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

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas 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: SinBin.vegas 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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Dissecting The Numbers Behind VGK’s Playoff Chances

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

As we head down the stretch, the Golden Knights still clearly control their own destiny. If they win all 15 of the remaining games they’ll finish the season with 104 points and will be in the playoffs with ease.

However, that’s about as realistic as the entire roster being healthy tomorrow, which it obviously won’t be. So, Vegas may need some help from others to punch their ticket to the postseason.

The Golden Knights currently boast a .552 points percentage. If they were to play that out to the end, they would end up with either 90 or 91 points. Simply put, that will not be enough to reach the postseason. However, if they were to play a bit better, and wind up with somewhere between 93 and 97 points, they still have a realistic shot to be there.

For Vegas to reach 93 points, they would need to play .663 hockey the rest of the way. They could do it a variety of ways, but it requires at least eight wins in the last 15 games. That would mean there were at least three overtime losses involved, which considering Vegas has just four this season, seems unrealistic. So, it’s more likely that Vegas needs a minimum of nine wins to reach 93 points.

Normally, 93 points would be enough for a team to reach the playoffs. But this year, it may not. Here are the points percentages each team must reach to attain 93, 95, or 97 points.

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

Look, I even used the same picture from that article! (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

A little more than two years ago the Golden Knights were in a similar position to where they are right now in the standings. 52 games into the schedule that year we published a story with the same title as this one.

We included polls from social media, gambling odds, computer projections, and statistical probabilities to paint a picture of how much brighter the outlook of the season actually was than how it felt at that moment.

This year, we’re going back to the exact same sources, but this time, the picture it paints is actually pretty grim.

We’ll start with the fans.

Currently on a four-game slide and riding a 4-9-1 record since February 9th, Golden Knights fans are unsurprisingly a bit down on their team. We asked the simplest of questions, and more than half of the fan base took the pessimistic option.

Next we head to the sportsbook, SinBin.vegas sponsor the William Hill Sportsbook, of course.

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Golden Knights In Unfamiliar Position On The Outside Looking In

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It was exactly 1,944 days since Las Vegas was awarded an NHL franchise. They’ve been named the Vegas Golden Knights for 1,824 of them. The team played their first game 1,473 days ago and they’ve been actively competing inside of a regular season for 652 days.

Today stands as just the 95th day in which the Golden Knights have been on the outside of the playoff picture. These past few days have represented just the 27th, 28th, and 29th days in which VGK have ever sat in 7th place, and if the Flames win in Anaheim tonight it’ll be just the 3rd day in 1,944 days of existence that the Golden Knights will be in dead last in the division.

 2017-182018-192019-2020212021-22
Yes184*125*131*121*3
No0603104
 2017-182018-192019-2020212021-22
1st122*029*851
2nd60111829*1
3rd1100*292
4th122485
5th0103401
6th015301
7th025103
8th0200

The numbers are quite astounding when you considered the historic success, or really, failures, of previous NHL expansion teams. Not only have the Golden Knights reached the playoffs every season, they’ve been on the correct side of the playoff cut line for 85.5% of their days in the NHL.

Maybe even more impressive, the Golden Knights have held down the #1 spot in the Pacific or West division for 36% of the 657 regular season days. No other spot accounts for more than 20% and 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th places combine for just 14.4% of the days.

Yes, that’s right, that means the Golden Knights have been in 1st place more than twice the amount of time they’ve been anywhere in the bottom half of the division.

The latest the Golden Knights have ever been out of the postseason picture was on January 17th, 2020, one day after firing Gerard Gallant (they were in 1st place 11 days earlier).

And Friday was the first day of the first 178 regular season days coached by Pete DeBoer.

The Golden Knights aren’t back in action until Wednesday, which means they’ll have to suffer through at least two more days in an unfamiliar position.

VGK’s Best Postseason Players All Had One Important Thing In Common

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

If there’s one thing the Golden Knights were not short on as they headed into their fourth Stanley Cup playoff journey, it was experience. Before the 19 games they each played on their path to the Semifinals, the Golden Knights entered the playoffs with 1,086 games of postseason experience on the roster.

On top of that, they also boasted four prominent players that have won Stanley Cups. Between Marc-Andre Fleury, Alex Pietrangelo, Alec Martinez, and Chandler Stephenson, this version of the Golden Knights had players who had won seven of the last 13 Stanley Cups.

When you hear people talk about players like Fleury, Pietrangelo, Martinez, and Stephenson you’ll often hear them mention that accolade. In Martinez’s case, when he was acquired it was literally the only thing anyone wanted to reference when describing him as a player. And, after this season concluded, Martinez himself went right to it when talking about Pietrangelo.

He’s got that championship pedigree. He’s been through a lot of playoff runs. We actually went head-to-head quite a few times. -Alec Martinez on Pietrangelo

Personally, I’m usually a little skeptical when it comes to pedigree making a difference, but this year has made me re-think it a bit seeing the performances of the Cup-winners on the Golden Knights’ roster.

Think about it. Who were Vegas’ best three players on this postseason run?

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Despite Empty Season End Feeling, These Golden Knights Are Climbing

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

When history looks back on the 2021 Golden Knights, it will show that they came up short. Again.

Technically, you can split hairs and say they were one win closer this season than last, but in the end, the round was the same, and the way they went out was almost identical to the year prior.

For four years running the most successful expansion franchise in North American history has been able to call itself a contender. Since the world realized how good this team can be sometime in December of 2017, it’s been fair and accurate to consider them among the most likely options to win the Stanley Cup each and every year.

But each year, it hasn’t happened and every time we’re left with the same feeling of emptiness. A feeling of “what could have been.”

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past four postseason failures though, is that while the bleak feeling will always exist, it feels different each time.

This one doesn’t feel like the first season. It certainly doesn’t feel like the second year that ended with an apology from the NHL. And while it should feel a lot like the third one, it doesn’t.

It’s because this team showed improvement from the last.

I thought we took a step from a year ago when we got to this point. I thought we were better during the regular season, better the playoffs against two really tough teams in Minnesota and Colorado. But we still fell off at the wrong time. There’s another door we’ve got to find a way to barge through at this time of year. -Pete DeBoer

Of course, the regular season wasn’t what it usually is, and the West Division was even more of a joke than the Pacific has been since the Golden Knights arrived, but there’s always something to take away from 56 games. What Vegas took from them was consistency. Any lapses in the Golden Knights’ play rarely lasted longer than a period, let alone a game, or a week.

Then, when the playoffs came around, they were faced with a similar obstacle to the one that tripped them up in the bubble. Dallas and Minnesota play a similar brand of defense and for a portion of the beginning of that series, it was working against the Golden Knights.

That was the first step.

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Golden Knights Beating Themselves As Much As They’re Being Beaten By Montreal

Much of the focus five games in this series with Montreal will be on the Golden Knights’ inability to score goals. Rightfully so, as they have mustered just 11 goals in the series and a measly seven since the return of Jeff Petry in Game 2. But it’s the way they are conceding that has me more concerned for the next game (or hopefully two).

Last night, the Golden Knights came out and played a pretty solid first 10 minutes. In a postseason where 1st periods have been a problem, it looked like we were headed for something much different to start Game 5.

Another failed power play, the 12th of the series at the time, could have sapped some of the Vegas energy. However, that wasn’t the case. Following the man advantage, the Golden Knights attempted the next two shots on goal and controlled play for the next few minutes. The game was going perfectly for the Golden Knights until they started making their own mistakes.

After a dump-in by Zach Whitecloud, there was a battle for the puck in the corner. The Habs outnumbered the Golden Knights for the puck, but Nick Holden read that the exit will come up the wall. He stepped forward to challenge a pass that never happened, and then when the puck did eventually make it to his player, he was caught in no-man’s land.

It’s a read Holden has made correctly time and time again in this series and aggressive pinches like this are a big reason the VGK forecheck has had success in the times it has. In this case, it was not the right read, but that one mistake didn’t lead to the goal by itself, there were still two more to come.

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Shift Back To Vegas Should Free Mark Stone Of Phillip Danault

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Four games into this Stanley Cup Semifinals series with the Montreal Canadiens, the Golden Knight’s captain, and best player, has been held without a point. He’s been on the ice for just two of the Golden Knights’ 10 goals in the series and has registered a measly five shots in four games. He’s posted a -1 rating and below 50% share numbers in Corsi, shot share, scoring chances, and expected goals.

To summarize, the Habs have bottled up Mark Stone as well as anyone has been able to since he’s become a Golden Knight and it’s a huge reason why the underdog is tied in the series with three games to go.

But, there is good news, and that’s where the next game is being played.

One of the biggest reasons for Stone’s ineffectiveness offensively in this series has been the matchup he’s been facing. In Game 4, Stone played a total of 16:15 of ice time at even-strength, an astounding 12:21, or 76%, was played while sharing the ice with Phillip Danualt. In those 12 minutes and change, the Golden Knights did not generate a single high-danger scoring chance while allowing four, they allowed 78% of the expected goal share, and they did it while taking 10 of the 14 draws in the offensive or neutral zones.

Danault has been doing this to superstars the entire postseason and he’s doing it again to Stone… when the Habs can get the matchup.

As the series heads back to T-Mobile Arena tomorrow, the Golden Knights now control last change. At every stoppage, they’ll have the final decision as to whether or not they want to put Stone on the ice at the same time as Danualt, and if series history is any indicator, they’ll shy away from that option at every pass.

Mark Stone TOIvs. Phillip Danault
Game 15:49
Game 26:19
Game 311:01
Game 411:31
Games in Vegas12:08
Games in Montreal22:32

At home, Stone is seeing more than five minutes per game extra away from Danault than he has at the Bell Centre. Most of these minutes have been against Montreal’s 3rd and 4th lines, where Stone has seen much more success territorially.

Stone has started a shift in the offensive zone 24 times in the four games. Danault has been out there for 14 of the 24, but just three at T-Mobile Arena.

For the Golden Knights’ offense to really get going in this series, they need their captain to generate scoring chances in bunches. Stone has taken just five shots himself and he’s been on the ice for 28, fewer than six other Golden Knight forwards including last night’s overtime hero Nic Roy.

Pete DeBoer and his staff came into the series knowing the challenge Danault would present to Stone, and they adjusted accordingly in the first two home games. But now, having seen four games of it, they may look to avoid the matchup even more in Game 5. It’s up to Stone to take advantage of it.

**Stats for this article were sourced from NaturalStatTrick.com*

Carp: Adversity Greets Golden Knights In Canada

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2021 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**

By and large, a trip to Canada is a pleasant experience. But there was nothing pleasant about the start to the Golden Knights’ visit to Montreal.

With a lot of issues for both the Knights, who are playing without Chandler Stephenson, their top center, and the Canadiens, who had to play without their head coach after Dominique Ducharme found himself testing positive for COVID-19, it came down to who handled their adversity better in Game 3. Ultimately, it was Montreal that was able to get the better of things Friday, winning 3-2 in overtime and taking a 2-1 series lead in the Stanley Cup semifinals.

We all know what happened so there’s no point in rehashing Marc-Andre Fleury’s gaffe playing the puck that allowed the Canadiens to tie it late in regulation. Or all the missed opportunities to get more than a couple past Carey Price in the Habs’ net.

The question is: How does Vegas respond today in Game 4?

Does the Knights’ power play, which has been woefully anemic, suddenly find new life? Do Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty rediscover their offense, even without Stephenson?

That’s a lot to digest and not much time to do so. Because even if the Knights find all the right answers today, all it does is get them back to square one with the Canadiens. It becomes a best-of-three series with two of the three in the Fortress, where the Habs took Game 2 Wednesday to tie the series.

And if Montreal prevails today? Does this team have the wherewithal to win three straight?

But that’s getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s start with the adjustments and improvements which need to be made.

First, it appears there will be a change in goal. Robin Lehner was first off the ice at the morning skate and was practicing in the “starter’s net” so that’s obviously huge.

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