If you’ve ever followed an NHL season, a regular one, you’ve probably heard about the importance of Thanksgiving as it relates to the standings. The story goes that if you are in the playoffs on Thanksgiving, you’ll probably be there when the season ends in April.
It seems absurdly early, but history has bore it out pretty well. Just about every year 13 to 14 of the 16 teams above the playoff cut line on Thanksgiving stay there when the season ends.
This year, the schedule is much shorter and the season started later, which means we need a new Thanksgiving. As it turns out, Valentine’s Day fits pretty well.
Thanksgiving typically lands about 380 games into the 1271 game NHL season. That’s about 30%. This year, 30% of the season is around 260 games. Last night’s VGK game was Game 243 on the schedule. Sure, it’s a little short, but the chances of the NHL getting 56 games in for every team feels low. So, I’m declaring Valentine’s Day the new Thanksgiving.
Vegas currently sits atop the West Division despite having played two fewer games than the team in 2nd (St. Louis). The Golden Knights are also seven points clear of the cut line and have a game-in-hand on the team currently in 5th (Arizona). 10-2-1 is good for a .808 points percentage, tied with Tampa Bay for the best in the entire NHL.
However you slice it, the Golden Knights are in incredibly good shape early in the 2021 season. The schedule gets a little tougher with 25 of the remaining 43 games on the road and 14 games still left to play against Colorado and St. Louis, but the cushion the Golden Knights have already built eases any concerns.
Every year a team or two falls out between Thanksgiving and Easter and that will certainly happen to someone between now and mid-May. However, I’d feel pretty confident in saying the Golden Knights are the least likely of any team to suffer that fate based on where they currently sit in the standings.
So, Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Valentine’s Day, the Golden Knights are going to the playoffs again!