Admit it. You’re probably a little nervous about the Vegas Golden Knights’ less-than-stellar start to their sophomore campaign.
The Golden Knights are currently 5-7-1 and sit at seventh place in the Pacific Division standings, ahead of only the Los Angeles Kings. Vegas averages just 2.2 goals per game, and its 27th-ranked power play isn’t exactly making up for the lack of goal production. And on top of their struggles to find twine, the Knights have been quite far from adequate defensively.
Much to the chagrin of the Vegas faithful, the Knights just haven’t looked like the team that captured the hearts of the hockey universe last season.
But that doesn’t mean that won’t change.
For starters, luck certainly hasn’t been on the Knights’ side to start the season. Through their first 13 games, the Knights have been the NHL’s unluckiest team. And it really hasn’t been all that close.
But how do we know luck is the problem and not the team itself? By the use of advanced statistics, that question can be answered.
For those unfamiliar with advanced statistics, PDO, or Percentage Determined Outcomes, is a numerical estimation of how lucky (or unlucky) a certain team is. PDO can be uncovered by adding a team’s shooting percentage and its save percentage. The higher the PDO, the luckier a team is.
In the Golden Knights’ case, their 5-on-5 PDO on the season is 0.937, which is alarmingly low. To put that number into perspective, the San Jose Sharks have the second-lowest 5-on-5 PDO this season with 0.961. Moreover, the lowest 5-on-5 PDO from last season was the Buffalo Sabres’ 0.977 — a full four hundredths higher than the Knights’ current PDO.
Considering the efficiency in which Vegas is driving play, it’s rather astonishing that goals have been so hard to come by. The Golden Knights’ 5-on-5 Corsi For percentage of 58.79 is second only to the Carolina Hurricanes (60.67), who are averaging three goals per game.
To put all this in simpler terms, the Golden Knights aren’t necessarily struggling because they’re playing poorly. While that is sometimes the case (like in their game against the Nashville Predators, for example), the Knights have actually played quite well to start the season. The puck just isn’t going into the net for a multitude of reasons; bad luck being one of them.
Aside from luck, though, the Knights have also majorly struggled with injuries. So far, Alex Tuch, Cody Eakin and Deryk Engelland have all missed time due to injury, while offseason additions Max Pacioretty and Paul Stastny remain out of the lineup with ailments of their own. The Knights haven’t been fully healthy since before the regular season began, and that’s undoubtedly hindered Vegas at least to some degree.
It also hasn’t helped that unquestioned No. 1 defenseman Nate Schmidt has been out since the start of the season for violating the NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program.
Fortunately, Schmidt will return to the lineup against the Edmonton Oilers on Nov. 18 and Pacioretty has officially resumed skating (albeit while wearing a blue no-contact jersey). Despite Stastny likely to remain inactive for at least another month, the eventual returns of Schmidt and Pacioretty will be more than enough to help get things turned around.
It’s easy to understand why one would be worried after the Knights’ first 13 games, but it’s also important to keep in mind that Vegas still has 69 very nice regular-season games to be played. The season is far from over, and there’s plenty of time for the underlying numbers to even out.
All statistics courtesy of Natural Stat Trick.