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Behind The Numbers

Golden Knights leaders of expansion pack

Among teams joining NHL since 1991, Vegas' metrics shine brightest

by Rob Vollman / NHL.com Correspondent

The Vegas Golden Knights are off to the best start in their inaugural season, statistically, of any NHL expansion team since 1991-92, when the San Jose Sharks joined the League.

After 15 games, the Golden Knights' results in most statistical categories are superior to the nine teams that joined the NHL from 1991-2000. That includes the Sharks, Ottawa Senators and Tampa Bay Lightning (1992-93); Florida Panthers and Mighty Ducks of Anaheim (1993-94); Nashville Predators (1998-99); Atlanta Thrashers (1999-2000; became Winnipeg Jets in 2011-12); and Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild (2000-01).

The Golden Knights (9-5-1) have 19 points in the standings, 10.5 points more than expected, based on the average of those nine expansion teams after 15 games, and six points more than the high of 13 set by the Panthers and matched by the Predators.

Vegas entered play Wednesday tied for seventh in the NHL standings, the highest placement for an expansion team after 15 games since the Lightning (12 points, 16th) in their inaugural season.

 

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The success the Golden Knights have experienced closely mirrors the Lightning, the strongest offensive team of the nine. After 15 games in 1992-93, forward Chris Kontos had 14 goals, and forwards Brian Bradley, John Tucker, and Rob Zamuner each had at least 13 points.

Tampa Bay had 51 goals on 420 shots, a 12.1 shooting percent, each superior to the averages among the nine teams of 36 goals, 397 shots, and 8.9 percent.

Vegas has 52 goals on 450 shots, 11.6 percent, the second-highest among the group. Forwards James Neal and David Perron each has 12 points to lead the Golden Knights.

Video: DET@VGK: Neal extends goal-scoring streak, ties game

Vegas' power-play success rate of 20.0 percent ties Tampa Bay for the highest of the 10 expansion teams, and is 7.4 percent higher than the average.

Given the changes in NHL scoring levels, the Golden Knights' offensive achievements are more impressive. In 1992-93, teams averaged 3.63 goals per game, 15.5 percent higher than the 3.14 average this season. Tampa Bay ranked No. 13 among the NHL's 24 teams in goals scored, which was the highest ranking among the previous nine expansion teams; entering Wednesday, the Golden Knights were tied for fourth out of 31 teams.

Vegas is also quite good on defense compared to its expansion peers. The Golden Knights have allowed 43 goals, 13 fewer than the average of the nine other expansion teams. That average is skewed by the particularly high number of goals allowed through 15 games by the Senators (81) and by the Sharks (84). The remaining seven expansion teams each allowed from 42 to 57 goals through 15 games.

Goal prevention is the product of allowing fewer shots and stopping a higher percentage of those allowed. Vegas has succeeded through its strength in the latter category, despite its goaltending injuries.

No. 1 goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has been out with a concussion since Oct. 13. Malcolm Subban (lower body) has been out since Oct. 22. Oscar Dansk (lower body) hasn't played since Oct. 30. In their absence, Maxime Lagace has started the past five games.

Video: VGK@MTL: Lagace reaches for great pad stop

Despite these challenges, the Golden Knights have a .910 save percentage, which is tied for first with the Predators through 15 games. The average save percentage for the nine previous teams was .880.

Vegas has a penalty-killing percentage of 81.3 percent, 3.6 percent higher than the expansion team average of 77.7, and is tied with the Wild for third among the 10 teams. The best result was the Predators' (83.1 percent).

Shot-based metrics are only available since the 2008-09 season, but these 10 teams can be compared using overall shots on goal. The Golden Knights have been outshot 479-450 through the first 15 games, for a minus-29 differential, ranking second to the Lightning (minus-23). On average, the nine previous expansion teams were minus-73.

Even with their goaltending situation and five losses in their past six games, the Golden Knights are off to the best statistical start of any NHL expansion team during the past 30 years.

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