If you watched yesterday’s 2024 NHL All-Star draft, you would have noticed the absence of the reigning Stanley Cup champions and the abundance of players from a team scheming to crush the Golden Knights’ dreams of repeating. And no, it wasn’t Edmonton Oilers.
While the Toronto Maple Leafs are hosting the ASG, the team with the most representatives resides in Western Canada. The Pacific Division-leading Vancouver Canucks were awarded five All-Star selections and traded for a sixth on Monday. Add in coach Rick Tocchet, and 26.9% of the West’s attendees are made up of Canucks. So, it’s understandable why Vancouver aggressively made a trade with the Calgary Flames for center Elias Lindholm. Like Vegas, Vancouver now boasts one of the stronger center units in all of hockey.
We all know the matchups going down the stretch here, the last 33 games. That’s where you need your four lines to be strong… in the two-way game. That’s where we felt that adding a piece like Elias here for the cost of what we paid, for now but potentially for the future as well, it was something that we felt strong about. –Patrik Allvin, Canucks GM in press conference
Earlier this month LA King’s general manager Rob Blake addressed the media to assure head coach Todd McLellan’s job was safe after their stretch of awful results. First, the Edmonton Oilers struggled out of the gates, fired their coach, and almost ended their playoff future. Now, the Oilers are on a historic tear rattling off 14 victories in a row. It’s been a wild roller coaster ride for both contenders and the division. Despite being banged up, disrespecting the game, and playing like a beer league hockey club they haven’t dealt with as much adversity as their Pacific Division brethren.
I don’t think you ever have to be perfect, but you need to be good for longer stretches. We’ve missed some guys that are difference makers, and then you get teams now that I think are closer to how they think they’re playing their game for a full 60. It’s just that time of year where the better teams will start separating. So obviously we want to be one of those. We do have to be a better version of ourselves for longer if we expect to get points. – Bruce Cassidy
There’s no doubt that the Golden Knights have had their share of discouraging performances in 2023-24. At times there’s been a lack of finish, scoring droughts, and sloppy play but based on their last handful of outings (ignoring the Devils game) the reigning champions are sitting in a good position in their division. Even without some of their impact players on the ice, Vegas has averaged 4.0 goals per game and allowed 2.40 over a five-game span. Obviously, it is only 15 periods and one overtime, but the reigning champions have done enough to put themselves in position to compete for a top playoff spot.
Hockey Reference’s Pacific Division Playoff Probabilities
Vancouver Canucks: 111.4 Points, 81.3% to win Pacific Division
Edmonton Oilers: 101.8 Points, 7.7% to win Pacific Division
Vegas Golden Knights: 101.6 Points 7.7% to win Pacific Division
Los Angeles Kings: 98.1 Points, 3.2% to win Pacific Division
Calgary Flames: 87.2 Points, 0% to win Pacific Division
Seattle Kraken: 87.2 Points, 0.1% to win Pacific Division
Anaheim Ducks: 68.4 Points, 0% to win Pacific Division
San Jose Sharks: 60.2, 0% to win Pacific Division
According to Hockey-Reference.com, the Golden Knights are projected to finish the season second or third in the Pacific Division with 101 points. Vegas and Edmonton are neck and neck according to HR’s model with Vancouver expected to finish ten points ahead of both.
However, it’s too early to call. The reigning champions have 33 games remaining, including ten divisional games. Being in the position they are in; a healthy lineup should easily make it a race to the top.
Hockey-Reference.com is the essential database for diehard hockey fans. It’s considered the good book to puckheads across the globe. Some elements that make HR stand out is the deep database of players, statistics, and their Playoff Probability Report. Currently, the Golden Knights are third in the NHL for the highest chance to qualify for the postseason.
Top 5 Hockey Reference’s Playoff Probability
Vancouver Canucks: 99.1%
Los Angeles Kings: 98.7%
Vegas Golden Knights: 98.6%
Boston Bruins: 97.8%
New York Rangers: 97.7%
Interestingly enough the two teams with a higher playoff probability rate are in the Pacific Division. According to HR’s model Vancouver has the best chance of getting into the 2024 postseason, with LA coming in one spot behind.
Recap: The Golden Knights were trying to salvage their three-game road trip with a strong effort in Vancouver. Vegas immediately came out hot and put the pressure on Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko. Ivan Barbsashev opened the scoring after a flurry of shots on net from his teammates. A dozen minutes later Jack Eichel doubled VGK’s lead to 2-0.
Vegas fought off several early chances by Vancouver, but goaltender Adin Hill kept their opponent off the board. Midway through the period the Golden Knights drew a penalty giving them their second power play of the game. William Karlsson scored his 11th of the season off a nasty wrist shot. The reigning champions controlled the game up 3-0 into the second intermission.
It didn’t take long in the final frame for the reigning champions to extend their lead to 4-0. Brett Howden deflected an Alex Pietrangelo shot 16 seconds in the 3rd period. Vancouver snapped VGK’s shutout but wouldn’t get any closer. The Golden Knights secured a 4-1 victory and picked up their first win of the three-game trip.
The Golden Knights record improves to 15-5-4 defeating the Canucks 4-1 in Vancouver. Vegas will return home for a two-game set against Washington and St. Louis starting on Saturday. Puck drop against the Capitals is scheduled for 7PM. (Recap by Jason)
Analysis: The Golden Knights appeared like they had something to prove in this game against a team challenging them for the top spot int he division. They were bigger, faster, stronger, and executed better than the Canucks. Excellent game on all fronts, assuming Adin Hill is okay. (Analysis by Ken)
Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs. Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena.
The Golden Knights have their eyes set on being the third franchise to repeat as champions this decade. Through 20 games, Vegas looks fit for another deep playoff run. Overall, the title winners have recorded 30 out of a possible 40 points this season. Only the mighty Boston Bruins have more points (31) than the Golden Knights at this point in 2023-24.
As we know, analysts and oddsmakers tend to use Thanksgiving as an unofficial forecast for what’s to come in the playoffs. In the Golden Knights case, there wasn’t much of a need for adjustments. The reigning champions are still in the upper class of expected winners. At the sportsbooks and in certain insiders’ minds.
Many NHL fans use today’s standings at U.S. Thanksgiving as the barometer of who will make the playoffs and who won’t. I go by who stands where after games on Nov. 1, so it’s not as important to me. What I do check is my list of who I think can win the Stanley Cup.
At the start of the season, that was: Carolina, Colorado, Dallas, Edmonton, New Jersey, Tampa Bay, Toronto and Vegas. Forty-five days into the season, four remain: Carolina, Colorado, Dallas and Vegas. The Hurricanes haven’t played great, but they’ll figure it out. Edmonton’s removal is self-explanatory. New Jersey and Toronto don’t defend yet as well as you need to, while Tampa’s going to need depth.
In Friedman’s preseason group of four, the Golden Knights have handled Colorado and Dallas in the Western Conference. Vegas will get their chance against Carolina during their three-game Southeastern road trip in late December. By then Vegas will have faced most of the updated contenders as well and will likely measure up with no concerns. However, going forward the creepers in the Pacific could be the biggest thorns in VGK’s side. Nope, Edmonton is no longer a threat to steal the division, but LA and Vancouver are.
It’s been no secret that over the past six seasons, the Pacific Division was regarded as one of the leagues least competitive. Let’s face it, for basically the entirety of the Golden Knights’ existence three or four teams were annually counted out of contention before the puck hit opening night ice. Vegas is the only team to reach the Stanley Cup Final in that span and the Golden Knights became the first Pacific division team to win the Cup since 2014.
Heading into the 2023-24 season, the division looks to play out the same way it did last year. Of course, it’s foolish to eliminate teams before the season begins but would anyone be surprised if Anaheim, San Jose, or Vancouver missed the 2024 playoffs? According to Sportsnet, they wouldn’t be.
Whether it’s a repeat from Vegas, a breakthrough for Edmonton, or something of a Cinderella story from Los Angeles or Seattle, might the 2024 Stanley Cup champion come out of the Pacific Division again? Might this division also house the team that “wins” the first-overall selection? –Sportsnet.ca
According to William Hill, the Pacific Division is expected to be conquered by the Edmonton Oilers (+180), the reigning champions (+210) or the LA Kings (+440) in 2024. The divisional odds are not much different from last season’s expected winners. Vegas came away with division with Edmonton and LA filling out the top three Pacific clubs. As you go further down the list, the prices drastically get larger, suggesting that it would be a major surprise if any team outside of the top three took the division.
Recap: The Golden Knights began their three-game Western Canadian road trip with a matchup in Vancouver. The Canucks were careless with the puck several times in the opening period. Phil Kessel intercepted a pass in the offensive zone to score his 13th goal of the season. Later in the frame, Reilly Smith took advantage of a loose puck and doubled the Golden Knights’ lead.
The Canucks were awarded a penalty shot after the Golden Knights committed a penalty on a breakaway. JT Miller converted on the free chance and got his team within one. Teddy Blueger flipped a puck into the net on his backhand to give Vegas a 3-1 advantage but Miller and the Canucks came right back. Late in the period, Pavel Dorofeyev deflected on the Golden Knights’ fourth goal of the contest.
Midway through the final frame the Canucks scored making it a 4-3 game. Vegas fought off several Vancouver chances, including a 6-on-5 late in the game.
The Golden Knights’ record improves to 44-21-6 defeating the Canucks 4-3. Vegas will next play the Flames on Thursday night in Calgary. Puck drop is scheduled for 6 PM. (Recap by Jason)
Analysis: The Golden Knights scored early on the road once again and as they have all season long, they were able to parlay that into another win. The 1st period was absolutely brilliant on both ends, especially defensively, but things did not go as smoothly defensively as the game went on. It’s another one where VGK defy the advance stats. At some point, if it keeps happening, it’ll stop becoming an outlier. (Analysis by Ken)
Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs. Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena.