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Round Two Start Date Remains A Mystery

The 24th, 25th, and 26th all make sense. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

For the first time since the NHL went to seven game series in the first round, two teams scheduled to match up with each other swept their first round series. Vegas swept Los Angeles concluding their series on April 17th while the Sharks dispatched Anaheim wrapping up on April 18th.

The NHL schedule has round one set to come to an end on April 25th with four potential Game 7’s scheduled. Three are Eastern Conference series and the fourth is Minnesota and Winnipeg.

Thus, the following day, Thursday, April 26th, appears to be the most likely date for the Golden Knights to play the first game of the second round at T-Mobile Arena. However, there is precedent to move it up.

In 2016 the Predators/Ducks series went to Game 7 at Honda Center in Anaheim. Meanwhile, in the Eastern Conference, the Islanders had won in six and the Lightning in five. The NHL scheduled New York/Tampa Bay the same day as the Game 7 in Anaheim and actually dropped the puck on Game 1 in Tampa before Game 7 in Anaheim. Thus, the NHL has shown a willingness to begin a second round before the complete conclusion of the first round. However, over the past eight seasons, this is the only instance of this occurring.

Let’s throw in one more wrinkle too. Tuesday, April 24th currently has a pair of potential Game 7’s on the schedule, Nashville/Colorado and Pittsburgh/Philadelphia. Both top seeds lead the series 3-1 heading home for a Game 5. In the event both series are wrapped up in five or six, that would leave the 24th idle. It’s not unheard of for the league to have an off day, but they’d probably prefer to avoid it if possible.

Enter Vegas and San Jose. Both teams are looking at at least five full off days and would certainly prefer extra days rest in between games rather than before the series begins. T-Mobile Arena is wide open throughout the entirety of round two, but the SAP Center is a different story. The Sharks building has events on May 4th, 7th, 8th, 10th, 12th, and 13th. Plus, the San Jose Barracuda, who also use SAP Center are in the playoffs and would likely need to eat (that’s a pun) up a few days as well. An earlier start to the series gives the league more flexibility to work around SAP Center’s cramped calendar.

So what does it all mean? Well, we haven’t the slightest clue. All we can say is that the series can reasonably start on April 24th, 25th, or 26th. The 26th still seems the most likely, but we are far from as confident about this one as we were the start dates of round one.

Business-Like Attitude After Sweep Proves VGK Aren’t Like Everyone Else

The Golden Knights had just swept the Kings, their division rival, in the first round of the playoffs. They dominated a majority of the play, gave up just 3 goals in 14 periods, and trailed for less than 34 of the 275 minutes of play in the series.

I expected I’d be walking into a jubilant locker room full of laughter, smiles, and high fives. That was not the Golden Knights locker room after Game 4 of their sweep.

Still a few more games before it’s a good story. -Marc-Andre Fleury

It was cool and collected. I’m just already getting ready, starting to forget about this series, trying to get ready for the next one. See who we play and go from there. -Erik Haula

They’ve never been here before, but they had never been anywhere before, and that’s never stopped them. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

This isn’t new for a winning Golden Knights locker room though. Outside of the very first game in franchise history in Dallas, the Vegas locker room doesn’t get too high after wins. Whether it was beating Tampa Bay to move into first place in the NHL, knocking off the Penguins for Fleury or a somewhat meaningless 7-3 win over Calgary, the demeanor in the room remained the same.

When they clinched the playoff berth, it was almost as if they thought it should have happened a while ago. When they won the division, they kind of had this look of, “well yeah, we’ve been ahead by 10 points all year.” When they won Game 1, and 2, and 3, the same, but I thought it might be a bit different having finished the series and knowing they’ve got a plenty of time to revel in this one before they have to move on. It wasn’t the case.

Why would you be satisfied? We don’t have the Stanley Cup. We didn’t start the playoffs thinking, alright if we make the second round we are happy about it. We’re excited because we just won a series and we’re probably going to get one more day to relax the bodies, but in two days from now it’s back to business. -Pierre-Edouard Bellemare

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Sweep Success Moving Forward

Not this team is afraid to make history. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

In 1986 the NHL changed their postseason format adding two games to opening playoff rounds, making it a best-of-seven series. Since then, there have been 30 first-round sweeps… 31, including last night’s Golden Knights sweep of the LA Kings.

Only four (‘01-COL, ‘00- NJ, ‘99-DAL, ‘94-NYR) of the thirty teams went on to win the Stanley Cup. Not the highest percentage (13%), but winning the first-round in four has proven to be an early indication of further success.

Looking back over the past ten years, teams that swept their first-round series had extended success in the postseason.

10 First-Round sweeps

  • 3 Stanley Cup Runner-ups
  • 3 Conference Championship Runner-ups
  • 4 Teams lost in Second-Round
  • 0 Stanley Cup Champions

The full breakdown of every sweep teams success is below, and as you’ll see, many clubs got very close to winning it all. Teams that close out their series in four games will have a better chance of going deeper. However, it has been 17 years since the last time a first-round sweeper hoisted the Cup.

Interesting enough, over that same ten-year span four NHL teams (‘17- PIT, ‘16- PIT, ‘13- CHI, ‘12- LAK) won the Stanley Cup winning their opening round series in five games, the gentleman’s sweep.

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Rolling Four Lines Pays Off In The Long Run

Tomas Nosek is secretly one of the most important players on the Golden Knights. He’s so much more than “that guy who scored the first home goal.” (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

All-Star head coach Gerard Gallant created a few cliches for his team that he’s spent the last six months repeating to the media every chance he’s gotten. Things like “one game at a time,” “work hard and have fun,” and “roll four lines.” They are all obvious for a coach, but usually, they have little actual meaning and are more like those motivational posters supposedly successful people hang in their office.

Every once in a while though one of those sayings manifests itself from a cliche into reality. The Golden Knights won Game 3, and are now ahead 3-0 in the series because of their conditioning, because after a double overtime game in Game 2, Vegas came back and was the fresher team for 60 minutes, and especially the last 20. That’s not because they were taking it one game at a time or that they were working harder than the Kings, it’s because they’ve rolled four lines all season long and it’s allowed them to keep playing the same way, with the same speed and ferocity, even after a 95 minute marathon two days prior.

We’ve never relied on anybody to create all the offense or all the defense. It’s really a great job by Turk (Gallant) to stay the course with that. There were games this year where we were losing and maybe a couple guys wanted more ice time but that’s why he coaches that way so that situations like this happen in the playoffs and we just play the same way. -David Perron

The Golden Knights did not have a single player in the top 50 in total ice time in the regular season. William Karlsson ranked 30th among centers in average time on ice, and Vegas’ first winger to appear in the ATOI rankings was Reilly Smith at 38th among all wingers.

The reason Gallant spread his minutes out all season wasn’t that he had Game 3 of Round 1 in mind, it’s because he could get away with it. Most coaches want to roll four lines and keep everyone fresh, but they can’t because there’s a major drop-off in play from top line to bottom. Most teams, like the Kings, have a group of high-end players and a group of below average players. Not the Golden Knights.

Whatever shifts we got we created those bounces that created those momentum shifts and we know the bench gets excited when we play that way, so it’s not that difficult for us to recreate that. -Pierre-Edouard Bellemare

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3 Goals In 155 Minutes; Are The Golden Knights Creating Enough Offense To Keep Winning?

This Quick guy is pretty good, but no goalie is unbeatable. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights lead the Los Angeles Kings 2-0 in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but they’re averaging just one goal every 51:48 minutes of the series. Over the course of the regular season, the Golden Knights averaged a goal every 18:05.

The shot totals have been there. The scoring chance numbers are there. The possession numbers are there as well, but the puck simply hasn’t found its way past Jonathan Quick often.

He’s been amazing that’s for sure but I think we are making his life a little easier than we want. Shot decisions from the outside are not too bad but our secondary chances need to be better, that’s how we are going to get more goals on him. -Jonathan Marchessault

Quick made 54 saves in Game 2, one of the best games he’s put together in his career, but there’s always a way to beat a great/hot goalie and that’s to create chances no goalie can stop. Deflections, tips in front of the goal, rebounds, and cross-ice passes often lead everyone watching a game to say, “well, the goalie had no chance on that one.” Vegas’ goal in Game 1 was a deflection, the first goal in Game 2 was a rebound, and the game-winner was actually somewhat of a mistake by Quick (he whiffed on a poke check).

Two unsavable shots over the course of nearly eight periods, is that really enough offense to win a playoff series?

Enough to win two games. At the end of the night, if you get wins at this time of the year, that’s the most important thing. For our group we do want to put more goals up but we are playing the best defensive team in the league and they are doing a good job. -Marchessault

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“Find The Open Way” And “Be The Way Out”: A Look Into How VGK Has Made It So Hard For LA To Enter The Zone

The Golden Knights have never been considered a particularly great defensive team,  especially in their own end. They allowed 228 goals on the season, more than all but three of the Western Conference playoff teams and 26 more than their first round opponent. However, through the first two games of the series, Vegas has allowed just one goal in 155 minutes and 23 seconds and have not been scored on a single time in more than 126 minutes of 5-on-5 time.

The main reason for the Golden Knights defensive dominance over the course of the first two games has been the way they’ve defended the blue line. Stats are hard to come by on zone entry success rates, but from the eye test, over the course of eight periods, the Kings are having an incredibly difficult time gaining clean entry to the Vegas zone.

A lot of communication. Working together with your linemates and your D partner to talk to each other, work it out, find the open way, and we’ve been pretty crisp and executing pretty well in our own end. -Jon Merill

The Kings deploy the dump-and-chase style of hockey much more than the transition style of entry Vegas is more known for. Los Angeles gains the red line, then throws the puck down into the corner. The idea being they will forecheck hard and force a turnover before the Golden Knights can break out. More than often this series though, that hasn’t been the case and the Golden Knights have easily “found the open way” out of the zone.

Vegas is doing it with two main principles, speed and simplicity. First off, they get to the puck incredibly quickly. The first King to the puck is usually more than a full second behind the Golden Knight defenseman who retrieved the dump. Then, they play fundamentally sound defense taking the simplest option available.

The key to any breakout is to get back, work for each other, work for your partner, talk to each other, and everyone’s got to be the way out. I think everybody’s played fast, played competitive, wanted the puck and wanted to be involved int he game both night, that’s been the difference. -Merrill

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Erik Haula’s Game Winning Goal

A look back at Erik Haula’s game winning goal in Game 2 of the first round against the Los Angeles Kings from every angle we were able to capture.

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Matching D-Pairings With Top Offensive Lines Worked In Game 1 For VGK

Schmidt vs. Kopitar. Engelland vs. Carter. Round 1 went to Vegas. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

If you ask All Star head coach Gerard Gallant if he likes to match lines he usually responds with some sort of quip about how he’s not smart enough to make it happen. Instead, he prefers to roll four lines and attempt to let his guys play their game and force the opponent to match them.

However, on the other side of the ice, it’s a different story. For much of the year Nate Schmidt and his partner (Brayden McNabb or Luca Sbisa) have drawn the best offensive line of the opposing team. Last night was no different as Schmidt/McNabb were on the ice for a majority of their time against the Kopitar, Brown, Iafallo line. The difference for the Golden Knights is that they didn’t just limit the defensive matching to one line, they did it with the Jeff Carter line as well. Deryk Engelland and Shea Theodore were matched up heavily on the Kings second line and did well shutting them down.

Schmidt and McNabb played nearly 13 total minutes against Kopitar and managed a positive Corsi For of 57.69 and only allowed four even strength goal scoring chances in that time. Engelland and Theodore did just as well in the 12 minutes they saw against Carter with a slightly above 50% Corsi For and only two scoring chances against.

You hope you are going to get those matchups as much as possible. It doesn’t happen every time and I’m not a guy who is going to yell at our guys to change right away when you get a non-matchup line. You just do the best you can as coaches. -Gerard Gallant

This matching also has an offensive benefit for the Golden Knights. Colin Miller and Jon Merrill both posted 60+% Corsi For and spent a majority of their ice time in the offensive zone, where Gallant wants them.

All in all, the Golden Knights did well in getting the right players on the ice against the right Kings, and it worked like a charm in Game 1.

Doughty Will Have Suspension Hearing Today; Should Be Suspended Two Games

See you in Game 4 Drew. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

At 1:30 PM today Drew Doughty will have a hearing with the NHL’s Department of Player Saftey to determine the punishment he shall receive for his hit on William Carrier in Game 1.

With 10:01 remaining in the game, William Carrier carried the puck in the offensive zone and LA’s Drew Doughty went head hunting.

Doughty is an outstanding defenseman, but his emotions run high. After battling with Carrier for two periods, the Norris trophy recipient saw a chance to take revenge. The star defenseman led all skaters with 28 minutes on Wednesday, but a one second hit should keep him out of the Kings lineup for the next two games, despite not even being sent to the box in the game.

The NHL has set a precedent this season on hits like this over the course of the year. including suspending multiple players that were not penalized in the game.

Anaheim’s Andrew Cogliano was suspended two games for a similar hit on LA’s Adrian Kempe. Keep in mind, Cogliano’s suspension ended his ironman streak.

Nashville’s Filip Forsberg was suspended three games this season for a severe interference penalty on Jimy Vesey. The league ruled the hit was late, made significant head contact and was deemed punishable.

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Forechecking, Backchecking, And Actual Checking, That’s How The Golden Knights Won Game 1

The Kings must have felt like there were Golden Knights everywhere, and if they weren’t hitting the heck out of them, they were taking the puck and going the other way. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Like the atmosphere at T-Mobile Arena, the Golden Knights came out rocking. Just 3:23 into the game Shea Theodore scored the first goal, what went on to be the game-winner. That’s because, after that goal, the Golden Knights abandoned some of their normal principles and opted to play a possession-based defense style game, and a gem of one.

Less than a minute after the goal, Brayden McNabb was tagged with a hooking penalty that took away a lot of the Golden Knights momentum. They killed the penalty, but went on to look like a different, but equally good, team. Rather than their standard transition style of offense the Golden Knights relied much more on their forecheck, they were hellacious in their backcheck, and for the first time ever, they recorded over 50 hits and won a hockey game.

I think we were good both ways. It was good to see a lot of speed and physicality, it was a fun game to be in. We just didn’t give them much time and options the entire game. -Jonathan Marchessault

It wasn’t a normal game for Vegas. In total, there were just 35 scoring chances at even strength between the two teams. Golden Knights games averaged 45.2 per game in the regular season. The Golden Knights maintained possession and had a specific purpose with the puck; do not make mistakes that lead to easy breakouts and offense the other way. That’s the big reason for the low scoring chance totals and why even down a goal in a playoff game, the Kings were only able to muster up three scoring chances the entire 3rd period.

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