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

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas 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.

VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 7 VANCOUVER CANUCKS 4 (9-6-0 18 PTS)

Recap: The Golden Knights got off to a slow start conceding twice early in the 1st. They stuck with it though and scored a 5-on-3 power play goal a few seconds before the horn to head into the first intermission.

In the 2nd, Vegas came out flying with goals from Reilly Smith and Brayden McNabb on eerily similar plays. Both guys slotted a shot from the left circle past Thatcher Demko. A slew of penalties had the final few minutes of the period flipping between four-on-four and power plays for each team. Nils Hoglander scored to tie the game up.

The 3rd period was a wild one filled with Golden Knights goals. Vegas scored four times including the first career goal by Jake Leschyshyn.

The Golden Knights record improves to 9-6-0 winning their third game in a row. Vegas continues the six-game homestand on Tuesday with a game against the Carolina Hurricanes. Puck drop at T-Mobile Arena is scheduled for 7 PM.  (Recap by Jason)

Analysis: A track meet at T-Mobile Arena resulted in the Golden Knights solving Thatcher Demko. VGK was just a bit better at finishing off chances than the Canucks and Vegas did well to hang in there despite the early deficit and a pair of blown leads. (Recap by Ken)


Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs. Vancouver Canucks game at T-Mobile Arena.

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Will The Pacific Division Be More Challenging For Vegas in 2021-22?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

After four NHL seasons the Golden Knights have benefited by playing in the Pacific Division. Since 2017, Vegas has played 113 games against their divisional “rivals” and tallied a total of 168 out of a possible 226 points. That’s an astonishing .743 Points % against the Pacific Division in four seasons.

Hockey’s been a little bit tough with our team not being very good the last few years and not getting back to the playoffs… Things are looking up for us now. We got some new players and some young guys coming up. I’m excited for this season to start.- Drew Doughty, LAK defenseman on 32 Thoughts Podcast

Let’s be honest, it’s been easy street for the Golden Knights since they entered the league.

VGK All-Time Record vs. Pacific Division

vs. Anaheim: 20 Games (17-3-0) 34 Pts, .850 Pts %, 74 Goals For, 37 Goals Allowed, +37 Goal Differential

vs. Arizona: 20 Games (14-6-0) 28 Pts, .700 Pts %, 57 Goals For, 46 Goals Allowed, + 11 Goal Differential

vs. Calgary: 11 Games (8-3-0) 16 Pts, .727 Pts %, 42 Goals For, 31 Goals Allowed, + 11 Goal Differential

vs. Edmonton: 11 Games (6-4-1) 13 Pts, .591 Pts %, 35 Goals For, 31 Goals Allowed, +4 Goal Differential

vs. LA: 21 Games (11-8-2) 24 Pts, .571 Pts %, 63 Goals For, 60 Goals Allowed, +3 Goal Differential

vs. San Jose: 20 Games (16-1-3) 35 Pts, .875 Pts %, 78 Goals For, 40 Goals Allowed, +38 Goal Differential

vs. Vancouver: 10 Games (8-0-2) 18 Pts, .900 Pts %, 45 Goals For, 26 Goals Allowed, +19 Goal Differential

Since their existence the Golden Knights have proven to be the team to beat in the Pacific. Vegas has a positive goal differential against every team in the division and holds an overall goal differential of +123, talk about dominance. All indications show it should be the same in 2021-22.

Only a few west coast teams have kept their games with Vegas competitive but still not enough to threaten their path to the playoffs. Sure, San Jose won their seven game series in 2019 but in the regular season it’s been embarrassingly lopsided. Since that series three postseasons ago, the Sharks have been a non-factor in the Pacific, same goes for Anaheim, Calgary and Vancouver. However, two clubs that will make things more difficult for Vegas this season are the Kings and Oilers. Each team has challenged Vegas in the regular season being edged out by one game in their series history with the 31st franchise.

While it’s hard to make judgements based off two exhibition games but it’s safe to say that Los Angeles is an improved club. Even with a lack of talent in their lineup the King’s have competed in most matchups. Coming into 2021-22, LA and Knight killer Philip Danault will continue to frustrate VGK’s offensive threats. Coveted prospects are performing at a high level and LA’s star veterans could create further problems for Vegas and the rest of the Pacific Division.

There’s not much to say about Edmonton. As long as they dress Connor McDavid every game is up in the air. Same can be said for the newest team in hockey. Seattle is the biggest wildcard in the division. Based on what the Golden Knights did in their inaugural season you’d be a fool to count out the Kraken. Calgary, San Jose and Vancouver are expected to finish below Vegas but one of those three teams could make a surprising push for the postseason.

All in all, the Pacific Division is still considered relatively weak but has improved. Vegas is the only team that isn’t being doubted by analysts across the league. The other seven teams have questions to answer and it should be a tight battle for two of three divisional playoff spots. Although the Pacific may have gotten better and could make it more difficult for Vegas to run away with the division but it’s still the Golden Knights to lose.

Offseason Additions And Subtractions In The Pacific Division

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights are back at home in the Pacific Division where they have dominated the competition over the past four seasons. A lot has changed since 2019 though. The NHL’s newest team, the Seattle Kraken, are now in the Pacific, Arizona has left for the Central, the Canadian teams all look much different now, and the trio of California teams each ready to see if their rebuilds can start taking shape.

Everyone here already knows all about the Golden Knights and the Kraken are a complete wild card heading into this year, so let’s take a look at the key additions and subtractions from each of the other six teams in the Pacific.

Anaheim Ducks

Add: Greg Pateryn, Danny O’Regan
Subtract: Haydn Fleury, Danton Heinen, Andy Welinski

For a team that is supposed to be in the middle of a rebuild, this was a shockingly boring offseason for the Ducks. They still have a bevy of prospects that could break through at any moment, but looking at what we saw last year coupled with the mild offseason, Anaheim is probably the worst team not only in the Pacific but in the entire NHL.

Calgary Flames

Add: Blake Coleman, Nikita Zadorov, Tyler Pitlick, Trevor Lewis, Andy Welinski
Subtract: Mark Giordano, Josh Leivo, Derek Ryan, Dominik Simon

Losing Giordano hurts, a lot, but they did well to bring in usable players to replace what went out this offseason. Coleman will likely be an excellent option to play somewhere in their strong top-six and it will allow for a bit more depth through what has been a fairly weak 12-man forward group the last few years. One of these times Zadorov is going to find the right fit and become the player most believe he can become, and this certainly might be it. The rest of it is somewhat of a depth reshuffle which is always good for a team that struggled the year before. Calgary likely won’t challenge Vegas atop the division, but they could be a sneaky tough team and they are always a pain in the butt to play against.

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Schmidt Reviews Are High In Vancouver

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It feels like just yesterday Ken and I were digging up interviews and stories about all the players the Golden Knights selected in the Expansion Draft. That’s when we first discovered the personality of Nate Schmidt. We instantly declared “Nate Schmidt’s going to be your favorite player, you just don’t know it yet.

Even though we’re watching Alex Pietrangelo suit up in a Golden Knights jersey day in and day out in camp, it’s still tough to see videos of Schmidt somewhere else. We always knew it would be the case, but Schmidt is already making an impact in Vancouver.

He looks comfortable. His skating has jumped out to me the first couple of days. It’s been very much as advertised for Nate Schmidt.-Jeff Paterson, TSN Vancouver on TSN 1040

Vegas fans knew what Vancouver was getting when they acquired Schmidt this offseason. A reliable defender with the ability to pitch in offensively and a whale of a personality. The Canucks are seeing it in person and the reviews have been high.

The Canucks got better when the Golden Knights front office made the tough decision to move #88. Not only will Schmidt boost the blueline but he’ll add some veteran presence surrounding emerging star Quinn Hughes.

Not quite at Quinn Hughes level, not many are in terms of generating offense but this guy doesn’t miss an opportunity with his skating to jump up into the rush. He loves to be the trailer, loves to add another layer of attack. –Paterson, TSN Vancouver on TSN 1040

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Rattled By Thatcher Demko?

Following their Western Conference Final loss, Pete DeBoer made a puzzling comment about his team’s mentality.

There’s no doubt that the last couple of games in the Vancouver series against Demko probably rattled our confidence a little bit. -DeBoer

DeBoer casually revealed one of the reasons Vegas struggled to score on Dallas was a rookie backup goaltender from a previous series living inside of his players’ heads.

We’ve heard coaches reference past series to account for injuries or even style of play differences, but I’m not sure I’ve ever heard one admit his team was psychologically fractured by an individual performance in a prior round. We applaud the honesty, but what is he saying about his team… or maybe even his own coaching job?

Another learning lesson for our guys at this time of year; fighting through, persevering, finding a way to get yourself out of a slump. Getting your confidence back quicker. -DeBoer

What happened to the mentality this team had?(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

These are all things the Golden Knights clearly did not do well inside of the bubble, that they must improve upon if they are to hoist the Cup in the future. But one has to wonder about the fragility of the locker room if they did indeed allow the ghost of Thatcher Demko to ruin their chances to win a completely new series.

What happened to “one game at a time?” To “I’m not worried about the offense?” To “the worst thing we can do is change?”

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2020 Golden Knights Playoffs “Photo” Gallery

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VGK PK Came Alive In Games 5-7, But They Weren’t Without Help

Call it a mulligan. Call it an extra life. Call it whatever you’d like, the Golden Knights got it in Game 7.

After having a season defined by a 5-minute major penalty in which they allowed four goals, the Golden Knights faced the same beast a year later when Ryan Reaves was assessed a match penalty for a hit to the head.

The stakes were actually even higher this time around. Rather than having a cushion, the game was tied with three and a half minutes left in the 2nd. If Vegas faltered again trying to kill off five minutes, their season would be over and the stigma would live with them forever.

Instead, Vegas got to try the “level” again, and this time they passed with it flawlessly, albeit with a lot of help from their opponent.

In the five minutes against the Canucks, the Golden Knights allowed just one shot on goal, foiled seven Canuck entry attempts, blocked multiple shots, and played just  1:36 inside of their own zone.

All in all, on the 11 minutes of power plays for the Canucks in Game 7, they got just two shots on goal, had a measly five scoring chances, had seven shots blocked, miss the net on five more, went 10 for 25 on entry attempts and allowed three shots on goal to the shorthanded Golden Knights.

Vancouver’s power play was without answers. Nothing illustrated that more than the image of Quinn Hughes on an empty bench during the 2nd intermission staring at an iPad searching for a solution.

In the series, the Golden Knights killed 23 of the 26 Canuck power plays including each of the final 14. Vegas was on the kill for 44 minutes in the series and allowed just 30 shots on goal. They consistently stood the Canucks up at the blue line and they took away cross-ice passes with ease. Literally the only place in which Vancouver has success was in the faceoff circle.

Prior to Game 6, after the Golden Knights had killed off three straight penalties in Game 5 and six overall, I asked Pete DeBoer if his penalty kill system was completely where he wanted it to be after taking over mid-season and implenting changes. I was a bit surprised when the answer wasn’t a resounding yes.

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VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 3 VANCOUVER CANUCKS 0 (VGK WIN 4-3)

Recap: The Golden Knights were playing in a do or die Game 7 for the second straight season. The top seed came out shooting but Vancouver goalie Thatcher Demko continued his hot streak from Games 5 & 6. Vegas fired 11 on Demko, while Robin Lehner only needed to stop two. Game 7 was scoreless after the opening period.

The goaltenders took over the game in the 2nd period making some season-saving stops. Lehner made a brilliant save on a two-on-one preserving the scoreless tie. Late in the period Ryan Reaves was given a five-minute major and a game-misconduct for an illegal hit to the head of Vancouver’s Tyler Motte. The Golden Knights killed half of the major penalty in the 2nd period to hold the 0-0 tie.

Vegas began the final period on the penalty kill, continuing from Reaves’ major penalty. The Golden Knights stepped up and stopped the Canucks extended power play. Later in the period Vegas was awarded a power play and it wouldn’t take long for Shea Theodore to give his team the first lead of Game 7. Alex Tuch and Paul Statsny scored an empty-net goals late in the contest. Lehner was outstanding shutting out the Canucks to claim the seven-game series.

With their 3-0 win the Golden Knights clinch the series and advance to the Western Conference final. Vegas will face the Dallas Stars on Sunday night. Game 1 will air on NBC and is scheduled for 5PM. (Recap by Jason)

Analysis: Take a breath Vegas. Everything the Golden Knights feared could happen was happening through the first 40 minutes of the game. They couldn’t find a way to beat Demko. They allowed almost no offense against but everyone once in a while a dangerous chance popped up (what a save by Lehner). They even took ANOTHER penalty causing them to have to kill five minutes. In the end, who else but Shea Theodore to find a way to beat Thatcher Demko and the Golden Knights finally prove what we should have known all along, they are the better team. On to the Conference Finals… again! (Analysis by Ken)


Upcoming stories from Game 7 of the Vegas Golden Knights vs Vancouver Canucks in Round 2 series of the Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place in the NHL Bubble.

  • It’s all about PK entries
  • Hopefully the blueprint isn’t out on how to stifle the VGK offense

Ken’s Three VGK Stars
*** Zach Whitecloud
** Nic Roy
* Shea Theodore

It Can’t Happen Again, Can It?

It’s on Pete DeBoer’s mind. It’s on Marc-Andre Fleury’s mind. It’s on Mark Stone and Shea Theodore and Nate Schmidt and William Karlsson’s minds. It’s on George McPhee and Kelly McCrimmon’s minds. It’s on The Creator’s mind. And it’s on every single one of you reading this’s minds.

It can’t happen again, can it?

Whether anyone wants to stare the beast directly in the eyes or not, the memory of how last season ended is inescapable for the Golden Knights as they prepare their second Game 7 in franchise history.

The first one has been woven into the fabric of the team over the past 16 months. Every decision they’ve made has been done with at least a sliver of blowing a 3-1 lead on the minds.

They hired the coach on the other bench. They revamped the penalty kill. They replaced the goalie. They added reinforcements on both offense and defense. They did it all so that these playoffs wouldn’t end the same way the last ones did.

Everyone knows what’s at stake. Even if neither Pete DeBoer nor Mark Stone would say it in the moments following Game 6.

This is a different group, different team. We’ve hit a group over there that’s feeling confident and getting great goaltending and that’s going to happen on the playoff trail and you’ve got to find a way. This is our adversity and we’ve got to stick together and come through it. -DeBoer

It’s one game. We’ve got a great team. Guys are going to go out there and bring our best and whatever happens happens. We’re confident going into tomorrow. We were confident going into Game 5 and 6. We feel like we have the team to win. -Stone

This is a mental test unlike any the young franchise has faced. The answers above are already a testament to how the Golden Knights want to handle it. They are going to try to do everything in their power to focus solely on this one game and ignore the elephant in the room. They want to play great from the moment the puck is dropped, score quickly, win the game, and come out on the other side stronger and more together than ever before.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Playoff “Photographer” @BadSportsArt)

That’s exactly how they’ll be feeling the moment they get on the ice. But if the adversity from Games 5 and 6 rear its ugly head again in Game 7, the way the Golden Knights handle the flood of emotions linked directly to their history will determine their fate even more so than hockey skill.

Normally, it’s about being the better team, and for the first 10 minutes of the game, it can, and it will if they put the puck in the net. It’s if, and probably when, the going gets tough inside of that game that this team will have to prove to the world, and to themselves, that they can overcome it. They can block out the negative memories of a terrible ending to last season and the frustrating end to the first one. They can bear down and play the way they know they can, the way that got them to 3-1 in the series, and the way that had everyone believing they were the far-and-away better team.

The crossroads is here. Either the Golden Knights win, exorcise the demons that have been haunting them since Joe Pavelski’s blood hit the SAP Center ice, and head into the Western Conference Final with the best chance they’ve ever had to win the Stanley Cup or they lose and they’ll earn a label of playoff chokers, a label that will stick with them for as long as it takes to win 16 playoff games in the same season.

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