With Vancouver one point off division lead, what’s behind Vegas’ slump?

Vancouver Canucks captain Quinn Hughes discusses their upcoming matchup with the division-leading Vegas Golden Knights and potentially taking the division lead from them.

The Vegas Golden Knights’ start to this season was the best ever by a reigning Stanley Cup champion. They won their first seven games, beating the previous record of five, and 11 of their first 12.

After fighting off the dreaded championship hangover for nearly a month, the Golden Knights have hit their first slump. Vegas has lost eight of 11 (3-5-3) ahead of its matchup Thursday against the Vancouver Canucks, who trail the Golden Knights by one point in the Pacific Division. (Vancouver has cut Vegas’ lead in the division by five points since Nov. 4.)

The Golden Knights’ offence has cooled off considerably over the past few weeks. They have scored 11 fewer goals than expected in all situations since their skid started Nov. 5, by far the worst mark in the NHL over that span.

Golden Knights players have reason to be frustrated, but they should be encouraged by the fact that they have continued to generate plenty of scoring chances. At 5-on-5, Vegas is averaging 18.8 chances per game during its slump, up from 17.0 per game before it started.

“Are we going to get down because we’re not scoring, or are we going to be excited because we’re getting the opportunities and eventually we will score?” Golden Knights coach Bruce Cassidy told reporters recently. “We can’t get down on ourselves because the opportunities are there.”

Cassidy also said that he was pleased with his team’s defensive performance despite its recent record. Scoring chances against per game at 5-on-5 are virtually the same over the past 11 games (15.1) versus the first 12 (14.8).

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“It’s allowed guys to be able to play through some scoring slumps,” Cassidy said. “That’s an identity of our team. No matter what, we’re still in the game. We’re right there. That’s the good news.”

Rarely do teams make it through an entire season without experiencing a slump of some kind. Because of the Golden Knights’ red-hot start, their recent struggles look worse than they actually are. Once the puck starts going in again, the Golden Knights will be fine.

“When things are going really well, you kind of take it for granted,” Golden Knights defenceman Alex Pietrangelo told reporters. “Every team goes through stretches like this. We’re too good to not get out of it.”

All stats via Sportlogiq

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