All of the (good) RFAs have been re-signed, the Carolina Hurricanes keep making moves, 2020 Winter Classic logos have been revealed and DTFR’s season previews conclude with the Central Division.
Derick Brassard was briefly a Golden Knight. Yes, he was flipped from Ottawa to Vegas to Pittsburgh as part of Friday’s three-team trade and technically speaking, he never suited up for Vegas so it doesn’t actually count, but Brassard was once a Golden Knight.
Now, as a result of the Brassard trade, Ryan Reaves is the newest player in Vegas.
Through 60 games (entering Friday), the Vegas Golden Knights are still 1st in the Pacific Division. William Karlsson is in the midst of a career year, Marc-Andre Fleury and James Neal probably won’t be traded at the deadline like everyone thought they would and there’s a real possibility this whole “Cup in One” mantra actually works out.
Thanks in part to the crazy scheduling this time of year– between the NHL, the Winter Games in PyeongChang, the upcoming trade deadline on Monday and much, much more– I was finally able to squeeze in the time to update Golden Knights projections with 22 games remaining in their schedule.
The only problem is that they’ve now played Game 61 of 82 and added Ryan Reaves. So basically, here’s everything I had before anything that happened on Friday.
I’ll try to come up with some projections for Reaves and any other potential acquisitions Vegas makes between now and the deadline, but there’s no promises. Every year around the deadline my database needs constant updating and as a result some things get bogged down until I physically go through every stat.
I do get around to it (eventually) and these players will be reflected in any subsequent projection posts.
Anyway, on with the show…
The Golden Knights aren’t good. They’re great.
Check out the latest forecast in the charts below. Keep in mind, as always, that anything that sounds ridiculous is Microsoft Excel’s fault. I’m just kidding. There are always outliers and unrealistic projections. Alas, these are merely utopian, Excel driven, guesses.
Standard disclaimer, my degree is in communication– not math or #fancystats.
Vegas Golden Knights Projections Through 60 Games (22 Games Remaining)
The sensational season continues and down the stretch as Erik Haula, Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, Neal, David Perron and Reilly Smith are all expected to amass somewhere around 60-points (or more).
Colin Miller‘s emergence as a top defenseman in the Western Conference continues as he nears the 40-point plateau by seasons end. Also, look at Shea Theodore fitting right in as a top-4 quality defenseman just entering his prime. Miller, Nate Schmidt and Theodore for years to come in Vegas should mean many great things.
Meanwhile, Fleury’s incredible run in goal begins to cool off just a little. His goals against average begins to reflect an “average” year for Fleury, which– granted– is still better than a lot of goaltenders in the NHL. Fleury’s save percentage should be just fine down the stretch– if not potentially league-leading.
We’ve talked a lot in DtFR Podcasts about who is – and maybe even more about who isn’t – going to the XXIII Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. However, we haven’t had too many discussions yet about the tournament itself.
What nations are going to be there? What is the format of the tournaments? What time will those games be? Will the United States get those games broadcast live? And, most importantly, who’s taking gold?
Let’s tackle those questions one at a time.
What nations are going to be at the Olympics this year?
In total, there will be 14 nations represented between the two tournaments – though that number does come with a catch.
Starting with the women’s tournament (which drops the first puck February 10 at 2:40 a.m. Eastern time), there will be two groups of four sides apiece competing to qualify for six spots in the knockout tournament.
Group A consists of:
- Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR)
- United States of America
One of these things is not like the others, so now sounds like as good a time as any to discuss one of our “wildcard” nations.
With a press release on December 5, 2017, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) suspended the Russian Olympic Committee for the 2018 Games for “the systematic manipulation of the anti-doping system” during the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.
While that is a hefty charge, the IOC did offer an avenue for clean Russian athletes to compete. Every Russian who passes the IOC’s drug tests is eligible to compete for the Olympic Rings instead of for the Russian Federation, meaning any medals won by Russian athletes will not count towards Russia’s all-time medal counts. No Russian flags will be raised, nor will the State Anthem of the Russian Federation be heard, but at least those athletes will still have an opportunity to compete.
Group B consists of:
Ooh, our other “wildcard!” It’s hidden a bit better than the Russian situation, but there’s a hint in one team’s name.
You probably noticed there was no specification associated with Korea. That’s because North Korea and South Korea are fielding a unified team of 35 players (the standard 23 from South Korea with an additional dozen from North Korea) in the women’s hockey tournament.
This is a weird and highly politicized (Politics at the Olympics? *insert sarcastic ‘No!’ here*) decision that was finalized only 24 days before Korea’s first game, and that crunched timeline may yield unfortunate results on the ice. Steve Mollman of Quartz provides some excellent information about the politics of the situation, but the only rule Head Coach Sarah Murray, a dual-citizen of Canada and the USA, must follow is three North Korean players must be active for each game.
Meanwhile, the men’s tournament is a bit larger and features three groups of four teams for a total of 12 nations.
Group A consists of:
- Czech Republic
- South Korea
- Olympic Athletes from Russia
- United States
…and Group C (the group I’m affectionately calling “The Euro Cup.” Original, I know):
All 12 squads will qualify for the knockout stage, but there is a major reward for each nation that wins its group: an automatic entry into the quarterfinals. The best second-place team will also earn a bye in the playoff round that will feature the remaining eight teams.
What is the format of each tournament?
Like many international sporting events, both the men’s and women’s Olympic hockey tournaments will begin with a group stage.
Each team in a given group will play one game against the other three teams in its section. For example, the unified Korean team in the women’s tournament will play Switzerland (February 10 at 7:10 a.m. Eastern time), Sweden (February 12 at 7:10 a.m. Eastern time) and Japan (February 14 at 2:40 a.m. Eastern time).
Standings will be tabulated in a way similar to the NHL, however there are a few differences: wins count for three points, while overtime and shootout wins only count for two. Overtime and shootout losses will still count for one point, and a regulation loss is… well, a major bummer.
Okay, we’ve completed the group stage. How does this turn into a knockout tournament?
This is the phase where things start to look a bit different between the men’s and women’s tournaments. Let’s start with the women’s competition, which will begin its knockout stage on February 16 at 10:10 p.m. Eastern time.
Did you notice how stacked Group A is? The IOC and IIHF did that intentionally, but they also paved the way for those teams into the tournament as all four will qualify for at least the quarterfinals. The top two teams from the group (A1 and A2) will receive automatic bids into the semifinals, while the remaining sides will square off against the winner and runner-up of Group B (A3 versus B2 and A4 versus B1) in the quarters. B3 and B4 will continue play, but the best they’ll be able to finish in the consolation tournament is fifth place.
The winner of A3vB2 will take on A1 in the semis, and A2 will square off against the victor of A4vB1. Once those tilts are done, it will boil down to the Gold Medal game, which is scheduled for February 21 at 11:10 p.m. Eastern time. The Bronze Medal match is slated for February 21 at 2:40 a.m. Eastern time.
As stated before, the group stage in the men’s tournament has no bearing on which nations advance into the knockout – all 12 teams will do just that. However, playoff matchups are dependent on success in the group stage.
Once group play is complete, all 12 teams will be pooled into one table with the three group winners listed 1-3, the runners-up 4-6 and so on, so forth. Within those four trios, they’ll be ordered by the number of points they earned in the group stage. Should there be a tie in points, it will be decided by goal-differential, then goals for, then – hopefully it doesn’t come to this one – the superior 2017 IIHF ranking.
I won’t bore you with the seeding process, but the first round of the men’s knockout tournament will begin February 19 at 10:10 p.m. Eastern time. The top four teams from the group stage enter during the quarterfinals, which are scheduled for February 20 at 10:10 p.m. Eastern time, followed by the semifinals three days later. Bronze medals will be awarded after the game at 7:10 a.m. Eastern time on February 24, followed by the Gold Medal tilt at 11:10 p.m. Eastern time that night.
What time are these games happening, and are they being televised?
To our readers not from the United States, the broadcasting part of this section doesn’t apply to you. Then again, most of you probably don’t want puck drops listed in Eastern time anyway, so thanks for reading this far if you’re still here!
Since the women’s tournament begins first, let’s start with their schedule. Remember, OAR means Olympic Athletes from Russia.
|2018 Women’s Tournament|
|Date/Time in PyeongChang||Date/Time (EST)||Group/
|Matchup||USA Live Broadcast|
|February 10 at 4:40 p.m.||February 10 at 2:40 a.m.||B||Japan v Sweden|
|February 10 at 9:10 p.m.||February 10 at 7:10 a.m.||B||Switzerland v Korea||USA|
|February 11 at 4:40 p.m.||February 11 at 2:40 a.m.||A||Finland v USA||NBC Sports Network|
|February 11 at 9:10 p.m.||February 11 at 7:10 a.m.||A||Canada v OAR|
|February 12 at 4:40 p.m.||February 12 at 2:40 a.m.||B||Switzerland v Japan||NBC Sports Network|
|February 12 at 9:10 p.m.||February 12 at 7:10 a.m.||B||Sweden v Korea||NBC Sports Network|
|February 13 at 4:40 p.m.||February 13 at 2:40 a.m.||A||Canada v Finland||NBC Sports Network|
|February 13 at 9:10 p.m.||February 13 at 7:10 a.m.||A||USA v OAR||NBC Sports Network|
|February 14 at 12:10 p.m.||February 13 at 10:10 pm||B||Sweden v Switzerland||NBC Sports Network|
|February 14 at 4:40 p.m.||February 14 at 2:40 a.m.||B||Korea v Japan||USA|
|February 15 at 12:10 p.m.||February 14 at 10:10 pm||A||USA v Canada||NBC Sports Network|
|February 15 at 4:40 p.m.||February 15 at 2:40 a.m.||A||OAR v Finland||USA|
|February 17 at 12:10 p.m.||February 16 at 10:10 pm||QF||Quarterfinals||CNBC|
|February 17 at 4:40 p.m.||February 17 at 2:40 a.m.||QF||Quarterfinals||USA|
|February 18 at 12:10 p.m.||February 17 at 10:10 pm||CONS||Classification (5-8 place)|
|February 18 at 4:40 p.m.||February 18 at 2:40 a.m.||CONS||Classification (5-8 place)|
|February 19 at 1:10 p.m.||February 18 at 11:10 pm||SF||Semifinals||NBC Sports Network|
|February 19 at 9:10 p.m.||February 19 at 7:10 a.m.||SF||Semifinals||NBC Sports Network|
|February 20 at 12:10 p.m.||February 19 at 10:10 pm||CONS||Classification (7-8 place)|
|February 20 at 4:40 p.m.||February 20 at 2:40 a.m.||CONS||Classification (5-6 place)|
|February 21 at 4:40 p.m.||February 21 at 2:40 a.m.||BMG||Bronze Medal Game||USA|
|February 22 at 1:10 p.m.||February 21 at 11:10 pm||GMG||Gold Medal Game||NBC Sports Network|
And now, the men’s tournament:
|2018 men’s Tournament|
|Date/Time in PyeongChang||Date/Time (EST)||Group/
|Matchup||USA Live Broadcast|
|February 14 at 9:10 p.m.||February 14 at 7:10 a.m.||B||Slovakia v OAR||USA|
|February 14 at 9:10 p.m.||February 14 at 7:10 a.m.||B||USA v Slovenia||NBC Sports Network|
|February 15 at 12:10 p.m.||February 14 at 10:10 pm||C||Finland v Germany||CNBC|
|February 15 at 4:40 p.m.||February 15 at 2:40 a.m.||C||Norway v Sweden||NBC Sports Network|
|February 15 at 9:10 p.m.||February 15 at 7:10 a.m.||A||Czech Republic v South Korea||USA|
|February 15 at 9:10 p.m.||February 15 at 7:10 a.m.||A||Switzerland v Canada||NBC Sports Network|
|February 16 at 12:10 p.m.||February 15 at 10:10 pm||B||USA v Slovakia||CNBC|
|February 16 at 4:40 p.m.||February 16 at 2:40 a.m.||B||OAR v Slovenia||NBC Sports Network|
|February 16 at 9:10 p.m.||February 16 at 7:10 a.m.||C||Finland v Norway||USA|
|February 16 at 9:10 p.m.||February 16 at 7:10 a.m.||C||Sweden v Germany||NBC Sports Network|
|February 17 at 12:10 p.m.||February 16 at 10:10 p.m.||A||Canada v Czech Republic||NBC Sports Network|
|February 17 at 4:40 p.m.||February 17 at 2:40 a.m.||A||South Korea v Switzerland||NBC Sports Network|
|February 17 at 9:10 p.m.||February 17 at 7:10 a.m.||B||OAR v USA||NBC Sports Network|
|February 17 at 9:10 p.m.||February 17 at 7:10 a.m.||B||Slovenia v Slovakia||USA|
|February 18 at 12:10 p.m.||February 17 at 10:10 pm||C||Germany v Norway||NBC Sports Network|
|February 18 at 4:40 p.m.||February 18 at 2:40 a.m.||A||Czech Republic v Switzerland||NBC Sports Network|
|February 18 at 9:10 p.m.||February 18 at 7:10 a.m.||A||Canada v South Korea||USA|
|February 18 at 9:10 p.m.||February 18 at 7:10 a.m.||C||Sweden v Finland||NBC Sports Network|
|February 20 at 12:10 p.m.||February 19 at 10:10 pm||Q||Qualifications||NBC Sports Network|
|February 20 at 4:40 p.m.||February 20 at 2:40 a.m.||Q||Qualifications||NBC Sports Network|
|February 20 at 9:10 p.m.||February 20 at 7:10 a.m.||Q||Qualifications||USA|
|February 20 at 9:10 p.m.||February 20 at 7:10 a.m.||Q||Qualifications||NBC Sports Network|
|February 21 at 12:10 p.m.||February 20 at 10:10 pm||QF||Quarterfinals||CNBC|
|February 21 at 4:40 p.m.||February 21 at 2:40 a.m.||QF||Quarterfinals||NBC Sports Network|
|February 21 at 9:10 p.m.||February 21 at 7:10 a.m.||QF||Quarterfinals||NBC Sports Network|
|February 21 at 9:10 p.m.||February 21 at 7:10 a.m.||QF||Quarterfinals||USA|
|February 23 at 4:40 p.m.||February 23 at 2:40 a.m.||SF||Semifinals||NBC Sports Network|
|February 23 at 9:10 p.m.||February 23 at 7:10 a.m.||SF||Semifinals||NBC Sports Network|
|February 24 at 9:10 p.m.||February 24 at 7:10 a.m.||BMG||Bronze Medal Game||NBC Sports Network|
|February 25 at 1:10 p.m.||February 24 at 11:10 pm||GMG||Gold Medal Game||NBC Sports Network|
A master schedule is available at the bottom of this article, but there’s one question left to answer first.
So, who’s going for the gold?
Ah, perhaps the most important question of them all.
As we’ve been doing this whole time, we’ll stick with tradition and predict the women’s tournament first.
Just examining the format of the tournament, the IIHF and the IOC are simply begging for another Gold Medal Game between Canada and the United States, the world’s top-two ranked women’s teams.
There’s obviously potential for either team to stumble in a group that features the four best squads in the world and be forced to play in the quarterfinals, but I just don’t see it happening. Should my prediction prove correct, the world’s best teams would square off in a third-straight Olympic Final, with Canada playing for its fifth-consecutive gold.
As for the men’s tournament, it’s been well reported that the NHL keeping its players at home will play a major role in determining which nations are taking home hardware.
In my opinion, that leaves the door wide open for the Olympic Athletes from Russia, especially since they’re playing in what I believe to be the weakest group of the bunch. The OAR boasts players such as F Pavel Datsyuk, C Mikhail Grigorenko, W Ilya Kovalchuk, D Alexey Marchenko, D Nikita Nesterov and F Vadim Shipachyov – all of whom have NHL experience. Tack on the fact that they all play in the second-best league in the world, and they’re more than prepared for every challenge that can come their way in Pyeongchang.
Of course, we all saw what happened the last time the Russians were favorites to win the Olympics. Should this team crumble like 2014’s squad (even though F T.J. Oshie will be preoccupied playing with the best Russian player in the world, W Alex Ovechkin), I’m leaning towards the winner of the mini Euro Cup taking full advantage. All four of those teams are in the top-10 of the current IIHF World Rankings, with Sweden and Finland respectively leading the way as numbers 3 and 4.
But don’t leave the predicting work to me. Here’s what all of us here at Down the Frozen River – and even our old pal Frank Fanelli, now of Student Union Sports – think is going to happen:
|Down the Frozen River’s Olympic Picks|
It seems I’m not alone in my prediction of a Canada-USA Gold Medal match in the women’s tournament! All seven of us have the two squaring off in the final, with a slim majority believing Captain Meghan Duggan and co. can lead Team USA to its first gold since 1998.
As for the women’s Bronze Medal game, we’re leaning towards a Scandinavian country taking home some hardware – with most of us favoring Sweden over Finland. However, Colby and I think underdogs are going to make it to the semifinals before falling, as I’m pegging the fourth-ranked Olympic Athletes from Russia to end up in fourth and Colby’s picking ninth-ranked Japan.
In the men’s tournament, it seems Sweden is the nearly consensus favorite to come away with the medals that match its tri-crowned sweaters. However, who Captain Joel Lundqvist‘s – yes, the twin brother of the Rangers’ G Henrik Lundqvist – team beats in that Gold Medal game is anyone’s guess, as we’ve picked four different teams to take home silver.
We seem to be in a bit more agreement about the winner of the bronze medal, as four of us have pegged Captain Chris Kelly‘s Team Canada to come home with its third-consecutive medal.
While we may all have our own rooting interests, I think we can all agree that this should be a fun and exciting two weeks of hockey.
|2018 Olympic Hockey Tournament|
|Date/Time in PyeongChang||Date/Time (EST)||Sex||Group/
|Matchup||USA Live Broadcast|
|February 10 at 4:40 p.m.||February 10 at 2:40 a.m.||W||B||Japan v Sweden|
|February 10 at 9:10 p.m.||February 10 at 7:10 a.m.||W||B||Switzerland v Korea||USA|
|February 11 at 4:40 p.m.||February 11 at 2:40 a.m.||W||A||Finland v USA||NBC Sports Network|
|February 11 at 9:10 p.m.||February 11 at 7:10 a.m.||W||A||Canada v OAR|
|February 12 at 4:40 p.m.||February 12 at 2:40 a.m.||W||B||Switzerland v Japan||NBC Sports Network|
|February 12 at 9:10 p.m.||February 12 at 7:10 a.m.||W||B||Sweden v Korea||NBC Sports Network|
|February 13 at 4:40 p.m.||February 13 at 2:40 a.m.||W||A||Canada v Finland||NBC Sports Network|
|February 13 at 9:10 p.m.||February 13 at 7:10 a.m.||W||A||USA v OAR||NBC Sports Network|
|February 14 at 12:10 p.m.||February 13 at 10:10 pm||W||B||Sweden v Switzerland||NBC Sports Network|
|February 14 at 4:40 p.m.||February 14 at 2:40 a.m.||W||B||Korea v Japan||USA|
|February 14 at 9:10 p.m.||February 14 at 7:10 a.m.||M||B||Slovakia v OAR||USA|
|February 14 at 9:10 p.m.||February 14 at 7:10 a.m.||M||B||USA v Slovenia||NBC Sports Network|
|February 15 at 12:10 p.m.||February 14 at 10:10 pm||W||A||USA v Canada||NBC Sports Network|
|February 15 at 12:10 p.m.||February 14 at 10:10 pm||M||C||Finland v Germany||CNBC|
|February 15 at 4:40 p.m.||February 15 at 2:40 a.m.||W||A||OAR v Finland||USA|
|February 15 at 4:40 p.m.||February 15 at 2:40 a.m.||M||C||Norway v Sweden||NBC Sports Network|
|February 15 at 9:10 p.m.||February 15 at 7:10 a.m.||M||A||Czech Republic v South Korea||USA|
|February 15 at 9:10 p.m.||February 15 at 7:10 a.m.||M||A||Switzerland v Canada||NBC Sports Network|
|February 16 at 12:10 p.m.||February 15 at 10:10 pm||M||B||USA v Slovakia||CNBC|
|February 16 at 4:40 p.m.||February 16 at 2:40 a.m.||M||B||OAR v Slovenia||NBC Sports Network|
|February 16 at 9:10 p.m.||February 16 at 7:10 a.m.||M||C||Finland v Norway||USA|
|February 16 at 9:10 p.m.||February 16 at 7:10 a.m.||M||C||Sweden v Germany||NBC Sports Network|
|February 17 at 12:10 p.m.||February 16 at 10:10 pm||W||QF||Quarterfinals||CNBC|
|February 17 at 12:10 p.m.||February 16 at 10:10 p.m.||M||A||Canada v Czech Republic||NBC Sports Network|
|February 17 at 4:40 p.m.||February 17 at 2:40 a.m.||W||QF||Quarterfinals||USA|
|February 17 at 4:40 p.m.||February 17 at 2:40 a.m.||M||A||South Korea v Switzerland||NBC Sports Network|
|February 17 at 9:10 p.m.||February 17 at 7:10 a.m.||M||B||OAR v USA||NBC Sports Network|
|February 17 at 9:10 p.m.||February 17 at 7:10 a.m.||M||B||Slovenia v Slovakia||USA|
|February 18 at 12:10 p.m.||February 17 at 10:10 pm||M||C||Germany v Norway||NBC Sports Network|
|February 18 at 12:10 p.m.||February 17 at 10:10 pm||W||CONS||Classification (5-8 place)|
|February 18 at 4:40 p.m.||February 18 at 2:40 a.m.||M||A||Czech Republic v Switzerland||NBC Sports Network|
|February 18 at 4:40 p.m.||February 18 at 2:40 a.m.||W||CONS||Classification (5-8 place)|
|February 18 at 9:10 p.m.||February 18 at 7:10 a.m.||M||A||Canada v South Korea||USA|
|February 18 at 9:10 p.m.||February 18 at 7:10 a.m.||M||C||Sweden v Finland||NBC Sports Network|
|February 19 at 1:10 p.m.||February 18 at 11:10 pm||W||SF||Semifinals||NBC Sports Network|
|February 19 at 9:10 p.m.||February 19 at 7:10 a.m.||W||SF||Semifinals||NBC Sports Network|
|February 20 at 12:10 p.m.||February 19 at 10:10 pm||M||Q||Qualifications||NBC Sports Network|
|February 20 at 12:10 p.m.||February 19 at 10:10 pm||W||CONS||Classification (7-8 place)|
|February 20 at 4:40 p.m.||February 20 at 2:40 a.m.||M||Q||Qualifications||NBC Sports Network|
|February 20 at 4:40 p.m.||February 20 at 2:40 a.m.||W||CONS||Classification (5-6 place)|
|February 20 at 9:10 p.m.||February 20 at 7:10 a.m.||M||Q||Qualifications||USA|
|February 20 at 9:10 p.m.||February 20 at 7:10 a.m.||M||Q||Qualifications||NBC Sports Network|
|February 21 at 12:10 p.m.||February 20 at 10:10 pm||M||QF||Quarterfinals||CNBC|
|February 21 at 4:40 p.m.||February 21 at 2:40 a.m.||W||BMG||Bronze Medal Game||USA|
|February 21 at 4:40 p.m.||February 21 at 2:40 a.m.||M||QF||Quarterfinals||NBC Sports Network|
|February 21 at 9:10 p.m.||February 21 at 7:10 a.m.||M||QF||Quarterfinals||NBC Sports Network|
|February 21 at 9:10 p.m.||February 21 at 7:10 a.m.||M||QF||Quarterfinals||USA|
|February 22 at 1:10 p.m.||February 21 at 11:10 pm||W||GMG||Gold Medal Game||NBC Sports Network|
|February 23 at 4:40 p.m.||February 23 at 2:40 a.m.||M||SF||Semifinals||NBC Sports Network|
|February 23 at 9:10 p.m.||February 23 at 7:10 a.m.||M||SF||Semifinals||NBC Sports Network|
|February 24 at 9:10 p.m.||February 24 at 7:10 a.m.||M||BMG||Bronze Medal Game||NBC Sports Network|
|February 25 at 1:10 p.m.||February 24 at 11:10 pm||M||GMG||Gold Medal Game||NBC Sports Network|
The Western Conference leading Vegas Golden Knights entered their bye week at exactly 41 games played.
Due to an unintentional– completely accidental– oversight on my behalf, I didn’t remember to look at their stats after 40 games played (like I normally would every 20 games throughout the season). But for the perfectionists in the world out there– it’s better to split things right down the middle.
Vegas is back in action for the second half of their inaugural season on Saturday after going 29-10-2 (60 points) in their first 41 games in franchise history.
Earlier in the week, I pointed out that the New Jersey Devils have been quite a pleasant surprise this season. Of course, I made sure to mention the Golden Knights as one of the other pleasant surprises.
It’s not that nobody expected this team to fail as much as all the other expansion teams in the 100-year history of the league.
Given the talent pool to choose from and the overall development of professional hockey players/the league itself since the 1990s (it’s a younger, faster, game where great players last well into their 30s and good players are buried in the AHL or playing overseas by the time they’re 30-35 years old), it really shouldn’t surprise anyone that the Golden Knights are at the very least, a competitive– young– team.
Even still, it’s been quite the euphoric ride.
A team that poached the Florida Panthers– and many others– at the 2017 Expansion Draft, laid the foundation in 50-plus point scorer, Jon Marchessault, let alone with three-time Stanley Cup champion goaltender, Marc-Andre Fleury. Surely they would have some highlights in their first season.
Nobody could’ve imagined that same team would be seriously considering keeping Fleury or a guy like James Neal at the trade deadline in the midst of what could shape up to be a long playoff run in their first season, but alas, here we are.
It’s more than just “Real Deal” James Neal in Sin City. The Golden Knights are the real deal.
And their forecasted stats for the remaining half of the regular season show it. Though now is about the time where I make sure to mention one little standard disclaimer– my degree is in communication– not math– so any miscalculations or accolades that seem nearly impossible to ascertain are Microsoft Excel’s fault.
Vegas Golden Knights Projections Through 41 Games (41 Games Remaining)
Simply put, Erik Haula (26-24–50 expected totals), William Karlsson (32-23–55 expected totals) and Marchessault (30-38–68 expected totals) are blazing through the rest of the league and showing no signs of flaming out any time soon.
On defense, Deryk Engelland, Colin Miller, Nate Schmidt and Shea Theodore have been leading the charge from the blue line all season long. For Engelland, the adopted son of Las Vegas, a revitalized season defending the league’s newest team might just keep him playing in his backyard for longer than just this season.
Miller and Schmidt were expected to take on more pronounced top-4 roles with the expectation that at least one of them would develop into a surefire top-2 shutdown defenseman. Miller should max out around 40 points, while Schmidt should put up a cool 30-point season in his first year outside of the United States capital.
After being sent to the AHL early on in the season, Shea Theodore was only motivated to work harder.
It wasn’t that he was not desired by an NHL team as clearly Vegas saw value in his game at the Expansion Draft, claiming Theodore from the Anaheim Ducks. Now that the Golden Knights front office and coaches have righted their wrong, Theodore could very well put up 24 points on the season in what is– by all means– a breakout season for the defenseman entering his prime.
In the net, the Golden Knights have been spectacular. Not only has general manager, George McPhee, come away looking even more like the genius that he already is, but Vegas is stacked at depth in the crease.
Malcolm Subban‘s playing like a backup that’s capable of taking on a starting role. That’ll be something to keep an eye on, given Fleury’s aging out of his prime– though he has yet to show it. It’s not often that a team has the right pieces to play two goalies almost equally in minutes and be successful.
Thomas played his last game as a Bruin in 2012. Luongo was traded by the Canucks in 2014– a year after Vancouver dumped Schneider in New Jersey.
Two tremendous goalies are better than one from a team record standpoint, but at some point general managers are either forced with a difficult decision due to the salary cap or fall into the fallacy that is the “there can only be one” mantra.
And Gerard Gallant might end up with some tough decisions down the stretch regarding who to start each night, reminiscent of Mike Sullivan‘s Fleury-Matt Murray swapping during en route to Pittsburgh’s 2016 and 2017 Stanley Cup championships.
Nonetheless, Oscar Dansk filled in flawlessly when Fleury and Subban were out of the lineup with injuries. Meanwhile, Maxime Lagace performed on another level shortly after Dansk’s introduction to the game when Dansk went down himself due to injury.
With enough depth in goal to try to get something good in return, the ball is in Vegas’s court as the trade deadline approaches. Though the Golden Knights don’t have to rush things. A little competition for every goaltending job isn’t always a bad thing.
Being in first place in the Western Conference isn’t good enough for the Golden Knights. They’ve got their sights set even higher, like on a 2018 Stanley Cup Final run, for instance.
Sin City is looking to shine like gold. Vegas wants the Cup.
By now I’m sure you’re all tired of hearing and reading what I have said and written about the Boston Bruins, so let’s check out how some former Bruins– Colin Miller, Reilly Smith and Malcolm Subban— are doing.
The Vegas Golden Knights have redefined what it means to be an expansion team in the modern NHL. They’re leading the Pacific Division at the American Thanksgiving mark, you guys. Clearly this means they’ll be the 2018 Stanley Cup champions and all of my work will be for nothing.
But seriously though, part of me thinks the Golden Knights will for sure make the playoffs. As for how far they’ll go, well, let’s just save us all the surprise of the potential postseason for when it gets here. How’s that sound?
Now without saying too much more, keep in mind my degree is in communication– not math– so blame anything that looks strange on Microsoft Excel instead of me, thanks.
Remember that sometimes what you see below is pure speculation, pure “potential” (*ahem* Alex Tuch) and a bunch of nonsense that all relates to how much a player has played thus far in their career combined with how they’re tracking through the first 20 games the team in Sin City has played.
Here’s a look at how every player in Vegas should pan out over the next 62 games remaining in the 2017-2018 regular season.
Vegas Golden Knights Projections Through 20 Games (62 Games Remaining)
Without any real surprises from Jonathan Marchessault, James Neal, David Perron and Reilly Smith, the Golden Knights biggest surprise at forward has been William Karlsson. Karlsson’s hot scoring hands look to continue throughout the season, setting what should be career highs in goals, assists and points (of course).
Tomas Nosek should be fun to watch if you’re into depth scoring.
It’s safe to say that we all expected Colin Miller and Nate Schmidt to emerge as high caliber defensemen, but what’s even more incredible is that they’re doing so while the rest of their teammates on the blue line are also contributing immensely to the assist column.
Sure, it’ll be great to see Deryk Engelland put away a few more pucks in the back of the net than he did last season, but consider the scoring potential of Shea Theodore now that Golden Knights general manager, George McPhee, has done the right thing in regards to calling him up and giving him a go. Clearly Gerard Gallant knows what he’s doing with this one.
Though it wouldn’t hurt to recall Jason Garrison and send Griffin Reinhart to the Chicago Wolves (AHL). Especially since Garrison could actually contribute to the team, while Reinhart sits in the press box as a healthy scratch from night-to-night.
In addition to the pleasant surprises we’ve seen from all of the skaters, consider the impressive depth in the crease the Golden Knights have stockpiled behind the eventual return of Marc-Andre Fleury to fortress in front of the twine.
Malcolm Subban’s settling into a NHL career, while Maxime Lagace— albeit a non-competitor for the backup job currently– should pan out just fine in future years. What a find, Vegas.
If Oscar Dansk can ever make it back to dancing with the NHL level of the game, don’t be surprised to see a few heads turning around the rest of the league and some trade offers being made. Vegas is in good shape to have a plethora of established youth in goal, considering the injuries the Montreal Canadiens are currently facing and/or the potential future goaltender injuries for other teams.
Vegas just might make the playoffs as they continue to stake their claim as “the greatest expansion franchise in league history (if not all major North American professional sports)”.
Oh, and their Corsi is pretty good too, but I digress.
If you’re interested in seeing what was expected before a puck dropped this season, check out my initial projections for the inaugural Vegas Golden Knights season.
Nick checks in with Colby Kephart and Frank Fanelli (of Student Union Sports) on Radko Gudas’s suspension, the Buffalo Sabres, Philadelphia Flyers and Chance The Rapper’s SNL skit for the ages. Also discussed, the overabundance of outdoor games featuring teams that are obviously stuck in a revolving door of outdoor games.
And be sure to check out our newest extension of the product, DTFR Overtime, this week where Nick retroactively wrote about a topic from last week’s episode.
Nick, Connor and Cap’n recap the Matt Duchene trade and pick a winnner(s). The crew also discussed how good the Tampa Bay Lightning are and how the Montreal Canadiens haven’t been smart with asset management in recent years and where they could go from here.
Player of the Week: Jakub Voracek
Stealthy good. Not only an apt description of the big Flyers winger’s week (and season), but really of his entire career. Voracek has been one of the best ‘under-the-radar’ players in the league for some time, and this week he was really flying (pun somewhat intended). On a team that finished the week 1-2-0, Voracek was a major bright spot, tallying 2 points in every game. The Kladno, CZE native notched an assist on both Flyers goals in a 6-2 thumping against Anaheim, then tallied 1 & 1 in each of their next two contests (a 5-4 loss to Ottawa and 4-2 victory over Toronto). Oddly, not a single one of his 6 points in those 3 games came on the power play, an area where Voracek usually excels.
Side note: Though Voracek is currently 3rd in points in the entire league (trailing only Tampa’s dynamic duo of Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov), those goals in back to back games were just his 1st and 2nd tallies of the year. He’s 2nd in the league in assists with 14.
Team of the Week: Los Angeles Kings
One of the league’s resident surprises, LA has surged to the top of the standings with a 9-1-1 record, and though they suffered their first regulation loss this week, it wasn’t enough to prevent them earning this recognition.
With 8 players having recorded at least 5 points so far in the young season, and a goaltending duo both boasting sub-2.00 GAAs and >.930 save percentages, the resurgent Kings are getting contributions from seemingly everyone. Dustin Brown has burst back to life after multiple subpar seasons, seemingly flourishing in the system of new coach John Stevens. Anze Kopitar continues to make an argument for being possibly the most undervalued center in the league, and youngster Adrian Kempe has been sublime.
Only a 3-2 loss to Toronto managed to blemish an otherwise-flawless week, as the Kings toppled Ottawa 3-2, Montreal 4-0, and Boston 2-1. A long summer and a fresh face behind the bench may have been just what the doctor ordered for the battle-weary club, and other clubs may need to start worrying about how to deal with a Cup-hungry LA franchise once again.
Game of the Week: Dallas Stars 4 @ Edmonton Oilers 5, Thursday October 26th
I admittedly have an affinity to games decided in extra frames when it comes to this award, but the Stars and Oilers simply put on a barn-burner too good to ignore.
One of those matchups that just looks like it’s going to be fun on paper (two high-octane offenses backed up by less-than-stellar defenses), this tilt certainly delivered. 9 goals (3 on the power play), 67 shots, 56 hits, and even a fight (okay, more of a facial reconstruction on Antoine Roussel by Eric Gryba), this one had plenty of everything.
The opening period started with a bit of a goaltending duel, with Ben Bishop and Cam Talbot both making a handful of quality stops in the opening half of the frame. But as a penalty to Ryan Strome was expiring just past the 11 minute mark, Leon Draisaitl collected a loose puck and fought through a check along the boards to push the puck ahead to the newly-freed Strome, who flicked a no-look backhand from the boards into the middle of the ice, feeding a streaking Connor McDavid in full stride, who proceeded to shelf the puck over the blocker side of Bishop to give the hometown Oilers the 1-0 lead. A see-saw contest would develop from there, as just over 1 minute later opposing captain Jamie Benn would bury a sweet feed from Alex Radulov to knot things up. Patrick Maroon would see a centering attempt turn into a goal after bouncing off the skate of Dallas defender Marc Methot and into the net with just 25 seconds to play in the opening frame, sending the Oil to the locker room with a 2-1 lead.
Radulov and Benn would both tally power-play goals in the 2nd, with a Ryan Nugent-Hopkins goal splitting the two and sending the game into the 3rd period tied at 3. To break the streak of trading goals, Esa Lindell would bury Dallas’ 3rd PP tally after receiving a sweet cross-ice slap-pass from Jason Spezza just over halfway through the 3rd, giving the Stars their first lead of the night. Unfortunately for the Dallas faithful it would last just shy of 2 minutes, as RNH would net his second of the night to draw even at 4. Then with less than 3 to play, defenseman Matt Benning would give Draisaitl his 3rd assist of the night by burying a one-timer from the point (with a bit of help from the skate of Alexander Radulov) and giving the Oilers the final lead of the game.
News, Notes, & Nonsense:
Seriously, Golden Knights, about this Twitter campaign to be the next winning goaltender for your franchise? Oscar Dansk is 3-0-0 after being handed the starting job when both Marc-Andre Fleury and Malcolm Subban went down with injuries, and boasts a ridiculous 1.34 GAA and .959 save percentage, along with a shutout.
I’m starting to actually believe anyone wearing goalie equipment could win the Vezina with this team.
Speaking of roster vacancies in Vegas, Vadim Shipachyov earned himself a suspension by going all ‘Russian’ on the franchise after being sent down to the AHL. He has supposedly gone AWOL from the Chicago Wolves, and his future with the Golden Knights (and potentially the NHL altogether) is looking pretty well decided.
Alex Ovechkin made headlines off the ice, as the Capitals superstar went out of his way to buy a sweater, coat, and hat for a shirtless homeless man he spotted while walking in Edmonton. Ovie downplayed his actions and attempted to avoid questions about it in interviews, stating that “It was nothing,” following up with “I think if you saw a guy almost naked out there with a cold temperature, I think every human can do something, a coat, a shirt, or whatever.” Autograph hounds throughout the league were seen disrobing and untidying their hair soon after word of Ovie’s actions reached the airwaves*.
*- I assume
Kevin Bieksa successfully utilized a ‘Superman Punch’ in a fight for the 2nd time in his career, with both instances occurring against the Philadelphia Flyers. Radko Gudas was on the receiving end of this most recent entry, while years ago it was Mike Richards. This does beg the question of why you would choose to fight Kevin Bieksa.
The Habs and Rangers had a contest to see who was the least worst, and in fitting fashion, it was an ugly thing. 9 total goals on Carey Price and Henrik Lundqvist, the former getting the…better?…of the latter, with both teams looking sloppy and discombobulated. I suppose either team can take solace in knowing they are better than Arizona, but I don’t know exactly how much solace can actually be taken from that knowledge.
Can Arizona go an entire season without a victory? I think we should all get behind them in their efforts to set the least enviable record in hockey history. 10 down, 72 to go.
Nick, Connor and Cap’n address the news and notes from the past week of NHL action, discuss the demise of Antti Niemi, as well as take a gamble on the Vegas Golden Knights. The Los Angeles Kings are good (and lucky, according to Cap’n) and the Montreal Canadiens are bad (very bad). Also, Dwayne Roloson was 42 in 2011 (not 39).
Nick and Colby are joined by the Cap’n this week as the trio discuss the Vegas Golden Knights home opener, bad starts for the Arizona Coyotes, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers and San Jose Sharks, as well as other thoughts around the league. The New York Islanders really need an arena and the Carolina Hurricanes really need some fans.