Luck hasn’t been going Vegas Golden Knights’ way

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NBC’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Tuesday night’s matchup between the Vegas Golden Knights and the Nashville Predators at 7 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports App by clicking here.

A 5-5-1 record would be exhilarating for most sports teams in their second year of existence, but for the Vegas Golden Knights, it’s an exasperating start.

Part of that is obvious: the Golden Knights took the NHL by storm in their inaugural 2017-18 season, winning the Pacific Division by a mile and making it to the 2018 Stanley Cup Final. Raising the bar isn’t the only reason why things have been frustrating for Vegas, however.

As many expected, the Golden Knights’ run of good luck has cooled off, but they haven’t fallen off in quite the way many forecasted.

[Golden Knights – Predators preview.]

Instead of being exposed as pretenders, so far, it seems like Vegas has been suffering rotten luck. This isn’t just about the unfortunate injury of newly acquired center Paul Stastny, who could be out months, either.

Nope, instead it’s mainly been cruel, old-fashioned bad puck luck.

Perhaps this is the Golden Knights’ true “welcome to the NHL” experience, then. Many teams have felt Vegas’ pain over the years: showering opponents with a barrage of shots, only to not find the net, see the other goalie vastly outplay yours, or a combination of the two.

You can break down Vegas’ robust underlying numbers in both fancy and simple ways, with a simple conclusion: they’ve performed better than their 5-5-1 record would indicate.

Most simply, the Golden Knights have massively outshot their opponents so far in 2018-19, generating 35.1 shots per game (fourth-best in the NHL) while only surrendering 24.1 shots against per game (second-best in the NHL).

Deeper looks continue to shine a positive light on Vegas’ early play.

Using even-strength stats from Natural Stat Trick, you can see that the Golden Knights are a top team in multiple categories. Here’s a quick snapshot of their impressive work, as part of the top 10 teams sorted by Corsi For Percentage:

Team corsi for% high danger% shooting% save%
Carolina 61.25 60.62 7.29 91.84
Vegas 59.84 60.1 5.05 89.81
San Jose 58.56 58.85 6.67 90.09
Florida 54.3 50.74 8.33 89.95
Arizona 53.14 50.26 5.99 94.42
Tampa Bay 52.71 56.89 7.59 90.57
Calgary 52.65 45.35 8.66 91.53
Chicago 52.16 43.93 8.13 92.26
Boston 52.08 54.36 7.92 93.7
Montreal 51.55 46.24 9.09 93.18

The last two categories are key, and hopefully fuel for Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant to keep his foot on the gas. Vegas is pretty much great in the categories they can control: high-danger chances, scoring chances in general, and puck possession.

(Also: The Point Hockey ranks them as tied for fourth-best in generating the most “inner-slot shots” while being the second-best at limiting them, another indication that Vegas is dominating the battle for high-danger opportunities.)

The Golden Knights are almost certain to improve their shooting percentage as the season goes along, and the hope is that Marc-Andre Fleury and their other goalies at least return to a league-average level.

[Filip Forsberg’s going from star to superstar.]

Now, it will be difficult for the Golden Knights to hog the puck on the same level all season long. If nothing else, the pace of play will likely slow during an 82-game season, even for a squad that pushes the pace like Vegas does. It also won’t help to be without Stastny, a center who has been a puck possession wizard basically since people started tracking deeper stats.

Even with those caveats and a disappointing record in mind, the Golden Knights should keep at it, as the numbers indicate that they’re for real.

Of course, just about everyone expected the Golden Knights to run out of bounces last season, so maybe the fix is in against Vegas this time around.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Bruins set NHL record with 12 straight home wins to start season

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
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BOSTON — The Boston Bruins set the NHL record for most home victories to start a season with their 12th straight, topping the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in overtime with a power-play goal from David Pastrnak.

The Bruins broke the mark of 11 that was set by the 1963-64 Chicago Blackhawks and equaled by the Florida Panthers last season.

“That felt awesome,” Bruins first-year coach Jim Montgomery said. “We talked about it after the second (period) going into the third. There’s been a lot of great teams in this league and you’re able to set a precedent, break a record. It’s pretty special and it doesn’t happen if those guys don’t believe in themselves like they do.”

Boston, which trailed 2-0 late in the second period, tied it with 9:33 left in regulation when David Krejci scored his second of the game on a shot from the right point.

“It’s never fun being down going into the third, you’re sitting in here (in the locker room) trying to figure it out,” Krejci said. “You want to come out and do the job, something special on the line. It’s hard to win in this league. To get 12 in a row at home is pretty special.”

In overtime, Carolina was playing shorthanded after being called for too many men on the ice when Pastrnak one-timed a pass from Brad Marchand inside the far post from above the left circle.

“It was a big win for us, obviously, coming from behind,” Pastrnak said.

Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Stefan Noesen each scored a power-play goal for Carolina, and Pyotr Kochetkov made 38 saves. The Hurricanes lost their fifth straight.

In a rematch of last spring’s opening-round playoff series that the Hurricanes won in seven games, Carolina shutout the NHL’s highest scoring team for nearly two periods and jumped ahead a pair of power-play goals in the opening period.

“We took too many penalties. That’s hurting us right now,” Kotaniemi said. “I think 5-on-5 we’re doing a really good job. We started good tonight and couldn’t keep that up.”

Boston’s tying goal was originally disallowed because of goaltender interference on Nick Foligno but overturned on a coach’s challenge after it was ruled that he was nudged into the crease by Carolina defenseman Brett Pesce.

Boston starting goaltender Linus Ullmark made 28 saves but had to leave with 13:03 left in the third period with an undisclosed upper-body injury. Teammate Connor Clifton had jumped on him to block a shot during a scramble. Jeremy Swayman made six stops in relief.

Carolina’s Noesen scored at 6:34 in to make it 1-0. And with five minutes left in the period, Kotkaniemi collected the puck near the side of the net after Seth Jarvis‘ shot bounced off the back glass and slipped it inside the post at 15:05.

Krejci scored for Boston with 31 seconds left in the second.

Boston came in with a league-high 82 goals in 20 games (4.10 per game), but it was held to relatively few chances despite getting a 5-on-3 power-play advantage early on.

TAKE NOTE

The Bruins honored captain Patrice Bergeron, who recorded his 1,000th career point when the team was on the road against Tampa Bay, with a message on the Jumbotron. The crowd gave him a standing ovation.

Bergeron became just the fourth Bruin to reach the mark, joining Hall of Famers Ray Bourque (1,506), Johnny Bucyk (1,339) and Phil Esposito (1,012).

UP NEXT

Hurricanes: Host the Calgary Flames.

Bruins: Host the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Predators postpone 2 games due to Nashville water main break

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. —  The Nashville Predators postponed two home games because of a water main break that soaked their downtown arena.

Hours after the Predators decided they couldn’t play against the Colorado Avalanche, the team announced it also postponed the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Makeup dates for the two games will be announced later.

The NHL said the water main break that occurred “significantly impacted the event level” of Bridgestone Arena. Team locker rooms and the ice surface are on the event level.

Predators President and CEO Sean Henry told reporters that the water in the event level ranged from 3 inches to 3 feet.

“We’re assessing it right now. We’re remediating it,” Henry said. “The good thing is, the water got shut off, the city responded in a pretty fast manner. I don’t think anyone is ready for things like this the Friday after Thanksgiving.”

Video posted by a WTVF-TV reporter shows the water puddled up on the main floor’s concourse area and the team store. The team was forced to close the store until further notice, pointing shoppers online for Black Friday specials.

The Predators’ next home game is now scheduled for Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks.

The water issue also resulted in a switch to a different venue for a college hockey game between Northeastern and Western Michigan. They also had been scheduled to play at Bridgestone Arena, a game that was moved to Ford Ice Center Bellevue.

Rangers trade Ryan Reaves to Wild for 5th-round pick in 2025

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
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ST. PAUL, Minn. — The New York Rangers traded enforcer Ryan Reaves to the Minnesota Wild for a 2025 fifth-round pick.

Reaves had been a healthy scratch for eight of the past 12 games for the Rangers. He gives struggling Minnesota some extra muscle and a veteran presence.

The 35-year-old is signed through only the rest of this season at a $1.75 million salary cap hit. He has no points and 12 penalty minutes in 12 games of his second season with New York.

Reaves has played in 869 NHL regular-season and playoff games for the St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vegas Golden Knights and Rangers. He was with the Golden Knights during their inaugural season in 2017-18 when the reached the Stanley Cup Final.

Toronto’s Morgan Rielly placed on long-term injured reserve

Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
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TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs placed defenseman Morgan Rielly on long-term injured reserve with a knee injury.

Rielly was hurt in a collision with with New York forward Kyle Palmieri early in the third period of Toronto’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Islanders at home.

Rielly has no goals and 16 assists in 20 games this season and is averaging 23 minutes of ice time.

Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said following practice that the 28-year-old Rielly doesn’t need surgery, adding there’s no firm timeline for his return beyond the minimum 24 days and 10 games required for going on long-term injured reserve.

Toronto’s defense is also missing Jake Muzzin with a neck injury and T.J. Brodie with an injured oblique.