By now you’ve heard about Winnipeg’s size and skill. It was on full display last night as the Jets outworked Nashville defensively and offensively. All postseason, Winnipeg has effectively used their size in front of the net creating messy traffic and high-scoring chances. Something San Jose did well against Vegas in the second round.
They are always kind of in my kitchen, right? -Marc-Andre Fleury
Overall, San Jose had plenty of chances in front of the net, but was mostly unsuccessful.
We had some defensive breakdowns that we kind of got lucky. They hit a number of posts. They were buzzing in front of our net pretty good. -Shea Theodore
Tomas Hertl (6’2″/220) used a mix of size and talent, tallying three goals in six games. Two were almost identical in that Vegas defenders couldn’t clear the puck, or San Jose attackers. Notice the swarm of teal surrounding Fleury.
Five Golden Knights allowed four Sharks countless opportunities to convert. Inches away from Fleury.
I think San Jose was one of the best teams in front of the net. That last game, they threw everything at net. Flower made some big saves and the post helped us a couple of times. -Luca Sbisa
In the end, VGK’s defensive lapses didn’t hurt them from advancing, but it could in the conference final. Winnipeg’s net presence is similar, if not better than San Jose’s attack.
Yeah they’re strong and fast, and they can make plays. They’ve got guys that play well in that slot, and play well in tight. That’s going to be our job to make sure that we eliminate those chances. -Theodore
Here’s two examples of Winnipeg’s heavy net pressure from their first-round matchup against Minnesota.
Three Winnipeg players crash the net giving room for defenseman Tyler Myers to attack. Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk had little chance with four Jets swarming his crease.
We got to be strong in front of the net. Fleury will make saves but we’re going to have to help out. We’ve matched physicality so it shouldn’t be a problem. -Oscar Lindberg
In the second example, the Jets immediately stormed the goaltender after a D-zone giveaway by Minnesota. Winnipeg’s top line took advantage setting up a quick, close strike from Mark Scheifele. Captain Blake Wheeler bullied his way to the front of the net allowing clearance for his linemate.
It’s definitely something that we got to think about. In the playoffs you’re not going to score pretty goals, there’s been a few but usually it’s those greasy goals. Throw a puck on net and there’s a rebound, you have to win that battle in front of the net. We can definitely do a better job. -Sbisa
The Golden Knights recognized their defensive mistakes and will consciously play tighter this series around their own net. Winnipeg will pounce on any chance Vegas allows, especially loose pucks in front of Fleury.
Covering the size and skill of Patrik Laine (6’5″), Wheeler (6’5″), and Scheifele (6’3″) will be the toughest assignments Vegas will defend all season. How can the Golden Knights defense clean up their zone against Winnipeg’s offensive pressure?
Sometimes we have to sit back, take a second and regroup. Make sure we’re tighter defensively. You know Fleury’s been playing fantastic this whole playoff but he’s not super hero. He can’t make every save. He does look like one though. -Theodore
While it’s nice to have a Dark Knight type in the crease, Vegas’ defense can’t allow that much pressure on Bruce-Wayne Fleury again.
As a D-man, you’re just trying to push the puck as far out as possible. That will take away the passing option. Laying down forces a guy to pass it into your body or take the shot. If it ricochets off a skate or stick usually it creates havoc. That’s when you have to tie people up. -Sbisa
The Jets net presence will be a primary focus for the Golden Knights defense. It could be the difference in the series. After studying game film, the team got frustrated by the defensive breakdowns around the net from last round.
However, #27 says don’t fret.
We’re regrouping, refocusing and we’ll be ready. -Theodore
Theodore and the defense will be prepared for Winnipeg’s size, skill, speed and tacky whiteouts too.