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Golden Knights Playoff Roster And Lineup Projections

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Whenever the league gives the green light to go ahead with the 24 team playoff format that was unveiled earlier this week, the Golden Knights are going to have some tough decisions both in roster and lineup construction.

According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the league is expected to allow teams to have 28 skaters on their active roster along with an unlimited number of goalies. Normally, the entire AHL squad is available to any team still remaining in the NHL playoffs, but with the pandemic restrictions, the league likely wants to keep the numbers down.

So, let’s start with the 28 skaters that I project will make the cut for the Golden Knights.

Locks (21) (13 F, 8 D)

William Karlsson, Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith, Paul Stastny, Alex Tuch, Chandler Stephenson, Nick Cousins, Nic Roy, Ryan Reaves, Tomas Nosek, William Carrier, Nate Schmidt, Brayden McNabb, Alec Martinez, Shea Theodore, Jon Merrill, Nick Holden, Zach Whitecloud, Deryk Engelland

This is the roster Vegas was expecting to go into the playoffs with had the league continued with the regularly scheduled season. Assuming health when the league is ready to return, there’s no way any of these 21 won’t be listed among the Golden Knights allotted 28.

AHL Locks (3) (2 F, 1 D)

Brandon Pirri, Valentin Zykov, Nic Hague

When I set out to do this I actually expected this group to be a little larger, but the group behind these guys is so large, McPhee and McCrimmon can really go a lot of different ways. Will they load up on defensemen because they have a little bit more of a variety of styles? Will they go with more veteran players to be safe? Or will they put a bunch of kids in the mix so they get a taste of “playoff” hockey? No matter which way they choose, these three will be among the 28 selected.

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Polls, Odds, And Probabilities: Are The Golden Knights Going To Make The Playoffs?

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Heading into the 2019-20 season the idea of the Golden Knights missing the playoffs felt ludicrous. 52 games and a head coaching change later, and all of a sudden it doesn’t seem that crazy anymore.

So, I decided to poke around hockey Internet to try and see where exactly the Golden Knights stand with 30 games left on the schedule.

First, we start with the fans.

The Golden Knights are generally an optimistic bunch, so of course the results are going to skew towards the positive. We asked the exact same question on all three social media platforms. All three polls came in right above 80% in favor of Vegas making the postseason.

There’s also a heavy level of optimism from the sportsbooks in Vegas. William Hill has the Golden Knights listed as the co-favorites to win the division, the 2nd favorites to win the Western Conference, and 5th favorites to win the Stanley Cup.

Pacific Division
VGK +300

Western Conference
VGK +500

Stanley Cup
VGK +1000

Like fans, there’s a reason for their optimism though. Odds are set based on betting patterns. The more money that comes in on a specific team, the lower the odds go. Obviously, Vegas fans like to bet on their own team, so the numbers can go a little crazy in the Golden Knights favor.

Finally, we head to the prediction machines. There are three great ones out there that all use drastically different methods to come up with their probabilities.

First, the one I trust the most, is Dom Luszczyszyn’s playoff projections model on The Athletic. He updates it daily and uses “Game Score” to run 50,000 projections of what will happen the remainder of the season.

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Leading Division On New Year’s Day Bodes Well For Future

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

For the 2nd time in three seasons when the fireworks went up over the Strip, the team that calls Las Vegas home was sitting in 1st place as the calendar flipped to the new year.

January 1st essentially marks the halfway point of the NHL season, give or take a few days, and while plenty of hockey is still to be played the standings when the year changes are significant in predicting the future.

Since the lockout killed the 2004-05 season, there have been 66 teams that have led their division on January 1st (four divisions from 2012-13 to 2018-19, six divisions from 2005-06 to 2011-12).

Of the 66 who led the division on New Year’s Day, 61 made the playoffs, including all 12 since Vegas has been a franchise.

Just 7.6% of teams with a hold of the division title on New Year’s Day have failed to reach the postseason and only one team (4.2%) has done it since the league went to the four division format it currently uses now (2015-16 Montreal).

39 of the 66 division leaders on January 1st went on to win their respective divisions for a nearly 60% success rate. Since 2017-18, eight of the 12 New Year’s division leaders (66.7%) raised a division champion banner that season, including the 2017- 18 Golden Knights.

31 of the 66 teams went on to win at least one round and 21 of the 66 went on to reach the conference finals.

In the 13 years since the lockout, there have been eight teams to win the Stanley Cup that held their respective division’s number one spot on New Year’s Day. That means 61.5% of Stanley Cup Champions since 2006 led their division on January 1st.

All in all, leading the division on New Year’s Day is significant. It means you have a 92% chance of making the playoffs, a 59% chance of winning the division, a 47% chance of winning a round, a 32% chance of reaching the conference finals, and a 12% chance of winning the Stanley Cup.

As I say every time I walk up to a craps table, “I like these odds.”


Tampa Bay – Won Division, 1st Round
Washington – Won Division, 1st Round
Winnipeg – 2nd Place, 1st Round
Calgary – Won Division, 1st Round


Tampa Bay – Won Division, ECF
Washington – Won Division, Cup
Winnipeg – 2nd Place, WCF
Vegas – Won Division – SCF

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How Important Were Faceoffs To The 2018-19 Golden Knights?

The importance of winning the faceoff battle has been a three-year reoccurring argument here at In my opinion, it’s all about possession. When a center wins a draw his team has immediate control and should safely get the puck out of their zone. Or create an offensive push towards the opponent’s direction. Whoever wins the possession battle, should dictate the game.

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Faceoffs are probably one of the most underrated stats in this league. If you can start off with the puck, your much better off. And you’ll have better scoring chances. – Nate Schmidt

On the other side of the discussion is Europa Ken.

He’s not concerned with a lost draw if Vegas’ forecheck, shooting percentage, and rebound control are positively effective. For the most I agree, but remember a forechecking attack begins with the puck, and there’s a good chance it was possessed by a winning faceoff.

2018-19 Golden Knights Faceoff Percentage Breakdown

  • Record when winning 51% or more Faceoffs: (20-11-2)
  • Record when losing 51% or more Faceoffs: (14-16-3)
  • Record when Faceoff % is 50/50: (9-5-2)

While it’s clear the Golden Knights have a better record when they win more faceoffs, the formula isn’t as simple as you’d think. At first glance the numbers support my argument, but looking deeper, the higher the FO% didn’t guarantee a Vegas victory. In five separate games, Golden Knights’ centers won 60% or more from the dot. Their record was (1-4). Even furthering the madness, Vegas was (2-2) in games they lost more than 60% of draws.

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Most Intense Series Of Their Careers

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

I’m sure viewership is low in Las Vegas for the Sharks/Avalanche second round series. Although, San Jose did lose Sunday so maybe VGK fans tuned into the postgame show. Either way, it’s been a painful series to watch for most in Vegas. The two teams have no history of emotions so it’s a little boring, to say the least. There have been twenty-two minutes in penalties and exactly zero chirps. It’s nothing like the first round matchup between Vegas and San Jose. It lacks the same passion.

On Vegas’ locker clean out day I went around the room asking players ‘was this one of the most intense series you’ve played in?’

Here were their responses:

This one was pretty wild. There’s definitely some hate there. It was intense and fun. Fun to be a part of. It just sucks we didn’t come out on top. -Brayden McNabb

I played Game 7 in Boston. Won a Game 7 in Boston but this series was crazy. The momentum shifts, the physicality, the emotions and obviously the drama. It was a lot of fun but I feel like we deserved better. This series could’ve gone either way. Everyone knows that. It was a lot of fun to play in and I think going through this experience… will make this group a lot better. -Max Pacioretty

Very intense. It was a grind. People don’t realize how tough it is to play in the playoffs. A lot of people think teams just walk through and you play and you win. It was tough physically and mentally and it sucks to be on the losing end. -Shea Theodore

The first round is usually the toughest to win. It’s true because everyone is so fired up, everyone is fresh and excited about being in the playoffs. It was an intense series, probably the most intense series I’ve ever been a part of. Going back to when I was with Washington versus Pittsburgh. It had that similar feeling to it, you know, two teams with no love lost on either side. It’s making for a good rivalry though. -Nate Schmidt

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Penalties Hurt In Game 1, But It’s Not Like Vegas Didn’t Earn Their Pain

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

One of the Golden Knights biggest points of emphasis in this series coming was to stay out of the penalty box. In Game 1, Vegas spent 34 minutes in the box. Of course, 20 of those came on misconduct penalties in the final minute, but still 14 minutes, or seven minor penalties, is simply too many against a team like San Jose.

Definitely, they are avoidable. We’ve got to be more disciplined. -Gerard Gallant

You always want to stay out of the box, especially against a team with that much firepower. We definitely have to stay out of there and keep them even-strength. -Deryk Engelland

With just two 5-on-5 goals scored of the seven total in the game, it was clearly a major part of the outcome of Game 1. So, let’s take a look at each one.

Penalty 1 – Pierre-Edouard Bellemare – Tripping

It’s not as much the penalty in this case as it is the shift that led to it. Vegas was hemmed in for about a minute before this puck squirted out to the side and Bellemare’s stick gets caught in the between the legs of the Sharks player.

I just need to be sharper. When I see that the puck goes behind him I have to remove the stick quicker. I was trying to make sure he didn’t have full control of his stick so I put my stick in the way, but my stick ended up between his legs. As soon as he started twisting I realized my stick was in the wrong spot. It’s avoidable. -Pierre-Edouard Bellemare

Penalty 2 – Jonathan Marchessault – Unsportsmanlike

In a post-play scrum Marchessault ends up getting punched in the face. The call on Marchessault is essentially called as embellishment and it’s absolutely ridiculous. There’s a clear mark on Marchessault’s face from where Dillon landed a left hook and yet somehow Marchessault is given two minutes for being hurt by the punch. This one is plain and simply the referees losing control, and it hurt the Golden Knights badly. This was the beginning of what was soon to become a 3-on-3 and eventually two Sharks goals.

Penalty 3 – Deryk Engelland – Hooking

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Pick A Zone, Any Zone, The Golden Knights Stunk In Them All In Game 1

They outplayed us in every facet of the game tonight. They played hard, they worked and competed and we weren’t close to good enough and we have to be better next game. -Gerard Gallant

(Photo Credit: Photographer Jason Pothier)

That’s not how you win a playoff hockey game on the road, that’s for sure. And while there’s no doubt Gallant is right, that his team didn’t do much of anything well, it was specifically their deficiencies when they had the puck that sunk them in Game 1 in San Jose.

There are three places a hockey team can possess the puck, in the defensive zone, in the neutral zone, and in the offensive zone. In all three, the Golden Knights failed. When they had the puck and needed to exit, they struggled. When they eventually did get the puck out, they couldn’t get it through the neutral zone with speed and crispness with any consistency. And in the cases where they did get it in, the forecheck came up lame.

Forechecking as a unit of five wasn’t there tonight. Their D are going to make that first play so you have to have two in there quick and we need our D-men joining the rush and joining the forecheck as well. As a unit of five, we just weren’t good enough tonight. We’ll try and figure out why and get to work tomorrow. -Max Pacioretty

It seems as if a lot of the times they are back there anticipating dumps in certain areas and when their D skate that way and anticipate the play they are able to come out of the zone with full control. We need to make exits on their hard and we didn’t do that tonight. -Pacioretty

Here’s the problem, according to the Golden Knights (and one Shark that we asked), nothing really changed in the way San Jose defended against Vegas.

I think we knew what to expect from their neutral zone I just didn’t think we were moving the puck. We didn’t have our support guys coming through the middle. I thought we were turning over more pucks that we should have. -Theodore

They didn’t do anything different from what we expected, but they played a lot harder. We weren’t good enough, our guys have to be ready to play more competitive hockey than we played tonight. -Gallant

Normally against the Sharks, Vegas exits well, flies through the neutral zone, and forechecks the Sharks into oblivion. Tonight, that was not the case, yet they got what they expected. So the problem must have come from within.

It’s game number 1 on the road. We need to be a little more sharp on some plays defensively, all five guys, and we should be fine on the forecheck. -Pierre-Edouard Bellemare

We were not moving the puck like we normally do. We shot ourselves in the foot. We didn’t play our style, we didn’t play our game. We need to refocus, readjust and get back to it. -Theodore

In the end, it’s essentially chalked up to the Golden Knights looking in the mirror and saying they weren’t good enough.

That’s fine… for now.

An Educated Guess At When The Golden Knights And Sharks Series Begin

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The NHL playoffs officially get underway on April 10th. However, not all of the eight series will start that day. Instead, at least three will start the following night on the 11th. The schedule will not be released until Saturday at the earliest, but using some deductive reasoning we believe Vegas and San Jose will start on April 11th with games every other night through the 23rd. Here’s how we came to that conclusion.

As of this moment, only three teams have officially locked in home-ice advantage in the first round. They are Tampa Bay, Calgary, and San Jose. However, it seems fairly likely that Boston and Washington have their spaces under control. That leaves three we are waiting for.

The two series from the Central will start in two of the three of Winnipeg, Nashville, and St. Louis, so we’ll account for all three of those options. As for the Metropolitan, it looks like it’ll be in New York (Islanders) or Pittsburgh, again, we’ll account for both.

The best way to predict when each series will begin is to look at the arenas each team play in and see which dates are unavailable. Here are how all 10 arenas look for April 10th through 14th.

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Home Ice Disadvantage?

This picture was a joke when it was taken, it’s not a joke anymore. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

For the better part of a year and a half, the Golden Knights’ home building has rocked like it’s a playoff game every night. The raucous Vegas crowd aids their team when the Golden Knights are playing sluggish, or down a goal. It’s why home ice advantage can be important.

In Las Vegas it’s made a difference.

VGK Home Record:
2017-18: (29-10-2)
2018-19: (16-6-3)

Several Golden Knights players have spoken about the advantage the atmosphere of the T-Mobile Arena and Vegas fans give them during a game. Players tell us all the time that playing in their home building gets them amped up before and during games. Well, it happens to the opposition as well.

It’s a cool atmosphere to play here. It’s easy to get up for it. We try to play our game and rise to that next level here. -Charlie Coyle, Wild forward

Is it possible that the nightly postseason atmosphere can have a reverse effect?

After their win against the Golden Knights, Wild players admitted they got a boost of energy playing in the T-Mobile Arena’s atmosphere. In fact, it may have helped them get back in the game and eventually win it. Nashville said the same.

It was a good win. Being here in Vegas it added a little extra. I mean it was still cool… You know the first one was a lot of fun but it’s always nice to have some family and friends in town. -Jason Zucker, MIN Forward

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4 Points Out On November 1st Is A Bad Sign For VGK

None of these odds consider the return of #88. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Last season we brought awareness to one NHL benchmark backed by historical data that can predict which teams make the postseason. The (American) Thanksgiving Day playoff marker is a good measure for a team’s future success. The turkey day study suggests teams that are sitting in a playoff spot by Thanksgiving have a very high chance of competing for the Cup.

A more nail-biting trend is the November 1st, benchmark that Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman often brings up. NHL teams four or more points out of a playoff spot by 11/01, have roughly an 18% chance of making the postseason. Since 2005-06, 47 of 58 teams that were 4+ points out of the postseason spot by November 1st, missed the playoffs. That’s a whopping 82% of teams that their fate was determined by the beginning of November. Unfortunately, that’s where the Golden Knights were, and still are as of this moment.

Just keep working at it. It’s the same old cliché every coach says, but that’s what it is. Keep putting pucks there, we are out chancing and more shots than most teams, but we just got to get hungrier. -Gerard Gallant

On November 1st, the Golden Knights had a record of 5-7-1 (11 points), good for seventh in the Pacific Division, and four points out of a playoff spot. Along with Vegas, Detroit, Florida, Los Angeles, and St. Louis also were 4+ points down. 82% means four of those five teams are already eliminated, while one still has a shot.

Last season, Minnesota was the one that made the playoffs after being caught in the post-Halloween vortex.

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