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Facts and Figures: Golden Knights keep racking up first-year feats

Clinching division highlights record-breaking season; Karlsson emerges as breakout scorer, plus/minus leader

by John Kreiser @jkreiser7713 / NHL.com Managing Editor

The Vegas Golden Knights saved the best for last.

The Golden Knights completed their first home season on Saturday with a 3-2 victory against the San Jose Sharks that clinched the Pacific Division title. The largest crowd in the expansion team's history, 18,458, turned out at T-Mobile Arena to see the Golden Knights, who've shattered NHL records for wins (50), home wins (29), road wins (21) and points (107) by a first-year team. Vegas finishes its regular season with games at Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary this week.

Before Vegas, the 1993-94 Florida Panthers held the expansion-team record for points (83) and shared the record for wins with the '93-94 Mighty Ducks of Anaheim (33). That Anaheim team had owned the record for road wins (19); the 1979-80 Hartford Whalers, one of four teams to join the NHL from the World Hockey Association that season, had held the record for home wins by a team in its inaugural season (22).

Vegas is the first NHL team since 1968-69 to qualify for the playoffs in its inaugural season, and it's the first in the modern era to finish on top in a division that was not made up exclusively of expansion teams. No modern-era team that started from scratch (as opposed to joining from another league) in any of the four major American team sports had ever finished first in its inaugural season. 

Video: STL@VGK: Neal roofs one-timer from tough angle

How amazing is the Golden Knights' season? They have 107 points; the Toronto Maple Leafs have never had more than 103 (though they could surpass that total this season). Vegas has won 50 games; the previous record for a first-year team was 33 (by the Florida Panthers and Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 1993-94).

The Golden Knights have shown they can win by a lot or a little. They are 21-15 in one-goal games (including overtime and shootouts) and 21-10 in games decided by three or more goals. Vegas and the Boston Bruins are the only teams with at least 20 wins of each type.

 

Karlsson: A star is born

If there's one Vegas player who's exceeded all expectations with Vegas, it's forward William Karlsson, who was selected from the Columbus Blue Jackets in the NHL Expansion Draft.

Karlsson came to Vegas having scored 18 goals in 183 NHL games with the Anaheim Ducks and Blue Jackets, including six on 96 shots (6.3 percent) in 81 games last season. After going without a goal in his first six games with Vegas, Karlsson has scored 42 in the next 73 games, capped by a spectacular shorthanded, between-the-legs, game-winning goal in the third period against the Sharks.

Video: SJS@VGK: Karlsson nets amazing between-the-legs goal

Karlsson has scored in 33 of Vegas' 79 games; the Golden Knights are 26-5-2 in those games, a winning percentage of .818. Karlsson's 23.3 shooting percent (42 goals on 180 shots) leads the NHL among players with at least 80 shots on goal; the only other player over 20 percent is Brad Marchand of the Bruins (20.1 percent).

He's also the runaway NHL leader in plus/minus rating at plus-46; linemate Jonathan Marchessault is next at plus-37, followed by Marchand (plus-33) and Vegas forward Reilly Smith (plus-32 in 66 games, many of them on the same line with Karlsson and Marchessault). The only player in the past 10 seasons to finish with a higher rating than Karlsson is Washington Capitals defenseman Jeff Schultz, who was plus-50 in 2009-10 (Alex Ovechkin was second at plus-45).

 

Power-packed Penguins

It's been an up-and-down season for the Pittsburgh Penguins, but one constant has been their success on the power play. Entering their game Sunday against the Washington Capitals (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NHL.TV), the Penguins are first in power-play percentage (26.4) and second in goals (65) behind the Tampa Bay Lightning (66). That includes a 3-for-5 performance in a 5-2 win against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday that clinched a playoff berth for the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions.

One big reason for the Penguins' power-play prowess has been the production of their three star forwards. Phil Kessel leads all players in power-play points (40), one more than Blake Wheeler of the Winnipeg Jets. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are tied for third with 36. The Penguins are the first team to have three players with 35 or more power-play points since the 2009-10 Washington Capitals (Nicklas Backstrom 37, Alex Ovechkin 36, Mike Green 35).

Backstrom, who's been one of the NHL's most productive power-play producers for the past decade, is having a down year. Backstrom led the League last season with 35 power-play points, and his League-leading 44 in 2013-14 are the most by any player in this decade. But Backstrom enters the game against Pittsburgh with 24, the fewest he's had while playing a full season since 2010-11, when he had 22.

 

Even money on McDavid

In contrast to players like Crosby, Malkin and Kessel, Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers is piling up his points at even strength.

McDavid is closing in on his second straight NHL scoring title. But only 18 of his 103 points are from the power play, and the Oilers are last in the NHL on the man-advantage at 14.3 percent. Of the NHL's top 15 scorers, McDavid is the only one to have fewer than 22 power-play points.

Video: EDM@VAN: McDavid fends off defense for tough goal

But McDavid has been a dynamo at even strength. Of his 103 points, 81 (35 goals, 46 assists) have come at even strength (the other four points came with the Oilers playing shorthanded). The last player to have more points in a season at even strength was Henrik Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks, who had 83 in 2009-10.

McDavid has scored 19 more points at even strength than runners-up Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings and Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche. The last time the margin was that great was 1995-96, when Jaromir Jagr of the Pittsburgh Penguins had 95 even-strength points and teammate Petr Nedved was second with 76.

 

Power's on for Islanders

The New York Islanders will miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second straight season, but it looks like they'll do something they haven't accomplished since 1993-94. That was the last time the Islanders scored on more than 20 percent of their power plays -- 20.1 percent, to be exact. With three games remaining, the Islanders are sixth in the NHL this season at 23.0 percent. That would be their best showing since 1989-90, when New York converted on 23.6 percent of its power-play chances.

This season's number would be even high if the Islanders hadn't gotten off to an awful start on the power play. They were 0-for-20 through six games, 1-for-25 through eight and 2-for-33 through 10. Since then, they are 54-for-210 (25.7 percent); the last time the Islanders were that successful in a full season was 1982-83, when they went 69-for-268 (also 25.7 percent)

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