Las Vegas Sun

November 26, 2020

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Sizing up the competition: A refresher on teams Vegas could face in Western Conference playoffs

Pacioretty Predators


Vegas Golden Knights left wing Max Pacioretty (67), top center, celebrates with teammates after scoring the tying goal against the Nashville Predators with under one second remaining in the third period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. The Golden Knights won 4-3 in overtime.

Up first for the Golden Knights: a win over the Arizona Coyotes in a Thursday exhibition game, followed by round-robin contests against the Dallas Stars on Monday, St. Louis Blues on Thursday and Colorado Avalanche on Aug. 8.

Odds to win the Stanley Cup

Vegas Golden Knights 6-to-1

Boston Bruins 7-to-1

Tampa Bay Lightning 7-to-1

Colorado Avalanche 8-to-1

St. Louis Blues 10-to-1

Philadelphia Flyers 12-to-1

Toronto Maple Leafs 12-to-1

Washington Capitals 12-to-1

Dallas Stars 14-to-1

Pittsburgh Penguins 18-to-1

Edmonton Oilers 30-to-1

Nashville Predators 40-to-1

Arizona Coyotes 50-to-1

Calgary Flames 50-to-1

Carolina Hurricanes 50-to-1

New York Rangers 50-to-1

Vancouver Canucks 50-to-1

Winnipeg Jets 50-to-1

Minnesota Wild 60-to-1

Florida Panthers 80-to-1

New York Islanders 80-to-1

Chicago Blackhawks 100-to-1

Columbus Blue Jackets 100-to-1

Montreal Canadiens 100-to-1

(Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook odds at press time)

After that? It’s anyone’s guess. With the round-robin results determining seeding, the Golden Knights could match up with any of the non-round-robin Western Conference teams in the first round. From there, with reseeding every round, the possibilities remain endless. No one can be counted out as a potential opponent, so let’s review the conference’s other 11 playoff teams in the West, listed in order of their seed heading into the tournament.

St. Louis Blues: The defending Stanley Cup champs aren’t giving up the title without a fight. They were the best regular-season team in the West this year, and the only team Vegas has never beaten in regulation.

Player to watch: David Perron. The former Golden Knight continues to produce for St. Louis, sitting tied for the team lead with 25 goals.

VGK record against this season: 2-1 (even goal differential).

Colorado Avalanche: No team has beaten down Vegas quite like Colorado. The Avalanche are fast and led the Western Conference in goals this season with solid goaltending and defense around their potent offense.

Player to watch: Nathan MacKinnon. He’s a Hart Trophy finalist this year, but has only one goal (to go with seven assists) in eight all-time meetings against the Golden Knights.

VGK record against this season: 0-2 (-9 goal differential).

Dallas Stars: They won’t score a ton, but they won’t give up much, either. Goalie Ben Bishop backstops perhaps the best defensive scheme in the Western Conference.

Player to watch: Miro Heiskanen. At 20 years old, he’s the future for Dallas’ defensive unit after a breakout year that saw him finish second on the team in assists behind star Tyler Seguin.

VGK record against this season: 1-1 (-1 goal differential).

Edmonton Oilers: The Oilers have a two-headed monster: Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Stopping them is unlikely, so opponents’ best formula is to focus on thoroughly beating the other 21 players on the roster.

Player to watch: McDavid. He’s the best player in the world and can control a game on his own. He has 15 points in 10 career games against Vegas.

VGK record against this season: 2-1 (+2 goal differential).

Nashville Predators: The Predators made it to the Cup Final as recently as 2017. Even in a relative down year, they’ll be a tough out thanks to stingy defense and solid goaltending.

Player to watch: Roman Josi. He’s a finalist for the Norris Trophy, awarded to the league’s best defenseman, and paired with Ryan Ellis, forms arguably the NHL’s best blue line.

VGK record against this season: 2-0 (+4 goal differential).

He said it

“He likes to do some of ABBA’s greatest hits. We listen to a lot of ’70s and ’80s together … we like to jam out and sing out to those, a lot of car jams. Worst? I’ve never heard him rap, probably for a good reason.

–Oscar Dansk, on living with William Karlsson during quarantine

Vancouver Canucks: An afterthought coming into the year, the young Canucks have matured ahead of schedule and actually led the Pacific Division for stretches of the season. The Golden Knights have never lost to the Canucks in regulation in franchise history.

Player to watch: Elias Pettersson. He used elite possession numbers during the regular season to bolster a dark horse MVP campaign that saw him rack up 66 points in 68 games.

VGK record against this season: 1-0-1 (+2 goal differential).

Calgary Flames: Calgary might be breathing a sigh of relief that Las Vegas wasn’t chosen as a hub city, since the Flames are winless in six all-time trips to T-Mobile Arena.

Player to watch: Elias Lindholm. He might not be the first player who comes to mind when most consider Calgary’s talented forward group, but he did lead the team with 29 goals this season.

VGK record against this season: 3-0 (+12 goal differential).

Winnipeg Jets: The Jets were one of the worst possession teams in the NHL this year but still beat the Golden Knights twice before the season paused.

Player to watch: Connor Hellebuyck. He should win the Vezina Trophy as the season’s top goalie, and has a case for MVP, too. The Jets’ skaters haven’t been great, and Hellebuyck kept them in the playoff hunt.

VGK record against this season: 0-1-1 (-5 goal differential).

He said it

“Being a father is a whole new experience, the best thing so far that’s happened to me in my life. It was one of the positive things of this current thing, [spending] more time with him.”

–Tomas Nosek, on his son, born in January

Minnesota Wild: A team that has always had the Golden Knights’ number, the Wild play a tight defensive game that can be perplexing. Vegas is just 2-6 all-time against Minnesota.

Player to watch: Jonas Brodin. He might be the most underrated player in the NHL, quietly putting up elite defensive numbers and stabilizing Minnesota’s blue line.

VGK record against this season: 1-1 (-3 goal differential).

Arizona Coyotes: Trades for star wingers Taylor Hall and Phil Kessel haven’t worked out the way Arizona had hoped, but the Coyotes will be hungry playing their first postseason hockey since 2012.

Player to watch: Darcy Kuemper. He’s one of the best goalies in the league when healthy.

VGK record against this season: 2-1 (+0 goal differential).

Chicago Blackhawks: Chicago traded its best goalie to Vegas at the deadline, but this is a team that could still spring an upset or two.

Player to watch: Patrick Kane. He’s stayed on a Hall of Fame path despite his team’s recent struggles. He’s also been nearly a point-per-game player in 127 career playoff games.

VGK record against this season: 2-1 (+2 goal differential).