The stories of Game 1 that will be written and talked about will be the first seven minutes, the goalie interference call, and the atmosphere playing a part in the Jets hot start. All of these topics are real and had an impact on the game, but if you are looking for a specific hockey reason as to why the Golden Knights are in a 1-0 hole in the Western Conference Finals, look no further than shots not getting to Connor Hellebuyck while they were to Marc-Andre Fleury.
The Winnipeg Jets blocked 22 Golden Knights shots including eight from the top defensive pairing of Josh Morrissey and Jacob Trouba. Vegas also fired another 14 shots that missed the net completely. The blocked and missed shots stifled the Golden Knights, especially the top line.
We were chasing the game all night, they played a real good game. They played a great defensive game. We just didn’t get enough at the net. -Gerard Gallant
The fallout from all the blocks and misses was the Golden Knights having a difficult time retrieving shots. Far too often Vegas would enter the zone cleanly and not be able to get a shot through to the goalie. 12 Golden Knights had shots blocked, the same number of players who recorded shots on goal.
James Neal, Erik Haula, and David Perron did not muster up a single shot on goal in the game. The fourth line of Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Ryan Reaves, and Ryan Carpenter recorded just two shots. That’s two lines who take a total of two shots on goal while on the ice. Plain and simply, that’s not how you win a hockey game.
It’s not just Winnipeg blocking Vegas shots that was the problem though. Two different goals for the Jets were situations in which the Golden Knights could have been in position to block the shot. The first goal of the game, the shooting lane was wide open for Dustin Byfuglien as both Golden Knights defensemen defended the forwards. Then, on the fourth goal, Reilly Smith cheated over to try and take away the pass to Patrik Laine and created an open lane which led to a tipped goal.
Vegas blocked a total of 10 shots on 45 attempts (22.2%) while Winnipeg blocked 22 of 57 (38.6%).
In Game 2, it’s going to take an adjustment on both ends. Offensively, it may take one more pass or a better net drive to move defensemen out of the way. Defensively, it comes down to positioning and effort.
The Golden Knights lost Game 1 because they dug themselves a three-goal hole and ran out of time to climb out of it. It must be fixed in Game 2 or the Golden Knights will be coming back to Vegas in a much bigger hole than down three goals in Game 1.