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Blueprint To The Golden Knights Beating The Colorado Avalanche

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Well, they made it through. It wasn’t easy, it took a little longer than expected, and there was a lot more heartache in the series than necessary, but the Golden Knights are on to the Second Round. And with it comes the inevitable date with the Colorado Avalanche, a team Vegas knows very well.

The best team in the league with arguably the best player in the league. -Max Pacioretty

The hill the Golden Knights must climb to once again reach the NHL’s version of the semifinals is a tall one. Colorado won the President’s Trophy (thanks to a tiebreak over Vegas), they swept the St. Louis Blues in the First Round, and quite simply, they are as elite a team as there is in the NHL.

But, that doesn’t mean beating them in a seven-game series is impossible for the Golden Knights. In fact, it’s very possible, if they follow this blueprint.

Like the one from the First Round against the Wild, it’s broken down into four segments with the most important being first, and the least last.

Combat speed with puck management

The most important aspect of this series for the Golden Knights will be their management of the puck. It’s obviously most crucial to make smart decisions in the defensive zone, but against the Avalanche, Vegas need to be excellent taking care of the puck in all three zones. It starts and ends with how and when the puck is turned over. It’s inevitable the Golden Knights will lose control of the puck. When they do, they must do it in the least dangerous places in the ice and be set up with good structure behind it so they can neutralize the Avs ability to get out in transition.

In many ways, the Golden Knights want to make these games boring. Rather than trying to look for the fancy play to match the Avs speed and skill, Vegas should be trying to play simple and wait for the mistakes Colorado makes. If the Golden Knights play extended periods where they are mistake-free, their defensive structure and goaltending will cause the Avalanche fits. It will limit the ability for MacKinnon, Rantanen, and Makar to make dazzling plays, it will set up for chances on the rush the other way as the Avs try harder and harder to generate offense.

Handle the moments of frustration

Both of these teams are excellent defensively. They do it in different ways, but both teams have the ability to consistently break pucks out of the defensive zone despite heavy forecheck pressure. For Vegas, they utilize their exceptional defensive wingers to make the right plays along the walls to get them out of the zone quickly and safely. Colorado relies more on skating, simply winning races to pucks, and using the time and space that creates to pick out the right pass before the forecheck ever gets going.

When both teams are on their games, which will likely be for extended periods in this series, generating offense will be difficult for both teams. Because of this, frustration will start to set in as there will be shift after shift after shift where no one is creating much of anything dangerous. The team that handles this frustration better will be able to break through it quicker and stronger. If Vegas embraces this style of play, they’ll feel like they are winning the battles even when the game is being played as a stalemate. The Golden Knights need to be comfortable going five to ten minutes without getting anything dangerous if it means forcing the Avs to do the same. Frustration will catch up to different players at different times, it must happen to Colorado more than Vegas.

Survive the tough matchups

With Max Pacioretty in the lineup and Nazem Kadri out for the Avalanche, this problem wanes a bit, but it still remains a challenge for the Golden Knights. Like most teams in the NHL, Vegas barely have any answer for the Colorado top-line, let alone answers up and down the lineup. There will be times when the Avs get MacKinnon and Makar on the ice against the VGK bottom-six and/or third-pair. When it happens, it’s about survival.

Vegas cannot allow these 40-second shifts to change the style of the game and allow the Avalanche to start dictating play through the neutral zone. It doesn’t have to look pretty, and there can be some bend in the Golden Knights’ game when these matchups happen, but they cannot break. They can’t make panicky plays like icing the puck or trying to make blind exits. Surviving these moments will be a huge piece to keeping the Avlanache from stealing goals when Vegas is otherwise playing well.

Make Philip Grubauer prove his worth

Grubauer has had an excellent season, easily his best in Colorado and the best of his career, but in a weak division in front of an elite defensive unit, there are still question marks that the Golden Knights must force him to answer. The Golden Knights are going to want to challenge Grubauer every time they can, much like they did Cam Talbot. Odd angle shots, well-defended rush chances, shots through traffic, whatever it takes, Vegas need to force Grubauer to make all of the stops, even the easy ones. The Golden Knights know what they are getting from their goalie, no matter which one is in there, the Avs think they do too, but history indicates it could be a little more up in the air in the Colorado net, Vegas need to be there to take advantage of it.


If the Golden Knights do all of this, they’ll walk away with another series win and send the Avalanche packing in the Second Round for the third straight year. If not, the more skilled team will consistently give the Golden Knights fits.




Film Breakdown: Nathan MacKinnon’s “Office” At The Blue Line


  1. knights fan in minny

    i thought for sure they would not start until monday 4-4 against the lanche let it all hang out could use a big series from tuch janny and roy cant wait

  2. Bent Hermit

    I know I was hard on the Misfit line my last post but I do think they will be more successful at putting the puck in the net this series. The VGK plays a more north/south style coming out their zone, stretch passes and bring the puck up the ice fast. Once the Misfit line gets to the O blue line they play a more east/west style, cross ice passes to open up the D and get the goalie moving. One of the reasons the Misfits struggle to score in the offseason is teams concentrate on taking away the middle of the ice so opposing teams have to play north/south, which the Misfits struggle to score playing that style. The good news is the Avs are not as good as the Wild at shutting down the middle of the ice so the Misfits should have some better chances. The biggest problem with the way the Misfits play is that they like to make a cross ice pass as soon as they cross the blue line. The Avs D are to fast and good which could lead to a costly turnover from the D stepping up and taking the pass the other way. The key is to not force that pass and dump the puck if the D is playing a tight gap on them.

    • Tom P

      I don’t think that the Avs are quite as structured on D as the Wild were. Also when VGK is on its toes they clog the neutral zone and force turnovers in that area….leading to O zone rushes. They did an excellent job with that for most part with perhaps the outdoor game being the exception. I agree with Hermit that scoring options should be there for lune 2 and 3……if their speed can be limited then we have an excellent chance of winning this series in 6.

    • Daryl

      The Avs are also a faster team than MIN and they have a better goalie. VGK will have issues getting up the ice and keeping control of the puck. I’m not saying they can’t get it into the offensive zone with control, but trying to skate past Avs players to do so will be very difficult

      • Bent Hermit

        I wasn’t trying to say it was going to be easy. I was just trying to point out that the Misfits should have a little bit better chances once they get into the O zone and be able to score more than 3 goals in series against the Avs. Which they have to do if the VGK is going to win.

      • John Brown

        Agree with most of your points. But look at this from another direction.

        Avalanche 4 lines produced 9,3,5 and 1 goals against a weaker team than VGK.

        VGK 4 lines were 8,3,5 and 1.

        Our forecheck and PK are better.

        The game will be won by the team that produces the most “fight OR flight” situations.

        Have you ever wondered why you go into a room in your house to get something and just as you enter the room you FORGET what you were going after.

        Has nothing to do with AGE. It has to do with your “fight or flight” PERSONAL psychosis level.

        Most people do not understand how their brain works. When you enter the room, YOUR brain DUMPS your “get my cellphone” thought and overrides it with using your EYES to look for DANGER.

        That is how you beat the Avalanche. Your have to “psychologically” intimidate them so that they can not concentrate on “why they entered the room”

        Physically and mentally intimidate them on each shift.

        By the way, when you go to look for something, keep repeating WHAT you were going after. Your brain controls what you are “seeing” so talking stops your brain from overriding you saying what you are looking for.

        B.S. Business, sub concentration in Industrial PSYCHOLOGY.

    • Theresa soles

      I agree. Just WISH you would STOP calling the Knight’s MISFITS!! ( FYI: The Knights ” FIT” very nicely together!!)

  3. Pistol Pete

    Good analysis Ken.

    I’ve said it before but if the VGK played like they did the game they had only 15 skaters, they will have a chance to win this series. And Pietrangelo opened the scoring that game.

    • Alex

      Even if Vegas follows this blueprint the Avs will still win.

      • knights fan in minny

        alex the downer

        • Daryl

          VGK has a decent chance to win this series but I also think MIN wins it. That isn’t being a downer, just a realist

        • Ken

          Reaves is a f goon worthless pos trade him

          • Daryl

            Nobody wants him…. this is something most of us on here agree with you on

    • Daryl

      That was the one and only good rush Petra put together. And as I said after that game, it was a good thing he scored or at least got it on net as we only had one defender back to stop an odd man rush

  4. FG

    Start the fourth line every period, especially when the Avs start the McKinnon line. Set the tone from puck drop. The Avs had the least hits in the NHL during the regular season. Use the bottom six to ferociously forecheck the Avs D men. Those small skilled smooth skating defensemen will wilt under an avalanche of pounding from Reaves and Carrier. The front office built the tallest, heaviest team in the league. Use it to an advantage!

    • Daryl

      So we start the 4th line hoping they can hit somebody as the Avs skate right past them??? Our 4th line isn’t fast enough to even come close to hanging with McKinnon line

      • VGKNinjaMan

        I could get behind t his…even if only for a sub minute shift just to get some quick psychological work in on their small first line. Then as we shift (short one remember) our 1at line can come in fresh and either force theirs to stay out for a super long shift with some Go if offensive pressure and choices or force them to shift early as well due to tired and beaten up players which will cause staggered lines down the line. Could work…worth a shot imo. I also was pondering that maybe throwing lehner in for the first or second game start might be a way to give flower some rest as well as test the waters and see if maybe R.L. Can push himself to be better than usual and surprise both is with an amazing g ame and surprise the Avs because they have spent a week preparing for flower or talbot(leaning towards flower in sure based off our first five series games which is where we were when they swept the blues. ….what’s everyone think of the rest vs that issue? Our momentum and experience and confidence from a seven game series win versus their week rest but played a soft looking, wilting blues team without their leading scorer and still didn’t DOMINATE as I expected them to in that sweep..

        • Bevis

          Small first line? Do you know the Avs first line? MacKinnon is the smallest at 6′ and 200 pounds. But he’s too quick, too fast, and built thick to have trouble with anyone playing a heavy game against him. Then there’s Landeskog. He’s at 6′ 1″ and 215. He’s a strong man. Then there’s Rantanen. He’s 6′ 4″ and 215. While they aren’t the biggest line, to call them small is ignorant.

      • VGKNinjaMan

        Rest vs. Rust issue I meant…stoopid autocorrect! Really curious as to everyone’s thoughts on this particular subject tbh…

  5. Once again Bent Hermit… You completely miss the whole objective of the 2nd line in the Wild series… They were totally successful in controlling their main line of offense along with Fleury… Anything they provided offensively was a bonus… Great job Marshy, Karly, and Smith… As always your 200 foot effort is noticed and appreciated!!!

    • Bent Hermit

      I understand your a fan boy but the stats speak for themselves. I’m guessing you’re new to hockey if you don’t understand the stats and what I pointed out. If you actually have some stats to explain why their production has been worse in the post season than in the reg season after VGK’s 1st season I would like to see them. I’m honestly interested. The team could build a 3rd line that’s only job was to shutdown a top line for a lot less money. A good 2nd line is expected not to be just a shutdown line. Please check their on ice minutes game 6 was the only game they were matched against the Krill line for the whole game.

  6. Ken

    Vegas hasn’t been in the league long enough to win Lord Stanley cup! Pay your dues it will mean more when you do finally win it all.

    • knights fan in minny

      a re you serious what are you smoking kenny

      • Kenny

        You will see if they ever win one lol

        • Emilio

          Pay your dues? What does that even mean. If a team is good and they worked their asses off why shouldn’t they lift the cup? Because some guy on the internet said they haven’t paid their dues? Sheesh

    • EK

      That just a ridiculous thing to say. If a team is good enough to win, their period of time in existence means nothing. That being said, I am a Red Sox fan and waiting 38 years to see them win the WS did make it that more special when they finally did it in 2004. An expansion team with surprising immediate success in a sports hungry city is not the same thing as a once storied franchise who hasn’t won a championship in 86 years with fans all over the world, some waiting their entire lives for a WS victory.

      • kenny

        opinions are like assholes everyone has one! I value your opinion as you should value mine

    • Daryl

      Are you a Caps fan???

  7. Daryl

    To say a team should win because they are new is asinine. These aren’t brand new players, they’ve been in the league for a long time and have paid their dues

    • Ken

      Vegas doesn’t deserve a cup yet

      • Ken

        Expansion team can pick any unprotected player they want! It’s like a stacked team from the start, then Vegas doesn’t have to give the Kraken any players because they are still considered an expansion team. That wrong just wrong in my opinion.

        • Daryl

          You do realize that VGK was picked to place DEAD LAST in their first year!!! This whole BS that VGK doesn’t deserve anything because of the players they were able to acquire is a complete joke and people who use it look very STUPID!!!! How many players, minus MAF, were 1st line players on offense or defense? How many 2nd line players did they have???

          Until you know exactly what you are talking about, you shouldn’t talk

          • Ken

            I was watching hockey and jumping out of Airplanes when you were jumping out of school buses

        • Daryl

          Which doesn’t mean shit… I guess that means you know so much you should actually be coaching in the NHL with all that experience!!!

      • Daryl

        If you say so!!! But it’s not about VGK its about the players. Those players deserve to win the Cup as much as any other player

  8. Ken

    Reaves is a f goon worthless pos trade him

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