, the 17-18 Golden Knights failed to score three goals 26 times, or 32%. This year’s team has done it 28 times in 70 games, for 40% of the schedule. Meanwhile, this year’s team has posted at least five goals 19 times, or 27%, while the first year team also did it 19 times, but in all 82, or 23%.

That means this year’s team scores less than two or more than four in 67%, two-thirds, of games while the 17-18 team had a boom-or-bust rate a little over half of the games at 55%.

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VGK’s Path To The Playoffs Is Wide Open Despite Tricky Schedule

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Lights out, away we go. The All Star break is over and the race to the playoffs is officially on.

As of right now, the Golden Knights sit in a fairly comfortable place among the jumbled group of Western Conference competitors.

VGK’s 62 points in 51 games have them just a point behind both Seattle and Los Angeles, while two clear of Edmonton and five past Calgary. In points percentage, the Golden Knights’ .608 is good for 2nd in the Pacific, 4th in the West, and 10th in the league.

Vegas’ schedule is certainly tougher the rest of the way than it has been to this point. With 31 games to go, Vegas will face 16 teams currently in playoff position and nine teams among the Top 10 in the league. The combined points percentage of the teams left on VGK’s schedule is .560, the toughest of the 10 teams chasing the eight playoff spots.

Remaining Strength of Schedule by Points Percentage

Vegas – .560
Nashville – .554
Winnipeg – .553
Minnesota – .546
Edmonton – .545
Colorado – .538
Calgary – .534
Seattle – .533
Los Angeles – .532
Dallas – .526

.560 equates to 92 points per game, or essentially a team right on the playoff cut line. This is much tougher than the 86 point pace average Dallas will face.

However, there’s a different way to look at it that appears much better for the Golden Knights. VGK’s .608 points percentage is better than 22 of the 31 teams remaining on the schedule. Of the 10 contending teams, that’s tied for the fourth most games against teams with inferior points percentages.

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First To 10 Wins: What Does It Mean For The Rest Of The Season?

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

In their 12th game of the season, the Golden Knights reached a plateau that took them 17 games to get to last year and a whopping 23 games to reach back in 2018-19.

Along with the Boston Bruins, Vegas became the first team in the NHL to reach the double-digit win plateau. It’s the first time in Golden Knights history they’ve been the first in the conference to reach 10 wins. It’s not Bruce Cassidy’s first time in this place though, as his Bruins did it two years ago in the shortened season.

The question is, how significant is it to be the first team to reach 10 wins?

The answer is… not much.

Over the course of the last nine years, no team to be the first to reach 10 wins has reached the Cup Final, while three failed to make the playoffs altogether.

The last sentence said nine years because exactly 10 seasons ago, in 2012-13, the Chicago Blackhawks were the first team to reach 10 wins in the lockout-shortened season. They went on to steamroll the entire league on their way to their second of three Cups last decade. However, that team wasn’t like all the rest of the teams to reach 10 wins. First, they are one of just two teams to do it without a regulation loss (last year’s Florida) and they didn’t exactly stop at 10. That Blackhawks team started the season on a 24-game point streak with an insane 21-0-3 record. They finished the year 36-7-5 (the equivalent of 132 points in an 82-game season) before going 16-7 on their way to winning the Cup.

So, in the last 10 years, one team to be the first to reach 10 wins won the Cup.

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Assessing The Playoff Picture For The Golden Knights

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s getting down to crunch time and for the first time all season the Golden Knights’ name is included in a playoff-clinching scenario. If the Golden Knights lose to Vancouver tonight, the Avalanche will clinch a postseason berth.

Of course, VGK are never going to catch Colorado, but we’re close enough for clinching scenarios so we’re definitely close enough to be keeping an eye on the rest of the landscape of the playoff picture.

Here are the current Points To Elimination for the Golden Knights. Remember, VGK must either “eliminate” five teams from the Pacific or eight teams from the Western Conference to qualify for the playoffs.

Seattle – E
Anaheim – 13
San Jose – 15
Vancouver – 20
Los Angeles – 29
Edmonton – 30
Calgary – 38

Arizona – E
Chicago – 5
Winnipeg – 21
Nashville – 31
Dallas – 32
St. Louis – 35
Minnesota – 40
Colorado – 51

The Golden Knights have 12 games left on the schedule meaning there are 24 points to be controlled by Vegas. Because there are only four Pacific teams and three Central teams under 24, the Golden Knights do NOT control their own destiny. If Vegas wins out, there is a scenario in which Vegas still does not make the playoffs. They will need some help, but not much at all.

Flipping things over, here are the “tragic numbers” for Vegas against each other team. This is the number of points that would guarantee the Golden Knights cannot catch each team. In parentheses is the total number of available points between the two teams to reach that number.

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