Before you go any further, read this article on Shea Theodore’s offensive impact on the Golden Knights. Once you are done with that, come back and listen to this interview.
The author of the article, Jack, and I dig into the stats, the systems, the theories, and the realities behind the Golden Knights struggles to score and how Theodore’s play effects it. We talk about sheltered minutes, DeBoer’s system, the VGK forward group, rebound chances, transition play, stick blade curvature and so much more.
All of this is in the hopes of answering Vegas’ million-dollar question, why aren’t expected goals turning into real goals?
Recap: The 1st period of Game 4 was a mirror image of the entire series. For the third straight game neither team could come up with a goal in the opening 20 minutes.
The game began to heat up in the 2nd period. Vegas took the first lead on a power play goal from Alec Martinez. Dallas tied the game and eventually took the lead 2-1 with a power play goal of their own with under a minute to go in the middle period.
Dallas suffocated the Vegas in the final period. The Golden Knights drew multiple penalties earning a 5-on-3 power play. They had several chances but couldn’t convert and tie the game.
With their 2–1 loss, the Golden Knights trail the Stars 3-1 in their best-of-seven series. Game 5 of the Western Conference finals is set for Monday night. Puck drop is scheduled for 5:00 PM. (Recap by Jason)
Analysis: The Golden Knights refused to change the way they played and the Stars once again capitalized on the style. Vegas controlled a good portion of the game in the offensive zone but yet again couldn’t must up enough truly dangerous scoring chances at even-strength. The one goal they scored was on the power play and when they needed the PP to bail them out again with a 70 second 5-on-3, they couldn’t. Something must change in the style of play or there is no way the Golden Knights will defeat the Stars three times in a row and make the Stanley Cup Final. (Analysis by Ken)
Upcoming stories from Game 4 of the Vegas Golden Knights vs Dallas Stars in the Western Conference Final at Rogers Place in the NHL Bubble.
We might be as lost as the Golden Knights. But we’ll figure out something.
Ken’s Three VGK Stars *** Shea Theodore ** Alec Martinez * Alex Tuch
Through the first three games of the series, the Golden Knights have tallied five goals total with just three coming at even-strength. While Vegas leads on the even-strength shot tally in the series 71-62, the scoring chance numbers per NaturalStatTrick.com actually show Dallas ahead 60-48.
Following Game 1, a game in which Vegas was bullied a bit early, Pete DeBoer used a phrase he had previously been known for in his time in New Jersey to describe the series-opening loss.
I don’t know what the chances were but it was a low-event game both ways. I didn’t think their offense gave us a lot of difficulty. -DeBoer
When DeBoer was behind the Devils bench from 2011-2015 the brand of hockey his teams were known for was often described as “low-event.” That means the shot numbers, chance numbers, and hopefully, the goal numbers are down. It’s a brand of hockey that has worked for many teams over the course of the past decade but one the Golden Knights have always viewed as the nemesis.
When the Golden Knights are at their best, they are creating chances in bunches. They tilt the ice in their favor and they impose their will on the other team. That’s how they overwhelmed Chicago, how they eventually cracked Thatcher Demko and the Canucks, and how they made their way out of the round-robin as the #1 seed. Going back further, that was the brand they played when DeBoer first arrived and it’s how they played for the entire Gallant era as well.
In Game 1, Vegas created just 14 scoring chances in the game at even-strength and only racked up seven through the first 2 periods. In Game 2, they tallied nine in the 1st period alone and finished the game off with 19 despite playing six fewer minutes of even-strength time. Then, in Game 3, they were back to struggling to create chances, totalling 17 but just 10 through two periods.
VGK Game 1
VGK Game 2
VGK Game 3
DAL Game 1
DAL Game 2
DAL Game 3
Meanwhile, Dallas has stayed fairly consistent. They had a breakout period in the 2nd of Game 1, but aside from that, they’ve created about the same number of chances per minute in every other period of the series.
Recap: The Golden Knights began Game 3 of the Western Conference finals looking to take a 2-1 series lead over the Dallas Stars.
The opening period was tight with Robin Lehner and Anton Kuhdobin both comimg up with big saves to keep it a scoreless tie heading into the first intermission.
Lehner continued to play strong frustrating Dallas into the first two periods. However, the Stars would finally get one by the Vegas goaltender with :17 seconds left in the period.
Vegas’ offense broke out of their slump when Shea Theodore scored his 7th goal of the postseason tying the game 1-1. Dallas regained the lead 2-1 a few minutes later but Vegas wore down the Stars and eventually Alex Tuch tied the game with his 9th goal of the playoffs.
Dallas didn’t take long to win the game 3-2 in overtime. The Stars found an opening :31 into OT scoring their third on Lehner.
With their 3-2 OT loss, the Golden Knights trail the Stars 2-1 in their best-of-seven series. Game 4 of the Western Conference finals between Vegas and Dallas is set for Saturday night. Puck drop is scheduled for 5:00 PM. (Recap by Jason)
Analysis: The Golden Knights took too long to get to their game and then couldn’t stick with it long enough through the first two periods. Because of it, they found themselves in a hole. The 3rd period was exactly what Vegas wants the games to look like, but it was happening while behind for the most part. There’s a growing concern that Dallas’ style has been able to keep Vegas away from theirs. In the end, a problem that has plagued them through three games cropped back up and it was an open neutral zone that led to the game-winning OT goal. Tough loss and VGK need a massive response on Saturday. (Analysis by Ken)
Upcoming stories from Game 3 of the Vegas Golden Knights vs Dallas Stars in the Western Conference Final at Rogers Place in the NHL Bubble.
High event vs low event play; VGK seems to benefit from the former against Dallas
Neutral zone openness has hurt VGK and completely burned them in OT
Ken’s Three VGK Stars *** Reilly Smith ** William Karlsson * Shea Theodore
Neutral zone battles. VGK had them on a long shift, let Kiviranta go straight through. Then on the reload, they lose twice in the netural zone. Maybe Lehner can stop that, but the chance cannot happen after that much zone time.
You ever read one of those “choose your own adventure” books? Well, I’m not smart enough to write one of those, but this article is a lot like it. There’s an optimistic route and a pessimistic route and at this moment neither is right nor wrong. So, I’m going to present both and let you choose the narrative you want to believe. Ready? Here we go.
We start with the main concept. Despite winning an absolutely crucial game, the Golden Knights have a lot more to give than they put forth in Game 2.
The Optimist: In a game they had to have, the Golden Knights didn’t even play their best, and still won 3-0. There was a marked improvement from Games 1 to 2 which means they will continue to find their way into the series. Once they get to truly playing their best, Dallas won’t be able to handle it.
The Pessimist: We’re two games in and thus far the Stars have proven they can stymie the Golden Knights. If Vegas doesn’t ramp up its game and they all look like versions of Game 1 or 2, the Golden Knights are in trouble.
The main takeaway from Game 2 will likely be Vegas breaking through and finally putting some offense on the board. When re-watching the game, and truly examining the chances both teams had, it was fairly close to even. The 1st period was a wash with each side having a few good chances. Then in the 2nd, Vegas struck on an excellent transition play. They scored again on a power play goal, then put together one of the niftiest 3-on-1 breaks we’ve seen in franchise history. In the 3rd, Dallas started to create a few more chances but couldn’t stick one in.
The Optimist: The drought needed to end, and it ended with two beautiful team goals followed by one on the power play. The normal VGK style of offense wasn’t even fully on display and Vegas was still able to score three. Now that the dam is broken, when the gritty, playoff-style goals return, the offensive problem will be completely considered a thing of the past. If Vegas is scoring, Dallas is hopeless.
The Pessimist: On the first goal a Dallas Stars defenseman fell down allowing Pacioretty an inordinate amount of time and space to pick out the play. On the second goal, Anton Khudobin seemed to forget how to play goalie and turned a shot that should have hit him in the chest into a goal. And on the final goal the Stars cheated in the offensive zone and gifted Vegas a 3-on-1 rush. The 1st period was more of the same that we had been seeing from the past four games. The power play scored just once and it was handed to them, and the rush chance is not likely replicable as Tyler Seguin shouldn’t be expected to make a boneheaded play more than once a series. Sure, there are three on the board, but only one was truly born out of excellent play by the Golden Knights and even on that one a Stars player ate s**t.
The Golden Knights also scored a goal that was waved off from a goalie interference challenge and they rang the post twice.
Recap: The Golden Knights needed a strong effort to even up the series with the Dallas Stars. Vegas jumped out to a quick start in Game 2, drawing an early penalty setting the tone of the game. The Golden Knights wouldn’t score in the 1st period but momentum and Robin Lehner’s pads carried them into the first intermission in a scoreless tie.
Vegas’ offense finally got going in the 2nd period. Paul Statsny scored the Golden Knights first goal of the series 4:53 in, William Karlsson added a power play goal four minutes later, and Tomas Nosek stretched the lead to 3-0. It was Vegas’ first power play goal since Game 7 of the second round.
Up three to start the 3rd period, the Golden Knights played more conservative protecting their lead. Lehner was outstanding again as he stopped all 24 of the Stars shots on net. It was his fourth shutout of the postseason.
With their 3-0 win, the Golden Knights tied up the Western Conference finals. Game 3 between Vegas and Dallas is set for Thursday night. Puck drop is scheduled for 5PM. (Recap by Jason)
Analysis: The Golden Knights offense finally broke through in the 2nd period with a few tap in goals and a power play goal from William Karlsson. The biggest key to the game for Vegas though was how they handled the Dallas forecheck in that decisive 2nd period. They finally started breaking out of the zone with confidence and speed and it helped lead to a few rushes, multiple goals, and a number of drawn penalties. Play like that again and this series is Vegas’ to lose. (Analysis by Ken)
Upcoming stories from Game 2 of the Vegas Golden Knights vs Dallas Stars in the Western Conference Final at Rogers Place in the NHL Bubble.
A look at all the odd-man rushes against. What happened?
Ken’s Three VGK Stars *** Nic Roy ** Robin Lehner * Paul Stastny
When the puck dropped last night the Dallas Stars had a clear initiative and they wasted no time showing it to the Golden Knights. They want to forecheck the Golden Knights as heavily as possible and challenge every single Vegas exit.
In the first two rounds, the Golden Knights looked like they were holding a clinic on how to break the puck out of the zone. It felt like every time Vegas would head back into their own they’d collect the puck, move it once or twice and exit the zone with ease. Then, the Stars entered the picture and Vegas’ clinic turned into something out of the first few scenes of a Mighty Ducks movie before Gordon Bombay works his magic.
Here is the very first shift of the game.
First, Theodore tries to go up the wall and is denied. Then, Martinez throws an aimless pass up the center of the ice that’s picked off for a scoring chance. Pacioretty then gets it and is crunched by two guys keeping him from exiting the puck out of the zone. There’s a puck battle that Vegas loses. Dallas actually clears their own zone for Vegas’ first exit of the game. The Stars reload, send it back in, and immediately McNabb loses a race but still gets it to Schmidt. He sends a no-look pass to Marchessault, which doesn’t connect. And finally, Smith isn’t first on a loose puck off a block.
Seven Golden Knights players are mentioned in that paragraph. Every single one of them either made a poor play or saw the Stars pressure beat them to the play they wanted to make. If you watch that clip multiple times, you’ll honestly forget the game is being played at even-strength. There are white and green jerseys everywhere and the Golden Knights can’t seem to handle it.
They’re chucking pucks around, reaching with their sticks, getting beat up along the boards, and getting outskated, badly.
Here’s another shift just a few minutes later from the same period.
Recap: It was the second Western Conference final in three years for Vegas as they faced the Dallas Stars, a team who hadn’t been since 2008. In a surprising decision, coach Pete DeBoer gave Marc-Andre Fleury the start in Game 1.
Dallas came out hard, attacking Vegas’ zone right from the opening faceoff. The Stars quickly scored 2:36 into the series taking a 1-0 advantage into the first intermission.
The Golden Knights couldn’t generate much in the middle frame. Vegas took only four shots on net and was 0/2 on the power play in the 2nd period. Both goaltenders were strong stopping all shots faced.
Vegas failed to convert again on the power play going 0/4 on the game. The Golden Knights made a strong late push but the Stars were able to stave off and win the game 1-0.
With their 1-0 loss the Golden Knights trail the best-of-seven series 1-0 to the Stars. Vegas will hit the ice for Game 2 on Tuesday night. Game 2 will air on NBC Sports Network scheduled for 5:00 PM. (Recap by Jason)
Analysis: The Golden Knights’ power outage continued into the Western Conference Final as they’ve now scored just two goals against a goalie in the past four games. Dallas brought the type of game the Golden Knights have not seen since the round-robin and it certainly appeared as though they were caught at least a bit off guard. As the game went on they settled in defensively but never could get anything sustainable going in the offensive zone. Back at it for Game 2 on Tuesday where all eyes will be focused directly on whether or not Vegas can score. (Analysis by Ken)
Upcoming stories from Game 1 of the Vegas Golden Knights vs Dallas Stars in the Western Conference Final at Rogers Place in the NHL Bubble.
Dallas’ forecheck early set the tone
Ken’s Three VGK Stars *** Alex Tuch ** Jonathan Marchessault * Nick Cousins
It’s only one game and it was a month ago, but in the wacky world of the 2019-20 NHL season, the round-robin game against Dallas on August 3rd gives us our best look into what’s to come in the Western Conference Final.
In that game, the Golden Knights scored on the second shift of the game. A goal by Chandler Stephenson got the ball rolling for Vegas who would hold the lead into the early 2nd. That’s when things went haywire for the Golden Knights as they allowed three straight goals inside of a five-minute span including a power play tally that at the time looked like it might bury VGK’s chances. In the 3rd though, Vegas stormed back with two to tie it, then another to take the lead, and then the empty netter to seal the deal.
It was a wild game that saw both teams carry play for extended periods. Here’s what I learned from that game and how I think it could preview some of what we’re about to see starting tonight.
VGK thrived in transition against Dallas
The first Golden Knights goal was actually very similar to one we’ve seen before in a Vegas vs Dallas matchup. In the round-robin, Vegas steamed the puck through the neutral zone to William Karlsson. He carried it into the zone and bought a bit of time as Chandler Stephenson rushed up the ice using his speed to create a Grade A opportunity. In the December game at Dallas, the play to create space for Stephenson was made through the neutral zone by Max Pacioretty. But in both cases, Stephenson’s speed in transition with the help of excellent plays by his linemates created goals seemingly out of nowhere.
The Golden Knights’ next two goals were also born out of transition. A quick up through the neutral zone followed by a nifty play by Nick Cousins set up a goal from Mark Stone. Then a 2017-18 special led to the third Golden Knights goal. The old top line of Karlsson, Smith, and Marchessault took advantage of a broken stick by Dallas to create an odd-man rush. Even though it wasn’t played to perfection, the opportunistic Schmidt jumped in and buried the chance.