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No Matter Colorado’s Response, Vegas Must Stick To What’s Worked

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Prior to Game 3, the Colorado Avalanche hadn’t lost a game since May 5th. They still haven’t lost a home game since the Golden Knights beat them on March 27th, and they haven’t lost a game in regulation at Ball Arena since March 8th. But, they’re the ones that are under all the pressure as they head home for Game 5 of a tied series.

The Avs put all their chips on the table in Game 4 and the Golden Knights were holding pocket aces (or trips, or whatever the poker analogy for a hat trick and a 5-1 win is). Colorado’s head coach called out his best players, they had a team meeting in which they made some “tactical adjustments,” and they basically decided the buck stops here in Game 4.

But, it didn’t.

Instead, the Golden Knights throttled them, again, the exact same way they did in Game 2 and the same way they did in Game 3.

Vegas took care of the puck all over the ice, were committed to getting it in deep and winning forecheck battles, and they took their chances when they came. Colorado did the opposite. They refused to dump the puck in, instead, tried to skate through the Golden Knights’ perfectly structured neutral zone defense. They struggled to get out of their own end because they didn’t have the pressure release options needed to deal with VGK’s forecheck when it’s on. And they weren’t able to capitalize on a couple of chances that could have changed the course of the game.

Quite simply, the Golden Knights have played the exact same way for three games in a row, they’ve dominated the run of play in all three, and they’ve walked away with wins in two evening the series. Colorado has also played the same style, despite making a concerted effort to show something different in Game 4. In a way, it’s panic time for the Avs, which puts the Golden Knights in about as good a place as they can be in heading into a pivotal Game 5 on the road.

The Avs must change and they know it. The question now is, can they?

If they don’t, the Golden Knights will continue to eat them alive the exact same way they have and it’ll all come down to whether or not Vegas can finish at a high enough rate to offset the random moments of brilliance, mostly on the power play, from Colorado (see Game 2). But if they do, it’ll be Vegas’s turn to adapt, or maybe a better word for it, endure.

Game 1 is looking more and more like an anomaly. A game in which the Golden Knights’ simply didn’t have it, and they got blitzed by a confident Avalanche team. That’s probably not going to happen again.

But if the Avalanche are able to deploy a simpler brand of hockey, Vegas will have to be ready for the frustration that will come with it. They’ll have to remain excellent breaking the puck out, they’ll have to continue managing the puck well through the neutral zone, and they can’t let an improved Avalanche breakout strategy discourage their forecheck.

There’s no way we’ve seen the end of the Avalanche, but as there were some issues with the matchup with Minnesota (namely their finishing ability in front of the net) the Golden Knights are going to continue to present problems for Colorado to solve. It’ll be about Vegas’ commitment to sticking with the simple, conservative game no matter what it looks like on the scoreboard.

So far, Vegas has been awesome in that department. They were down with less than 10 minutes in the 3rd period of Game 3, and stuck with the game plan. Then, they conceded early in Game 4, but didn’t change their style at all.

More adversity is coming in this series, they have to trust the process, no matter how the new-look Avalanche deal with it.

It’s the only way the Golden Knights can win. Luckily, so far, it looks like a pretty darn successful way. If they stick with it, hope springs eternal not only for overcoming the 0-2 hole they were in during this series, but also to take on all comers in the final two rounds.

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“Run It Until They Stop It”: VGK’s Plan To Continue Stopping Colorado’s Top Line

21 Comments

  1. Tim

    Two more games and we put ourselves in pretty good shape to make the Stanley Cup finals. Montreal has been playing well but no chance against Colorado or us so how bad do the Knights want it?

    • Michael

      First time commenter, been lurking for awhile. First things first, finish off the Avs. Second, assuming they move on, I don’t think you can count out a hot Carey Price. If healthy, when he sees the puck, he usually stops it. The Habs have size on the back end that can clear the crease. But back to my first point, I am most interested right now in seeing the Knights take care of the Avs two more times, rather than discussing a hypothetical next series.

  2. Howard

    I have nothing to add to this as Ken and I see this series exactly the same way. I’ll add that I hope Petro plays every game from here out like he played last night – I’ll then feel better about the astronomically high dollar contract VGK gave him 🙂

    • Richard Santomauro

      Last night was a complete solid performance by Petro, possibly the first he’s had since signing that Huge contract. The only way last night could have been better was for him to score. I’ve been down on him for quite sometime for uninspiring play, turnovers and poor passing decisions. Last night he cleaned all that up.

      The question is whether or not he’s turned the corner or not. It’s time now for him to earn that pay and the lucrative Honda deal he has.

    • Pistol Pete

      Did you hear what DeBoer had to say about Petro? About a lot more than the points.

      Beginning 3:20.

      https://www.nhl.com/goldenknights/video/postgame-66-coach-deboer/t-282798380/c-8542301

    • Game 4 was the first time I feel we got our money’s worth in Pietrangelo. Before that, I felt his heart and efforts were NOT with the Knights. He seemed like he was going through the motions, earning his huge paychecks. Game 4 was a game- changer for him and the team– Pietrangelo FINALLY played like the money-player we thought he was when we got him. The VGK seem to have the complete plackage now– if they stay focused and confident, they could ( and should) take it to the final!

      • Pistol Pete

        I can’t agree with that. If you listen to what DeBoer says, Petro’s intangibles are more important than his 2020-2021 stats. It’s hard for us as outside the locker room observers to grasp the true value of a player. I get the point his salary is high and it ties up cap, that fans expect huge performance, but even his regular season stats are decent at .56 pts/game +20. Folks may be singing a different tune if things go really well the rest of the postseason.

  3. Jake

    Petro is tough to play against, as Colorado is finding out.

    He also burns a ton of minutes.

  4. Let’s not even talk about any potential next series at this point, no jinxing allowed. They got a helluva tough road ahead, co gonna be ready to fight to the death next game.

    One game at a time, one period at a time, one shift at a time. Let’s focus on the 1st period of next game. Go knights!

    • Absolutely….exactly how the coach and team approach the situation. It applies to the regular season schedule as well!

  5. DOC (Go Knights Go)

    Of course game one was an anomaly!

    NHL threw the Knights into the series with one day off, and that was a travel day, on top of it. (While the AVs rested at home waiting for a week).

    At the time I called it a “throw-away” game. That’s exactly what it was. Knowing this, they put Lehner in to save Flurey any embarrassment. They should have had L.T. as backup, so he could come in if things got ugly. It got ugly and Lehner was embarrassed terribly.

    He was backup last night but it’s difficult to imagine him playing any significant time, unless Flurey gets hurt.

    The Knights have played very relentless for 3 games and that is what it takes in the playoffs. Continue that and they will advance, no matter what the AVs try.

    Let up at all and we won’t advance, no matter what the AVs do.

  6. Richard Santomauro

    Last night’s performance rivaled some of the best games VGK gave us in year one, but even better. Been a season ticket holder since year 1 and last night was 100%, 60 minutes of hockey and a clinic on how to beat Colorado. No let up, fast breaks up the ice into their zone and maximum pressure in all 3 zones.

    The only complaint I had was the errant delay of game on Whitecloud. Looks like he was trying to catch that puck and it bounced over the glass off his glove.

    • DOC (Go Knights Go)

      Yea, that was a fluky call. Didn’t look like he was trying to knock it out, just grab it But NHL enforces that “delay of game” almost always when it goes out with no contact of board or glass.

  7. Pistol Pete

    On a different subject, Lehner needs to be traded if a deal can be made. Free up some cap and sign another elite forward.

    • I agree, Logan Thompson should be backing up and eventually take over.

      The Misfit Line has come to life! Beef up that 3rd line and VGK could have a dynasty. The top line has 2 maybe 3 good years left. Same with MAF.

      It’s a bit early to start projecting off season moves. Let’s win tomorrow and game 6 to close out round 2 at home.

      I think the players know the level of intensity they need for 60 plus minutes going forward.

  8. Pete Lamont

    Umm… I think the perfect poker analogy to use for the hatty would have been a FULL HOUSE… just saying, Ken.

    • Pete Lamont

      Not to mention the fact that the Avs game plan has fallen like a house of cards

  9. DOC (Go Knights Go)

    Canadians sweep!

    Now THEY set and rest for days, waiting on winner of our series.

    • DOC – however faces the Canadians will have their hands full. I hope it is Vegas but we need two of the next three to make that happen. A win tonight would be a great start.

      • DOC (Go Knights Go)

        HD ….. Agree! Yes, the Canadians are playing well, goalie is hot. IF they win a game in first 2, then their confidence would grow. But I feel whoever comes out of west will win this series.

        JOE ….. I was about to write a very similar comment. Last night the idiot talking heads on NHL network, basically said that, now, the Knights had a waken giant. That if Vegas didn’t survive the first 10 min of game 5, the series was probably over. What a crock! WE are also a GIANT!

        The jealousy and distain against the Knights from the east is amazing!

  10. Joe M

    Sick and tired of commentators on NHL network never giving Golden Knights their due. They play an awesome game Sunday and all they talk about is how Colorado is going to be loaded for bear on Tuesday. Marchy gets a hat trick and they don’t even interview him…seriously!
    General negative bias toward the VGK, you hear it all the time….Why???

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