Can’t we just call it a night after 2? (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

During the 8-1 start to the season, all of the talk was on how great the Golden Knights were playing, especially during the 2nd period. After the game against Colorado, the Golden Knights had a +13 goal differential in the 2nd period of their first nine games. It led the league by six goals in that specific period and it was the highest differential for any team in any period.

Then, they went to New York, lost to the Islanders and Rangers, and the strong 2nd periods are forgotten while the focus shifted to the disaster that is the 3rd.

at Dallas0-12
at Arizona-101
St. Louis-12-1
at NY Islanders1-1-2
at NY Rangers11-4

The obvious question is why is this happening, and rather than channel our inner Turk, we’re going to try and figure it out.

What makes you guys so good in the second period?
No idea. Seriously. -Gerard Gallant

The first piece to the 3rd period nightmare puzzle is a little thing called circumstance.

  • 10/10 vs. Arizona – Golden Knights lead by 4 heading into the 3rd (-1)
  • 10/13 vs. Detroit – Marc-Andre Fleury remains in game after getting concussed midway through the 2nd (-4)
  • 10/13 vs. Boston – Bruins score with :30 left on clock in 6v5 situation (0)
  • 10/17 vs. Buffalo – Golden Knights lead by 3, give up goals on 6v4, 5v3, and 6v5 situations (-2)
  • 10/21 vs. St. Louis – Malcolm Subban injured with 10:00 left in game. Oscar Dansk makes first career NHL appearance (-1)
  • 10/30 at NY Islanders – Oscar Dansk injured late in 2nd, Maxime Lagace makes first career appearance in tie game on the road (-2)
  • 10/31 at NY Rangers – David Perron takes 4-minute penalty, Rangers score one during the PP, add another empty-netter late (-4)

A lot has gone down late in 2nd periods and into 3rd periods for the Golden Knights, namely injuries and leads. If you remove the concussion game, and this last one at Madison Square Garden, Vegas is at an even differential in the 3rd. However, circumstance doesn’t tell the whole story. Check out the shots/Corsi numbers.

(Reminder: Corsi is all shot attempts, even if they are not on goal or are blocked.)

**The graph is laid out as Corsi(SOG). So a period in which Vegas has 10 shots on goal and 20 Corsi attempts while allowing 5 shots on goal and 10 Corsi attempts would read “10(5)” because 20-10=10 and 10-5=5**

at Dallas7 (4)-14 (-13)-7 (1)
at Arizona8 (1)27 (12)-4 (1)
Arizona3 (2)11 (6)-17 (-13)
Detroit8 (3)1 (3)0 (-6)
Boston1 (-1)10 (4)-1 (1)
Buffalo-1 (1)11 (5)-18 (-13)
St. Louis-10 (-12)-5 (-3)-15 (-12)
Chicago5 (4)4 (0)2 (-2)
Colorado0 (-1)-8 (-5)3 (-3)
at NY Islanders6 (5)4 (-2)4 (1)
at NY Rangers3 (5)-2 (-3)-9 (-6)
TOTAL30 (11)39 (6)-62 (-51)

Yes, you are reading that correctly, Vegas is -62 in Corsi and -51 in shots on goal in the 3rd period.

In just one 3rd period out of 11 games, the Golden Knights had more shot attempts (Corsi) AND more shots on goal (SOG) than their opponent. In the 22 1st and 2nd periods, Vegas has done it 12 times.

I’ll readily admit stats don’t always tell the story, but these ones are not just a flash in the pan. The Golden Knights simply do not have the puck in the opposing zone as often in the 3rd as they do in the 1st and 2nd, and it’s led to a -8 goal differential and -62 Corsi differential in the games final stanza. That likely has a lot to do with this…

We’re not afraid to lose in OT, but we are afraid to lose in the 3rd 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 3rd period. We just have to want to win the game, we’re just kind of scared to win the game. –Luca Sbisa

If you watch carefully, you can see exactly what Sbisa is talking about. In the 3rd period, the Golden Knights play a slightly more conservative game, specifically in the neutral zone. Rather than being aggressive and challenging for pucks, they back off a bit to avoid allowing odd-man rushes. What ends up happening is that the opponent gains the blue line easier and Vegas ends up hemmed in their own end for extended periods of time.

The biggest challenge the Golden Knights have had as a team (aside from keeping goalies healthy) has been their inability to get the puck out of their own zone when all 10 skaters are beyond the blue line. It’s the number one thing they work on in practice, but it has consistently been a problem to this point. In the 3rd, when they lose their aggressive nature in the neutral zone, the opponent does not have to work as hard to get into the Golden Knights zone, and once they are there, they feast.

That’s the easiest explanation for the disastrous -62 Corsi differential. It’s not a secret either, Gallant talks about it all the time after games. The question is, why does it keep happening?

And for that one, I will channel Turk and say, “no idea, seriously.”