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How The Golden Knights Successfully Slowed Down Edmonton’s Zone Entries In Game 1

How do you slow down Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and the Edmonton Oilers? That’s the million-dollar question coaches have been asking themselves since the two paired up seven years ago. As the Oilers roster has been built up with even more speed around them the answers have been fewer and further between.

Last night though for good stretches of Game 1, the Golden Knights drew up a successful blueprint. After 40 minutes, Vegas had limited the best offense in the NHL to just one high-danger chance at 5-on-5. Then, down the stretch, Edmonton could not consistently gain entry to the offensive zone and it led to a panicky goalie pull and a too-many-men penalty that helped seal victory for the Golden Knights.

So, how did they do it?

It all comes down to gap control. The Golden Knights are well-equipped on the back end with six defensemen fully capable of stopping anyone in the league if they are placed in a good position to do so. It’s getting in that position that’s tricky.

The first, and simplest, way to gain good defensive position against a speedy Oilers team is to just not let them have the puck.

We spent a lot of time in their end with O-Zone puck possession. That allows our D to rest a little and be able to hold their gap. It also forces their forwards to go check in their own end so now they are below the tops of the circles on the breakout which also allows us to hold our gap. -Bruce Cassidy

Yes, it really can be that easy. Spend time in their offensive zone, make them defend, and when the puck comes out of the zone, they’ll be more focused on getting off the ice as opposed to attacking.

(Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke,

In the 1st period, especially after the Oilers scored their first power play goal, all four Golden Knights lines spent the majority of their shifts hemming Edmonton into their own zone. This continued in the 2nd when the Oilers managed just three scoring chances in 14 minutes of even-strength play.

Of course, spending the entirety of the game in the opposition’s defensive zone is not possible, so eventually, the puck will come out and that’s when the next part of the blueprint comes in.


It’s a term Bruce Cassidy spent so much time talking about this year that I made a video to explain exactly what he means. You can watch it here.

In Game 1, Vegas’ reloads were excellent at not only keeping the puck in the O-Zone longer but also forcing the Oilers to navigate more traffic when trying to carry it through the neutral zone.

If our forwards are coming back and are responsible then our D are not afraid to keep their gap. If we’re tight and connected, that’s usually when we’re going to be good. -Cassidy

Specifically, the Golden Knights want their defensemen to stay near the middle of ice (inside the dot-line) as often as possible when setting up their gaps against Edmonton’s entries. When the forwards reload well, the defensemen are able to angle the play from the middle to the outside where forwards can help deny entry along the walls. Not only does it force the Oilers to skate through more players to gain entry, even if they do it successfully, it takes the puck to the least dangerous portion of the offensive zone, the outside.

Traffic and positioning also give everyone a better chance to make a play on the puck and put out the fire before it even starts to burn.

We have to try and limit their speed so it’s easier to have good sticks on pucks when they are trying to enter the zone. -Michael Amadio

When an entry is denied or the puck is cleared from the defensive zone, the Golden Knights then have to be keenly aware of the most dangerous players bringing it right back in.

If you find Draisaitl or McDavid early, then you can stay with them. But if the play happens where they are already out of the zone and they’re coming back with speed it’s hard to get all the way up to try to match them. That’s when you kind of get caught sitting back a bit. -Chandler Stephenson

Denying re-entry can oftentimes be the most difficult portion of slowing down the Oilers. It takes awareness, willingness, and foot speed to figure out where the next attempt will come from and be in the right position to stop it.

It’s tough because you want to have a hard stand but then he’s coming 100 miles per hour and you have to give him a little bit of space so you try to match as best you can but it’s easier said than done. -Stephenson

This was particularly evident in the early portion of the 3rd period. At times, it felt like the Golden Knights were drowning because the Oilers’ re-entries were lightning fast.

Eventually, the Golden Knights settled back in, worked together as a unit, and started to deny the Oilers once again.

For Vegas, the plan they set out to execute before the series came to fruition, and now the blueprint to keep doing it is there. Spend as much time as possible in the Oilers’ end, forwards reload hard when the puck does come out, defensemen hold good gaps through the center of the ice, and pick up McDavid and Draisaitl on re-entries.

It all sounds so easy, and in Game 1 the Golden Knights made it look that way. But, with the Oilers losing their first game in regulation since March 20th, it may not be as straightforward in Game 2 and beyond.




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  1. The speed of #97 is incomparable in the last 50 years…. quite like #4 many moons ago…if vgk would have lost that game sadly the series could very well have been lost…instead on to game #2 with hopefully Marchy and Smith finally finding the back of the net!!!

    • THE hockey GOD

      larry, you are killing me,

      i said the same thing earlier today

      • Great minds think alike????….I might add Carrier looked a few steps off last night…hope he is more a physical factor on Saturday….I would truly hate to see #8 in a Golden Knights uniform ever again!!

        • THE hockey GOD

          no 8 got a bit banged up in practice the other day

          don’t know if he’s ready to play yet

          • It’s not a matter of ready or not… he should NEVER play in a game again for us…if it wasn’t for the ‘streak’ he would and should have been a healthy scratch innumerable times!!

          • THE hockey GOD

            i hear ya !!

    • TS

      When you have Stephenson, one of our fastest, being that frank about the speed of the Oilers, (esp their top end), you know we’re gonna have to REALLY step it up to catch and beat them. I was impressed. But, aside from their top duo, it’s an average team. Thèir coach can’t play them every minute..our guys need to take full advantage of their absence on ice. Gotta Slow those 2 Oiler boys down!

  2. Roberto

    This feels like the best coached and best prepared team since VGK started up, and we’ve been fortunate to have two other elite coaches.

    Also, clearly the best year for organizational depth, which led to a great regular season with the team overcoming a lot of injuries to still get the top seed in the West.

    No one gets everything, and no one is beyond account, but we’re fortunate to have such a well run and well coached team here in Vegas.

    • THE hockey GOD

      PP, rich richie and few others say the coaching and FO suck

      wait for it

  3. THE hockey GOD

    going woke causing this company to go broke !!

    Report: Bud Light Sales Plunge Accelerates – And at This Rate, They Will Lose Their ‘Top Spot’Who knows what Bud Light was thinking when the company had transgender social media influencer (WTH is a media “influencer) Dylan Mulvaney promote the beer? Whatever it was, many former Bud Light fans proved they were anything but on board with the marketing partnership.

    The beer from the Anheuser-Busch family is paying the piper as it suffers the consequences of its woke decision. Spending money to send Dylan some cans with his face on them backfired in a way that reminded them they’re at risk of losing their #1 spot in the industry. Now, they’re desperately trying to avoid serious losses in sales.

    Only “people” drinking it seems to be TS Alex, and we all know what TS stands for. Well except for someone who thinks it means top secret. Well maybe it’s top secret for a reason ???

    so it is written
    and so it shall be done

    • TS

      Nope. Bud sucks. How you manage to bash me over BEER, is incredible. Maturity is NOT in your DNA, is it??

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