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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.

WATCH LIVE: 2020 NHL All-Star Game enhanced broadcast

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NBC Sports will stream a first-of-its-kind digital-only presentation of the 2020 Honda NHL All-Star Game on Saturday night on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app, showcasing new puck and player tracking technology that will deliver data and information in real time as the NHL’s top players compete for $1 million.

The new puck and player tracking technology will be emphasized prominently throughout the digital broadcast, highlighting elements such as skating speed, shot speed, skating distance and shift times. In addition, graphic identifiers for players and the puck will be utilized as they move on the ice.

In addition to live coverage on NBC, NBC Sports will produce a digital-only second-screen presentation on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app showcasing puck and player tracking data that will be presented in real time. The action kicks off on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 8 P.M. ET]

Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk, and ‘Inside-the-Glass’ analysts Pierre McGuire and Brian Boucher will call the NHL All-Star Game on NBC.

NBC Sports’ live digital-only presentation on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app showcasing puck and player tracking data will highlight elements such as skating speed, shot speed, skating distance and shift times. In addition, graphic identifiers for players and the puck will be utilized as they move on the ice.

Kenny Albert and AJ Mleczko will call NBC Sports’ digital presentation of the All-Star Game on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

MORE NHL ALL-STAR COVERAGE:
Looking back at the 1988 NHL All-Star Game in St. Louis
Florida Panthers to host 2021 NHL All-Star Game
Canada edges U.S. in entertaining debut of Elite Women’s 3-on-3
2020 NHL All-Star Skills: Winners, fun moments, Hertl as Bieber
Shea Weber reclaims NHL Hardest Shot title
NHL All-Stars enjoy ‘really hard’ and ‘unique’ Shooting Stars event
Bettman responds to IIHF president’s Olympic decision deadline
Crosby, Kane, Ovechkin highlight NHL’s All-Decade Team

WATCH LIVE: 2020 NHL All-Star Game on NBC

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The 2020 NHL All-Star Game will take place at Enterprise Center in St. Louis on Saturday night on NBC, with four teams vying to share a $1 million prize.

Four teams (one representing each of the Atlantic, Central, Metropolitan, and Pacific Divisions) square off in a two-round tournament. The three 20-minute games will be played 3-on-3.

In round one, the two Eastern Conference teams (Atlantic vs. Metropolitan) face off at 8:15 p.m. ET, while the two West teams (Central and Pacific) meet in the other bracket at 9:15 p.m. ET.

Teams change ends at the 10-minute mark of each game. Shootouts decide any games that are tied after 20 minutes.

The winners of both games will square off for a deciding third game, with $1 million on the line.

[WATCH LIVE – NHL ALL-STAR GAME 8 P.M. ET – NBC]

Atlantic Division
F David Pastrnak, BOS (2nd appearance) — captain
F Tyler Bertuzzi, DET (1st)
F Anthony Duclair, OTT (1st)
F Jack Eichel, BUF (3rd)
F Jonathan Huberdeau, FLA (1st)
F Mitchell Marner, TOR (1st)
F Brady Tkachuk, OTT (1st)
D Victor Hedman, TBL (3rd)
D Shea Weber, MTL (7th)
G Frederik Andersen, TOR (1st)
G Andrei Vasilevskiy, TBL (3rd)
Coach: Bruce Cassidy

G Tuukka Rask, BOS, has chosen not to play. F Auston Matthews, TOR, will attend but not participate in on-ice activities because of a wrist condition.

Metropolitan Division
D Kris Letang, PIT (6th appearance) — captain
F Mathew Barzal, NYI (2nd)
F Nico Hischier, NJD (1st)
F Travis Konecny, PHI (1st)
F T.J. Oshie, WSH (1st)
F Chris Kreider, NYR (1st)
D John Carlson, WSH (2nd)
D Jaccob Slavin, CAR (1st)
D Seth Jones, CBJ (3rd)
G Braden Holtby, WSH (5th)
G Tristan Jarry, PIT (1st)
Coach: Todd Reirden

F Jake Guentzel, PIT, F Kyle Palmieri, NJD, D Dougie Hamilton, CAR, G Joonas Korpisalo, CBJ, and F Artemi Panarin, NYR, were replaced because of injury. F Alex Ovechkin, WSH (captain), has chosen not to play.

Central Division
F Nathan MacKinnon, COL (4th appearance) — captain
F Patrick Kane, CHI (9th)
F Ryan O’Reilly, STL (3rd)
F David Perron, STL (1st)
F Mark Scheifele, WPG (2nd)
F Tyler Seguin, DAL (6th)
F Eric Staal, MIN (6th)
D Roman Josi, NSH (3rd)
D Alex Pietrangelo, STL (2nd)
G Jordan Binnington, STL (1st)
G Connor Hellebuyck, WPG (2nd)
Coach: Craig Berube

Pacific Division
F Connor McDavid, EDM (4th appearance) — captain
F Leon Draisaitl, EDM (2nd)
F Tomas Hertl, SJS (1st)
F Anze Kopitar, LAK (5th)
F Max Pacioretty, VGK (1st)
F Elias Pettersson, VAN (2nd)
F Matthew Tkachuk, CGY (1st)
D Mark Giordano, CGY (3rd)
D Quinn Hughes, VAN (1st)
G Jacob Markstrom, VAN (1st)
G David Rittich, CGY (1st)
Coach: Rick Tocchet

F Jakob Silfverberg (personal), ANA, F Logan Couture (injury), SJS, and G Darcy Kuemper (injury), ARI, were replaced. G Marc-Andre Fleury, VGK, has chosen not to play.

Here’s a look back at what happened during Friday’s NHL All-Star Skills event:

Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk, and ‘Inside-the-Glass’ analysts Pierre McGuire and Brian Boucher will call the NHL All-Star Game on NBC.

NBC Sports’ live digital-only presentation on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app showcasing puck and player tracking data will highlight elements such as skating speed, shot speed, skating distance and shift times. In addition, graphic identifiers for players and the puck will be utilized as they move on the ice.

Kenny Albert and AJ Mleczko will call NBC Sports’ digital presentation of the All-Star Game on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

MORE NHL ALL-STAR COVERAGE:
Looking back at the 1988 NHL All-Star Game in St. Louis
Florida Panthers to host 2021 NHL All-Star Game
Canada edges U.S. in entertaining debut of Elite Women’s 3-on-3
2020 NHL All-Star Skills: Winners, fun moments, Hertl as Bieber
Shea Weber reclaims NHL Hardest Shot title
NHL All-Stars enjoy ‘really hard’ and ‘unique’ Shooting Stars event
Bettman responds to IIHF president’s Olympic decision deadline
Crosby, Kane, Ovechkin highlight NHL’s All-Decade Team

3-on-3 overtime in NHL has evolved over past 5 seasons

Jack Hughes #86 of the New Jersey Devils scores the game-winning overtime goal
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Victor Hedman fondly recalls the NHL’s first 3-on-3 overtime because it was madness.

”It was probably a minute and a half of just breakaways,” the Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman said. ”Jason Garrison scored the goal – beat the D-man (and scored) five-hole.”

Trading breakaways and playing at a frenetic pace was what 3-on-3 was about when it debuted in 2015. The idea was to open up the ice for skilled players so fewer games needed to be decided by a shootout.

When All-Stars play their annual 3-on-3 tournament Saturday night, it’ll look like the overtimes of years past, with less regard for defense, of course. But in the regular season, 3-on-3 overtime has become a much more methodical game full of strategy predicated on holding on to the puck and only taking the highest of quality shots.

”You have tactics now,” Hedman said. ”In the beginning, you kind of didn’t know what to do. It’s all about maybe not coming down on an angle and taking a bad shot and it goes out and goes the other way. It’s all about puck possession. … I think as guys have played it more, they’ve learned more and now I think more and more games go to a shootout.”

At the All-Star break, 8.2% of games this season have been decided by a shootout, up slightly from 7.9% in the first four seasons with 3-on-3 overtime. The evolution of 3-on-3 with so many teams opting to circle back over and over has prompted talk about adding a shot clock, forcing teams to stay in the offensive zone and potentially adding time beyond the current five-minute period.

The initial theory was so much open ice made 3-on-3 coach-proof. Coaches and players have figured out different tactics, and the results are noticeable.

”The biggest change is probably the ability to get your players on and not allow them to change while maintaining puck possession,” Boston Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. ”The goaltenders are used a lot more in terms of making line changes by throwing it back to the goalie. Regrouping – I think at first it was just get in the zone and try to find a give and go somewhere that works. Now, guys are going back, they’re going back, they’re going back, tire out the other team, try to score off the rush.”

There’s more science to 3-on-3 now, and, therefore, less fun. It’s still an entertaining product, only with more players thinking about fatiguing opponents than putting the puck on net as much as possible.

”The most important thing is line changes,” Calgary Flames captain Mark Giordano said. ”I think we’ve all learned that you can’t change at the wrong time (because) it’ll cost you an odd-man rush. The puck possession, I think teams are figuring it out.”

A basketball-style shot clock could force more action. But the biggest conversation right now is about extending 3-on-3 OT to seven or perhaps even 10 minutes in an effort to further reduce shootouts.

As one of the players who would be taking on those extra minutes, Hedman is in favor of a longer overtime. But not all players want to see it doubled.

”Maybe a few more minutes tacked on would be cool,” Giordano said. ”We love playing it, but you’d have to look at how it would affect the guys who are playing and the more wear on their bodies with those minutes because 3-on-3 minutes are a lot different than 5-on-5 minutes. It’s a lot more taxing, for sure.”

Goaltenders would also get taxed with a heavier workload. They don’t see as many shots in 3-on-3 as the rest of the game, but almost every one is difficult to stop.

”Every single shot is dangerous,” Flames goalie David Rittich said. ”It’s usually hard. You kind of know you’re going to face some breakaways, 2-on-1s, 3-on-1s, so you’ve got to be ready for everything. … I’m not a big fan of 3-on-3 hockey, actually.”

Goalies are in the minority there. Arenas still feel a special buzz for 3-on-3 overtime, and skaters get to show off the skill that’s not ordinarily possible at 5-on-5.

”I think it’s cool for the fans, too,” Florida Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau said. ”I just really like playing in that.”

Bettman: NHL puck and player tracking to start in playoffs

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Puck and player tracking is coming to the NHL in the playoffs.

Commissioner Gary Bettman said Friday that puck and player tracking will be up and running in all playoff arenas this spring and is expected to be fully operational leaguewide next season.

”There will be more data than ever before,” Bettman said. ”I believe the players will generate something like 200 data points per second and the puck 2,000 data points a second, so in terms of getting inside the game, telling stories, as a fan delving in to get what you’re interested in, you’re going to be able to do more things than ever before and even imaginable.”

The league will test the system – which is a mix of sensors and optical tracking – during certain games in the regular season. Deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league hasn’t decided which games will be chosen for that testing.

During his annual state of the NHL address, Bettman also revealed there had been a few complaints raised about a team official’s behavior since the topic garnered significant attention at the Board of Governors meeting last month. Bettman and Daly said those complaints were investigated, and none turned out to be of significant concern.

”Obviously, what we announced at the board meeting, some people have followed up and there have been some things reported to us,” Daly said. ”I’ve gotten a couple calls from clubs who have had issues raised with them. This is I think what I’ll expect when we have a platform up and running that people are going to utilize it.”

Bettman also touched on the status of collective bargaining talks with players, a potential deadline to decide about going to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing and the possibility of changing the All-Star format next year.

Four months since owners and players each decided not to opt out of the CBA that goes until 2022, Bettman said the Players’ Association has taken a ”deep breath” on negotiations. He expects CBA talks to resume in earnest soon, despite the lack of an urgent deadline.

”My expectation is we’ll re-engage shortly in a more energetic way than perhaps we’ve been in the last couple of months,” Bettman said. ”Perhaps knowing there’s more time than we had going into September, I wouldn’t read anything into it other than we’re both still focused on it.”

Bettman brushed off the notion of a deadline for an Olympic decision set by the International Ice Hockey Federation. He continued to say it’s disruptive for the NHL to stop its season to go to the Olympics, which it did five times from 1998 to 2014 before skipping 2018, but didn’t rule out sending players to Beijing.

Some international hockey could be coming closer than Asia before 2022. Bettman alluded to having a ”distinct international flavor” at the 2021 All-Star Weekend, which will be hosted by the Panthers in South Florida.

The league and players abandoned plans to hold a World Cup of Hockey as soon as the winter of 2021, but Daly said there’s a working model on what might be coming at the next All-Star Weekend. Much like the women’s 3-on-3 game at this year’s Skills Competition, that event could showcase the U.S.-Canada rivalry and others.

”I think we have a general understanding of what we’re talking about and what it looks like,” Daly said.