Over the course of the first 13 games of the season, the Golden Knights set their lines and ran with them during a game. Barring special teams or injury, the four forward lines and three defensive pairings stayed the game all 60 minutes of the game.
That was until Monday night in Toronto.
After a rough 1st period in which Vegas let in three goals and got destroyed in possession, Gallant had seen enough from two of his defensive pairings and decided to switch it up.
The original pairings were Nate Schmidt/Luca Sbisa, Deryk Engelland/Brayden McNabb, and Shea Theodore/Colin Miller. He stuck with Schmidt/Sbisa throughout the entire game, but after an early 2nd period penalty, McNabb and Theodore were switched.
From that moment on, the Golden Knights outscored the Maple Leafs 2-0, outshot them 11-7 at even strength, and seemed to control the action for the remainder of the game. When all was said and done with the game, McNabb played more minutes with Miller than he did Engelland, and from the naked eye, both “new” defensive pairings were better than the original ones.
The Engelland goal was created by a Theodore stretch pass (and a terrible Toronto line change). Miller and McNabb had a 70% Corsi For Percentage and were on the ice together for one of the three Golden Knights goals, and Shea Theodore probably played his best game as a Golden Knight with his new linemate.
When Vegas is at it’s best, they are playing a much more offensive style game. They create turnovers through forechecking and in the neutral zone and then quickly make things happen in the offensive zone (see the gif above). When Engelland’s playing with Theodore, Miller with McNabb, and Schmidt with Sbisa, the Golden Knights always have a defenseman on the ice that has offensive capability. It allows them to play the style of game that’s worked at all times rather than really going for it with one pairing and backing off with another.
The switch may have been made because of the score, but the results were staggering. Right back at it tonight, keep your eyes peeled on how Gallant lines em up to start the game. I have a feeling we’ve seen the end of 3/5 and 6/27… cause 3/6 and 5/27 are much better. It just took a little while longer to figure it out than it should have.