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Vegas Golden Knights season update: Champions looking to seize more chances

The Vegas Golden Knights made the Stanley Cup Finals against the odds in their debut NHL season in 2017/18, and they subsequently proved that was no fluke.

They have proved one of the most consistently strong regular-season teams and a dangerous playoff opponent, reaching the postseason in all their first four years in the league.

They missed the dance in 2022, which led to coach Peter DeBoer being let go and replaced by ex-Boston Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy, and they bounced back to win the Stanley Cup last season.

Vegas Golden Knights 2023/24 NHL season odds

To win Stanley Cup+800
To win Western Conference+350
To win Pacific Division+140

Stellar start to Cup defence

Vegas's title defence began in stunning style as they went on a seven-game winning streak to start the campaign. That rates as the best start by a championship-winning team in league history.

They didn't face the toughest schedule in that time, but five of the wins were by at least a two-goal margin. Only one went beyond 60 minutes, a 3-2 shootout win over the dangerous Dallas Stars.

Their juggernaut was halted by an OT loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, but they responded with a run of four straight wins, culminating in a 7-0 demolition of Western Conference big guns Colorado Avalanche.

Scoring issues lead to a rough patch

Things went a bit awry for the Golden Knights after their dream start, as following the Colorado thrashing they won only three of their next 11 games.

The first seven of the eight they lost in that stretch saw them score a total of only seven goals. That is particularly significant when you consider how scoring first affects the Golden Knights. Vegas is 11-1-2 when they strike first, but that record falls to 5-4-3 when they allow the opening goal.

Prior to a 5-4 shootout loss to Edmonton at the end of November, Vegas had gone four games without scoring a five-on-five goal, and relying on special teams will only get a team so far.

Reasons for optimism

The Golden Knights remain at the top of the Western Conference, but their Pacific Division rivals the Los Angeles Kings are six points behind with five games in hand.

However, there are signs Vegas have picked up again and emerged from their slump.

Something significant happened in that loss to Edmonton. The Golden Knights scored twice, at even strength, in the last six-and-a-half minutes of the game to force overtime. And while Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins quickly settled matters in the shootout, it seemed to give Vegas belief again.

They followed up with an important 4-1 win in Vancouver against the Canucks, who are second in the division, and then they took care of the Washington Capitals by the same scoreline back at T-Mobile Arena.

The start of a new streak?

Only a display of brilliance from St Louis goaltender Jordan Binnington prevented Vegas from extending their run to three straight wins. A defensive breakdown just 38 seconds into overtime limited the Golden Knights' return to a single point.

The way they respond to that game could set the tone for the next phase of the season. There were elements of a familiar story. Vegas scored their sole goal on the powerplay and lost a game where they gave up the first goal.

They look like a streaky team, and if that result shakes their confidence in front of goal then they could be set for another rough patch.

What next for the Golden Knights?

Vegas has nine games to play before Christmas, including a quick rematch against St Louis coming up. If they lay the ghosts to rest in that one they could be set to go on a tear.

They head to Dallas after that and end the run-up to Christmas with a tricky trip to Eastern Conference sides Carolina, Tampa Bay and Florida, but between times they host hapless pair Ottawa and San Jose.

Vegas' scoring drought was marked by an inability to finish golden scoring chances, but whether that was bad luck or something more mental is open to question. We know they are great at protecting a lead but they need to be more resilient when falling behind.

Losing defenseman Shea Theodore to long-term injury is a blow, and playoff hero goalie Adin Hill missed the last game, but in general they have been fortunate with health so far.

LA are likely to keep up the pressure, but the tools are there for Vegas to retain their status as best in the West if they can avoid going through another rough patch. 

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