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.
Through 48 games, HR’s Playoff Probabilities Report expects Vegas to finish with the ninth-best record in the NHL but could have home-ice locked in for the opening round. Going by the trusted model, LA will likely be battling for one of two Wild Card spots. That’s if they don’t get themselves back on track like the Golden Knights seemed to do over the past two weeks.
The Golden Knights are 7-2-0 against Eastern Conference teams at home. But they are just 1-5-1 away.
VGK will look to continue the trend tomorrow, then break it next week.https://t.co/lNTTSngj8F
— SinBin.vegas (@SinBinVegas) January 19, 2024
Last Friday we pointed out the Golden Knights’ highs and lows against Eastern Conference teams. Their current cross-country trip could upend their lack of success as visitors against Atlantic and Metro clubs. Already earning three points in two games, Vegas will have a chance to go into the All-Star break picking up seven out of eight valuable road points. Even five would be considered satisfactory. Their next two games may be out of conference, but the results could be crucial for their first game back at T-Mobile Arena, especially, with Edmonton looming on the schedule for their first game back from ASG weekend.
We all know how much the Golden Knights organization loves banners. Frankly, why wouldn’t they? They’ve hung Divisional, Conference, and glitzy Championship banners in their home barn and there’s still plenty of room. Computer models may be useful but they’re not an exact science, so don’t expect Vegas to give up on another divisional banner.