PHILADELPHIA — With goals being scored at a rate not seen in the NHL in 25 years, it stands to reason an offensive-minded team like the Golden Knights would benefit from the surge.
But that hasn’t been the case.
A combination of hot goaltending and plain old bad luck have conspired against the Knights during their 1-4 start.
Entering Saturday’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center, the Knights are 28th in the league in goals per game (1.8).
They’ve scored nine goals, the same number Auston Matthews has produced for Toronto in five games.
“We got a good hockey team. We’re playing OK,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “We’re not playing well enough to win right now, but we’ll get over it. It’s only early in the season. We just got to make sure we put the head down and keep working hard.”
Based on the advanced statistics at NaturalStatTrick.com, the Knights have outplayed their opponents during 5-on-5 action.
They rank second in the league in Corsi For percentage or shot attempts (60.8 percent), fourth in high-danger chances for percentage (61.0), sixth in shot differential (plus 9.8) and sixth in scoring chances for percentage (58.5).
But in 305 minutes of game time, they’ve held the lead for 6 minutes, 22 seconds.
The Knights haven’t scored more than two goals in a game, and their 5.23 shooting percentage at all strengths sits 29th in the league.
If the Knights were converting at the same rate as last season’s 9.97 overall shooting percentage, they’d have an additional eight goals— and likely more wins, too.
“I think we have chances, but we can’t be satisfied with just chances,” Knights leading scorer Jonathan Marchessault said. “I think when you have a chance, we need to be more hungry around the net. There’s a couple times the puck (sat) right under (Washington’s Braden) Holtby and just staying in the blue paint and he didn’t know where it was.
“I think it’s those times we need to be more hungry. It’s big opportunities when the puck is just laying there.”
One indication of the Knights’ bad luck is their overall PDO, a statistic that combines save and shooting percentage. A team’s PDO is based off a sum of 100, and the Knights currently are last in the league at 89.8.
Last year, the Buffalo Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes were tied for the worst PDO at all strengths at 97.4. Nashville led the league at 102.2.
In other words, the Knights aren’t scoring and their goaltenders aren’t stopping enough of their opponents’ shot.
Those issues became magnified against Washington and Pittsburgh, who’ve combined to win the past three Stanley Cups.
“We’re not playing the hockey we want to play right now,” Marchessault said. “It’s adversity that we’re facing. We have a couple guys who are injured, and obviously Nate Schmidt is a big part of our defensive squad. There’s no excuse for ourselves right now. We need find a way to win games.”
There were signs of improvement from the Knights in the past two games.
After scoring once from below the faceoff dots in their first three games, all four of the Knights’ goals against Washington and Pittsburgh came from near the blue paint.
“I think we’re good enough to do the job,” center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare said. “The only thing is that there is a few new units, guys that have never played before together, and the chemistry has to come back as soon as possible.”
■ Who: Golden Knights vs. Flyers
■ When: 10 a.m. Saturday
■ Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia
■ TV: AT&T SportsNet (Cox 313/1313, DirecTV 684, CenturyLink 760/1760, U-verse 757/1757, DISH 414/5414)
■ Radio: KRLV (98.9 FM, 1340 AM)
■ Line: Off