When it comes to the Golden Knights 5-1 start there’s really not much you can point at and say “well that makes sense,” but nothing’s been more surprising than the Golden Knights success in overtime thus far.
In six games the Golden Knights have been to overtime twice. They beat the Coyotes in Arizona in the second game of the year and then knocked off Buffalo Tuesday night late in the extra frame.
Normally, when it comes to three on three overtime, the team with the highest skilled skaters wins the day. The game in Arizona is debatable, but there’s no doubt the trio of Jack Eichel, Ryan O’Reilly, and Evander Kane out-skill anything Vegas can throw out there.
Yet, when it was all said and done, the Golden Knights were able to get the job done.
You look at our hockey team and people wonder if we are going to be as good in overtime because of the skill level, cause a lot of teams can put out some very talented players, but I think you look at our group, there’s guys with speed, guys with skill and that’s what’s impressive. I thought our guys have done a great job in overtime. They moved the puck and David Perron scored a beautiful goal. I just hope it keeps going. –Gerard Gallant
The two overtime periods were almost direct opposites of each other. In Arizona, the Coyotes controlled the puck for a majority of the period before a magical play by Perron opened the door for James Neal to get the goal. At home against Buffalo, the Golden Knights controlled the puck for most of the four minutes and finally scored on somewhat of a broken play.
The Golden Knights did do three things very well in both periods, which is ultimately why they found the game-winner in both.
First up is individual defensive efforts. Two plays, in particular, stand out as reasons why the Golden Knights haven’t allowed a goal in 3-on-3 this season. Here they are…
On the first play, Luca Sbisa tracks back to make a great defensive play on the streaking Max Domi. The second is Nate Schmidt doing almost the exact same to keep O’Reilly out.
On both plays, the Golden Knights defensemen used speed, body placement, and stick checks to keep the player on the break from even attempting a shot. There are a few other examples throughout the two overtime periods, including another from Sbisa and one from Reilly Smith. When playing against talented skaters, these are the plays it takes to keep the puck out of your own net.
The second thing the Golden Knights have done extremely well in OT is change lines. Overtime is always played on the long change side of the ice (same as the second period), which makes changing players even more difficult. It was more noticeable against Buffalo, but probably more impressive against Arizona, that not a single time in either period were the Golden Knights caught on a bad change.
Against Buffalo, Vegas controlled the puck for a lot of the period, so they were able to cycle through a bunch of players. On multiple occasions, a Golden Knight purposely carried the puck out of the Buffalo zone to allow for a clean change. In Arizona, it was more of changing without the puck, which is tougher, yet every time they pulled it off and were able to avoid unnecessary odd man rushes.
The final piece of the puzzle has been top-end scoring skill from Perron and Neal. In both games Perron and Neal were the forward pair on the ice when the game winner was scored. In Arizona, it was a beautiful bank pass by Perron to set up the goal for Neal. Against Buffalo it was Neal reading the play perfectly to open up the shooting lane for Perron.
I think James Neal read what I wanted to do extremely well and it helped push the defense back a little bit. It’s either the defense comes to me and then I try and dish it to James Neal or the defense has to honor James Neal and most guys are going to do that because he is such a great shooter. It left me a little more room and I was able to score. -David Perron
It’s an incredibly small sample size, but if Vegas continues doing the first two things, the third one will eventually come most of the time.
I love that David Perron refers to Neal by his full name