We can’t get Golden Knights defensemen to shut up about the importance of their on-ice communication. They say it’s key for a pair to be aware of one another during a game, especially defending a rush, or if one is in possession of the puck. Sure, they know where the other is most of the time but the chatter can often help to get back in position, develop a play or break out of the defensive zone safely. Come this time of year (well, not normally actually this time, but you get my point), it takes on even more significance as one broken play in the postseason can lead to the winning or losing goal.
With the Return-to-Play underway, fans were introduced to the recorded ambiance that the league will use during games. It’s interesting, to say the least. The crowd noise will be pumped through arena speakers giving some sort of fan representation. However, the volume level was lower than a normal sold-out NHL game. During yesterday’s exhibition broadcasts, you could hear the atmosphere of a typical NHL game but the natural sounds of hockey were much more defined.
Brayden McNabb and Nate Schmidt have three years of chemistry playing together in Vegas. It’s a luxury the young franchise has. We’ve seen the impact Shea Theodore has on the ice but he wasn’t paired with Alec Martinez until deadline week back in February. There’s no doubt the veteran Martinez won’t have a problem connecting with his pair pal, but one injury or one bad night and that can all change.
If the third pair of Nick Holden or Zach Whitecloud are struggling you might see coach Pete DeBoer shuffle his lineup, or cut some minutes. In that scenario, the lessened crowd noise might allow whatever d-pair that’s on the ice to have clearer communication. Holden even made a crack to the media about using code words because opponents will likely hear what the Golden Knights are discussing. Without rabid fans, the defensive players should have no problems picking up each other.
Also the low, neutral crowd noise can not only help a defenseman settle down but an entire team. In the postseason, after a home team scores, it can get intense. Fans can get so loud and deafening that some arenas are accused of pumping in extra crowd noise. I know people will argue the validity of gaining or losing momentum, but we’ve all seen it, a team can struggle to rebound after giving up an important goal. (Let the record show I did NOT specifically reference one prime example of this happening.)
The non-biased crowd noise will help the player’s flow of communication, allowing them to focus on scoring the next goal. Oh, and to remind the team they’re not playing in an enemy’s arena.
To be fair every team will have the same advantages. When it comes to the Golden Knights, it’s their defense that will need to be at their best every night. It’s hard to worry about Vegas’ top-six forwards, because of their skill level, built up chemistry, and postseason experience. The top-six combined has played in 261 playoff games, while the six defensemen have played in a total of 212. It’s not a wide margin but with Whitecloud in the lineup, there’s less experience on the Golden Knights blue line.
I’m not saying crowd noise will play a large role in a team advancing, but it’s a small element that a good team can take advantage of. Defensemen rely more on communication, and if communication is coming from the ice or from their bench the player should clearly hear it. Fans tend to drown out that chatter in a normal postseason setting.
But this isn’t normal, and any edge can help a team succeed. Thankfully, the air conditioning is working in the Golden Knights hotel rooms.