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Category: Game Analysis (Page 1 of 17)

Gallant On Stanley Cup Final Loss, Theodore, Free Agency, In TSN Interview

“When you’re 22-years-old in the Stanley Cup final, or even in the Stanley Cup playoffs you’re going to make mistakes.’ (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Before Jack Adams finalist Gerard Gallant celebrated with thousands of fans on Fremont Street, he joined old buddy Chris “Knuckles” Nilan on TSN Montreal.

It was an outstanding year. We battled, we worked hard, and we had an unbelievable regular season. It just carried over to the playoffs. -Gerard Gallant

Nilan asked about coming up short in the finals, and if Washington was able to slow the Golden Knights down.

Our guys weren’t gassed and they weren’t tired, I think Washington made us look tired. They really took it to us, and played a physical brand of hockey. Washington was a better team… Our top line is an outstanding line and they played really well. I gotta give Washington credit, their two top lines played outstanding hockey. Down the middle, Kuznetsov was outstanding, Backstrom was outstanding. They just had more fire power in the final. -Gallant

One of the best exchanges in the interview was about Shea Theodore and his costly giveaways in the Cup finals. Knuckles alerted Gallant he wasn’t calling out the young defenseman but was more interested in how he handled his mistakes after games.

There was no issue with that. The kid made a couple of mistakes, everybody makes mistakes, and that’s what we told the kid. When you’re 22-years-old in the Stanley Cup final, or even in the Stanley Cup playoffs you’re going to make mistakes. That kid made more good plays for us than enough, we’re real happy with him. He just shook it off. -Gallant

Moving on to next season, the TSN host asked the Golden Knights coach about the offseason and building a roster for next season. I’m beginning to think Gallant gets the latest NHL Rumors push notifications on his iPhone. For a guy that doesn’t read box scores or standings, he sure knows who’s available.

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End Of Season Media Day Takeaways

An unbelievable year comes to a close, three wins too soon. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

There was so much to take away from the end of year media availability with the players, Gallant, and McPhee, that we figured we’d chuck it all into one post and then break out stories from it over the next couple weeks. So, here are all of our takeaways from the final day of the 2017-18 Vegas Golden Knights.

  • Las Vegas has become home for a lot of players on the Golden Knights, but no one has adopted Vegas quite like Pierre-Edouard Bellemare.
    • “It’s home. It’s easy to judge other places and I’ve always told myself, I’ll go back to France because I love France. Then I came to Vegas and for the first time in my life my wife and I were like why not in the States then, we don’t mind Vegas whatsoever, we like it. Vegas has been a place you came to think you are going to play hockey and suddenly you find a home.”
  • This team realized they were going to be good a lot earlier than they led on. Many different players were asked and the answers varied from the second day of training camp to Christmas.
  • David Perron and the Golden Knights had some contract negotiations during the season but they never came to an agreement
    • He absolutely wants to stay.
    • He believes there’s room to work on both sides. “I’ll deserve what I’ll deserve, but I’m willing to work with them to stay here.”
    • He has always found stability important because he’s bounced around teams a lot in his career. Term length seems fairly important to him.
    • Mentioned “his buddy” Marchessault specifically a few times as a reason he wants to stay.
  • Perron’s illness which kept him out of multiple games against Winnipeg was a 103-degree fever. He told the doctors he wanted to play but their fear was that he could possibly spread it around the room. He was sent back to Vegas before Game 2 of the series and felt better when he came back.
  • The reason Perron was kept out of a portion of the Kings series was due to an injury to his neck. He sustained it earlier in the year and said he and the doctors didn’t think early in that series was the right time to come back.
  • One of my favorites moments was when William Carrier said he will never change the way he plays. I chimed in by saying “even when you completely whiff on the guy and check yourself super hard into the boards in that last game?” He responded “which time?”

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Return To Scoring First/Playing With Lead Imperative For Golden Knights

The Golden Knights scored first in both home games in the series, they need to do it again. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

When the Golden Knights score first they’ve been almost impossible to beat in the postseason. Their record is an astounding 11-2 when netting the game’s first goal. In the Stanley Cup Final, they’ve scored the opening goal just twice, which is one of the reasons why Vegas is facing elimination tonight.

It’s very important. I feel like we’ve been trailing this entire series. We had a lot of chances last game to be able to get that goal ahead and I think we just have to bear down and get that first goal. That means a lot to our structure of play. -Reilly Smith

Smith’s linemate laid it out even simpler.

I think we need to play with a lead. We’re a good team when we play in the lead. -Jonathan Marchessault

The Golden Knights were 34-5-2 in the regular season when they took the games first lead.

Yeah it’s been important all postseason, for all teams. It’s going to be a fight to get that lead. We’re a really good, dangerous team when we get the first goal. Get the crowd into it and go from there. -Erik Haula

Taking a lead, protecting it, and winning playoff games was a winning formula for the Golden Knights, until this series. Leading up to Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final, in 16 postseason games the Golden Knights lead for 162:43. Since then, they’ve lead for just 9:29 minutes, and have trailed for 123:18 minutes.

They’re doing a good job. They’re scoring at opportune times as well. Their power play’s sparks the team. It’s important for us to score that first goal and play with that lead. That’s what our mindset is for the next game. -Smith

Having a good first ten minutes is really important. Washington is a team that when they have a lead, they play to shut down and play really good defense. We’ll try and get the lead early on. -Alex Tuch

The Golden Knights seemed confident Game 5 will be a different outcome than the last three games. It begins with the Vegas top line and top players.

They’re a tough team to play against. They wait in the middle and let you make mistakes. We have to put pucks behind them, and let them make the mistakes. -Marchessault

Going by the numbers, scoring first will greatly help the Golden Knights chances to extend the Cup Final. The series isn’t over if Washington jumps on the scoreboard first, but it puts immediate pressure on Vegas to answer. It doesn’t matter which Golden Knight scores, just as long as it’s the opening goal.

The Ugly Numbers Behind 3-1

The hole is deep, but the opponent has blown leads like this before. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Here’s the bad news, it hasn’t happened in 76 years. Here’s the good news, it has been done. In 1942, the Toronto Maple Leafs were trailing the Detroit Red Wings 3-0 in the Stanley Cup Finals. Toronto went to win four straight games to hoist the Cup.

The silver lining, the Golden Knights will only have to win three straight.

I think at home’s our best games for sure throughout the playoffs that crowd will be getting us going for sure and we’ll be ready. -Alex Tuch

The Golden Knights have played with confidence all season, and now it’s time to dive deep down and find that assurance. It’s been a successful “one game at a time” mentality for Vegas. It’s really one game at a time right now, and there’s no room for error.

To win three games in a row is tough in this league, but at the start of the season, if you told anyone in this locker room, ‘If you win three games in a row, you win the Stanley Cup,’ I think everyone would be excited about that opportunity. -Reilly Smith

Since 1942, only that one Maple Leafs team has won the Stanley Cup series trailing 3-1. Only the 2006 Philadelphia Flyers and the 1987 Oilers pushed the series to a seventh game. So it’s possible to force a Game 7, but the odds are stacked against Vegas.

That being said, as rare as it is in the Final, teams coming back from 3-1 in the playoffs is not horribly uncommon.

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The Golden Knights Haven’t Been Here Before, But They Feel Like They Have

The word of the day in the Golden Knights locker room was “doubt.” It’s a word that’s all too familiar to expansion team who now finds itself in a 3-1 hole in the Stanley Cup Finals. They’ve been doubted every step of the way, and now they hear the doubt from the outside creeping back up, maybe as strong as it ever has, and they are ready to relish the opportunity like they have before.

It would be another crazy element to the fairy tale. As if it needs another one. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

I asked Nate Schmidt if there was more doubt now or before the opening game of the season. He gave the classic puzzled Schmidt look, thought about it for about 10 seconds, and said “equal.”

They’ve never been down 3-1 in a series. They’ve tied their longest losing streak of the year. They are facing a climb no team has successfully made since the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs. Quite simply, they’ve never been here before, but in a way, it kind of feels like they have.

I don’t think anyone thought we could make it to this point now, and I know a lot of people that are already giving it to Washington and saying the Cinderella story is over but we’ve been resilient all year and we’ll be ready for tomorrow. We are not looking past tomorrow. -Alex Tuch

We’re going to do what we’ve done all year. We’re just going to focus on the next game and see where it takes us. Stuff that we’ve done this year has never been done. -Jonathan Marchessault

What they’ve done all year is win. At every pass, they’ve proven the doubters wrong and found a way. Now, down 3-1, they’ll look to do it again; all the while trying to do the only thing they really set out to do in the first place.

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May The Real Golden Knights Please Stand Up

Play like the Golden Knights and win Game 4. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Jonathan Marchessault used the words “must-win” three times in the first two questions during his morning skate media availability. That term has been thrown around by others in the moments since the Golden Knights went behind 2-1 in the Stanley Cup Final, the deepest they’ve trailed in a series all postseason. However, the focus is inward, looking at themselves to get back to the style of hockey that’s gotten them to this point, something they believe they haven’t played in any of the three games this series.

We haven’t shown our game yet, that’s the reason we are down by one. -Pierre-Edouard Bellemare

Bellemare believes the fix is easy too.

Small details. Late on the forecheck, sometimes forwards are not reloading as hard as they have been all year. It’s the Final, so being close to a player isn’t good enough, you have to be on him. At the end of the day I feel like we’ve been able to play our game against any team we’ve played and it shouldn’t be any different if we are all committed to it, it’s as simple as that. -Bellemare

His message has also comes through on the ice. The Golden Knights fourth line has been consistently excellent in the series, scoring goals, checking both ways, and controlling play a majority of the time they are on the ice.

It’s just making the right play at the right time. If the play’s not there in the middle then just chip it (in). The best example is the Bellemare line, they play a simple game and they have a lot of success. I think we should definitely play more like that. -Marchessault

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Unbalanced Defensive Minutes For Washington Could Become Factor As Series Wears On

The golden Knights have to take advantage of the heavy minutes load to create more moments like this with VGK’s top line vs. Brooks Orpik. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Jack Adams finalist Gerard Gallant likes to utilize his top defensive pairing of Nate Schmidt and Brayden McNabb against the opposition’s top line. However, that doesn’t mean he lessens the minutes of his other two pairings significantly. Through two games of the Stanley Cup Final, the Golden Knights have been much more balanced in terms of minute load compared to the Capitals on D.

 ATOI (Series)ATOI (Regular Season)ATOI (Playoffs) 
Matt Niskanen25:4122:2625:32
John Carlson24:3024:4725:50
Dmitry Orlov23:1223:0824:24
Nate Schmidt21:5822:1424:32
Shea Theodore21:5820:2121:39
Brayden McNabb21:0020:0921:55
Deryk Engelland19:2620:1722:14
Colin Miller18:3319:2119:16
Michael Kempny18:3219:2217:43
Brooks Orpik15:4115:4516:59
Luca Sbisa15:0019:3116:17
Christian Djoos9:0514:0210:59

Washington boasts the top three defensemen in average time on ice and also has three of the four bottom players in ATOI through two games in the series.

As the workload continues to increase for the Caps, it should come as with an advantage the longer the series goes. Niskanen, Orlov, and Carlson are on the ice a lot, and as long as Vegas’ forecheck can get back to their normal relentless selves, the Capital d-corps should wear down.

Carlson and Kempny are the only two defensemen which a 50+% Cosri For for the Capitals, but both have been on the ice for more even strength goals against than for.

Wearing out terrific defensemen like Carlson, Orlov, and Niskanen is easier said than done, but the minutes load is likely to add up at some point. Late in games, Vegas has to make it hard on these guys and force Barry Trotz to go deeper down his bench more often.

It may not materialize in Game 3, or even Game 4, but as the series continues, the Golden Knights should be the fresher team, especially on the blue line.

Golden Knights Reserves Become Fans Like Everyone Else

We know they’d rather be on the ice, but the VGK healthy scratches maintain the right attitude. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Imagine this. You’ve worked your entire life to become a professional hockey player, make it to the National Hockey League, and to eventually play for the Stanley Cup. Then, your team makes it there, coach brings down the lineup card, and your name is not on it. Rather than play in the game, you are destined to sit in the press box wearing a suit and watch. Sounds like the worst, right? Actually…

It’s awesome. When you’re sitting upstairs and we score a goal guys are jumping and down, hugging each other. That’s what it’s all about. Everyone is a part of the same goal. -Brad Hunt

Hunt hasn’t played since April 7th in Calgary, the Golden Knights last regular season game.

Guys like myself, Jonny (Merrill), and others who haven’t played in awhile, we all want everyone to do so good because we know it’s a chance at something we may never get a chance to do again. It’s been so special. -Hunt

Talking to Hunt, fellow defenseman Jon Merrill, and others, you’d think these guys average 20 minutes a night in the postseason.

I’m honestly more nervous when I’m not playing. When you’re out there playing you’re not thinking about anything, you’re just playing. When you’re upstairs you’re just a fan, you want the boys to win so bad. -Jon Merrill

Golden Misfits? More like Nervous Nellies.

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Golden Knights “Didn’t Execute” On The 5-on-3 And It Cost Them Game 2

5-on-3’s changes games whether goals are scored or not. Vegas was on the wrong side of it in Game 2. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

John Carlson called it a “momentum shifter,” Barry Trotz said he was “praying like crazy”, and Jonathan Marchessault said “they played it well.” The Golden Knights unsuccessful 5-on-3 power play in the 3rd period was a major turning point of Game 2.

Definitely when you have a 5-on-3 in the playoffs you have to score, and I think that’s on us. -Jonathan Marchessault

Early in the 3rd period, Tom Wilson took his normal residency in the box for an interference penalty on Brayden McNabb. This gave Vegas a two-minute power play with 16:47 remaining in the game.

Two faceoffs, a stoppage in play, and a Colin Miller shot attempt later, the Capitals made a second blunder. Lars Eller was caught hooking Miller, creating a two-man advantage for Vegas.

I was praying like crazy. They’ve done a really good job in those situations. They’re well prepared and they have a high commitment level. -Barry Trotz, Washington head coach

For the next 1:08, Vegas did very little and only shot once on net.

The chances are there. Really, we didn’t execute them. You look at it back, and everything we wanted to do was there. We just didn’t execute the play right. We didn’t do it quick enough. It was guys not making the right plays at the right time. -Gerard Gallant

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Stagnant 3rd Period Offense (And An Amazing Save) Sends The Series Back To Washington Tied 1-1

There wasn’t enough in front of the goal either. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

For five periods of hockey in the Stanley Cup Final the Golden Knights offense had been relentless. Creating turnovers in the neutral zone, wreaking havoc on the forecheck, and transitioning from defense to offense quickly. Unfortunately in the series’ sixth period, playing from behind the entire 3rd period of Game 2, none of these things were true for Vegas.

We’ve pushed in a lot of series, we’ve pushed, and pushed back hard and we’ve had success but you aren’t going to be able to do it every time. The goalie is going to make great saves, but you just have to be ready for the next game. -Nate Schmidt

The difference tonight was the push wasn’t strong enough to break through the wall the Capitals had set up through the neutral zone and into the Golden Knights attacking zone. Aside from the special teams chances, Vegas was one-and-done far too often, they had way too many failed entries, and the forecheck was not creating turnovers like it has all season long.

They were just sitting back waiting for us. We got some good chances in the 3rd period, but you’ve got to bury them. -Jonathan Marchessault

The chances were not making it to Holtby though. The Golden Knights went more than 10 minutes from 13:58 to 3:38 remaining in the 3rd period without a single shot on goal.

Washington is a stout defensive team when they have the lead because of their strong neutral zone play. They took away a lot of the Golden Knights transition game through the center of the ice forcing Vegas to either make a difficult pass or dump the puck into the zone. The Capitals were much more careful with the puck giving it away just four times in the game compared to their nine in Game 1. Also, the Golden Knights forecheck was not creating as many takeaways. They came up with just one the entire 3rd period by a forward and just three total.

We lost a 3-2 hockey game, Tuch has a wide-open net with two minutes left with a chance to tie it up. We didn’t play our best game, but we had 39 shots and we still created a lot. It’s one of those games where Holtby played real well and he was the difference in the hockey game. -Gerard Gallant

It will be interesting to see if Gallant is singing the same tune tomorrow after watching the film. Braden Holtby played well and made one of the best saves any goalie has made on a Golden Knight shot all season, but Vegas simply didn’t do enough in the 3rd period to overcome the deficit.

It’s just the way it went tonight. -Marchessault

On to DC.

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