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Where Has All The Offense Gone?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

For the first time in 2021, the Golden Knights have lost consecutive games. After racing out to an impressive 10-2-1 record in their first 13 games, Vegas has dropped two in a row to the Colorado Avalanche. The Golden Knights are also 2-3-0 in their last five games and have scored just eight goals.

Before the recent skid, the Golden Knights had been averaging 3.7 goals per game. Over the previous five, that number has plummetted to 1.6. The even-strength scoring numbers look even worse. First 10 games, Vegas scored 31 goals at even-strength. Since, they’ve mustered just four in five games.

We need to find ways to generate offense especially at 5-on-5. A big part of our game is to produce and try and play offense without giving up much defensively so we need to find out how to get better in that area. -Max Pacioretty after 2/14 win vs. COL

So, what happened?

First, it starts with the most basic concept when it comes to scoring, shooting. The Golden Knights reached 30 or more shots in six of their first 10 games. They’ve failed to reach 30 in any of the previous five and haven’t even made it to 25 twice (their two lowest performances of the season).

They’re 27th in the NHL in shots on goal per game with 25.8 since February 10th. Before this stretch, they were 5th in the league with 32.3.

It goes beyond shots actually on goal too. The even-strength Fenwick numbers (unblocked shot attempts) are poor as well. Vegas has allowed more unblocked shot attempts than they’ve created in just six games of their first 15. Four of the six have come in the last five.

The Golden Knights have had 80 even-strength shots blocked in the last five games. That’s an average of 16 blocked shots against. In the first 10 games, Vegas saw 122 shots blocked or 12.2 per game; a difference of almost four more blocked shots per game.

First 10
37 goals (3.7 per game)
32.3 shots per game
6 games with 30+ shots (60%)
55.5% Fenwick
12.2 shots blocked per game

Last 5
5 goals (1.6 per game)
25.6 shots per game
1 game with 30+ shots (20%)
46.1% Fenwick
16 shots blocked per game

The next one is a confusing one. In Vegas’ first 10 games they recorded 45 takeaways while giving the puck away 54 times. In the last 10, they’ve more than exceeded their takeaways (59) in half the number of games, while seeing their giveaway number (23) drop by about one a game. Thus, the Golden Knights are up more than seven takeaways per game over the last five than they were in the first 10.

The games in which Vegas has the most takeaways have been each of the last five games. They’ve exceeded eight in every one of the five games, while not reaching eight a single time in the first 10.

The best explanation I can come up with for this is it further indicates that the Golden Knights do not have control of the puck. You can’t take the puck away if you already have it. Thus, a massive increase in takeaways likely means Vegas has the puck far less.

First 10
54 giveaways (5.4 per game)
45 takeaways (4.5 per game)

Last 5
23 giveaways (4.6 per game)
59 takeaways (11.8 per game)

That brings us to everyone’s favorite stat that once again doesn’t correlate to winning and losing in any way yet again, faceoffs. The Golden Knights have actually won more faceoffs in the more recent games than they did in the first 10 (50.2 to 49.2). And, they’ve taken a much larger percentage of draws in the offensive zone or the neutral zone than the D-zone over the past five than the first 10.

First 10
Faceoff Win Percentage – 49.2%
OZ – 198 (35.7%)
NZ – 163 (29.4%)
DZ – 193 (34.8%)

Last 5
Faceoff Win Percentage – 50.2%
OZ – 107 (37.8%)
NZ – 101 (35.7%)
DZ – 75 (26.5%)

So, we’ve seen the Golden Knights shoot less, while having the puck less, despite starting more shifts in a neutral or positive place on the ice. That is, well, not good at all.

Let’s throw in one more, which is the inability of the depth players to hold their own while out on the ice. Obviously, with the team Fenwick (unblocked shots) share down considerably, just about every player’s individual number will be as well. That is the case for all 18 players to participate in games during both the first 10 and the last five.

However, the numbers get worse and worse as you head down the Golden Knights’ depth chart. The team average is about 11% worse per player. The three forwards with the least significant drop-offs are Reilly Smith (-0.9), William Karlsson (-4.9), and Jonathan Marchessault (-5). On defense, Zach Whitecloud (-6.4) and Alex Pietrangelo (-7.3) lead the way.

Where things get particularly bad is with the bottom-six forwards. Cody Glass is the worst seeing his Fenwick share drop an insane 19% over the previous five games compared to the first 10, while Keegan Kolesar (-18.8), Nic Roy (-16.5), William Carrier (-15.5), Alex Tuch (-13.8), and Ryan Reaves (-13.8) round out the group, all coming in worse than the team average.

This is a huge problem, especially against the higher-end teams, which Vegas played in three of the five games. Historically, VGK’s depth has helped them overwhelm teams as they roll through their lines and keep offensive pressure high. But this year, and especially in the last five games, the opposite is happening. When the 3rd or 4th lines hit the ice, Vegas is usually giving up the lion’s share of unblocked shot attempts.

This obviously means limited offense for the bottom-six, but it also means the top-six starts out with the puck far less often. When a team has a loaded top-six and two excellent offensive-defensemen like the Golden Knights have, the bottom-six does not need to provide large quantities of scoring. However, they do have to hold their own in order to win matchups against opposing top lines and exit the ice in a better place than when they hopped on. That’s not happening for the Golden Knights right now and it’s a huge reason why the offense is sputtering.

Fewer shots, less time spent with the puck, and depth players letting down the stars. That’s the formula causing the Golden Knights to be scoring two fewer goals per game over the last two weeks compared to the first month of the season.

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27 Comments

  1. Daryl

    The offense is still there… We were just playing inferior opponents early on

    • 40% of the games over the past 5 games have been against the Ducks and Sharks. VGK scored 0 even-strength goals in those two games.

    • Pistol Pete

      We can win tonight we just have to play better like in the first game of the series. I know Avs were not at full strength that game but VGK can do it against a fully staffed Colorado. They have to correct a few of the issues Ken analyzed. I AM cheerleading but so be it!

    • EK

      The stats Ken just laid out there would seem to suggest that the offense is not “still there”. That’s all 5 of 5 stuff…….. The 5 on 3 Saturday night should have been a wake up call, the power play units, supposedly the best players in terms of scoring , did nothing. They all stood around just passing the freaking puck, never moving, the Avs penalty kill basically had to just hold their ground, and that’s what they did. I don’t know if the VGK had a shot on goal, it was embarrassing.

  2. I have a good feeling about tonight’s game. It just feels like a winning day. I know that doesn’t follow the normal hockey protocol, but I am optimistic and excited just the same. That said, Patches said on 2/14 they need a better offense plan. SinBin at the time said he was “still harping” on that in a tweet during the post-game interview which came across to me like Patch should just focus on the win. Glad we’re all looking at ways to improve now.

  3. Tim

    Ken a little off topic but I’ve got to get this out. The Payton Krebs debacle this is a case of regression not progression. To force him to go play in a rinky dink league after being in the bubble last year practicing with the Golden Knights and then practicing and playing for the Silver Knights is absurd. They can say what they want about this bullshit arrangement they have with Canada’s minor leagues but to put a kid that is far beyond that stage of his career is a joke. Let’s top that off with him now being quarantined for 14 days if this isn’t a waste of a year and development I don’t know what is.

    • This is not a VGK decision. There is an agreement between the NHL and the CHL that any drafted player from the CHL under the age of 20 is ineligible for the minor leagues. It is designed to keep some of the best players in the CHL to ensure they have better competition. VGK’s options were to put him in the NHL (and burn a year of his entry-level contract) or send him to the WHL. They really had no choice.

      The only reason he was in the AHL to begin with was because the WHL had yet to begin.

      • Tim

        I realize what your saying but to waste a year is just as bad as burning a year. So who would think one year in the AHL versus one year in this phony league where you rack up a lot of worthless points is furthering his professional hockey career. I realize he is a acceptation but he’s paying a stiff price for having to much experience at higher levels. Then you wonder why a deal like this cost the Knights further point production. Anyway you cut it he will lose a year of experience which will slow his opportunities to play for the Knights. He’s a casualty and no one seems to give a shit so bite the bullet and move on.

        • There’s nothing they can do about it. That’s all I’m trying to say.

          • Tim

            Ken I gotcha and I understand you have a nice site and I enjoy reading and commenting on your articles but Krebs is taking it in the shorts and that’s the end of it.

          • No one disagrees with that. But that doesn’t change the fact that there’s nothing anyone can do about it until they agreement is ripped up.

      • Pistol Pete

        Right, I assume that means he’s eligible for the taxi squad. Like you indicated the AHL agreement can be circumvented by elevating Krebs to the VGK roster or per above the taxi squad but a year of his entry level contract gets used up. I would say it’s just too early to move him up, he needs more development at the pro level. Come the playoffs we’ll see how things look.

        • Tim

          Pistol Pete, do you really think Krebs playing in this Rinky Dink league is furthering his development? In my opinion it’s just selfish of these Canadian minor leagues to hold kids back purely for money. Doesn’t it always come down to money they can give a shit about Krebs or his future.

          • Pistol Pete

            Ken is right. NHL agreement with the major juniors forbids placing elite players early in the AHL as that would dilute the talent in the juniors. Krebs is bound to finishing his pre-age 20 time in the juniors unless VGK calls him up to the NHL as that is permitted by the rules. They are not doing that because they can’t place him right now , whatever rationale drives that decision. That could change at any time.

            https://www.nhl.com/flyers/news/who-can-play-where-and-why/c-889461

    • Dan

      With all due respect, the Canadian Hockey League (WHL, OHL and QMJHL) have produced the majority of NHL talent such as Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux. A good chunk of the VGKs played in the CHL. Krebs will be fine there. He will play huge minutes and be the leader on and off the ice. He just turned 20 so he is still pretty young – lots of guys are rushed and it impacts their career in the long run.

  4. Theresa soles

    I have seen the VGK chasing the puck around the ice for several games now. They don’t t control the puck OR the game lately. They seem lost right now…no real offense. Fleury is being bombarded with unchecked shots by opponents…just how much can one player do, when his teammates aren’t protecting him???

    • Mark

      I agree with that statement. None of this is on MAF, I think we all agree on that !

  5. Tim

    Pistol Pete, we all know there collusion with Canadiens minor league nonsense but it doesn’t take away from the fact there greed is costing a player valuable ice time in a better league. I can’t wait to hear how many goals he gets and his total point production like who gives a shit.

    • Pistol Pete

      But Tim with the agreement it’s only restricting pre NHL talent from playing AHL vs. keeping them in the Juniors, right? In Krebs case he would get deeper pre-NHL experience in the AHL, all junior players good enough for the AHL early would. Frankly I can understand the Juniors perspective in that their competition is better keeping the young elites from moving up to the AHL. Remember, a juniors player can be called up to the NHL at any age but as is pointed out in the Flyers article, management generally does not favor early limited exposure for young talent capable of NHL ice time, they’d rather keep them playing in one place. They can call up Krebs at any time but I don’t the room for him right now.

  6. Jake

    Vegas looks like they did towards the end of the Vancouver series and into the Dallas series…dull, no explosiveness, close losses, disappointing.

  7. I think much of the lack of offense begins with the defense. When McNabb and Theodore were in the lineup early on, the break-out passes were crisp and on the sticks of the forwards heading up ice. We would more often than not see 3 on 2’s or 2 on 1’s and at least more open ice to skate and create a play. Our $7M defenseman hasn’t shown the ability to do that and other than Martinez (who does it consistently), we are asking a lot of younger defenseman to not only protect but to be playmakers as well. I think Whitecloud has shown the smarts to hold the puck longer and look for the open man and I think Hague does a good job of pinching in when we are in the offensive zone, but we don’t seem to be in the offensive zone much these days. I don’t think it’s panic time but Colorado looks faster and a whole lot better than we do right now.

    • Coyote

      I agree. Early on it seemed passes were tape to tape. Last few games passing has been horrible. Which has hampered break outs, and has led to turnovers.

  8. kj howe

    They showed they can score tonight shutting it the Avalanche in Colorado 3-0 by changing up the lines and enjoying spectacular goaltending by Andre Fleury. Defense was solid and we actually won a few face offs. I liked what I saw tonight. kj.

    • You’re talking about the results of a game that was played after the article was written. We looked like shit before tonight. Tonight was actually the most solid we’ve looked in a long time. Certainly all season.

      • Daryl

        I also like what I saw tonight, but as we see every year even bad teams can put together a great game. Even in the other game we won against COL we didn’t look very good, but they were missing 5-7 players. I’ll also throw this out there, if it wasn’t for some amazing saves by MAF I don’t know what would of happened in this game. Don’t get me wrong, I think this team has the potential to play this way most games but they still need a few pieces to beat a team like COL in a 7 game series.

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