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How Can You Explain The Golden Knights?

Some might call it luck. Others might call it execution. But regardless, Vegas keeps winning.

by Gary Lawless @GoldenKnights / VegasGoldenKnights.com

The Vegas Golden Knights have made their own luck. More than anything else in this amazing run to 8-1, the over-reaching theme has been hard work.

The luck has followed - but it's the work which has come first.

Golden Knights analyst Shane Hnidy was asked to pick an MVP from this club early in the season and he couldn't point to just one player.

"For me, it's the coach. Gerard Gallant. He's got them playing together and he's got them working. That's the constant with this group - they always work hard," said Hnidy, a veteran of 11 NHL seasons prior to beginning his broadcasting career.

No one expected this. And now just about everyone is looking for a way to explain why it can't last.

Certainly, there has been more than a fair share of puck luck for the Golden Knights but that's hockey. The puck hops and bounces and sometimes it goes a team's way and sometimes it doesn't. It's not a controlled variable. The work? That is the one thing a team can control and it can separate a club from others with equal or even more talent.

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The numbers show Vegas has the highest five-on-five shooting and save percentages in the NHL.

Based on the quality and quantity of scoring chances the team is collecting, matched with the number they are allowing - the shooting and save percentages should be lower.

 

5v5

xGoals for /60: 2.25 (19th)

xGoals against /60: 2.45 (18th)

Goals for /60: 3.21 (5th)

Goals against /60: 1.83 (4th)

Sh%: 11.93 (1st)

Sv%: 94.62 (1st)

PDO: 106.55 (1st)

 

All Minutes

xGoals for /60: 3.31 (7th)

xGoals against /60: 2.71 (7th)

Goals for /60: 3.59 (5th)

Goals against /60: 2.01 (2nd)

Sh%: 12.74 (2nd)

Sv%: 93.71 (2nd)

PDO: 106.45 (1st)

 

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It's early in the season and these sample sizes are small so it's not unusual for there to be exceptions to expectations.

And while the numbers do point to good fortune, they don't point to poor play. Vegas has stuck to its system while employing judicious puck and game management.

Vegas is more talented than previous expansion teams. The best description of the Golden Knights which has come this way: The first line and the top pairing aren't elite. But the collection of players nicely matches up with the rest of the league's second and third line players. There isn't an over-abundance of great in the lineup, however, there is a lot of good.

Gallant has installed simple systems - and surprise, surprise - they revolve around work rather than skill. When Vegas sings Gallant's tune - it's sweet harmony. When they select their own sheet music - the result can be painful.

The players have realized this in short order and instituted their own value system and accountability measures. The leadership is spread around the dressing room and it's a chorus of voices which pushes this agenda. A culture some teams spend years searching for has taken root in Vegas in a matter of months.

They play for one another and winning is the goal. They're searching for 20 different heroes every night and happy for whomever steps forward in the moment.

The authenticity of the actions from the Vegas players is far more convincing than any words. The scoring is spread out, Gallant uses all his players and rewards those who are effective.

Work hard, play more might be the slogan for this group.

Past luck doesn't predict future luck. Vegas is likely to regress in areas such as shooting and save percentage but there's no reason to believe they are going to crash.

This club's talent is far closer to middle of the pack than it is to the bottom. There's also the opportunity intangible. More ice-time and optimal utilization vs. previous usage for players on the Vegas roster can't be discounted. A player previously restricted to defensive zone draws and provided no power play opportunity who is now being given the goodies of offensive zone and power play opportunities may very likely see his production spike.

Home ice, the Golden Knights have played seven of nine at T-Mobile Arena has been a major advantage. The club will play 14 of its next 20 on the road and that add to the test. Life has been cushy for the

Knights in their own castle. Now it's time to storm some opposition fortresses.

Will Vegas continue to run at an .889 points percentage? Unlikely.

Will the script be flipped? Just as unlikely.

As in most stories, the truth most often lies somewhere in the middle. But the 16 points already in the bank? They stay there.

Teams don't make the playoffs in October. But in today's era which includes points for overtime and shootout losses, they can miss as a result of what they failed to accomplish early on.

Vegas is a great story with much still to be written. Maybe it won't end up as a fairy tale but it's also unlikely to be a tale of woe.

Stay tuned, it's Vegas so we know it won't be boring. 

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