With Mark Stone back in the lineup, the Golden Knights had to do a bit of line shuffling to begin their opening-round series with the Winnipeg Jets. The captain found his way back onto the right wing of Chandler Stephenson, while Jack Eichel stayed with Jonathan Marchessault and Ivan Barbashev, and Phil Kessel was placed with William Karlsson and Reilly Smith.
It was meant to be a well-balanced lineup focused around three pairs that have played together for extended stretches.
There’s a few moving parts because of Mark Stone’s recovery and we all knew that may or may not happen. It is happening now so we’re going to try to make the pieces fit around it if he’s available to us. -Bruce Cassidy
About halfway through the game, Cassidy opted to shift some players around to try and inject some offense into what had been a fairly listless performance to that point from the Golden Knights.
He started with
Then switched to
That came with a significant boost in minuted to each of the top six while the remaining group filled in the gaps.
With Game 1 in the books, Cassidy has elected to return to the lineup he began the series with, hoping for more success the second time around.
Looking back at usage, there were a few matchups Cassidy seemed to prefer when he had the opportunity with last change. First, he typically turned to Stephenson, Stone, and Amadio when the opposing 1st line would hit the ice. It didn’t take long for the Golden Knights’ head coach to show his hand with that matchup, going to it just 37 seconds into the game on the first defensive zone draw. He then went back to it three more times in the 1st period including twice in the defensive zone.
This left opportunity for Eichel, Marchessault, and Barbashev to play against the lesser dangerous lines of the Jets. Eichel’s first faceoff came in the defensive zone against Winnipeg’s 4th line and 2nd defensive pair. Cassidy followed that up by getting Eichel zone starts against 4th line two more times and the 3rd line a couple times as well. More importantly though, with the game tied and the original lines still in tact, Eichel never saw a matchup start against the Winnipeg top defensive pair.
Finally, the Golden Knights were steadfast in making sure Pietrangelo and Martinez hit the ice every time Pierre-Luc Dubois, Kyler Connor, and Mark Scheifele jumped over the boards.
Obviously circumstances change in certain situations, but here are the matchups Cassidy appeared to be looking for to open the series.
vs. WPG 1st Line (Connor-Dubois-Scheifele)
Pietrangelo-Martinez AND Amadio-Stephenson-Stone OR Smith-Karlsson-Kessel
vs WPG 2nd Line (Niederreiter-Namestnikov-Wheeler)
McNabb-Theodore OR Hague-Whitecloud AND Howden-Roy-Kolesar
vs. WPG 3rd Line (Barron-Lowry-Appleton)
Hague-Whitecloud OR McNabb-Theodore AND Barbashev-Eichel-Marchessault
vs. WPG 4th Line (Gustafsson-Stenlund-Maenalanen)
McNabb-Theodore AND Barbashev-Eichel-Marchessault OR Smith-Karlsson-Kessel
Assuming both lineups stay the same, which is expected with Nikolaj Ehlers still on the mend, it’s likely Cassidy continues to seek out the same matchups in Game 2. For it to have more success, Vegas will need better offensive output from both the top-line of Eichel, Barbashev, and Marchessault, as well as their best offensive-minded defenseman, Shea Theodore, epsecially when they are all on the ice together.
In Game 1, VGK’s top-line and 2nd pair shared the ice for a little more than five minutes at even strength. They failed to generate a single shot on goal and mustered up just two shot attempts, both of which were blocked.
Expect Cassidy to continue relying on this group to get the job done. He won’t give them long though. If the results aren’t drastically better in the first 20 minutes of action tonight, the lines are almost certainly going right back into the blender.