Before the season started, I made four predictions about the Vegas Golden Knights. Since we are at the bye week, it is about time we check in on those thoughts and find out if I should buy a lottery ticket or go into hiding.
Prediction One: Pacific Division Title
At the break, the Golden Knights sit one point back of the top spot in the Pacific Division. Not too shabby, except for the fact that they are actually in fifth place in the division and have the most games played of the group. The Vancouver Canucks are at the top of the hill, while the Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, and Arizona Coyotes are right next to the Golden Knights.
The final 30 games will be a grind, but with a new head coach, two games remaining against the Canucks, Flames, and Coyotes each, and three against the Oilers, there is plenty of ground to be made up to secure the team’s second division banner.
Prediction Two: Marc-Andre Fleury Wins the Vezina
This prediction was looking great at the start of the season. Through the first two months, Fleury was top five in the league in wins (11), save percentage (.919), and had two shutouts. In the time since, he has had a goals-against average in the threes and a save percentage below .900. While he is still among the league leaders in wins, Fleury will have to rebound after the break to climb back into Vezina talks.
Prediction Three: Special Teams Will Be Top-10
The power play has been stellar this season, ranked eighth in the league at 22%. Mark Stone leads the team with six power-play goals, Shea Theodore is the setup man with 11 assists, and All-Star Max Pacioretty has the most points with 14.
The balance of the two power-play units is what makes them dangerous. Both lines keep the zone and generate chances while keeping the opposition at bay. They have only allowed three shorthanded goals against, which is tied for fourth in the league.
However, the penalty kill has been their Achilles heel all season. They rank 19th in the league with a success rate of 79.5%. They have smart and defensive-minded players in Stone, William Karlsson and Reilly Smith, but goaltending has been the problem. When Fleury is not in net, they are killing penalties at 72.5%, and your best penalty-killer needs to be your goalie.
On the flip side, they are one of the most dangerous teams shorthanded, tied for fourth in the NHL with seven shorthanded goals. Smith and Karlsson are the dynamic duo, each registering 2 shorties. The players are there, they just need that extra save.
Prediction Four: Rookies Make An Impact
Even though he has not lit up the scoresheet, Cody Glass has looked good this season. He is still learning the pro game as he only suited up for 28 games with the American Hockey League’s Chicago Wolves last season during their Calder Cup run. We’ve seen his creativity and patience on the power play and he is fifth on the team in extra man helpers.
Even though he was one of my favorites to win the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year, he is developing nicely and will be a big contributor for many seasons.
Nicolas Hague has grown with each game, being rewarded with more ice time in each passing month. Since the end of October, his ice time has increased over a minute as he starts receiving more responsibilities. He recently scored his first NHL goal on the power play and will continue to see time with the extra man if he keeps shooting the puck.
Another rookie who has made an impact is Nicolas Roy. He has dressed in 14 games so far, filling in for a number of injured players. Roy has been able to chip in offensively as well, registering five points. He plays with a lot of tenacity and is a pest on the forecheck.
While not all of these predictions have hit, there are still 30 games left in the season for them to come to fruition. Share your thoughts with me on Twitter, @LAM1926, with any rest-of-the-season predictions.