The Vegas Golden Knights just played one of their more dominant games of this young season. Seeing as about one-fifth of the campaign is over, there is less we are learning about the team on a game-by-game basis, but a few things do pop into the forefront.
Deryk Engelland: Offensive Juggernaut
If you had told me before the season that Engelland would be tied for the team lead in 5-on-5 points through 16 games, well, I don’t know quite what I’d do, but it would most likely be problematic. But here we are. The Vegas Golden Knights are 10-5-1 and Engelland is tied with David Perron with nine even strength points, and is certainly no ‘team mascot.’ Nor is he a seventh defenseman, which myself and many onlookers felt was a role suitable for his talent level and age. Because it is almost certain he will regress, now is the perfect time to bask in the fact that his 5v5 points per 60 minutes (min. 150 mins) is better than every player in the NHL not named Mikhail Sergachev or Erik Karlsson. No, really:
Home is where the
heart is wins are
The ‘Vegas Flu’ may be real after all. The Knights improved to 7-1-0 at home with last night’s win over the Winnipeg Jets. Whether their opponents are dealing with fallout from the previous night’s debauchery is unclear, the fact of the matter is that the Knights are outscoring their adversaries by a 16-goal margin (35-19) at T-Mobile Arena, the best such differential in the NHL. Not to be a Negative Nosek here, but it bears mentioning that the Knights are riding a 109.0 PDO, meaning that they are riding some of the best luck the Silver City has seen in a long time.
This power play needs work again
Sure, they went 1-for-4 with the man advantage, and a 25 percent success rate would end the season as a top-three mark in the league. But watching the Vegas power play go to “work,” a term I use quite loosely here, was difficult. They mustered just four shots on the power play and looked thoroughly incapable of creating offense during their 54 seconds of 5-on-3 play. Brad Hunt and Colin Miller have looked tremendous up until this point leading a power play, and although Hunt has been quite good offensively this year, I would be surprised to see him start over Shea Theodore in their next game. Passing has appeared careless and despite having solid zone entries, the team has a lot of difficulty setting up once in the zone. Now, games are won and lost at 5-on-5, but a strong power play can pay dividends as well.
Even Alex Tuch has off games
Tuch has not only been one of the best young players on the Knights, but also one of the best rookies in the league this season. He has routinely displayed extraordinary finesse for a power forward, while also playing a solid 200-foot game, the latter of which is often hard to come by in a 21-year-old. However, he looked a step slow against the Jets, as did he in Tuesday’s tangle with the Montreal Canadiens, a game in which he failed to put a single shot on goal. While he has showcased his ability to make something out of nothing, he needs — like all power forwards do — a playmaker on his line and Cody Eakin and Oscar Lindberg do not quite fit that role. I stumped for the return of Brendan Leipsic to the lineup a few days ago, and it stands to reason a player with that particular skill set could help Tuch thrive.
One final note: the playoff cut-off line for a team in the Western Conference is likely to be about 88 points this season, according to Hockey Viz’s Micah Blake McCurdy. Vegas currently has 21 points through 16 games, meaning they need to pick up just about one point per game (67 in 66 games) the rest of the way to make the playoffs. Whether that looks like 33-32-1 or 27-26-13, it is well within the realm of possibility.
This season is a win-win for Vegas. Either they defy history and make a playoff bid in their nascent season, or they sell around the deadline and pick up some prospects or picks along the way. The only thing that could really hurt this team is if they are on the playoff bubble and make win-now trades. Whichever ends up happening, it is an exciting time to follow and cover this team.