The Victoria Royals have surprised a lot of people to begin the 2017-2018 season, currently sitting at 10-4-1, good for 1st in the Western Hockey League. They also hold a comfortable 9 point lead atop the B.C. Division thanks to a struggling Kelowna Rockets team. The Royals have scored the most goals and have the best save percentage in the league, which seems to point to an unstoppable force, but there may be an underlying problem here that could threaten to derail their historic start.
The Royals have scored 77 goals in 15 games, good for 5.13 goals per game. Compare this to a year ago where they only scored 3.32 goals per game during the season, where the league-leading Regina Pats won 52 games and hit 4.8 goals per game. This year’s Royals are shooting at an incredible 17.34 percent, and if they keep this up then it’s likely that they will hit around 375 goals in a 72 game season. This team is missing the net more often than they are hitting it and have a Shots For % of only 44.09%, second last in the WHL, which is contributing to their high scoring percentage. They start shooting smarter and hitting the net, their shooting percentage goes down, but that doesn’t mean that they will score less goals, of course.
On the defensive side is where we start to see some problems. The Royals have the most shots against them in the entire league, almost more than 100 more than the team behind them. They are giving up 37.5 shots against per game, but thanks to the high save percentage from their goaltenders Griffen Outhouse and Dean McNabb, they’ve been able to outscore their defensive troubles. What happens when the scoring stops or the goaltenders come back down to earth? Outhouse is playing better than he did last season and his save percentage is up 10 points. If that drops even a little, the Royals will start giving up more goals and losing more games.
It’s only a matter of time before the goals start to dry up. Scoring 5+ goals a game is not sustainable and it is much easier to keep giving up 37.5 shots a game like the Royals are doing. If they do not tighten up defensively and start outshooting their opponents, especially with their potent offensive stars like Matthew Phillips and Tyler Soy, then Victoria is going to crash back down to reality and start finding it more difficult to win hockey games.