If you go by the “Thanksgiving Day Rule” then the Vegas Golden Knights are not going to be a playoff team this year, but rules are there to be broken and it starts in New York tonight.
According to research, around 80 percent of teams that occupy a playoff berth on Thanksgiving make the postseason come the end of the regular season, so the omens aren’t good for the Vegas Golden Knights (13-11-4).
However, they could benefit from the fact that the Pacific Division is highly competitive this year and no one team is running away with it, although the Edmonton Oilers are trying their best.
But there is a real opportunity there for the Golden Knights to start playing up to their potential, go on a run and become the top dogs in the Pacific.
That must start in The Big Apple tonight against a New York Rangers team (13-9-3) who are dreaming of the postseason themselves.
Despite still being in the midst of a rebuild, the Blueshirts are flirting with a playoff spot and every game is now vital for them, as it is for the Golden Knights.
They beat the New Jersey Devils in a 4-0 blowout win on Saturday, killing off eight power play attempts, and they boast one of the premier talents in the NHL in Artemi Panarin, who leads the franchise in points with 33 (12 goals, 21 assists) in 25 games.
Franchise center Mika Zibanejad, who missed 13 games with an upper-body injury, has three points (two goals, one assist) in the three games since he’s been back, and he just makes the Rangers tick.
Then there is rookie phenom Kaapo Kakko, who was selected with the No.2 overall pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.
Despite getting his career in North America off to a slow start, Kakko is starting to find his feet now and the forward has six goals and five assists for 11 points.
But, one of the Blueshirts’ biggest strengths this season has been their blueline, which has amassed over 70 points already and we’re only in December.
One similarity that these two teams share is the fact that they can both generate shorthanded chances galore, with the Rangers leading the NHL in shorthanded goals with six while Vegas has five.
The Blueshirts are ranked 23rd on the penalty kill this year despite going a perfect 8-for-8 on the PK on Saturday, while they have the 12th best power play in the NHL (20.0).
They are also one of the worst teams in the league when it comes to Goals Against Per Game (3.28), although they boast an abundance of firepower and that is backed up by the fact that they are averaging 3.32 Goals For Per Game, ranked 7th in the NHL.
Overall, the New York Rangers are a team trending in the right direction and they will be a dangerous team to contend with for the Vegas Golden Knights.
Henrik Lundqvist is expected to get the start between the pipes tonight and the future Hall of Famer is 7-5-2 this year with a 3.16 Goals Against Average and a .912 Save Percentage.
Tonight’s meeting is the first between the Vegas Golden Knights and the New York Rangers, who won’t have to wait long until they meet again.
Because, after tonight, the two teams will go head-to-head again on Sunday when the Knights host the Blueshirts at T-Mobile Arena (4:00 p.m. PT).
Let’s look at the projected lineups for both teams tonight, per nhl.com:
Vegas Golden Knights:
Max Pacioretty – Paul Stastny – Mark Stone
Jon Merrill – Deryk Engelland
Scratched: Nick Holden, Marc-Andre Fleury
Injured: Cody Eakin (upper body)
New York Rangers
Artemi Panarin – Ryan Strome – Kaapo Kakko
Brady Skjei – Jacob Trouba
Libor Hajek – Tony DeAngelo
Ryan Lindgren – Adam Fox
Scratched: Boo Nieves
Here is all the essential information you need to know prior to faceoff…
Time: 4:00 p.m. PT
Where: Madison Square Garden – New York
TV Broadcast: AT&T Sportsnet
Radio: FOX Sports 98.9/1340
Live Streaming: ESPN+ has a free 7-day trial that includes live streaming for this game on all your smart devices! Besides NHL games, ESPN+ features a selection of live games from MLB, MLS, Serie A, FA Cup, and EFL. Get in on the action with Live UFC Fight Nights, 30+ Top Rank Boxing cards, Grand Slam tennis from Wimbledon, US Open and Australian Open.
The Vegas Golden Knights had a 2-0-1 record in the New York City area last year, and they will be aiming for a similar record this season.
It is a big week ahead for the Golden Knights who really need to get going here, but they won’t have it easy against a New York Rangers team who are rolling right now and playing with a lot of confidence.