The NHL preseason is a little like the TV show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” Where everything’s made up and the points don’t matter. However, like that show, it was always clear which comedians were better than others and which improv sketches worked the best.
For the Golden Knights, we have most of the data on who is going to play, how they are going to play, and a fairly strong expectation of what the results will be. So, in meaningless games with mish-mashed lineups, stats have to be taken with a huge handful of salt.
There is one alarming stat five games into the preseason though for Vegas, and that’s high-danger chances against. Over the past four years, the Golden Knights have consistently been one of the top teams in the league in allowing the fewest high-danger chances per game. When you couple it with how many Vegas creates, they are the best in the league since the start of 2018-19.
This preseason though, Vegas is struggling mightily in that category. Even without the game in Salt Lake City (the NHL didn’t send stat keepers to that game), Vegas has allowed more high-danger chances against than all but two teams in the NHL. Fortunately, those two teams are both division foes, Anaheim and Edmonton, but even if the Golden Knights allowed just three HDCA in that Salt Lake City game, they’d be in 2nd. Having watched that game, it was one-way traffic most of the night at the VGK net and the gap of 10 between Vegas and Edmonton might have been made up.
To sum that all up, Golden Knights goalies are seeing way too many shots from close range. So far, that number has been north of 10 per game. To put that in context, last year in the postseason, which included six overtimes, the Golden Knights allowed just 162 high-danger chances in 19 games. That’s about 8.5 per game. In the four preseason games where we have stats, that number is 42, or 10.5 per game.
To make matters worse, Vegas has created just 33 this preseason, or 8.25 per game. In the playoffs (where they struggled to score in two of the three series), they generated 171, or 9 a game.
Obviously, there are a thousand mitigating factors as to why these numbers are headed in the wrong direction, but it’s certainly something to keep an eye on as it’s abnormal for the Golden Knights, especially the Pete DeBoer-coached Golden Knights.
Here’s the craziest part (have to love small sample sizes), VGK goalies have allowed just one high-danger goal in the four preseason games with stats. The combination of Robin Lehner, Laurent Brossoit, and Logan Thompson have stopped 41 of the 42 chances and posted a .964 save percentage against them. Last year, the team with the best high-danger save percentage was Tampa Bay and they did it with a .852 save percentage.
In other words, if the Golden Knights keep allowing high-danger chances at this rate, they’ll start conceding at a very high pace moving forward.
Again, this isn’t meant to sound the alarm bells by any means, it’s simply a pattern that has popped up in meaningless games that is abnormal for a good team and nearly outrageous for this good team. There are two preseason games left, both ones in which the Golden Knights say they would like to treat as a “dress rehearsal.” That means a lineup close to their Opening Night plans and with a heavier focus on playing inside of their structure.
If the high-danger chances vanish into thin air like they probably will, the cause for concern will disappear instantly. But if the Coyotes or Sharks are constantly getting chances in close as the previous four opponents have, this could really be something to keep an eye on heading into the regular season.
**Stat compilation for this article was sourced from NaturalStatTrick.com**