What’s behind Golden Knights’ slow start?

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The Vegas Golden Knights caught the NHL by storm last season. Not only did they manage to dominate during the regular season, they also made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. But things are off to a rocky start this year, which has led many to suggest that they’ve finally come back down to earth. It’s still a little too early to say that the Golden Knights are in trouble, but what’s going on in Vegas?

The Golden Knights are off to a 1-4-0 start. They’ve dropped games to the Flyers, Sabres, Capitals and Penguins, while their only win came in overtime against Minnesota. In five games, they’ve managed to score just 10 goals. They’ve also allowed 19 goals during that time (only two teams have given up more goals this season).

Not having Nate Schmidt has certainly hurt them. The 27-year-old was suspended for the first 20 games of the season for violating the NHL’s anti-drug policy. Last season, Schmidt racked up 36 points while posting a plus-19 rating. He also averaged 22:14 of ice time per game during the regular season and 24:25 in the playoffs. That’s not to say that having Schmidt would in the lineup would erase all their problems, but it couldn’t hurt.

If you take a look at the Golden Knights’ advanced stats through five games, they’re actually pretty good. According to Natural Stat Trick, they currently rank second in CF% (60.83), sixth in FF% (56.81), seventh in SF% (56.67), sixth in SCF% (58.46) and fourth in HDCF% (60.98). Those numbers look great, but there’s more to the story.

The average shooting percentage in the NHL is 10.2 percent so far this season. The Golden Knights’ shooting percentage is currently at 5.2 percent. The average shooting percentage in 2017-18 was 9.2 percent. As you’d imagine, Vegas’ percentage in that category last year was at 10.1 percent. You’d have to imagine that they’ll be able to get that number up at some point in 2018-19.

Getting saves has also been an issue for this team. The average save percentage in the league so far is .899. The duo have Marc-Andre Fleury and Malcolm Subban have combined for a league-worst .846 save percentage. All in all, their PDO comes out 0.917 (shooting percentage + save percentage). That PDO number usually evens out at 100, which means the Golden Knights should be able to score more frequently and prevent the opposition from scoring more. To give you an idea of how bad 0.917 is in this category, the worst PDO in the league last year was the Buffalo Sabres, and they posted a 0.977 PDO.

Also, if you take a look at the schedule, they’ve had to play some pretty tough games. Sure, they dropped their home opener to the Philadelphia Flyers (they had a lead in that game), but they’re also in the midst of a five-game road trip that will conclude in Philly on Saturday night. Starting next week, they’ll play their next five games at T-Mobile Arena against Buffalo, Anaheim, Vancouver, Tampa Bay and Ottawa. A five-game homestand should bring about a few more victories.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.