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Golden Knights Must Find Ways To Avoid Similar Fate To Last Postseason

The book on the Golden Knights was written last year. The rough draft was penned by the Vancouver Canucks and the Dallas Stars crossed the T’s and dotted the I’s to finalize the copy. Now, the Minnesota Wild have picked it up and are attempting to turn it into a New York Times’ best seller.

What does the book say? Force the Golden Knights to beat you without scoring on the rush and shooting from the outside. Vegas won’t get traffic in front, they won’t hit passes through the seam to open up a collapsed defense, and they won’t clean up rebounds if any are left behind.

VGK need more of this. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Since Game 4 in the Vancouver series last season, the Golden Knights have now scored a total of 12 goals in their last nine playoff games. Three of the games have gone to overtime meaning Vegas is on a pace of scoring one goal every 45:37 of hockey. Meanwhile, they have crossed the 30 shot threshold in eight of the nine games and amassed at least 40 shots in four of the nine including yesterday’s Game 1.

Simply put, Vegas’ prolific offense that led them to 3.39 goals per game this season and 3.15 last year has dried up completely against the last three teams they’ve played in the postseason, all of which deployed the same defensive structure.

The question now is, can they fix it?

Just keep pushing. I thought we had enough good looks tonight to score a couple goals. It’s not like they smothered us defensively. -Pete DeBoer

We’ve got to bear down on our chances. I think we had quite a few looks. Our power play had some chances to score. We’ve just got to bear down. I think we’re kind of getting jammed up a bit. These guys are good. They’ve got plenty of guys in front of their net trying to block shots. We’ve got to find a way to break them down a bit. -Mark Stone

This all sounds good and well, but it also reads like a carbon copy of what we were hearing back in September when they were unable to right the ship.

Stone’s next answer started to hit at the root of the problem.

Well they’re blocking a lot of shots. They have five guys tight. That’s the way they play. They try to box out the middle of the ice and keep you to the outside. I think we can do a better job kind of penetrating that a little bit more… I think we can get our D ripping some pucks more if they want to block shots. -Stone

Take a look at the Golden Knights’ shot chart from Game 1. There are some chances from directly in front, but a majority of the 42 shots on goal came from the outside.

Photo Credit: NaturalStatTrick.com

The Golden Knights can keep telling themselves they are outplaying their opponent,  but the Wild, like the Stars and the Canucks before, are perfectly content with the style of play Vegas is throwing at them.

Defensively, anytime I left anything in front of the net, we collapsed and we were boxing out. They didn’t get a lot of second opportunities either. I really liked our game tonight. We just have to carry that forward. -Cam Talbot, Wild goalie

To stop playing into their opponents’ hands, the Golden Knights have to work harder in two areas.

First, they must find a way to attack the net before the defense is ever truly set up. Maybe the Golden Knights’ best chance in Game 1 came off a play in the neutral zone by Shea Theodore. He picked off a pass and hit William Karlsson who caught the Wild out of position as they tried to change.

Other than that chance though, the transition game was reliant on defensemen getting up in the rush. Pietrangelo, Theodore, Hague, and Whitecloud each had moments where they were part of the rush and helped generate chances before the Wild could collapse. Any time Vegas can get those chances, they must take them and then sell out to get the second chance on the back end of it, even if it means the potential of giving up something dangerous the other way.

Second, it’s all about stretching out the defense by using movement both on and off the puck in the offensive zone. Right now, the Vegas offense is quite simple. They rely on the cycle game to gain complete possession of the puck, and then they play low to high in order to allow the defensemen at the point to make the offensive decisions. In Game 1, most of those decisions were to either fire the puck on goal, where Vegas rarely created enough traffic, or recycle the puck to allow the forwards to get back to work.

Vegas needs more activation from the blue line. Pietrangelo and Theodore are both excellent puck handlers who can activate up the wall and create confusion. If they can beat the winger guarding high, defensemen must come over and help out, which will spread out the defense as a whole and allow for more rebound chances.

Or, Vegas need forwards to come out towards the blue line to stretch out the defense. Normally, the Golden Knights position one forward along each half-wall and then the other one heads to the front of the net. It’s worked all year against defenses less focused on collapsing into their goalie. Instead, they may need to either overload one side or bring a forward up high to change the look Minnesota is giving them defensively.

I think we’ll look at the tape. Try to find some more offense. Obviously, five-on-five and on the power play. The game tonight, it’s a one-goal game. We’ve got to find another goal tonight somewhere, somehow, at some point prior to it getting to overtime. We’ll look for some answers there. -DeBoer

Whether they are the answers I just spelled out or not, hopefully, they find them and quickly. It’s clear the Golden Knights plan on continuing to play the heavy puck possession game while the Wild are happy to sit in and deny Vegas in transition. If the series continues down that path, Vegas must have more tools in the bag than they’ve had in their previous nine playoff games.

Otherwise, we’re going to start hearing about puck luck and hot goalies, and nobody wants that.

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63 Comments

  1. Daryl

    I’m sure this Payson who thinks he is a hockey god will make more excuses for Petra and blame Stone if VGK loses again. He will even say the goalie is out of position because he doesn’t know what else to say

  2. Frank

    This exactly Ken…. and the mental aspect to the game. VGK seems to have a mental roadblock when it comes to the Wild and secondarily what happened last year in the playoffs. They need a game where they can score early and often. As we see and know, VGK goals largely happen off the rush and speed counter through the neutral zone (turnovers). For whatever reason, when they get set up in the offensive zone they get bogged down. Not to mention the d men can’t seem to get a shot through traffic in front. The other thing that irritates me is their extreme penchant for passing on a point blank scoring opportunity to make the pretty pass (Ahem – Reilly Smith’s pass in front of the net was a prime example. You have to take those shots.) I expect a fired up VGK next game. I can only hope they get one in the net early.

  3. Walt23

    Minn is a typical boring rope-a-dope team. They just hang back, trap, and wait for a turnover chance. just like the 2 teams you mentioned, Ken. Both Dallas and Vancouver missed the playoffs this year, so that further points out that the Knights are being victimized by mediocre teams who are just playing clutch and grab debby hockey.

    Notice that goalies who are backups or washed up vets all look like world beaters when playing the Knights. the reason is that the Knights DO NOT depend on net front traffic to score, and THAT is their downfall. they get constantly “Demko’d” in the playoffs.

    The Knights are a well structured defensive team that depends too much on fancy passes, and east west hockey to score. They would be a much better team, with more potent playoff offensive punch, if they had an EMPHASIS on net front traffic, screens, rebounds, tip-ins, re-directs, etc etc

    The PP is a good example of this failure. The Knights PP is a weakness that hurts the team bigtime, and the main reason for the PP failure is the lack of a net front presence.

    So, to sum up, the VGK could solve their toughest offensive playoff problems by simply demanding far more net front presence. Do it or sit on the bench. Do it or keep losing to inferior teams.

    • Walt23

      the Knights QB’s on the PP are 27 on unit 1 (they get most of the ice time) and 7 on unit 2. Nobody on the team has the puck more on the PP than they do. However, get a load of this stat…

      Shea Theodore has exactly ZERO PP goals this season

      and

      Alex Pietrangelo has exactly ZERO PP goals this season

      and for sure one of the main reasons for this is the lack of net front presence to screen the goalie.

      oh, and btw, Theodore had exactly 1 PP goal last season as well, while Pietrangelo had 6 for the Blues.

      so, it is pretty obvious that the Vgk have a major problem with lack of net front players both on the PP, and at 5-on-5 as well

    • A Fan

      They’ve known about this problem of no net front presence for quite some time now. They talk about it, but never do anything about it. It’s like the drunk who says he’s going to quit drinking right after he goes into the bar for a few more…one more time. Krebs was playing in front, he got his jaw broke. That should motivate them even more. lol

  4. They have had nine games to figure out the Wild and learned nothing. Ken as you said recalling last year with Vancouver and Dallas the same issues took place . They were lucky to beat Vancouver and their luck ran out against Dallas. You don’t win playoff games based on luck and its all BS about running into a hot goalie and puck luck. They are not only poor excuses they border on stupidity . Those are words of delusional individuals many who unfortunately often post on this site. I realize how most want to see the glass half full versus have empty but I am sad to say they are running out of time to get their shit together I personally don’t think they have the attitude necessary to put it together – no one wants screen the goalie – none seem to have a clue (if they do they prefer not to do what’s necessary) regarding the PP. Come Tuesday if they don’t rise to the occasion it will be the last game at T-Mobile this season sad to say.

    • Daryl

      Problem is, they will probably score on the PP then everyone will say they have it fixed, just like they all did near the end of the season. Scoring once on the PP doesn’t mean the problem has been fixed

      • Tim

        Daryl your right our PP has sucked all year we get 3 chances a game and my wife and I sit there and say well that’s a waste of time. We have zero confidence that they’ll ever score a goal on the PP. You can’t score 5 on 5 and you can’t score on the PP how do you expect to make a run for the cup. I’m not being negative but I don’t see how we can win tomorrow with our lineup and if not call Don Meredith Turn down the lights the party’s over.

        • Hi Tim – they having the man advantage is a huge opportunity for the competition as they can sit back and relax there is no chance of a goal. There will be some on this site that they have scored some but like Daryl said that’s not fixed or they would do it all the time. You could go as far as to say when they do score on the PP it’s more of an accident. I smile at the attorney add for tickets to the fortress when they do score on the PP – smart guy as he sure didn’t spend much. I noticed the Wild % on PP is about a third so Vegas better stay out of the box. It’s pretty sad they could be looking at a long summer because of the decisions made by FO. If the FO had any balls they would step forward and admit that perhaps they made a mistake. Ken talks about a blueprint to perhaps win – there was a blueprint out there regarding how to waste money and cap space on big dollars for Dmen. SJS. Kings, etc. they sure didn’t have far to look to gauge the results. I smile when I read Lehner is the future or bridge to where ever (maybe their referring to the basement – Watch tonight could be the final appearance at the fortress this year unfortunately – very sad – often reality is.

      • I wouldn’t worry about that – the probability of that happening is slim to none and slim left town.

    • Clinton Comets fan

      If I recall correctly in our initial season playoff Reeves was providing screens on power play. Worth a try? Don’t think he’s afraid to stand there.

      • Daryl

        Reaves probably will stand there and screen the goalie but really he is too slow to be on the PP… BUT the PP isn’t working anyway so why not try it

  5. Tim

    Ken, I listened to your Twitter podcast and you were spot on. The one word in that 30 minute podcast that said it all was Blueprint. You are so right teams have figured out a Blueprint how to beat the Knights it happened last year and it will happen again this year. Like you if they take a quick out some one will get fired. Patch once again has hurt us again he’s 32 and the body starts to let you down, My take on the Knights is this we’ve got a fun team DeBoer has a great winning percentage and if he doesn’t have the horses there’s no magical answer when it comes playoff time. Were short two centers that can play and with that added we can fit everyone else nicely to have a strong 4 lines. But no cap bad contracts thats not going to happen.

  6. Tom

    I felt that their best chances came in the first period. They turned The Wild over in the neutral zone and and an aggressive forecheck. Continuation of that with a forceful net front presence may help. 2nd & 3rd period Wild came through the neutral zone unchallenged and our forecheck essentially disappeared….thats effort. The Wild were first on pucks and won most puck battles….again effort…..but at the end of the day if the VGK forwards don’t commit to physical net front play then this may be a quick series. One more thing…..wouldn’tit be nice to see Shea check someone or better yet, not turn the puck over on their pathetic pp.

  7. Denny

    Is the team practicing today? Thx.

  8. Henderson Knights

    why should they practice? they already know how to lose to Minny…… they have that down pat.

  9. THE hockey GOD

    nice write up Ken

    VGK need to bring more urgency to their game, SOMEBODY WAKE THEM UP !!

  10. phantom major

    let’s not forget the refs, who did their part. when Roy was hooked in the hands while trying to shoot in the slot, no penalty. when Tuch was clipped with an obvious high stick, no penalty, but in OT, when they are supposed to let the players decide the outcome, the hook by 81 gets called.

    shades of SJ in ’19

    • THE hockey GOD

      @ phantom major

      I remember seeing that too, and said to myself “self, the refs swallowed their whistles again”

      sigh

      Miracle Max still hasn’t answered the call, I am still waiting.

    • Blitz

      Yeah I hate to blame penalties as you always see refs make good/bad calls both ways though-out most games, but in a tight hard fought *playoff* game it sucks to see the penalty to 81 in OT. That was a pretty soft call for the situation, in my opinion. I don’t blame the game on that, I blame it on lame offensive scheme, but it certainly was weak sauce on the ref’s part.

      • Howard

        It’s “You’re dumb bro.” If you going to make an observation that someone is “dumb” on here, at least don’t look like a dummy yourself by engaging in poor grammar.

        • THE hockey GOD

          @howard I think he was referring to “your dumb bro” . You have a dumb brother?

          I didn’t think so.
          dun
          dun ah
          dun ah ah
          dun dun dun dun dun

    • Daryl

      Let’s not start that BS! Yes the missed calls were not in our favor but I saw many missed calls for us as well. The Refs are not the reason we lost. When fans start blaming the officials it makes them look pathetic

  11. LVsc

    Wash wins in OT, on a deflection in front by Dowd

    Isles win in OT, on a deflection in front by Palmieri

    Minn wins in OT, on a deflection in front (by Martinez while trying to block the shot from the net front by Ek).

    see a pattern??

    • THE hockey GOD

      you wrote:
      see a pattern??

      YES AVOID OT like the plague !!

  12. Bent Hermit

    Vegas is the tale of 2 teams. The bottom 6 plays the type of game that could beat the Wild but has no skill (other than Tuch). The top 6 has the skill but are always looking for the pretty play and doesn’t want to get dirty in front of the net. The Wild like to match the Krill line against the 2nd because the only 1 on that line that will play physical in front of the net is Smith. A change in lines would help. Move Marchy to the 1st and Janmark to the 2nd. Stone gets a shooter and 2nd gets a player that is better defensively and has more grit in front of the net. 2nd line’s main job is shutdown Krill, without him they will have a hard time winning. There’s no player on the team that can elevate the play of the bottom 6 like Tuch so start double shifting him on the 4th line some and limit some of Reavo’s minutes. Put Nosek-Roy-Tuch back together they were the best 3rd line all year. Even if Patches comes back Marchy should not be on 2nd line because the Krill line is getting their best chances against them.

  13. DOC (Go Knights Go)

    Hey Ken.

    Why don’t you paint your map on the ice before the game.

    That should help, eh?

  14. Jason Mason

    Maybe someone from the VGK should be watching tapes of how the Blues handled Minnesota, because watching what the Knights are doing is apparently not helping.

    I’ll be sitting over here eating my popcorn and try to be entertained by a few folks that ought to get a room.

  15. LVsc

    VGK have scored 12 goals in their last 9 playoff games.

    THAT is shamefully pathetic.

    hey Knights, Pollyanna time is over. tarnishing a great regular season. Time to wake up and go to the net….. get off the perimeter and the fancy pass crap. NOW !!!

    • Tim

      That’s interesting 12 goals in the last 9 playoff games. I just get less inspired after reading a lot of these posts. I can see DeBoer having trouble last year with his scheme because he was new to the team to repeat the same mistakes in this years playoffs has to partially fall on him. Management hasn’t helped him out much either.

  16. Howard

    Some really insightful and spot on commentary here, so I have nothing really to add here except – VGK fails same way again, there should be a giant enema, from FO to coach, that is all!!

  17. It is the curse put on the organization… The curse of the screwed over season 1 season ticket holders! Those who committed when they were nothing and hadn’t played a game… And then sold out for more money by a very greedy organization, without even notification!
    The curse will never be lifted until they make amends… They know who they screwed over and then told lies about. But I have the communications and their slime actions have sealed their fate… NO STANLEY CUP… EVER!

    • knights fan in minny

      must be some good stuff your smoking

    • Howard

      Sadly, “The Curse” is correct in his view how org screwed over some fans.

  18. Julie

    What about Janmark? We gave up some picks for him, hocked the jewelry and loaned out our best hog. Can’t we turn him into a secret weapon or something? 🙂

  19. Rob S.

    Twelve goals in the past nine playoff games? Are you surprised? Our roster has precisely one (!) sniper (Pacioretty, who is out hurt) and one (!) other closer (Stone). That’s it. As Tim said up above, we’re short two centers that can play. (How well I remember Ken’s comment when we off-loaded Stastny in yet another salary dump last offseason: “We’re Bottom 3 in the entire league at center.” He was right.) We have plenty of good wings, but nobody who can drive play in the middle except Karlsson.

    Nor is this roster is not constructed to play the heavy, net-front game that management says we need to play. The guys that are big enough and strong enough to battle in front don’t have the hands or the skill (except for Stone and Tuch) to put pucks in the net. The guys that have the hands/skill (Karlsson, Smith, Cody Glass when he was up) can’t take the physical pounding. We are neither fish nor fowl and, as several of you noted, the blueprint is out on how to beat us in the playoffs.

    One last thing: given how much we suck on the (“NV Energy) Powerless Play,” could we at least bring up Cody Glass so we’d have someone out there other than Stone who is actually a threat to score?

    • If the bottom six were penalty killers, I’d be more ok with Glass not being on the roster. But the current 4th line are all guys who only play 5-on-5. Glass should be on this team.

      • Howard

        Both Ken and Rob S have the correct takes here. At least Glass can net front on The PP – worth a shot but I don’t expect VGK arrogant front office to try it.

    • Rob S.

      Nor is this roster constructed to play…Sorry about the extraneous “is not.”

    • Stephanie

      Ok Smith and Karlsson can go to the net .They just don’t play them there .No ones there barely ever and they actually should have 2 .someone to get a freakin rebound .Stephenson is an excellent center although not sure he can be a net from presence. Glass would certainly help

  20. Stephanie

    Annnd nothing is going to change .Obviously with only 6 guys at practice !! Can you leave explicit instructions on what to do under their car windshield wipers maybe ? Cuz it doesn’t look like anyone got the memo . another coach about to get fired or maybe all ?

    • THE hockey GOD

      “Heavily optional” practice. The media were let in a bit late but by the time we were let in we were able to see 6 skaters on the ice.>>>See Ken’s post above. PRobably more than six.

  21. Mike StG

    I think if Patch remains out they should put Janmark at C on the Stone line and move Chandler to LW. Janmark is good defensively and will skate straight to the front of the net in the OZ. Chandler’s speed is still a major asset on the wing.

    And I agree with someone’s comment that Nosek-Toy-Tuch is probably the best L3 they can put together at this point. L4 may be able to contribute more offensively with Brown at 4C and Kolesar & Carrier on wing.

  22. DOC (Go Knights Go)

    Hey Ken ….. I’ve heard and/or assumed that scoring in the playoffs, is less than in regular season. I have tried to find some stats on that but haven’t found any.

    Do you know? Thanks

  23. Julie

    We need to get greasy tomorrow!

    Just saw Boston win, Canes winning, and now watching St. Louis. This is why sports bars were created, I think, because of the hockey playoffs!

  24. Contact Tracer

    3 goals minimum to win a game now.

    Fleury held up his end in spades.

    The rest of them need to get off their pity-party ASS’s … Get out there fight!

  25. DOC (Go Knights Go)

    A curse? Didn’t know such a thing existed here. That must be the reason, eh?

  26. Simple get a coach that knows what to do with his players how the hell does Nosek
    play on the first line when he’s been out with injuries what a joke why not Marchessault or Karlsson the defense is a joke as well if your not aggressive you can forget the Cup it’s that simple put the Wild down on the Ice same thing happened in the 2017 – 18 season against the Caps you have to hit these guys if not for FLEURY they would be home watching he’s well worth the 7 million a year he will most likely be gone next year as well as a lot of others isn’t there 8 unrestricted players looks like Vegas is going to be just another NHL team soon can’t lose at home and win the CUP you find away to win maybe I expect to much not

  27. DOC (Go Knights Go)

    Not nervous or worried about tonight’s game.

    I feel the Knights will win … and … basically they must win.

    I don’t care how ….. just win baby!

  28. Blitz

    Fleury was the best player on the ice Game 1 and kept VGK in the game, but it is concerning that Vegas left Fleury to have to make the saves…a lot. The dude is incredible no doubt, but if the Knights don’t shore up the D then you can’t expect Fleury do what he did Game 1 through out the series. I guess what I am saying is, there is a lot of talk about weak offense, but hell if the D doesn’t improve too then there is also trouble lurking. You can’t let Hartman get numerous 1×1 chances and expect Flower to hold him to nothing.

    • Julie

      Blitz, there’s a good article at hockey wilderness from 5/14 about the Wild and VGK goalies. It does mention, but didn’t go into detail about how the defense has given him the best blocked % among the same goalies. It also mentioned that Fleury’s worst game with the Wild, he gave up 4, but Vegas still won. I know it’s playoffs, completely different animal than regular season. I hope Vegas builds a good screen wall and gives the guys some inspiration to get more physical and aggressive. I think we’ll see some fire today.

  29. jeffrey

    what did deboer mean by “we’ve got to find another goal tonight somewhere…”

    “another” implies they didn’t get skunked

  30. Henderson Knights

    DeBoer is on morning skate interview right now and he is in denial. I am giving my summarized view of his comments….. it sounds like there is no urgency in his mind about getting net front shots and traffic. He is perfectly satisfied with 40 perimeter shots with no results, like in the first period in game 1

    he also said that Max P is a “game time decision”

    a win tonight, and a return of 67, and things would be back on track.

    however, a loss tonight, and 67 sitting out again, and you can kiss this season goodbye.

    • In all fairness which I am not very good at – concerning PDB remarks on the show I am not sure reflects the entire situation – what we think he should say probably doesn’t accomplish much other than justifying our thinking and that doesn’t necessarily equate to winning. Being a fly on the wall at team meeting might prove interesting to really see what’s up – I forgot we have a poster on this site who eludes he is privy to that sort of information so maybe he would be kind enough to step forward and share.

    • Tom P

      I agree ‘HK’…..the mantra of ‘game time decision’ is getting waaaaaaaay old at this point. GMKM said last week his injury was serious….I doubt we will see him. Our 1st line is much easier to defend without him so it falls, imo, to the 2nd line……but at the end of the day if we do not fight for net front consistently then I’d be happily surprised f the outcome is different. Straightline North South is the formula STL used successfully…..not East/West with fancy hero passes…..our best success was when defended in the neutral zone and forechecked heavily in the 1st, and quietly backed up the 2nd and 3rd. They simply have to want it more

    • THE hockey GOD

      haven’t seen 67 in practice in awhile, if he’s to play tonight wouldn’t you expect to see him in morning skates before one of the games?

      someone on grangers’s site said MAx PAX is out for the season, hope they are wrong. But so far I don’t see 67 on the ice.

      again the team is putting unwanted pressure on themselves, another VGKer saying they have to score first. Why ? How about saying we need to show more urgency it is the playoffs after all ! ?

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