There’s not much worse in sports than when a team loses and the reasoning behind it is described as a missing intangible. Not enough effort. Didn’t play hard enough. Didn’t want it. Weren’t hungry.
None of those descriptions have any actual meaning. They aren’t necessarily wrong, but they are vast generalizations used in place of showing the real problems.
Unless you can show it where it impacted the game, any claims of lack of effort, missing hunger, or an absent will to win are hollow.
Personally, I try to stay away from mentality based criticism because it’s nearly impossible for me to prove my point. Against Edmonton, the proof was there. Whichever intangible phrase you want to use, the Golden Knights lived up to it, and the examples were plentiful and didn’t discriminate based on line, position, or skill level.
Quite simply, the Golden Knights were dominated in puck battles. Whether it was loose pucks, 50/50 pucks, battles on the walls, stick battles, or anywhere else, the puck did not move the correct way for Vegas far too often.
I charted the entire game and counted a total of 37 times the Golden Knights failed to win a puck that they could have. That includes 15 in the first period alone, which I cut up and put together in this horrifying video.
Watch how much the puck moves away from the Golden Knight’s attacking zone. Notice how often players are outmuscled and fall to the ice. See how many times Vegas skaters get to the puck first and still don’t win it.
It’s sickening to watch, and it’s the reason why Gerard Gallant went to the podium with a strong sense of anger and disappointment in the way his team played.
You think you are going to come out with some fire, and there was no fire. There wasn’t enough fire for me. -Gallant
It’s just instead of just defending all the time you’ve got to play them aggressively and finish checks on them and play them a little harder than we did. We played them real sloppy and you’re not going to beat that team doing that. Not saying take penalties on them, we just need to play them harder. -Gallant
It’s got to start with competing and battling and winning those battles and playing to get your nose dirty a little bit. -Gallant
Sense a theme in all of that? He’s essentially calling them soft, and after watching the game over again, he should have just come out and said it.
The worst example of all came on the Oilers’ third goal of the night. Vegas loses four puck battles on the same play and it ends up behind Marc-Andre Fleury.
Four times they had a chance to take control of the puck and not once did they actually do it.
Here’s the good part though, this is easily fixable. It starts with accountability. The guilty parties need to be made aware of it and let be known that if it continues that their spot in the lineup is in jeopardy. Then it simply takes every guy on the ice putting in a conscious effort to give everything they have to win every loose puck. The team has enough talent that if the effort is there, they’ll never lose 37 in the same game again.
I saw it, now you’ve seen it, and you can bet Gallant and his coaching staff saw it too. Now, it’s up to the players to respond to it.