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Photo Credit: Graphic by Mike Gould

2021 FlamesNation Pacific Preview: Vegas Golden Knights

The Calgary Flames are back in the Pacific Division this season. To get everyone reacquainted with the new divisional foes, we’re previewing every team. 

The Vegas Golden Knights are officially not the newest team in the league as of this season. That being said, they leave the Seattle Kraken with big shoes to fill in their inaugural year. With one more team in their division, a little off-season roster shuffling and one round away from the Stanley Cup Finals last year, what is to be expected from the Golden Knights in 2021-22? 

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2020-21 recap

The Golden Knights continue to be a force in this league, finishing first in the West Division in the 2020-21 season with a 40-14-2 record and 82 points. They entered the quarter-finals of the Stanley Cup playoffs as the second seed in the Western Conference just behind the Colorado Avalanche.

The Golden Knights played a very solid post-season, taking their first series against the Minnesota Wild to seven games. Then against the Colorado Avalanche, they came back from a 2-0 game deficit and defeated the Avs in six games. Montreal was their final challenge as the Stanley Cup runner-ups beat the Golden Knights in six games. 

The Golden Knights showed themselves as a force on the production side of things not only on an individual basis, but also on a team basis. They finished third in the league for goals for and first in the league for goals against. Vegas standouts included Mark Stone with a 61 point season (21G, 40A), Max Pacioretty with a 51 point season (24G, 27A), and Jonathan Marchessault with a 44 point season (18G, 26A) – some production that they really could have used to push past the Habs.

Changes

Perhaps the biggest change that’s impossible not to mention is the departure of Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury had been with the team since the expansion draft when he was selected as the Pittsburgh Penguins’ exposed player and was a large part of the initial image of this team. The drama of the playoffs, and trade talks almost put him in retirement.

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However, that did not end up being the case. He still holds a lot of market value and isn’t quite at his best anymore, but still able to compete at the NHL level. The Chicago Blackhawks saw Fleury’s role change on the Golden Knights as an opportunity and acquired him with one year left (and a $7 million cap hit) on his current contract. Hopefully, he can turn this season into a fresh start and buy some more years in the league.

Other off-season drama to be aware of involves the other Knights goaltender, Robin Lehner. Lehner publicly spoke out earlier this month over Twitter about substance abuse that occurs in the injury recovery process. His thread outlining these accusations can be seen below. 

This is an ongoing conversation that has stirred up discussion but no league actions have been made public.

As far as on-ice changes, a few trades resulted in some key losses and gains for the Las Vegas Golden Knights. Nolan Patrick was a huge acquisition in a three-way trade that moved Cody Glass to the Nashville Predators. Evgenii Dadonov was also picked up in July from the Ottawa Senators in hopes to bring some offensive spark to the lineup. One more loss of note for the Knights was Ryan Reeves, who suffered a lower-body injury in pre-season play with the New York Rangers, but will be ready to go for opening night. 

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As far as player signings go, there were plenty: Mattias Janmark, Laurent Brossoit, Alec Martinez, Patrick Brown, Dylan Coghlan, Nolan Patrick, were all re-signed or acquired as free agents. Gage Quinney and Sven Baertschi signed two-way deals while 2021 draft pick Danlil Chayka signed a three-year entry-level contract before being assigned to the OHL’s Guelph Storm.

2021-22 outlook

For the Golden Knights, this season is about being a contender again. Now is not the time to slip. Sportsnet projected them in their pre-season power rankings to finish the season third in the league. Returning to the Pacific Division should likely secure them the division if not, top three if something out of the ordinary happens. They are really the team to watch out for and the games their other Pacific rivals will have to tighten their skates for and not take lightly. 

The recipe for success for the Golden Knights is not necessarily in the regular season. Robin Lehner is taking the reins as the go-to guy between the pipes, but he has not shown any signs that would suggest he is not prepared for this workload. Their style of play has gotten them deep into the playoffs in seasons prior, this year just requires some more postseason production to take them back to the finals. 

Folks to follow

There are a lot of good folks to follow for Golden Knights content on Twitter:

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Head-to-head

The Flames have three match-ups against the Vegas Golden Knights this year.

  • Dec. 5 in Las Vegas
  • Jan. 15 in Calgary
  • Apr. 14 in Calgary 

Odds and outlook

Based on the odds from our pals at PointsBet, here’s how the Golden Knights stack up within the NHL:

  • To win the Pacific Division: 1.6:1 (favourite)
  • To win the Stanley Cup: 6:1 (second in the NHL, behind only Colorado)
  • Their points over/under: 107.5

The odds are all for the Golden Knights as they should finish the regular season highly ranked, easily securing a playoff spot.

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