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League’s Best Defense Won Game 1 For The Golden Knights

(Photo Credit: @GoldenKnights on Twitter)

They always say defense wins championships. And while the Golden Knights won nothing more than Game 1 last night, defense was the main reason they were able to take the 13th step toward ultimate glory.

There were three areas in particular where Vegas’ back end rose to the occasion in the opening game of the Stanley Cup Final.

Driving offense

To reach this point the Golden Knights had played 17 games against three very different opponents. VGK D-men had scored just three goals in those games. In Game 1, both go-ahead goals came from a similar spot on the ice by Golden Knights’ defensemen.

First, Shea Theodore masterfully walked the blue line leaving Anthony Duclair in his wake before firing a perfect wrist shot through traffic to the top right corner. Theodore first received the puck near the wall in front of Vegas’ bench. He skated it to the center looking for a shooting lane but was blanketed by Duclair. So, he kept carrying it all the way across the rink to the opposite set of boards. That’s where he did a pirouette before a double inside-out dangle to lose his marker. The rest was history.

Against a Florida defense that likes to take away the front of the goal, the high slot is an area that is expected to be open at times for the Golden Knights. In previous years a lot of Vegas’ in-zone offense operated by seeking out this exact look, but this season, and especially this postseason, it’s been rare. On the Theodore play, you can tell the emphasis that has been placed on getting to the high slot. The play started with a shot from Theodore in that space, then as the puck was worked back up to him he instantly brought it there again, and finally when it was taken away, he used his skating and skill to work it there a third time inside of 10 seconds.

That exact area of the ice would manifest itself in another goal from a Vegas blueliner later, which eventually stood as the game-winner. Following a rush chance by Jack Eichel and Ivan Barbashev that was stopped, under pressure by multiple backcheckers, Barbashev sent a pass to Zach Whitecloud who was just entering the zone. Typically, Whitecloud favors a play where he activates down the dot-line on his forehand, but this time he held onto the puck and brought it directly into the high slot. With a Panther providing a screen on his own goalie, Whitecloud sent one back across his body where he beat Sergei Bobrovsky clean.

Vegas defensemen clearly entered this game with the green light to shoot the puck, especially from the high slot. VGK blueliners were responsible for 12 of the 34 shots on goal and 24 of Vegas’ 63 shot attempts. This is a major step away from how the Golden Knights operated offensively all season, and it may have caught the Panthers off guard in Game 1.

Penalty killing

The Golden Knights were forced to kill three penalties in Game 1, all in extremely high-pressure situations. The first came moments after Florida opened the scoring and could have taken a commanding 1st period lead, and the other two were both moments after Vegas had scored to take 2-1 and 3-2 leads.

The success started with entry defense. On all three power plays the Panthers struggled to gain clean entry to the zone and by the time they reached the final minute of the last one they resorted to dump-ins on every entry. Vegas pressured high up the ice with their first penalty killer and then held a high gap above the blue line to force Florida to make decisions earlier than they were expecting. Of the six minutes of power play time for Florida, nearly half of it was killed just trying to get the puck into the zone.

Once it did get in, Vegas did what they’ve been able to do successfully at even strength all season; keep the puck away from the middle of the ice. Florida managed 12 shot attempts, but just three made it all the way to Adin Hill, and not a single one was within 15 feet of the Vegas goal. The Panthers did not generate a single high-danger chance on the man-advantage, and they mustered up just 0.43 expected goals in six minutes of power play time.

Adin Mountain

(Photo Credit: @LosVGK on Twitter)

Vegas’ defense was excellent in front of Adin Hill for most of the night, especially against the Florida’s best players Matthew Tkachuk and Aleksander Barkov, but that doesn’t mean they were perfect. When the game did break down in front of Hill, he made save after save to eliminate all of the most dangerous Panthers’ chances.

Obviously, the legendary highlight save against Nick Cousins will get most of the plaudits, but Hill made hige stops on Barkov, Bennett, Tkachuk, Verhaeghe, and Montour on Grade A chances. Florida generated 10 high-danger chances over the course of the game, and Hill stopped each and every one of them.

Sure, he probably would like to have done better on the shorthanded wraparound that opened the scoring, but aside from that, Hill was flawless. He constantly started Vegas’ breakout by stopping the puck behind the goal, his rebound control was on point, and he calmly slowed the game down in the right situations using his glove.


The Golden Knights scored five goals in the opening game of the Stanley Cup Final, but the reason they won Game 1 was the work of the six defensemen and the man in the pads behind them. This postseason run they’ve proven to Vegas fans to be the best blue line in the NHL. Game 1 began the process of proving it to the rest of the world.






  1. Roberto

    Was a flip from the prior match ups, where the offensive lines were so stout on D. Thought they were far more leaky last night and very lucky the D and Hill bailed out some bad mistakes. Hope that can be cleaned up, with the D still playing like they did last night.

    Going into this series thought that if Regular Season Shea appeared, Florida would be in serious trouble. He did last night, and again let’s hope he’s here to stay.

    Finally, it’s strange to see so much room from improvement after a 5-2 win, but feels like there’s a ton. That’s a good thing, as they’ve always been coached up and led up to greater heights in each series. Just a fun team to follow.

  2. knights fan in minny

    cloudy with a strong game

  3. Emmanuel

    It could have been a 4-4 game going into OT, Hill won it last night.

  4. Jailbird

    Yea it could have. There are some here that like to over-react game to game sometimes. Last nights game was tied well into the 3rd. Florida will make some adjustments and will come back stronger in game 2. We must continue to stay on top of out game. No question we are a better team.

  5. Vic

    Many wanted to give up on Hague as they said he couldn’t skate, didn’t hit and was too slow. Well, he has certainly improved. He skates better, has added quickness, and makes more good choices with the puck. He plays defense first, can shoot, and my money is on him as the toughest on the VGK. He fights when he has too, doesn’t back away from anyone, and has added toughness so sorely missed on the team. He’s become an on ice target for other teams which says a lot. Bright future in store.

    • TS

      Vic, absolutely on all! He does seem to have a target on his back, huh? I totally love the player Hague is morphing into. Tough, cocky, unafraid… Reavo comes to mind, and we’ ve sorely missed a guy like that. I did NOT see it coming from him!

  6. I posted this the other day….with Adin’s showing this playoffs…stay in your net adin!!! lol…money as far as salary cap becomes even more pressing with the way barbashev is playing….

    Perhaps someone has an answer to this important question/premise: Lehner who thankfully will never suit up for us again…along with Kessel.. but I digress lol…I would think there is a way to void Lehner’s contract due to all these fraud charges.. almost every contract has a clause or clauses of ‘moral turpitude’…hasn’t he turpitudeness enough……i hope someone might know???

    • Dylan Barmmer

      All I know is…that Wild Walru$ is a colo$$al di$a$ter. On every level possible.

      Pretty pathetic VGK gave up on/backstabbed The Icon Fleury for The $nake Harmer. Whoops!

      They sure are lucky they picked up Hill. At the last minute. For like nothing.


      • THE hockey GOD

        MAF was no icon in Vegas.

        • Dylan Barmmer

          Lmao yeah sure whatever.



          • THE hockey GOD

            let’s review MAF “highlights”
            he back stabs the team because he wasn’t getting any playing time
            in playoffs when RL was starting.
            he blew the HABS series with his muff
            then when he was not trading block , he said he might retire; thereby reducing his trade value.

            all me, a muff, followed by me.

            Those are FACTS jack, laugh all you want to. I was big fan of MAF the first year, but he had a terrible SCF against Caps. And then it went down hill from there. I call them like I see them.

          • THE hockey GOD

            “on trading block” that is.

    • TS

      Larry. I like Hill a LOT. He’s formidable, but it’s pretty dicey when he gets sideways or whatever way he ends up out of position. Our D ends up needing to back him…literally in BACK of him when he roams. Yikes. He’s such a huge obstacle for opponents, but NOT out roaming. I fear Panthers have figured it out, and it’s now up to Hill to STAY PUT. I know Lehner ended up on his BACK a lot…BIG men are not the most agile…

  7. THE hockey GOD

    I’d have done on article on the scrum and not give the cat pack anything to take away from this game

    ThG sighting and this was right in front of us at game.

    This says it all.

    • THE hockey GOD

    • THE hockey GOD

      Tcfuck repeatedly slashed Hague, deliberately trying to injure him. The league must step up. If it doesn’t suspend and fine then you Gary Pantyhose Bettman is a hypocrite in all this. Taking fighting out of game leads to cheap shot, stick play like this, and sucker punching.

    • Dylan Barmmer

      You are unhinged, Sir.

      • THE hockey GOD

        a clueless unsophisticated fan, Ian said it not me.

        Deal with it. Sounds like you are one unhinged with your repeated trolling, loser posts here.

        • Dylan Barmmer

          Uh huh. How many Scotches are you in…already?

          You should hang with Walru$ Robin. VGK Icon.

          Clearly better than Fleury eh?


          Besotted Drunken Demented Clown.


          THE Hockey TROLL

          Get help. Your politics also absolutely suck.

      • Sorvino

        Dylan Barmmer, in regards to everything that the hockey god said about MAF, I agree with 95% of it. The only part that I agree with that you said was that Marc Andre Fluery is an icon in Vegas. That is true, but I also find that unfortunate because he is just about the biggest fucking piece of shit to ever lace on a pair of skates. However, I am not here to fight with you Dylan as we both want the same thing and that is the Stanly Cup for the Vegas Golden Knights.

        Anybody who has their agent write that tweet in the middle of a playoff series is incredibly selfish. You may have a different opinion about that tweet, but when it comes to actual facts, it cannot be disputed that MAF may be the worst goalie in the entire league right now.

        He is a disaster for the Minnesota Wild. His cameo in this year‘s playoffs was beyond hilariously bad. The numbers speak for themselves.

        • Dylan Barmmer

          How do you know he “had his agent” send that tweet?


          Lehner is a disaster.

          Fleury dragged an expansion team to the Stanley Cup Final.

          Much like BOB did this season.

          But you need a real D corps.

          VGK has that. Now.

          Fleury fell back to earth and a weak D corps got exposed in Final. Same as we are seeing with Panthers 5 years later.

          Plenty accounts of Fleury being a quality person and leader. But I guess you Geniuses know…


          Go Knights. They have the Cats in the bag now.

          Minus Fleury and Lehner.

  8. THE hockey GOD

    The Cats were good at “blocking out” VGK players all night. VGK will need to solve this issue. Also, winning critical faceoffs is something they can improve upon.

    The SH goal by the CATS, was initiated when no. 71 whiffed on shot, breaking his stick; and having to go to bench. Allowing free space on ice for the CATS player.


  9. Gary Dadey

    Watched the video and I can not believe what I heard. He wants all those players suspended for 6 games for paltry crap but Petro only gets one game and Benn only gets 2 games for blatant intent to injure penalties. Thanks for the laugh

    • Sorvino

      Gary, I’m with you that you can’t suspend Tkachuck or Bennett for that stuff, especially when the league has set the precedent with Pietrangelo and Benn. I applaud whoever made that video as it gave us a chance to have another look at this stuff.

      But that slash was annoying and intent to injure. The league seems to suspend according to the severity of the injury. If Hague had broken a finger then all of a sudden it becomes suspendable.

      I am all for physicality, but none of these are even close to being hockey plays. If anything, I would hope that the refs would review all of this and perhaps have a bias towards these type of players. Again, I am all for physicality and clean body checks delivered by players like Brayden McNabb and Radko Gudas. Referees do punish players for other things like players who have reputations for diving and embellishing. This type of stuff has worked for Florida so far and I’m sure they will continue to do it. Vegas handled it well.

    • TS

      Gary, Did you watch the on-ice video of Hague’s mugging?? One Panther holding his arms from behind, the other Panther trying to break his JAW!! Clearly intent to INJURE…So, because Hague can take a hit, doesn’t have a Glass Jaw, no review / and add’l penalty/ suspension is warranted?? BULL.

      • TS

        Petro was trying to stop a sure goal. And the Cats???? They are trying to take our players put by force shown by the unsportsmanlike conduct we witnessed in Gamec1! Cats are well known for DIRTY PLAY.

  10. THE hockey GOD

    it’s MONDAY and it’s FULL MOON MADNESS

    in vegas

    Hey Utah, let’s get two !

  11. Tim

    When people continually post on and article by Sin Bin it has to be a lack of something either self confidence and the comfort of their basement puts you at ease to rant I just don’t know and don’t get it. Today there are 27 posts and one individual has 10 post now I ask you is that what a normal person would do or some one looking for attention? I don’t post much anymore because I thought this was a hockey site but it seems to be a religious fanatic and political platform which has nothing to do with hockey. Cudo’s to the hockey posters and shame on the rest of you. Go Knights in game 2.

    • THE hockey GOD

      no one named you this site’s hall monitor

      thank GOD

      and no one is putting a gun to your head to read anyone ‘s post.

      When you have a real post about something worthwhile, give us all a heads up. OK ?

  12. Jailbird

    Glorious game 2 morning to ya’ll. Tim when you continue to complain about those posters, it just encourages them. Just ignor them. Tonight’s games will shape the rest of the series. I expect Florida to come out crazy hard. I’m not sure how much longer our boys will be able ignor the dirty, after whistle stuff.

    • knights fan in minny

      what is the buzz today in sin city for the game i say the boys go up 2-0

      • THE hockey GOD

        another optional skate today, hardly anyone showed up; no media.

        tone is cautiously optimistic.

        Except the drunken trolls posting here, they are clueless, stoned, inebriated, or in a zombie like state of trying to figure out what people are posting. Included that are those old timers trying to find their meds (i.e. lets see here I have a ten pill box dated for every day of the week. Did I take pill no.1 or did I miss them all?)

    • Sorvino

      And the glorious game to morning to you as well Jailbird

  13. I was not a Hill backer at all this regular season…i was a Thompson guy…Hill was simply there to give Logan a day off…how times have a-changed…Hill has been terrific…he swallows up the puck and doesnt allow dangerous rebounds….however….he must stay in his net..his crease…cause when he wanders he looks like Quick..and thats the last sight any one of us ever wishes to see…and Hill’s stickhandling….ouch…please stay in your crease….VGK will play a strong 4 line game tonight and be up 2-0 around 8pm this evening!!

    • THE hockey GOD


      “how times have a-changed”

      Sean Burke , the goalie coach, has worked wonders so far with Hill. That man deserves a big raise for out standing job.

      PS the FO and coaching staff really suck this year.

  14. Sorvino

    I went to my first ever Knights game on Saturday and today will be my second ever Knights game at T-Mobile Arena.

    Would still like to punch people in the face who have issues with the front office. I obviously have issues with my anger, and would like to take it out on their faces.

    Great point made by the hockey god on goaltending coach Sean Burke. It was fun watching the VGK make elite goalies like Connor, Hellebuyck and Jake Oettinger look human. FYI, coaching and players have something to do with that as well or every other team would be doing the same thing. Sergei Bobrovsky looked human on Saturday.

  15. Jailbird

    Game time! Here we go!

  16. TS

    Yeah!! 2-0, end of 1st, and the Panthers are already getting flustered!. Coach Maurice is throwing profanities at the Refs, and it’s still early! Yessssss!!

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