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Golden Knights Appear To Be Turning A Corner At 6-on-5

(Photo from @GoldenKnights on Twitter)

For the first 57 games of the 2023-24 season, the Golden Knights struggled mightily playing with the extra skater. When they pulled their goalie, they had a hard time entering the zone, couldn’t get shots to the net, and watched the puck sail into their empty net time and time again.

Despite losing 25 games in the first four months of the year, Vegas had not rescued a single standings point with late-game heroics and it had grown to a point beyond concern.

Now though, twice in the previous eight games, VGK have netted a massive goal with their goalie pulled stealing a point in Ottawa and locking up a pair in Seattle.

Last night the Golden Knights were struggling with a familiar problem for the first 90 seconds of empty net time. They couldn’t navigate the clogged neutral zone so they were forced to dump the puck in. Their puck battle win rate was slightly better than it has been in this situation all year, which allowed them a bit more O-Zone time than they’ve been used to. Then, the magic happened.

It started with a 2-on-1 puck battle in the corner that Chandler Stephenson, the one, outdueled the two Kraken to allow time for more Golden Knights to swarm the area. A poke from Jonathan Marchessault sent the puck around the back of the net to a Seattle defenseman. However, decent pressure from Ivan Barbasehv made Jamie Oleksiak have to swing the puck around the wall quickly in an attempt to get it out. Jack Eichel did his best Alex Pietrangelo impression, standing at the blue line to stop a speeding puck from exiting the zone. What he did next was where the play really began. Watch…

Eichel quickly fired it to the middle of the ice beating two oncoming Kraken. It was right on the stick of Chandler Stephenson who made an incredible touch pass back to a wide-open Jonathan Marchessault. #81 does not miss from there.

A few weeks ago, VGK netted their only other 6-on-5 goal of the season to send a game in Ottawa to overtime.

On this one, the Golden Knights won a faceoff, then used quick puck movement to disorganize the Seantor defense. The faceoff itself was a battle that Vegas needed every stick and everybody in the area to win. Karlsson moved it to Marchessault at the blue line, he instantly moved it to Theodore who had to make a perfect pass through a seam back to Karlsson. While the next pass was even better, this one eliminated two Sens and had a third one facing the wrong way. That opened the door for Karlsson to zip one through the seam to an open Stephenson.

There are a few significant differences in what has happened recently with the net empty for VGK than what they were fighting earlier in the year. First, their commitment to winning puck battles has risen. Not only has each individual done better in them, but the work rate of reinforcements to join the play has helped win more of them and keep the game alive longer. The other is rapid puck movement. It’s the portion of the game the Golden Knights struggle most with when a team is bunkered into their own end. On these two crucial goals, the puck wastes no time on VGK sticks.

The three points Vegas have rescued in the past couple of weeks have gone a long way in keeping them comfortable in the playoffs race. But more importantly, they’ve shown they are turning a corner in one of the weakest areas of the game this season.

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7 Comments

  1. Vic

    Jack and Theo off of IR and doing what they do. Injuries were devastating. Tired of seeing the Henderson Horsies every night although they made a decent showing. Second season in sight.

  2. A 6-5 man advantage is no different than being on a power play except for the urgency required and a wide open net for the opposition to shoot at.

    If you can’t gain entry.. if you can’t win stick battles…if you WONT shoot the puck…and certainly if you lose a majority of the faceoffs 6-5 is just an extension of mediocrity when it comes to the power play..there is a fix coming when Hertl is on the ice so there is hope around the corner because of his terrific puck retention skills!

  3. ThG

    jinx jinx jinx jinx begone!!!!

  4. Not sure a couple of wins in the manner described 6 on 5 out of how many is any indication of turning the corner. Frankly I believe if you go back over the schedule, it normally turns out to be a negative. It worked out last night which was great but that is normally not the case. Great win regardless how it happened but “turning the corner” is more wishful thinking than fact. All that really matters at this time is to keep winning regardless how that is accomplished unless early golf is on everyone’s mind.

    • TS

      Hdbiker, totally agree. The 2 recent successes are NO indicator of future sucess…but, it IS encouraging. Maybe they got the monkey off their backs. Maybe this was all mental. IDK, but we can HOPE!

  5. B-Rad-Lee

    Did you see where the Wild pulled their goalie in overtime and won 4 on 3?

    What a way to get two points!

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