Gerard Gallant took a team of unwanted players loveably nicknamed the Golden Misfits to within spitting distance of the Stanley Cup. Spitting and drinking, however, are different deals. There are no summer days with the Stanley Cup resting on one's dock for friends and family to admire awarded for coming close.
Certainly Gallant, his staff and the original Golden Knights found a special formula and came just three wins short of the ultimate prize. It was a great story but no NHL organization is in the "good try," business. It's win or bust and as such Vegas management has spent the past 18 months or so trying to assemble the talent capable of closing that gap. While the roster isn't perfect, the Golden Knights are clearly one of the best constructed teams in the NHL. Size, speed, talent, experience and elite starting goaltending allows Vegas to play just about any style of game at a top level.
The club's record, however, is wanting. At 8-5-2 the Golden Knights own a points percentage of .600 which is tied for 14th in the league. That's not elite. Those are not Cup contender numbers.
Gallant is now faced with a different challenge. He's not being asked to overcome the insurmountable odds which come with being an expansion team. Now he's being asked to get the most out of a top end group. The veteran coach has been given a thoroughbred. It's a different ride with different challenges and varied pressures.
Vegas blew a pair of two-goal, third period leads this week. Losses are going to happen but these two were troubling in that they highlighted a lack of consistency. When they're on their game, the Golden Knights dominate. But too often they've slipped into a funk which results in below average play.
Priority No. 1 for this team is to establish its identity for longer stretches and that's the formula which Gallant and his staff are searching to unlock right now.
Some numbers to chew on:
Vegas has scored 47 goals and allowed 45 for a goal differential of two. This number is too low. When the Golden Knights won the Pacific Division two seasons ago the club's differential was 43 following 82 regular season games. It's one of the most simple but telling statistics. It can belie dominance or mediocrity.
The power play is clicking along at 25 percent and Vegas has developed two equally strong units. Scoring once in every four tries equates to close to one power play goal per game. The Golden Knights have popped 13 man-advantage markers through 15 games and it's been a big plus.
On the penalty killing side, Vegas has been just as efficient and is currently running at 89.09 percent, which is second best in the NHL.
These special teams numbers tell a story about talent and hockey IQ. They show how high Vegas can fly.
These numbers, much like the goal differential, highlight imbalance. The Golden Knights are tied for best in the league with 520 shots. But with 493 shots against Vegas has allowed the fifth most in the NHL.
The Golden Knights are 27th in the NHL at 5v5 PDO with a 97.3 number. The team is 24th in the league in 5v5 save percentage and 26th in 5v5 shooting percentage.
They're giving up too much offense at even strength and not generating enough at even strength.