There’s Lightning on the horizon, which this year means offensive thunder on the way. (I hate myself for writing this.) Lucky for the Golden Knights, they have been playing their best defensive hockey of the season over the course of the past three games.
The game against Carolina, despite being a terribly played offensive game for the Golden Knights, was a clinic in causing turnovers. They allowed 29 shots and just two goals. Then Pittsburgh came to town and Vegas put it all together making life incredibly difficult on a quick, experienced offense with superstar talent. The Penguins attempted just 21 shots and scored one goal that was heavily ref aided.
Finally came the Florida game. After a slow start, the Golden Knights put together their best 30 minute stretch of defense, and one of the best stretches any team has played all season. They allowed just two shots on goal in the 3rd period, only ten shot attempts (VGK had 28 over the same span), and not only didn’t allow a goal but didn’t give up anything resembling a high danger goal scoring chance.
Quite simply, the Golden Knights dominated the game defensively and it led to a go-ahead goal and eventually a pair of empty netters to seal the deal.
I think when we did get beat, we did a really good job closing guys down. If we had a lapse in our D coverage, a chink in the armor I guess, guys were there to help each other. Things are going to happen, they are good players, they are going to make plays. You’ve got to make sure that next level of support is there. –Nate Schmidt
Looking back at how Vegas did it, there was nothing spectacular about it. No one made an unbelievable defensive effort, yet not once did the Panthers come close to scoring. It was all about positioning. If you stopped the video at any point during that 30 minute stretch of the game, you can almost guarantee all five Golden Knights were properly positioned. It’s quite literally, basic hockey, and in a way, that’s become what the Golden Knights are known for.
This isn’t to say they don’t ever make mistakes because they do, but when they do, they are in position to mitigate the danger. Perfect defensive positioning (which I learned much more about thanks to VGK University, there’s a post coming on this soon) creates layers of support. If one guy makes a mistake or gets beat, there’s a helper right behind him. As long as everyone is in the right place, and doing the right thing, defense looks ridiculously easy. There’s never space to make a dangerous pass, the puck has to go through one player to get to front of the net and two to get to the goalie, and most of the time the puck is in a safe place for the defense.
In that 30 minute stretch, and especially in the 3rd period in which the Panthers got two shots on goal, the puck was in the Golden Knights zone for a good amount of time. There were shots to be had, but the puck was almost never in the slot and there was never a chance in front of the net. Florida could have taken shots from the boards or the blue line but they didn’t because they knew it had no chance to go in. Instead, they tried to make the special play, and Vegas easily broke it up.
That, and they are never tired.
I think as a six-man unit we are doing well together. We are mostly similar in minutes so we are able to balance out the load and it’s helping. –Colin Miller
This is the Golden Knights game. Simple, fundamental defense which leads to turnovers. After the turnover the Golden Knights make quick smart decisions to break out. This creates odd man rushes, which turn to goals. There’s nothing special about it. They don’t surprise anyone with skill, or speed, or even quickness. They surprise them with simplicity.
We’ve just got to keep coming out and playing our game. If we are going to sit around in the d-zone and watch them make their play, their east-west passes for the one-timers then we are going to lose the hockey game. If come out and play our game and play with confidence, we’ll have an opportunity. -Gerard Gallant
“Play our game.” That’s all the Golden Knights have to do. The best part about it (at least for us who want them to win) is that it’s not a hard game to play. Do the right thing and good things will happen. Every time they’ve done it, they’ve won, and no matter how highly you think of the Tampa Bay Lightning, if they do it again tonight, the house will win again.