Beginner’s luck isn’t why the Vegas Golden Knights are enjoying early winnings.
Tuesday night brought with it heavy hearts as the Vegas Golden Knights took the ice for their first game in T-Mobile Arena. An amazing ceremony complete with survivors, first responders, and a tribute to the victims came center stage after the tragedy that occurred just days prior shook both the city and country.
After the Golden Knights paid tribute to the city, something amazing happened. Two-and-a-half minutes into the game, Thomas Nosek, an expansion draft selection from Detroit, put a puck past Antti Raanta, and the celebration started. Vegas rattled off four straight goals in the first period on their way to a 5-2 win.
The first expansion team to go 3-0 since the San Diego Padres in 1969, according to SBNation.com, Vegas’ success isn’t just a one-off show. Just like everything else on the strip, there is going to be entertainment every night with this team. While 82-0-0 may be out of the question, even in a small sample there is evidence for continued success going forward.
What Will Keep Them Going?
Marc-Andre Fleury has been nothing short of astonishing in his first few starts in net. He sports a .963 save percentage, 3-0 record, and only four goals allowed, all while facing the fifth highest amount of shots in the league at 107. Maybe we can credit this to his offseason workouts.
Fleury’s advanced statistics make a case for him to be the team MVP so far this season. While it is a small sample size, Fleury’s goals saved above average is third in the league at 5.56, behind Corey Crawford and Mike Smith. What this equates to is that given the amount of shots he has faced, he has had 5.5 fewer goals allowed than an average goalie would have had (at an average save percentage).
On the offensive end, there has been notable production from the first line, a combo of Cody Eakin, David Perron, and James Neal. They are providing the highest Corsi For percentage (CF%) as well as Corsi For Relative Percentage (CF% rel). Corsi refers to the percentage of total shots that are taken by a player’s respective team.
The Golden Knights are producing high above 50% of shots when any of the trio is on the ice, together or apart. Their CF relative % shows how much better the team’s Corsi is with them on the ice versus when they are off, showing that Vegas is actually conceding more shots than they are taking when they are off the ice.
The best part about this 3-0 start? This team is without three quality players who could soon join the roster. Shea Theodore, Alex Tuch, and Vadim Shipachy were all sent down to the Golden Knights’ AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves.
Shipachyov was expected by many to be the first-line center when he signed a two-year $9 million deal. Theodore and Tuch dominated AHL’s opening weekend. Signs point to the trio being back with the big club sooner rather than later.
Beyond the talent on the ice is the talent behind the bench. Gerard Gallant led a Florida Panthers team from winning the draft lottery to winning the division in just two years at the helm. His developmental work with the young players in Florida will translate to the young players in Vegas.
While the Golden Knights may not be considered cup favorites, it may not be unfathomable to see this team surpass a modest projection of 67 points given by USA Today.
Whether players like James Neal or Marc-Andre Fleury become mainstays on the roster or are sent packing for draft picks come February 26th, the city of Las Vegas and their team have something to believe in.
Edited by Jeremy Losak.
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