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Tag: Western Conference

Latest Round Of Power Rankings Ignoring VGK’s Past Success

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

If last night’s 6-3 win over the Pacific-leading Vancouver Canucks was any indication of how the Golden Knights will perform in the playoffs, the league better take notice. The reigning champions are back to form and are looking like a club prepared to repeat. However, outside of the 702 there are skeptics in every corner of the NHL map.

Going into last season’s playoff the Golden Knights were on the shortlist of favorites to win the Stanley Cup. This year, the 2023 champions are being overlooked by many who cover the league. In the latest release of numerous NHL power rankings, most critics buried Vegas as if they were some substandard Wild Card beneficiary.

Western Conference Playoff Polling Averages

  1. COL – (1.5)
  2. DAL – (2.3)
  3. EDM – (3.0)
  4. VAN – (3.5)
  5. NAS – (4.7)
  6. WPG – (6.2)
  7. LAK – (6.7)
  8. VGK – (7.3)

We compiled data from ten different power rankings and calculated the average for each contending Western Conference team. Those references include: CBS Sports, Daily Faceoff, ESPN, Hockey News, MoneyPuck, NHL.com, Seattle Times, Sportsnet, TSN, and USA Today.

In the Western Conference ,among contenders, the Golden Knights were at the bottom or close to it in most power rankings. LA and Winnipeg were the two closest in the eyes of various judges.

USA Today: 1. COL, 2. CAR, 3. NYR, 4. FLA, 5. EDM, 6. DAL, 7. NAS, 8. BOS, 9. VGK, 10. TB, 11. VAN, 12. TOR, 13. PHI, 14. LAK, 15. WPG, 16. WAS

Only USA Today’s rankings had Vegas higher than the seventh-best club in the conference.

TSN: 1. COL, 2. CAR, 3. VAN, 4. EDM, 5. NAS, 6. NYR, 7. DAL, 8. FLA, 9. LAK, 10. TOR, 11. WPG, 12. BOS, 13. TB, 14. VGK, 15. MIN, 16. NJD

On the flip side, the folks up north at TSN aren’t expecting a Golden Knights championship repeat. Maybe they’ll reconsider after they pushed around Canada’s most successful team. TSN analysts are fair but tough. They boldly excluded two Eastern Conference playoff teams from their Top 20. The Sports Network did note that facing the Golden Knights would be a rotten reward for any division champion.

That said, earning a first-round playoff matchup against a wild-card team won’t be the win it’s been in previous years. The two teams occupying those spots right now are the Nashville Predators, 15-0-2 in their past 17 games, and the defending champion Vegas Golden Knights. -TSN

Sportsnet: 1. NYR, 2. COL, 3. DAL, 4. VAN, 5. CAR, 6. BOS, 7. NAS, 8. FLA, 9. TB, 10. EDM, 11. LAK, 12. TOR, 13. WPG, 14. WAS, 15. STL, 16. VGK

Canada’s second major hockey network wasn’t much kinder on Vegas. They had to remind fans about the Golden Knights mediocrity since Christmastime. Maybe their recent play will gain higher marks in Sportsnet’s next power rankings.

23 teams — including the frequently-maligned New Jersey Devils and Pittsburgh Penguins — have a better points percentage than Vegas’ .488 mark since Dec. 15. Good thing the Knights had built a huge buffer by posting the third-best mark (.726) to that point. –Ryan Dixon on Sportsnet.ca

NHL.com: 1. NYR, 2. COL, 3. VAN, 4. DAL, 5. FLA, 6. BOS, 7. CAR, 8. NAS, 9. WPG, 10. EDM, 11. LAK, 12. TOR, 13. TB, 14. VGK, 15. WAS, 16. PHI

Last week we begrudgingly pointed out the Golden Knights horrendous 3rd period meltdowns. The NHL’s Dan Rosen emphasized that shortcoming in his latest power ranking. On a positive note the Golden Knights have only allowed one third period goal to start April.

The Golden Knights must, must, must be better in the third period. This isn’t just because they 4-1 lead after two periods against the Predators on Tuesday only to lose 5-4 in overtime. It’s not a recency bias. It’s longer than that. They are minus-12 in third-period goal differential in March, 26-14. They gave up the three in the third to the Predators on top of allowing three to the Lightning in a 5-3 loss, four to the Calgary Flames in a 4-1 loss, three to the Columbus Blue Jackets in a 6-3 loss and four to the Buffalo Sabres in a 7-2 loss all this month. They’re winning a lot of games going into the third period and then they give it away. – Dan Rosen on NHL.com

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Goals Allowed In 3rd Period Stalling Golden Knights In Standings

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Maybe, we’re overly concerned because it’s fresh on everyone’s mind. On Tuesday in Nashville, the Golden Knights coughed up a three-goal lead in the final 20 minutes of their overtime loss to the predatory Predators. It was the 10th time this month that Vegas has allowed an opponent to tie the game or take the lead in the final frame. It seems out of character for a reigning Stanley Cup champion known for their impeccable defense. Unfortunately, VGK’s suit of armor hasn’t been as effective lately.

We had a great 40 minutes. It’s just playing that complete 60 is something we have to get better at, obviously. When you have a lead like that, teams start to cheat a lot and produce offense. I don’t think we handled that well. – Noah Hanifin

Since the beginning of March, the Golden Knights have allowed more 3rd period goals than every other NHL team with the exception of the wretched San Jose Sharks. In 12 games this month, Vegas gave up 26 3rd period goals and their opponents are averaging 2.2 in the final frame alone.

VGK’s Month Of 3rd Period Generosity

  • 03/26/24 @ NAS: 3 (Game-Tying)
  • 03/25/24 @ STL: 1 (Game-Tying)
  • 03/21/24 vs. SEA: 1 (Game-Tying)
  • 03/19/24 vs. TB: 3 (Go Ahead/Game Winning, ENG)
  • 03/17/24 vs. NJD: 1 (Go Ahead)
  • 03/14/24 @ CGY: 4 (Game-Tying, Game Winning, ENG)
  • 03/12/24 @ SEA: 3 (Game-Tying, Go Ahead)
  • 03/09/24 @ DET: 2 (Game-Tying)
  • 03/04/24 @ CBJ: 3 (Game Winning, ENG)
  • 03/02/24 @ BUF: 4 (PPG, ENG)

VGK’s monthly total is far and away the most of any Western Conference contender. The nearest team is the Winnipeg Jets, who have allowed 14 goals in March.

Same goes for Vegas’ divisional foes. Vancouver, Edmonton and LA have allowed 13 3rd period goals or fewer since March 1st. There’s no way around it, the differential should be concerning for Golden Knights fans.

3rd Period Goals Allowed in March By Western Conference Contenders

  • 32nd – VGK: 26
  • 18th – WPG: 14
  • 15th – EDM: 13
  • 9th – DAL: 10
  • 5th – LAK: 8
  • 3rd – NAS: 6
  • 2nd – COL: 5
  • 1st – VAN: 5

It’s a stark difference between Vegas and the seven other clubs in the West with high hopes in the postseason. It should be noted that the Golden Knights have been impacted by injuries and illnesses this month. However, a battered lineup isn’t a good enough excuse for allowing 20 more goals than Colorado or Vancouver. One of those teams could be hosting the Golden Knights next month in the opening round of the playoffs. One 3rd period score could decide a series.

Sadly, March isn’t an outlier for the reigning champions. Over 72 games, the Golden Knights have allowed the 8th most 3rd period goals. This season, Vegas has given up 86 goals in the final 20 minutes. The allowance rate has severely impacted Vegas’ placement in the Western Conference standings. Thankfully, their 3rd period holes won’t be enough to cause the Golden Knights to miss the postseason cut line.

It’s not the end of the world. You’re going to have those nights, but we’ve been building in the right direction. We’ve been a lot closer to our game, and I thought we did a lot of things well. – Bruce Cassidy

Now, there are elements throughout the month that should be positively highlighted. Along with the Kings and the Predators, the Golden Knights have allowed the least amount of (6) 2nd period goals this month. To have an even more half glass full type attitude, Vegas only gave up (9) 1st period goals in March. If VGK can hold opponents to 0.8 goals through 40 minutes in the playoffs, 3rd period results are likely to change for the better.

Pacific Division: Group of 8 With Only 3 Contenders?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

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.

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Best Against The Best

They are also 1-1 against these guys, the back-to-back champs, but they didn’t come close to the cut-off with their .571 points percentage. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights have been masterful against the entire NHL this season, but equally as successful against the league’s elite. In fact, they’ve actually been better against the good teams than they have against the not-so-good teams.

For the purpose of making this article look as impressive as possible, we made the cut-off for a good team a .600 points percentage. Nine teams other than Vegas (.704) qualify, all are currently sitting in a playoff position.

Tampa Bay (.713)
Boston (.712)
Nashville (.689)
Winnipeg (.664)
Washington (.639)
Dallas (.625)
St. Louis (.623)
Toronto (.616)
Los Angeles (.602)

Let’s start at the top, like the very top. The Golden Knights have earned six out of eight points against Boston and Tampa Bay.

VGK vs. Teams with .700+ Points %
.750 Point Percentage
3-1-0 Record
4 Games
6 Points
2-0 vs. Tampa Bay
1-1 vs. Boston

When you add in other league contenders the Golden Knights point percentage drops a bit, but it still would qualify them as the best team in the NHL. Marc-Andre Fleury and James Neal are still haunting Tampa, Washington, Dallas, Nashville and Winnipeg.

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The Lopsided Conference Conundrum

The NHL currently sits at 30 teams with 16 in the Eastern Conference and 14 in the Western Conference. Assuming the league scoops up their $500 million a piece from Quebec and Las Vegas, they would have to cross a geographical bridge.

For those of you are who red-blooded Americans, Quebec is in Canada, more specifically, eastern Canada, Like, really really eastern Canada (it’s almost in Maine.)

In other words, the dream of putting the two new teams in the Western Conference to even them out is pretty much dead.

The obvious idea would be to move a team (cough, Columbus, cough) and even it out that way, but our friends at the San Jose Mercury News pried this gem out of Gary Bettman.

Bettman has previously said that if a 16-14 split works, he doesn’t see a reason why a 17-15 split wouldn’t.” -John Wawrow AP Hockey Writer

How very rational of you Mr. Bettman.

Yeah, why wouldn’t it work?

Ok, good. One less thing to worry about. Now I can sleep at night.

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