After starting 1-4-0 to begin the season, the Golden Knights have ripped off six wins in their last eight. While the wins are crucial as key players remain out of the lineup due to injury, the way the Golden Knights have been playing has been just as important.
For the first time all season, last night Vegas put together a complete effort on both ends of the ice, allowing the fewest Grade A chances of the season while also generating enough in the offensive zone to sneak out four goals and overcome two deficits.
The game against the Kraken is another step in the right direction off what may have been their next best game of the year, ironically a 5-2 loss in Detroit. Vegas defended much better in that game as well but were bit by the penalty bug and an effective Red Wings power play. Before that, the final two periods in Montreal were as strong as we’ve seen from the Golden Knights this season.
We changed a few things in our system this year and that’s going to take time to adjust and I think now we’re starting to see it become second nature for us. You’re starting to see what we want to do throughout games with those systems. -Alex Pietrangelo
Whether fully healthy or not, the Golden Knights will go as far as their defensemen. Vegas’ offense is built through generating chances off the rush, often started or joined by a defenseman, and in-zone play that relies on shots from the point and activations from the blue line to keep plays alive.
That’s the important thing about our group, we play as five all over the ice, that’s our system. When we are doing that we are effective, when we aren’t we get a little stagnant in the o-zone. As soon as we start spreading out the zone and letting our D get some touches and create some opportunities, you can see the flow of our offense work and everyone gets involved. -Pietrangelo in postgame interview with ESPN
That wasn’t happening early in the season, and then when it began to over the past few weeks it seemed to lead to offensive zone turnovers and lost coverages both in defending the rush and once inside of the defensive zone.
It’s been a focus for us, we’ve been giving up a lot of those chances, a lot of second opportunities and rebounds and all that. Those shot totals, sometimes they have 50 but 20 of them are from right in tight and those are the ones we’re trying to get rid of because it’s just extra work we don’t need to give our goalies. -Pietrangelo
What has come with that is more effectiveness in the offensive zone as well. The less time and fewer chances the Golden Knights are giving up in their own end has meant more zone time in front of the opposing goalies. It works in harmony and when it goes the way it can, the Golden Knights look like the team that’s been to the conference final in back-to-back seasons.
There are now two questions moving forward. First, can they continue this string off better play, especially as they start to face teams much higher up in the standings than Montreal, Detroit, and Seattle? And second, how will the integration of the injured players back into the lineup affect the flow they’ve started to generate.
Everyone is hopeful on the first one, Pietrangelo is confident on the second.
If you look at the guys that are not playing right now, these guys have played several hundred games, they’ve played in the league for a long time and they are watching the games. It’s not like they are coming into it completely unknown. They’re watching the same things we are, they’re in the same meetings we are and when they come back they’ll be up to speed. -Pietrangelo
It’s been eight straight strong periods of hockey for the Golden Knights, which is a massive step in the right direction after 30 where they had a hard time stringing together back-to-back quality periods.
With five games left in this homestand, now is the time to really cement this style of play and become the consistent team the Golden Knights have been for the past four seasons.