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Category: Game Analysis (Page 2 of 17)

Unbalanced Defensive Minutes For Washington Could Become Factor As Series Wears On

The golden Knights have to take advantage of the heavy minutes load to create more moments like this with VGK’s top line vs. Brooks Orpik. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Jack Adams finalist Gerard Gallant likes to utilize his top defensive pairing of Nate Schmidt and Brayden McNabb against the opposition’s top line. However, that doesn’t mean he lessens the minutes of his other two pairings significantly. Through two games of the Stanley Cup Final, the Golden Knights have been much more balanced in terms of minute load compared to the Capitals on D.

 ATOI (Series)ATOI (Regular Season)ATOI (Playoffs) 
Matt Niskanen25:4122:2625:32
John Carlson24:3024:4725:50
Dmitry Orlov23:1223:0824:24
Nate Schmidt21:5822:1424:32
Shea Theodore21:5820:2121:39
Brayden McNabb21:0020:0921:55
Deryk Engelland19:2620:1722:14
Colin Miller18:3319:2119:16
Michael Kempny18:3219:2217:43
Brooks Orpik15:4115:4516:59
Luca Sbisa15:0019:3116:17
Christian Djoos9:0514:0210:59

Washington boasts the top three defensemen in average time on ice and also has three of the four bottom players in ATOI through two games in the series.

As the workload continues to increase for the Caps, it should come as with an advantage the longer the series goes. Niskanen, Orlov, and Carlson are on the ice a lot, and as long as Vegas’ forecheck can get back to their normal relentless selves, the Capital d-corps should wear down.

Carlson and Kempny are the only two defensemen which a 50+% Cosri For for the Capitals, but both have been on the ice for more even strength goals against than for.

Wearing out terrific defensemen like Carlson, Orlov, and Niskanen is easier said than done, but the minutes load is likely to add up at some point. Late in games, Vegas has to make it hard on these guys and force Barry Trotz to go deeper down his bench more often.

It may not materialize in Game 3, or even Game 4, but as the series continues, the Golden Knights should be the fresher team, especially on the blue line.

Golden Knights Reserves Become Fans Like Everyone Else

We know they’d rather be on the ice, but the VGK healthy scratches maintain the right attitude. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Imagine this. You’ve worked your entire life to become a professional hockey player, make it to the National Hockey League, and to eventually play for the Stanley Cup. Then, your team makes it there, coach brings down the lineup card, and your name is not on it. Rather than play in the game, you are destined to sit in the press box wearing a suit and watch. Sounds like the worst, right? Actually…

It’s awesome. When you’re sitting upstairs and we score a goal guys are jumping and down, hugging each other. That’s what it’s all about. Everyone is a part of the same goal. -Brad Hunt

Hunt hasn’t played since April 7th in Calgary, the Golden Knights last regular season game.

Guys like myself, Jonny (Merrill), and others who haven’t played in awhile, we all want everyone to do so good because we know it’s a chance at something we may never get a chance to do again. It’s been so special. -Hunt

Talking to Hunt, fellow defenseman Jon Merrill, and others, you’d think these guys average 20 minutes a night in the postseason.

I’m honestly more nervous when I’m not playing. When you’re out there playing you’re not thinking about anything, you’re just playing. When you’re upstairs you’re just a fan, you want the boys to win so bad. -Jon Merrill

Golden Misfits? More like Nervous Nellies.

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Golden Knights “Didn’t Execute” On The 5-on-3 And It Cost Them Game 2

5-on-3’s changes games whether goals are scored or not. Vegas was on the wrong side of it in Game 2. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

John Carlson called it a “momentum shifter,” Barry Trotz said he was “praying like crazy”, and Jonathan Marchessault said “they played it well.” The Golden Knights unsuccessful 5-on-3 power play in the 3rd period was a major turning point of Game 2.

Definitely when you have a 5-on-3 in the playoffs you have to score, and I think that’s on us. -Jonathan Marchessault

Early in the 3rd period, Tom Wilson took his normal residency in the box for an interference penalty on Brayden McNabb. This gave Vegas a two-minute power play with 16:47 remaining in the game.

Two faceoffs, a stoppage in play, and a Colin Miller shot attempt later, the Capitals made a second blunder. Lars Eller was caught hooking Miller, creating a two-man advantage for Vegas.

I was praying like crazy. They’ve done a really good job in those situations. They’re well prepared and they have a high commitment level. -Barry Trotz, Washington head coach

For the next 1:08, Vegas did very little and only shot once on net.

The chances are there. Really, we didn’t execute them. You look at it back, and everything we wanted to do was there. We just didn’t execute the play right. We didn’t do it quick enough. It was guys not making the right plays at the right time. -Gerard Gallant

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Stagnant 3rd Period Offense (And An Amazing Save) Sends The Series Back To Washington Tied 1-1

There wasn’t enough in front of the goal either. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

For five periods of hockey in the Stanley Cup Final the Golden Knights offense had been relentless. Creating turnovers in the neutral zone, wreaking havoc on the forecheck, and transitioning from defense to offense quickly. Unfortunately in the series’ sixth period, playing from behind the entire 3rd period of Game 2, none of these things were true for Vegas.

We’ve pushed in a lot of series, we’ve pushed, and pushed back hard and we’ve had success but you aren’t going to be able to do it every time. The goalie is going to make great saves, but you just have to be ready for the next game. -Nate Schmidt

The difference tonight was the push wasn’t strong enough to break through the wall the Capitals had set up through the neutral zone and into the Golden Knights attacking zone. Aside from the special teams chances, Vegas was one-and-done far too often, they had way too many failed entries, and the forecheck was not creating turnovers like it has all season long.

They were just sitting back waiting for us. We got some good chances in the 3rd period, but you’ve got to bury them. -Jonathan Marchessault

The chances were not making it to Holtby though. The Golden Knights went more than 10 minutes from 13:58 to 3:38 remaining in the 3rd period without a single shot on goal.

Washington is a stout defensive team when they have the lead because of their strong neutral zone play. They took away a lot of the Golden Knights transition game through the center of the ice forcing Vegas to either make a difficult pass or dump the puck into the zone. The Capitals were much more careful with the puck giving it away just four times in the game compared to their nine in Game 1. Also, the Golden Knights forecheck was not creating as many takeaways. They came up with just one the entire 3rd period by a forward and just three total.

We lost a 3-2 hockey game, Tuch has a wide-open net with two minutes left with a chance to tie it up. We didn’t play our best game, but we had 39 shots and we still created a lot. It’s one of those games where Holtby played real well and he was the difference in the hockey game. -Gerard Gallant

It will be interesting to see if Gallant is singing the same tune tomorrow after watching the film. Braden Holtby played well and made one of the best saves any goalie has made on a Golden Knight shot all season, but Vegas simply didn’t do enough in the 3rd period to overcome the deficit.

It’s just the way it went tonight. -Marchessault

On to DC.

Golden Knights Not Satisfied With Game 1 Performance

Just win baby. Are we allowed to use that? (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The last time the Golden Knights gave up four goals and won a home game was on November 24th vs San Jose. The only other time Vegas allowed four at home and won was sixth game of the season when they beat Buffalo. In both games the Golden Knights led 4-1, watched their lead disappear, and needed overtime to seal the victory. Between those two games, the lead changed hands just one time.

Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final was not the best time to once again give up four goals at home, but the outcome was the same as those two early season games, which in theory should be good enough and make everyone wearing steel grey happy. It didn’t.

For us, we’ve got to make sure we do a better job managing the puck. You see what happens when they start their cycle game when they start getting the zone and trying to make plays. It just goes to show you that we need to be better defensively in some areas where they were exploiting time and space. That’s something we’ve done really well the last couple of series, taking that away from teams. -Nate Schmidt

I don’t think either team was happy with the way they played. Hopefully, we can play a little tighter in the defensive zone. We let up four goals it’s going to be hard to win every game. -William Karlsson

Being “better” was common theme from just about every player in the Golden Knights locker room. Better in the neutral zone, better on the puck, better in their own end, just be better. None of these terms are uncommon to hear in a locker room following a game or the day after, but hearing them after a Stanley Cup Final win says a lot about the Golden Knights.

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Nosek And Theodore Talk About The Goal That Won Game 1

Tomas Nosek has a knack for the big goal. He scored the 1st goal in T-Mobile Arena history too. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Tomas Nosek’s Game 1 winning goal was a Stanley Cup moment we’ll see for years to come. The men behind the tiebreaker were understandably laughing, smiling and in quite the jovial mood the following day.

In those type of games you just want to get pucks on the net and create a rebound. He made a good play popping out and a lane just kinda opened right up, and I found it. -Shea Theodore

Theodore’s first thought was to shoot the puck but hesitated because his aim was off earlier in the game.

A couple of plays earlier I tried walking in and had a terrible shot that missed the net. You go through ups and downs throughout games. -Theodore

Nosek created open space off to the side of the net, allowing Theodore to make a beautiful pass.

At this time of the year no shot is a bad shot. You want to get pucks to the net and create rebounds. You want to create some havoc around there. -Theodore

The 25-year-old Czech showed immense emotions in Game 1, something Golden Knights fans don’t often see from #92. At one point in the game, Nosek skated back to the bench and repeatedly slammed his stick on the boards. It was clear he was frustrated about something.

It was probably after the Oshie hit. There’s a lot of emotions in a game and sometimes you need relief a little bit. -Tomas Nosek

Is that why Nosek erupted in celebration after scoring his game-winning goal?

Maybe, yeah. It’s the Stanley Cup Final, you don’t get a chance to play in it every day. When you score a goal, and you help your team win a game. It’s perfect. -Nosek

Both players are relishing the moment of playing on the NHL’s biggest stage. They’re feeling confident and ready to make an impact in Game 2. Nosek and Theodore are normally reserved on the ice, so fans should appreciate the emotions in the Stanley Cup Finals. Because it’s working.

Golden Knights First Line: “It Was Not Good Enough For Us”

They scored two goals, but described themselves as rusty and “not good enough.” That’s got to be a scary thought for Washington. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights top line has been one of the best in the league all season, both offensively and defensively. Not only have they been terrorizing defenses all season and into the playoffs but they’ve been incredible shutting down the opposition’s top line throughout as well.

Last night in Game 1 it was all going swimmingly for Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson, and Reilly Smith early. At a point in the 2nd period, their line had a 100% Corsi For rating against 12 of the 17 skaters that they had significant time playing against. Karlsson and Smith each had a goal and the line was controlling play pretty much the entire time they were on the ice.

Then, it changed. The Vegas top line was on the ice for the next two Washington goals (Carlson and Wilson) and was no longer taking it to the Capitals. They ended the game with about a 60% Corsi For, a 0 +/- rating, and feeling like they could have been the reason if that game had slipped away.

Little rusty the 1st period. It was not good enough for us. We can’t be on the ice for two goals like we were. One goal was my fault and definitely we need to be tighter defensively and we’ll be ready for Game 2. -Jonathan Marchessault

Part of the reason for the change was the matchups they were facing. Early in the game a majority of their time was spent against the Capitals top offensive line of Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Tom Wilson, but as the game wore on the matchups became more random.

It may not seem it because of the star power on the Capitals, but the Golden Knights have the advantage between the two top lines. Jack Adams finalist Gerard Gallant has the last change in Game 2, he’d be wise to use it to get Marchessault, Karlsson, and Smith on the ice as often as possible against Ovechkin, Kuznetsov, and Wilson.

Luckily for the Golden Knights, the mismatches created an opening for the “fourth” line who played one of its best games of the season.

Vegas’ top line vows to be better in Game 2, if they are and they play most of their minutes against Washington’s top line, the series will likely head to DC at 2-0.

Back And Forth Game 1 Proves Golden Knights Can Thrive Ahead, Behind Or Tied

Last night was not your typical Golden Knights playoff game.

In the Western Conference final, there were no lead changes and Vegas was ahead in the series for 193 minutes. In Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals, the Golden Knights maintained a lead for only 22:50 minutes.

Here’s the breakdown of the four lead changes in Game 1:

Game Tied: (0:00-7:15)
VGK Lead: (7:15-14:41)
Game Tied: (14:41-15:23)
WSH Lead: (15:23-18:19)
Game Tied: (18:19-23:21)
VGK Lead: (23:21-28:29)
Game Tied: (28:29-41:10)
WSH Lead: (41:10-42:41)
Game Tied: (42:41-49:44)
VGK Lead: (49:44-60:00)

The Golden Knights played a lot more time with the lead than Washington did in Game 1. The Capitals had a hard time holding the lead, which led to the scoring being tied for a majority of the night despite the fact that 10 goals were scored.

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NHL GM’s May Try To Copy Golden Knights’ Balanced D Unit

Since coming in for Jon Merrill, Sbisa has been excellent with Colin Miller. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Throughout the postseason, analysts have talked about the Golden Knights as a future model for teams living under a tight salary cap. The players’ average age, salary, skill, desire, leadership, and unity is what makes Vegas so ideally well-balanced.

We don’t have that superstar D-man that has to play thirty minutes. As a group, we’re pretty balanced. Everyone can do each other’s job… we’re a real tight unit. It’s been fun. -Luca Sbisa

Signing a defenseman, or any player, to a massive contract can sometimes hurt a club’s progression. Erik Karlsson and Drew Doughty averaging up to 30 minutes a night doesn’t guarantee great team defense. Instead, the plan of balancing minutes among three defensive pairings has been wildly effective for Vegas.

Ice time is pretty spread. In certain situations guys play more but I think everyone is pretty fresh because every guy plays around 20 minutes. You don’t have to play 28-30 minutes over 82 games because eventually it’ll catch up to you. -Sbisa

Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos said he expects the Golden Knights “passive aggressive forecheck” a problem for Washington’s defense. The same unit he said looked “done” against Tampa. Through 15 games in the postseason, no one has said the Golden Knights defensemen looked tired.

A D-pair that only plays 12 minutes a night, I don’t think they’d play at their best. If everyone is getting regular shifts it gets you into a rhythm playing more at their abilities. -Sbisa

Like other leagues, the NHL is a copycat league. Other GM’s have to be taking notes, drooling over the Golden Knights success. A team with four solid lines, six reliable d-men, and a lights-out goaltender is a blueprint every franchise dreams of designing.

I think we’ve done a good job blocking shots, giving them shots from the outside. They may create some chances, that’s the way hockey is. -Sbisa

Sbisa and the other Golden Knights defensemen will have to continue playing brilliantly against the Capitals. If Vegas can keep fresh on the ice by sticking to their gameplan, Washington’s offense will have a hard time getting close to “Superman” Fleury.

And if that happens and Vegas wins the Cup, every NHL GM may look to add ‘Golden’ to their team name too.

Scoring First Is Great, What Vegas Does With It Is Better

If VGK jumps out ahead of Washington like they did Winnipeg, it might be another quick series. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

In the Western Conference finals, the team that scored the first goal of the game won all five games. Pretty simple formula. However, it was what Vegas did once they had the first lead of the game that really determined the series. The Jets tied things up in Games 3, 4, and 5, but failed to take ever over a lead. After Game 1, Vegas never allowed Winnipeg to take a lead in the series.

It definitely is a testament to great goaltending. Its something special, especially with all of the big saves. It’s a common effect when Marc has the net. -Reilly Smith

There’s no question Marc-Andre Fleury has been the difference maker for Vegas this postseason, his brilliance has made it easier for teammates do their job.

We played well defensively, our goalie was tremendous. We made the right play at the right time. Time after time the way we play, the right plays happen more often than not. -Pierre-Edouard Bellemare

Against Winnipeg, the Golden Knights played disciplined, made quick decisions moving the puck, and capitalized on forced mistakes. In 300 minutes played against the Jets in the WCF, Vegas had the lead for an astounding 194 minutes.

Game 1: Vegas @ Winnipeg
WPG Time in Lead: 58:55
Tied: 1:05
VGK Time in Lead: 0:00

Game 2: Vegas @ Winnipeg
WPG Time in Lead: 0:00
Tied: 13:23
VGK Time in Lead: 46:37

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