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Defensemen Must Successfully Walk Fine Line In Possession vs Gap Control

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

In Game 3, Zach Whitecloud scored the first and only goal this postseason from a Golden Knights defenseman. An overlap in coverage by the Oilers found Whitecloud walking in on goal all alone where he ripped a beautiful shot short-side past Stuart Skinner.

In that situation, it was a no brainer for Whitecloud to carry the puck deep into the zone and fire a shot on goal. This series though, Vegas defenseman have had to be ultra careful when they’ve abandoned the blue line to extend plays in the offensive zone.

I th0ught the first 10 minutes of the game opened up because we they were exiting the zone quickly and we gave up some odd-man rushes. That’s a part of the game we’ll look back and say we need to correct that because it could have worked against us. We have to be cognizant of how they can transition quickly to create offense. -Bruce Cassidy

In the 1st period, the Golden Knights gave up three two-on-ones and another even-man break that ultimately led to Edmonton’s only goal of the game. All four followed a similar pattern. When the puck was turned over the Oilers were able to hit one quick pass that eliminated a Vegas defenseman. Once it was a chip past Whitecloud in the neutral zone, another was a pass behind Hague after Nic missed on a shot attempt, and the other two were simple stretch passes to Oilers forwards who had already exited the offensive zone.

Every possession in the offensive zone for the Golden Knights in this series is crucial. To beat the Oilers, Vegas has to spend extended periods of time with the puck as far away from their own goal as possible. This forces the Edmonton’s elite forwards to defend, puts stress on a below-average Oilers’ defense, and if done right, when the puck turns over, makes Edmonton travel through five Vegas players on their way across the offensive blue line.

As D-men we need to be aggressive to keep pucks alive, but we have to have good reloads as well. Being on the same page with forwards and D is important. There are times for us to pinch and there are times for us to stay back and we just have to make good reads. -Brayden McNabb

This is where it gets tricky on the Golden Knights’ defense corps. Entering every game, the group of six blue liners knows the importance of keeping the puck in the offensive zone. So, by nature, they are going to want to help as often as possible to pinch down along the walls and keep plays alive.

However, the Oilers are deploying a strategy that can expose even the slightest slip up when a defenseman leaves the blue line to either help recycle a puck or join in on the attack.

They’re going to make some plays but we need to be more accountable in how we’re going to defend that and make sure we’re counting sweaters in front of us. They were leaving the zone early and we have to make sure we’re ready to check and be over those guys when they do that. -Cassidy

Edmonton’s wingers, especially on the weak side, are taking every chance they can to fly the zone in moments where a Vegas defensemen advance up the ice. While the Golden Knights have the numbers advantage if they hold onto the puck, if it’s turned over, all it takes is one simple pass and VGK can go from extended offensive zone time to defending a 2-on-1 coming the other way.

In a period where the Golden Knights headed into the locker room leading 2-1, dominated in zone time, and looked great on the advanced metrics, the odd-man rushes created by the Oilers could have flipped the script.

If they covert on a couple of those chances it might be a different hockey game. So we can’t get ahead of ourselves or full of ourselves. There are things we need to correct and that’s a big strength of their game. -Cassidy

As we move into Game 4, the Golden Knights’ defensemen will have to be cautiously aggressive with their decision making in the offensive zone. Vegas needs extended zone time, so they can’t go fully conservative or the entire game plan will crumble. But, it can’t be a full out barrage we’ve seen them deploy against some of the lesser teams in the league this season.

How well they walk that fine line will go a long way in determining if the Golden Knights come home up 3-1 or tied 2-2.


Bruce Cassidy Has Provided VGK All The Answers So Far In Playoffs




  1. Jailbird

    Can we take control of this series and play a second good game in a row? Come n guys, be ready for their push tonight. You have shown you can out play these guys by staying calm, playing the system and don’t get dragged into the physical bullshit they will try and pull. Play smart and hard. Get them again boys!

  2. Karl with a K

    Vegas was able to win that last game handily while still getting a look at how edmonton /wanted/ to play it. essentially, edmonton showed their hand and lost while vegas was able to keep most of their cards hidden. this gives vegas the upper hand going into game 4.

    Vegas was able to see their stretch-pass plan. vegas can adapt or at least know what to do if it becomes a problem in game 4.

    Vegas was able to test some penalty kill strategies in a low-risk situation. we’ll see if it paid off.

    Vegas countered edmonton’s defensive strategy of pushing vegas out of their defensive zone by pressing vegas to the point, restrict the passing lanes, and then pushing them out… Vegas countered this in serveral ways, one way was showcased by the whitecloud goal.

    put simply, i don’t think this will look anything like game 2… if anything, it should look more like game 3.

    Ken asked a good question to cassidy and i think cassidy is right, i dont think if vegas is playing their game, edmonton can say that they played their game. with every vegas win, edmonton is going to say “we didnt get to our game”

    Vegas in 5

  3. THE hockey GOD


    Nice response, I don’t like it when reporters ask or write questions that gives information to the enemy. Let them figure it out for themselves. Especially in the middle of hotly contested series. It’s just plain stupid.


  4. Satan

    This is Satan.

    Let’s fucking go!!!!!!!!!

    Satan has spoken.

  5. Satan

    Satan is not happy with Shea Theodore.

  6. trade

    POS Theodore and the horse he rode in on. Bench his ass. he is such a pokechecking coward, and he just coughs up the puck if anyone pressures him. and he’s also a PP disaster.

  7. Jailbird

    Theo s sucking it up. Two penalties and gave puck away for a goal. Let’s face it, he has played awful this entire playoffs! Fuck, down 2-0 already.

  8. Arnold Rothstein

    1 VGK has no goalie
    2 no. 27 is penalized, refs swallow whistle, coughs up puck
    3 reiterate Oilers in six
    4 refs swallow whistles
    5 canadian refs swallow whistle
    etc etc

  9. Former season ticket holder

    Why cant we play 2 good games in a row! Why ???

  10. TS

    NOT AGAIN!#!#!#!#!#!#!#!

  11. Former season ticket holder

    2 PPs in a row, our guys being pushed around …time to throw the gloves and return the punches…or they will do twice as much on Friday

  12. trade

    Lady Byng VGK.

    a bunch of wussies being pushed around, blown out, and humiliated.

    Even the Charlestown Chiefs fought back.

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