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High Shot Count Hasn’t Always Translated To Wins For The Golden Knights

Because of the Pause, it feels like ages ago, but one of the Golden Knights’ final games of the regular season was a 4-1 loss to the LA Kings. In that game, the Golden Knights outshot the Kings by a margin of 43-17, and at even strength it was 40-8. Vegas created 10 more high-danger chances, they owned 75% of the game’s shot attempts, and the expected goals pointed to a nearly three-goal victory.

Instead, the Golden Knights lost the game 4-1 and never led. That night, Cal Petersen stopped 42 shots and ended Vegas’ eight game winning streak. The only Golden Knights goal was scored on an individual effort by Shea Theodore.

Sounding a bit familiar?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Playoff “Photographer” @BadSportsArt)

Last night the Golden Knights peppered the exact same number of shots, 42, at playoff debutant Thatcher Demko. They led in shots by 26, they created 24 more scoring chances, and finished the game with a Corsi of 67.5%. The only goal was a magical individual effort by Shea Theodore.

It’s easy to sit back and say, “well, they ran into a hot goalie” and if this was a rare occurrence, it would probably be a fair statement. But with this version of the Golden Knights, it’s not, even if the previous instances happened eight to ten months ago.

If you rank every game by even-strength shot share, that Kings game is atop the regular season and last night’s Canucks Game 5 leads the playoffs. Both losses for the Golden Knights.

Go a little further and you’ll see that games ranked 4, 6, 8, 9, and 10 are all losses for Vegas as well. Thus, the 10 best games for the Golden Knights in regards to outshooting their opposition, six of them are losses. In the playoffs, it’s games ranked first, second, and fifth of the 13.

This can’t be simply attributed to the Golden Knights falling behind and the other team sitting back trying to hold the lead.

Last night, after the 2nd period, Vegas led the shot chart 28-10. The game was tied for all but 24 seconds of those 40 minutes. In the Chicago game, Vegas trailed for a majority of it, but only for more than a single goal for just 18 seconds (another game in which the only goal was scored by Theodore).

This is an issue that has plagued the Golden Knights all season long. I can specifically remember sitting in the bowels of the Staples Center (those were the days) asking myself, how can this team constantly dominate on the stat sheet but keep losing hockey games.

That game was the last of a five game losing streak which included consecutive losses to Detroit, Chicago, and LA. Vegas had more shot attempts in all three games.

Now, this isn’t to say the Golden Knights are better off when they don’t shoot, cause that makes no sense theoretically and historically when you sort the schedule by VGK shots, you’ll find most of the losses towards the bottom (13 of the bottom 19 are L’s). Instead, it’s to say the Golden Knights have at times made a habit of falling for quantity over quality.

Jesse Granger of The Athletic dug up one clear reason why the Golden Knights have fallen into this trap.

The Golden Knights were 14th with only 37 deflected shots on net and 23rd with only four goals off deflections. -Granger

Other reasons include an inability at times to create second and third chances, a willingness to take shots from the outside rather than continue to work the offense between the dots, a lack of elite shooters aside from Max Pacioretty, and maybe most importantly a sudden lack of odd-man rushes in transition.

In Game 5 against the Canucks, the Golden Knights did not have a single 2-on-1 and  3-on-2 chances could be counted on one hand. The same was the case in Game 4 against Chicago when a majority of the offense came from sustained offense-zone time.

Of course, it’s never bad to spend heaps of time in the opposing team’s end putting pressure on them, but when you can’t create rebound chances and don’t get that perfect shot or play from an individual, games can end up looking like they did against the Canucks.

Vegas had 72% of the shot attempts, yet three of the four most dangerous were part of the Canucks’ 28%.

It’s an area that has plagued this team all season long and it’s now cropped up in two of the last seven games against lesser opponents.

Don’t get me wrong, Thatcher Demko and Corey Crawford both played well in those games helping to stymie the Vegas offense, but if the Golden Knights want to win nine more playoff games and lift the Cup, they’re going to have to find a way to make sure this issue is kept to a minimum. While it didn’t kill them in the series against Chicago, and it likely won’t here against Vancouver, dropping a game in which you dominate in the Western Conference Final or Stanley Cup Final could be the difference between an unceremonious end to an unforgettable season and immortality.

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12 Comments

  1. High shot attempts doesn’t always mean wins or even goals for VGK. But shooting the puck and being aggressive is their offensive identity and it’s brought them this far (along with being a well-rounded team). It wasn’t senseless shooting from a mile away, there was plenty of good looks that just weren’t executed on, which I agree would be an issue in a future series. But if this is what a Knights loss looks like, I will take it – with the optimism eventually these shots will hit the back of the net.

  2. DOC aPositiveFan

    Total domination but not enough traffic in front of net to screen Demko or deflect shots. Lehner had no chance on the two deflected goals. Obviously very similar to game 4 vs Hawks. We’ll come back strong in game 6. Don’t care who’s in goal for us. Either guy can beat the Nucks! GO KNIGHTS GO !!!

  3. Ken interesting analysis while my comment on the recap of the loss didn’t provide the detail of yours there is more truth than fiction in the remark. They score when they screen which was basically non-existent last night. Vancouver won with screening and tip ins which l would not say for certain could not have been stopped. If l remember Shea’s goal the canucks were the screen definitely not vegas. They need to keep some parked in front of opposition’s net when they are in the offensive zone

    • Julie

      HD, I have a question. The shots on the goal were far less from Vancouver on Vegas. Was that because Vancouver had issues making the shots or Vegas was good at negatively impacting Vancouver, or a little of both?

      • Julie- when you play most of the game in Vancouver ‘s zone they will have less shots. I am not sure if in vegas situation that is good or not as the goalie isn’t tested as often and when he is struggles to make the stop. I am all for shooting at the net but if goalie isn’t screened in one way or another his probability of making the stop is excellent. Vegas didn’t allow much opportunity as they clear out fast and efficiently. If you noticed they continued to try and set up Patch for shots which Vancouver expected and defended accordingly. It’s great have a sharp shooter like Pactch however they can’t depend exclusively on him as opposition expects that and defends accordingly. Not sure that helps or not it is just my opinion from being involved in hockey a life time. I am sure some of the experts on this site will disagree but everyone is entitled to there observation and opinion. Go night go – if they don’t win Thursday they are in trouble. Being the best team doesn’t always equate to being the winner unfortunately. It’s a game where a fraction of an inch can make a difference.

        • Julie

          Thanks! That helps me. I hate to bring up the “G” question, so I will just comment that if PDB believes Lehner was good and the issue is in making shots, I expect we’ll see Lehner tomorrow. But if there is truth to what Pete mentioned about the team having love for Fleury, which PDB also concurred that the “guys have to love who they play with” in the Sunday game, and if PDB thinks that is a factor to win Thursday, well I guess we’ll see Fleury Thursday.
          One game at a time, I’m sure.

  4. Garren

    Thank you so much for this write up, I was explaining this exact issue to some family members of mine. The amount of center-mass shot attempts in those shots is very significant – when frustrated, the Knights stop forcing lateral movement and they take very few low shots to the far side, which would generate slot rebounds. I cannot grasp why Gallant and DeBoer, respectively, seem unable to address this recurrent theme.

  5. Pete Turner

    There’s nothing wrong with throwing the puck at the net and hopefully something good happens. VGK did that but they lack conviction in the finishing touches. It almost felt like scrimmages or a practice session with the Canucks as sparring partners. A lot of the times, the shots were either directly at the goalie or way off the mark. There were one or two scrambles at the blue paint but nothing came out of that and there were few guys willing to stand in front of Demko to screen the goalie. Even at the end of that 1 goal difference game, there wasn’t any emo moments with any of the players. No breaking of the sticks, no cursing, not even a fisticuff challenge to Roussell. It was just a shrug-and-whaddya-gonna-do kind of feeling when they left the ice. Well, whatever it is, I hope they snap out of it and come back strong on Thursday to wrap this series up. Momentum is a serious thing and now the Canucks have it.

  6. Mike StG

    Seems to me when you play a cycle game instead of transition offense their defense has more opportunity to set up and collapse around the center. That’s why there were so many blocked shots in the games won by Hawks and Nucks. Screens are only partly helpful because shots are being blocked before they get close to the net. Maybe more shots from the slot are needed instead of passing around the perimeter trying to find a clear lane to the net for a shot that is easier for the goalie to stop. That, in addition to more net front presence with screens and deflections. It takes more of a physical toll on forwards playing that way but it’s a way to beat a “hot goalie” on a team with excellent shot blockers.

  7. DOC aPositiveFan

    Clearly there is no goalie controversy anymore. When your #1 goalie, only allows 6 goals in four games, he’ll get the start in this crucial game tonight. Just makes sense. As I have repeatedly said, I personally don’t care who plays. We have a much better team than the Nucks. We WILL close them out tonight! GO KNIGHTS GO !!!

  8. Dave Collingridge

    I grew up in British Columbia and live in SLC. I cheer for Vegas, except when they are playing the Canucks. Very surprised we are going to a game 7. I thought Vegas would have closed out this series in game 5 or 6 – they certainly have enough firepower and talent to go all the way. Here is what Vancouver is doing right – they are tenacious about fore checking, back checking, and putting pressure on the puck. They look like bees on the ice, constantly hounding the other team when it has possession. You see this in players like Tyler Motte – when they don’t have the puck they are hungry and want it back. Vegas is not playing with the same level of intensity right now.

  9. Peter Turner

    Dave, some thoughts about what you said.

    1. It’s true that VGK performance in Gm 5 and Gm 6 were kinda lackadaisical and somewhat laid back. Especially in Gm 6 where they looked like they can’t believe the score. In my earlier post I noted not just the lack of desperation in their play but lack of emotion after the final buzzer. No anger, no frustration, not much fire for revenge.

    2. Here’s the funny thing though, the same scenario happened for the Col/Dallas and the NYI/Philly series.

    3. All 3 series featured a dominant team winning 3-1 and then pedal off the gas leading to a deciding Gm 7 where the dominant team dominated.

    4. I’m far from a conspiracy guy or a fan of Qanon but it seems like after the Tampa/CBJ series, someone upstairs in accounting ran the numbers and concluded that they needed to stretch out Round 2 in order to make up for the lack of revenue from zero ticket sales. I get it, these things don’t come cheap. NHL needs to make a profit in order to pay the salaries of everybody.

    5. Also Tyler Motte had an impressive series and like Hinostroza from the Coyotes, these 2 were impressive in their debut with the BlackHawks. While there, they learnt from the best forwards: Toews on playing a 2-way game, Kane on capitalizing on scoring chances. Only salary cap and their small size back then caused the Hawks to sadly trade them away. Glad they are doing well in other teams now.

    My $0.02 cents.

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