Most of the focus over the past few games since the All Star break has been on the offense. It’s with good reason as a team that often goes through scoring droughts has posted 19 goals in four games with all but one coming at even strength.
The other end of the ice is where the Golden Knights have really been winning games though. Their ability to limit the opposition has helped allow the attack more time to work and it’s also fed the transition game Vegas relies on so heavily.
It’s not just the defensemen that are making this happen.
Part of the reason (our opponents) haven’t generated much is what we’ve done between the blue lines. I think it’s a combination of our forwards working really hard to get out of the other end and working back to help. It’s all gap related, if our D can have confidence to close their gap they’ll kill some of those plays knowing the forward will cover for them if they don’t get there in time. That’s just a team playing the right way and it’s best for the group if we play that way. -Bruce Cassidy
Where that has shown up most is Vegas’ ability to limit odd-man rushes. In the past four games, they’ve only allowed two true odd-man rushes, once against Minnesota and another against Anaheim. Cassidy also believes forwards reloading to help the defensemen in the neutral zone has helped their offense as well.
That’s the selling part for me. You tell the forwards, if you work back really hard and we’re on time there’s a pretty good chance you’ll get yourself a puck five seconds later with a chance to attack and I think we’ve done a good job of that. -Cassidy
There’s no denying the impact the group of six healthy defensemen have had on the game as well. With both Zach Whitecloud and Shea Theodore back in the lineup, the Golden Knights look more comfortable in every aspect of defending.
Our breakouts are cleaner so that’s helped us defend better. What we’ve done with the puck has allowed us to play less defense too. We have the puck so we don’t have to defend and now when we do we have more energy because we’re not running around in our own end and we can close off plays quicker. -Cassidy
However, there have been some portions of the games in which the defending has broken down, and Cassidy points to a specific aspect of the game as to why.
Some of that goes to shift length. The 2nd period we got away from it and our shift length wasn’t good. Now we’re spending more time in our own end because one guy is coming off and we’re trying to get a puck back with three and a half guys forechecking and the other guys are scrambling to get back in the zone. That’s why we didn’t have the same attack opportunities as we had in the 1st period. -Cassidy
Nonetheless, over the course of the past four games, the Golden Knights have done everything you can ask as a unit to help make games easy on the goaltenders. They are rarely allowing odd-man rushes, they aren’t spending much time in the defensive zone and they are blocking shots.
The challenge is about to pick up though.
The defense has been excellent in these four games, but we have to be mindful that the four teams we’ve played are not high-end high-octane teams so tomorrow is a great test for us. -Cassidy
If the Golden Knights can continue defending against the better offensive teams they are about to face, things will continue looking bright in Vegas.