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Vegas Versus The Mighty Eastern Conference

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

All season long the eyes of the hockey world have been on the Eastern Conference. Based on performance and deep lineups the odds suggest an Eastern Conference team will be named the 2023 Stanley Cup champion. Through 67 games, the Golden Knights are making analysts, computer models, insiders, and pundits rethink their position.

On Saturday, Vegas casually shut out the high-powered Carolina Hurricanes to record the team’s 20th victory against the Eastern Conference. Tomorrow night in Philadelphia they can add to that total.

VGK vs the Eastern Conference (30 Games)

  • .700 Points Percentage
  • 3.45 Goals Scored Per Game
  • 2.70 Goals Allowed Per Game
  • Shutout CAR, 1 Goal Allowed vs TOR
  • Jack Eichel vs East: 26 Points (13G, 13A)

Left on the schedule from the East are the Philadelphia Flyers and the Columbus Blue Jackets. Vegas will likely be a sizable favorite in both games. In 30 eastern matchups the Golden Knights would have a total of of 44 cross-conference credits. That’s 47% of Vegas’ 88 total points. Talk about flipping the script.

The message the Golden Knights sent to the East this season has been loud and it’s been heard.

They’re a good team. They hunker down in front and we knew that coming in. That got us behind the eight ball. In the 2nd period we weren’t very good, but we didn’t give up much. Just one bad bounce and it was a breakaway. Then we were down two. We had a good 3rd. We pushed, we just couldn’t get one by them. -Rod Brind’Amour, Hurricanes coach

Not only did the Golden Knights blank the Hurricanes, they also held the Toronto Maple Leafs to one goal back in October. On top off sweeping the Canes and Leafs, Vegas did the same to the Canadiens, Capitals, Lightning, and Senators in their two-game sets.

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Vegas Continues To Topple Quality Opponents On The Road

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Last week we examined how the Golden Knights are taking care of business when facing non-contenders. When points are easily available, Vegas along with other threatening teams, tend to scoop them up. Now, the same can be said for when the Golden Knights face off against the league’s best, especially away from home. Tuesday in Winnipeg was Vegas’ latest example of a quality win.

The Golden Knights held leads of 2-1 and 3-2, only to walk away with a 6-5 victory. On the road vs. a quality opponent, the 31st franchise drew two penalties that changed the game. Jonathan Marchessault tallied the game-tying and tie-breaking goals to put the Golden Knights in the driver’s seat. Not only did they beat the Jets at home, they swept the season series between the two. That’s six points against a Western Conference team with a .661 points percentage.

Through 31 games the Golden Knights have several quality victories. Down center Jack Eichel and defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, Vegas knocked off a dangerous Bruins team in Boston earlier this month. Also, the Golden Knights took two of two against the 44-point Toronto Maple Leafs.

2022-23 VGK Quality Wins

  • 10/20: VGK 5 vs. WPG 2
  • 10/24: VGK 3 vs. TOR 1
  • 10/30: VGK 2 vs. WPG 1 OT
  • 11/08: VGK 4 @ TOR 3 OT
  • 12/05: VGK 4 @ BOS SO
  • 12/13: VGK 6 @ WPG 5

There’s an argument to be made that Vegas has more quality victories this season. Both LA and Seattle are currently in playoff positions but neither are on the same level as Boston or Toronto.

Taking a deeper dive into Winnipeg, the Golden Knights were without their biggest offensive weapon and their two deep threats from the blueline. Somehow, the scrambled lineup managed to net six goals against Jets on the road. It also marked the second time this season that Vegas handled 2020 Vezina winner Connor Hellebuyck.

To be fair, the Golden Knights have lost to a handful of quality clubs. In their ten losses, Vegas lost six times to postseason hopefuls. One in overtime. Starting in early 2023, the Golden Knights will play 11 of their first 12 games against playoff contenders. Vegas will host Pittsburgh, LA, Florida, Edmonton, Dallas, Detroit, and Washington. They’ll travel to Colorado, New Jersey, and New York for two games. January will be the most challenging month the Golden Knights have faced this season. Thankfully, they banked enough support points in 2022.


Recap: The Golden Knights continued their quick start trend in Toronto. Nic Roy and his linemates pressured the Maple Leafs from the opening faceoff. Roy tallied his fourth of the season 0:45 into the contest. Toronto evened the score almost five minutes later but Jack Eichel scored late giving his team a 2-1 advantage going into the 1st intermission. 

The Maple Leafs skill players took over in the middle frame. Mitch Marner weaved through the Golden Knights defense and roofed one past Logan Thompson. Marner then created Toronto’s go-ahead goal with a one-time pass in the low offensive zone. 

Trailing 3-2, the Golden Knights attacked the Maple Leafs early in the 3rd period. Vegas missed on a power play opportunity but took advantage on the penalty kill. Reilly Smith tapped in his sixth goal of the year and his second shorthanded. The game ended 3-3 in regulation. Smith kept the win streak alive with a beautiful backhand in overtime on a pass from Shea Theodore.

The Golden Knights record improves to 12-2-0 defeating the Maple Leafs 4-3 in OT. Vegas will wrap up their five-game road trip on Thursday evening in Buffalo. Puck drop against the Sabres is scheduled for 4 PM. (Recap by Jason)

Analysis: Opportunistic is the word of the night for the Golden Knights as they waited for Toronto’s mistakes and then pounced on them. All three goals in regulation came from unforced errors leading to VGK rushes into the zone. Plus, there were multiple other breakaways the Golden Knights did not finish that could have helped win it in regulation. (Recap by Ken)

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November Notes: Cassidy And VGK Match Thanksgiving Success

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Tonight, in Ottawa the Golden Knights continue a challenging five-game eastern conference road trip. This is the first extended journey for Vegas this season. Up until now, the Pacific Division leader’s longest road trip was a two-game trip to Seattle and Calgary. It’s possible the Golden Knights are fortunate to go on a cross-coast so early in the season. Normally, lengthy road trips allow a chance for players to bond and go through the grind together. Five cities in ten days against teams all with a .500 winning% or higher will help grow chemistry.

With the exception of the 2020-21 shortened season, the Golden Knights annually take an early season trek to the east coast for a handful of games. Here are the results from the previous five seasons.

VGK’s First Extended Road Trip Of The Season

  • 2021-22: (2-2-0) – L 4-0 @TOR, W 5-1 @OTT, W 5-2 @MTL, L 5-2 @DET
  • 2020-21: (2-1-0) – L 3-2 @COL, W 3-0 @COL, W 3-2 @ANA
  • 2019-20: (1-2-1) – W 2-1 @CBJ, OTL 2-1 @TOR, L 5-2 @WAS, L 3-2 @DET
  • 2018-19: (2-3-0) – W 2-1 @MIN, L 4-2 @BUF, L 5-2 @WAS, L 4-2 @PIT, W 1-0 @PHI
  • 2017-18: (1-4-1) – L 6-3 @NYI, L 6-4 @NYR, L 2-1 @BOS, W 5-4 @OTT, SOL 3-2 @TOR, L 3-2 @MTL

Traditionally this road trip hasn’t been kind to the Golden Knights. Defeating the Capitals 3-2 in Washington was a good start for the Golden Knights, considering they’ve lost their opening matchup four out of five years. Since the opening season Vegas has combined for only 18 of 42 points on their early November trips. The 2017-18 club struggled to the point that former coach Gerard Gallant made his now infamous “we’re not an expansion team” speech after losing to the NY Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

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VGK Burying Opponents In Opening Minutes Of Periods

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Last night, before the Maple Leafs could look up they were under a heavy Golden Knights attack. Vegas may have defeated Toronto 3-1 in three periods but it only took the home team 13 minutes to bury the Leafs. It’s possible the high-powered Maple Leafs were slow to start because of travel, or simply the Golden Knights were too hard to handle.

VGK Early Period Pressure
1st Period: (0:00 – 03:41) 8 – 0 Shots, PP Goal
2nd Period: (0:00 – 03:10) 5 – 0 in Shots
3rd Period: (0:00 – 0:42) 4 – 0 in Shots, Goal

In the opening four minutes of all three periods, the Golden Knights outshot the Maple Leafs 16-0. Vegas took the first eight shots resulting in a power play goal by Nic Roy, 3:51 into the game. Oddly enough, it forced Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe to huddle up and desperately try and wake up his team. It seemed to help until the opening minutes of 2nd and 3rd periods.

Coach Bruce Cassidy’s club began each period with urgency which tilted the ice. Those opening minutes set the tone and ultimately rewarded the Golden Knights a two-goal victory. Cassidy has spoken about tasting immediate success, not only in the young season but in each game as well. His team has done that in four out of their five victories.

It was good to get a good start tonight. It’s always better to play with a lead. It’s something Butch has been harping on us, making this a tough place to come in .-Jack Eichel on 10/20/22

Against Winnipeg, Jack Eichel and his teammates had two on the board in the opening six minutes and four goals in fifteen. The Jets made a late push but the pressure Vegas applied early in the first period was the difference.

Same outcome when Golden Knights defeated the Kraken up in Seattle. Keegan Kolesar shocked Seattle when scored on Vegas’ first shift. A few minutes later, Jonathan Marchessault essentially sealed the deal.

VGK Early Period Goals
vs. Toronto: (1) 1st Period goal; 3:41, (1) 3rd Period goal; 0:42
vs. Winnipeg: (4) 1st Period goals; 04:23, 06:11, 10:07, 15:17
@ Seattle: (2) 1st Period goals; 0:12, 03:07
@ LA: (1) 2nd Period goal; 01:41, (2) 3rd Period goals; 01:27, 04:02

Clearly getting a quick edge has benefited the 2022-23 Golden Knights. Cassidy initially spoke of being more aggressive and prepared from the jump and his players have positively responded.

We had our legs, I thought we were playing the right way. So some things went our way but all in all, I did like our energy. -Bruce Cassidy on 10/20/22

Either early success in a game or a season, the Golden Knights haven’t wasted time picking up assists, goals, wins, and points. In the end, a playoff berth could depend on early pressure.


Recap: The Golden Knights welcomed the Toronto Maple Leafs for an early out-of-conference battle. Nic Roy gave Vegas the lead on their first power play opportunity 3:51 into the game. Late in the period, the Golden Knights defensemen helped goalie Logan Thompson clear out several late Toronto attacks. Vegas held a slim 1-0 lead after the opening 20 minutes.

Toronto’s William Nylander evened the score midway through the 2nd period. The Golden Knights were awarded a second PP chance but couldn’t take advantage. After two periods the game was locked in a 1-1 tie. 

Vegas came out strong for the third straight period wasting no time in the offensive zone. Chandler Stephenson gave Vegas the lead 0:42 into the final 20 minutes. It was Stephenson’s 3rd goal of 2022-23. Michael Amadio stretched the Golden Knights lead eight minutes later. 

The Golden Knights record improves to (5-2-0) after their 3-1 victory over the Maple Leafs. Vegas will play the second of a back-to-back tomorrow night against the San Jose Sharks. Puck drop from SAP Center is scheduled for 7:30 PP. (Recap by Jason)

Analysis: The Golden Knights came out very strong against the Maple Leafs and caused them all sorts of troubles right off the bat. Another goal in the first 5 minutes helped them settle in defensively too. As the game went along they continued to frustrate the Leafs with their defensive structure and consistency in breakouts. The only thing I’d nitpick on would be the inability to finish dangerous chances. Otherwise, that’s one hell of a game from the Golden Knights. (Recap by Ken)

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Recap: Toronto struck quickly in the 1st taking the lead just 1:24 into the game. The Golden Knights killed a pair of penalties before earning a power play of their own. Keegan Kolesar scored from right out in front, his third of the season, to tie the score.

The Golden Knights looked great to start the 2nd, hemming Toronto in their own end for much of the first 10 minutes. However, they were unable to cash in and the Leafs went down and got a pair of their own. Vegas trailed by two and the end of two.

Vegas stormed back into the game scoring quickly in the 3rd. William Karlsson scored his fifth goal of the season to cut the deficit in half. Then, on a 5-on-3, Alex Pietrangelo fired one past Jack Campbell to tie the game at three.

The game would go to overtime where very little happened. In shootout, Robin Lehner stopped the first two, but William Nylander potted the game-winner. Vegas went 0 for 3 in shootout.

The Golden Knights record drops to 23-14-2 falling 4-3 to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Vegas has the rest of the week off with a pair of games scheduled to be played in Canada postponed. They’ll hit the ice again on Monday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Puck drop is set for 7 PM. (Recap by Jason)

Analysis: The Golden Knights played a pretty strong game as a whole aside from a couple minutes in the 2nd. They suppressed Toronto’s offense as best a team can, but playing as shorthanded as Vegas did, the Leafs were able to score enough to cause problems. Yet another comeback to steal a point for the Golden Knights though, who are suddenly in the middle of a rough homestand. (Recap by Ken)

Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs. Toronto Maple Leafs game at T-Mobile Arena.

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Vegas Catching Up With The Eastern Conference

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

After defeating the Detroit Red Wings last night, Vegas clawed back to one game under .500 against Eastern Conference teams this season. The Golden Knights received three goals from defensemen, one from veteran Reilly Smith and rookie Paul Cotter added another. Whatever coach Pete DeBoer drew up before the game, it couldn’t have worked out any better than their well-rounded 5-2 result. It hasn’t gone as smoothly against other teams from the East.

On Tuesday, the Golden Knights faced a much more complete team and lost by two at home. Carolina is one of the NHL’s best overall clubs, and happen to be much healthier than Vegas. The Hurricanes high end forwards and mobile defense troubled the Golden Knights. Star forward Sebastian Aho shot seven times, registering 2 points and the Canes took 14 shots from defensemen. Carolina boasts 3.5 goals per game and like Vegas receive a good percentage of their offense from their blue line. Injuries aside, both rosters are among the elite and would make for an entertaining final.

The NY Islanders were another Eastern Conference team Vegas struggled with, losing 2-0 at T-Mobile Arena in late October. New York played defensively, waited out mistakes, forcing Vegas into bad shots and one and out opportunities. The Golden Knights fell into the Islanders trap and outshot New York two to one, but were out scored 2-0. Games against New York are consistently uneventful and Vegas will need patience and quality shooting to win a tight, low scoring contest. Unfortunately, the Golden Knights fell in similar fashions in back-to-back semifinals, so there’s plenty to learn from an Islanders loss.

At times in an NHL season it’s pick your poison night; a slow frustrating game or an exhaustive track meet. Earlier this month, Vegas traveled and lost by four in Toronto. The loss wasn’t the problem, the concern was the Golden Knights getting blanked 4-0. We’re all aware of Toronto’s weak defense and goaltending of the past, so at full strength Vegas should capitalize.

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San Jose An Example How To Turn Around Canadian Road Trip

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It was a tough start to their four-game road trip. Travel, time zone change and adding insult to several injuries, the Golden Knights were forced to cover Austin Matthews and Mitch Marner without another impact player. The Maple Leafs’ high-end talent took advantage of a beaten up Golden Knights lineup and eventually cruised to a 4-0 victory.

Their best players were on tonight. It was one of those nights, and with the lineup we’ve got right now, we’re going to have to red line every night in all areas in order to compete, especially against good teams, and that’s a real good team. -Pete DeBoer

Sure, the odds were stacked against Vegas but it was all but over after the second goal of the game. The Leafs are an excellent 35-2-3 when Marner and Matthews score in the same game, so it would have been nearly impossible for even a healthy Golden Knights roster to win under those conditions.

The focus now shifts to how the road trip finishes.

Big ask tonight when you look at what we’re dealing with. I think our effort actually wasn’t an issue. I thought we didn’t execute against a team that puts a lot of heat on you, and they put a lot of pressure on us in tough areas. -DeBoer

This season the Golden Knights are 2-2-0 on the road with three upcoming games to improve their record. Stealing 4-6 points over the next three games would send Vegas back home with their heads held high.

A couple of weeks back Pacific rival San Jose Sharks swept their trip to Eastern Canadian. Unlike Vegas, San Jose’s first matchup began in Montreal and ended in Toronto. Against the Canadiens, the Sharks scored two in the first four minutes to ignite a 5-0 victory. Montreal was/is reeling and San Jose pounced on them in several different ways. The Golden Knights have enough weapons in their current lineup to win in a similar fashion.

The Sharks received two goals from rookie Jonathan Dahlen, one from defenseman Erik Karlsson and two on the power play. Between Alex Pietrangelo, Shea Theodore, Alec Martinez and Nic Hague, the Golden Knights have plenty of options from the blue line. Without piling on, Vegas can’t rely on their power play but they may have enough offense to win a low-scoring affair. Now would be the time for 20-year-old Peyton Krebs to start contributing and registering points. The 2019 1st rounder is young and learning on the fly but he’s pointless through nine games this season and has just 10 shots. Vegas could really use his offensive skill as one goal could change their road trip. No matter who’s in the lineup, there should be plenty of motivation to squash the Canadiens after last season’s six-game semifinal defeat.

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Recap:  The Golden Knights limped into Toronto for their first of a four-game road trip. The Maple Leafs started the game with heavy pressure in the Golden Knights zone eventually taking the first lead of the game 11:31 into the period. Vegas was outshot 13-4 but kept it tight, trailing 1-0 after the opening 20 minutes.

The Maple Leafs took advantage of an early power play and star forward Auston Matthews made it 2-0. Matthews added his second of the game under a minute left in the period to stretch the Leafs lead 3-0.

Vegas couldn’t slow down Toronto’s rush attack and the gap widened early in the final frame. The Maple Leafs continued to bring pressure and defended any threat by the Golden Knights. Vegas’ winning streak comes to an end with a 4-0 defeat in Toronto.

The Golden Knights record drops to 4-5-0 after losing their first game since October 24th. Vegas travels to Ottawa as they continue their road trip. Puck drop against the Senators is scheduled for 4 PM. (Recap by Jason)

Analysis: The Golden Knights keep getting more shorthanded due to injuries and they keep looking it on the ice. They simply looked outmanned from the drop of the puck until the game was through. Oh, and the power play looked as bad as ever, which is saying something. (Recap by Ken)

Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs. Toronto Maple Leafs game at Scotiabank Arena.

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