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.
37 goals (3.7 per game)
32.3 shots per game
6 games with 30+ shots (60%)
12.2 shots blocked per game
5 goals (1.6 per game)
25.6 shots per game
1 game with 30+ shots (20%)
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.
54 giveaways (5.4 per game)
45 takeaways (4.5 per game)
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.
Faceoff Win Percentage – 49.2%
OZ – 198 (35.7%)
NZ – 163 (29.4%)
DZ – 193 (34.8%)
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.