One sign of a good team in any sport is an ability to correct a consistent problem. Early in the season, the Golden Knights could not figure out how to close out games.
In the first 13 games of the season, the Golden Knights outscored their opponent in the final period just three times while being outscored in seven. If you throw out the first two games, which Vegas won the 3rd in both, that makes for an 11 game stretch in which they had the upper hand in the 3rd just one time.
Over the course of the last six games, they’ve won the final frame in three and tied two others. Throwing out the disaster in Edmonton, the Golden Knights are outscoring their opponents by a score of 6-1 and they’ve yet to surrender a lead in the 3rd since the first and second games of the long road trip.
I think the guys are getting used to it, they’re more confident. -Gerard Gallant
The reason for the struggles has almost always been blamed on the same thing by the coach and players, aggressiveness. They’ve pointed directly at the fact that previously when the team had a lead, they would change their style of play and attempt to hold on to the game. In fact, following the OT win against St. Louis, Luca Sbisa even used the words afraid and scared.
We’re not afraid to lose in OT, but we are afraid to lose in the third period. In OT we just know that you have to take some risks to win the game, and that’s what we do. We kind of have to take a few things out of OT into the third period. We just have to want to win the game, we’re just kind of scared to win the game. -Luca Sbisa on October 21st
Exactly one month later, the Golden Knights look anything but afraid to play with the lead. Instead, they’ve looked like they aren’t even aware they have the lead, which is the highest of compliments. The last three wins, all games in which the Golden Knights either had the lead to begin the period, or claimed it relatively early in the 3rd, they’ve continued playing their normal style and it has paid off.
In the last game I think we were solid all over, but it’s definitely nice to just shut it down. You see the first when we were all over them, if we keep playing like that we are going to be very hard to beat. -William Karlsson
And that they have been, especially late in games.
Identify the problem, come up with the solution, implement the plan. It’s as simple as that, but only the best teams are able actually pull it off. Vegas has done it with this issue, but they’ll have plenty more to deal with over the course of the next 3/4ths of the season. This one they made look easy, hopefully, the rest are too.