For the first four periods of the series, the Golden Knights looked like they were trying to catch up with the Winnipeg Jets. Vegas generated just 26 shots in the first 80 minutes of action, mainly because of their inability to consistently possess the puck in the offensive zone.
Then, it was almost like a switch was flipped. In the 2nd period, Vegas came alive, scoring two goals, putting 19 shots on Connor Hellebuyck, and flying around the ice at a speed the Jets hadn’t seen to that point in the series.
The Golden Knights continued that success into the 3rd period where they broke the game open and eventually took home a crucial victory to even the series.
That’s playoff hockey, the momentum swings. -Bruce Cassidy
Typically, playoff series tend to see plenty of swings like this over the course of each individual game. Two games into this series, we’ve seen just one swing, a massive one from the Jets looking like far and away the better team to suddenly Vegas exerting their dominance and looking like the #1 seed.
The term momentum does a lot of heavy lifting in the hockey world as somewhat of a catchall to explain why things go from good to bad or vise versa in a hurry. What it doesn’t do is actually explain what changed in the way the teams are playing that caused it to happen.
Clearly, the momentum of the series did shift in favor of the Golden Knights. But why?
For us a lot of times it’s puck management. In the 1st period on the 2nd shift of the game we give their best line opportunity after opportunity, we get the huge saves but it just gives them life. So we got that corrected. If you look at the scoresheet, our top guys are all over the sheet tonight, their guys were all over the sheet the other night in Game 1. -Bruce Cassidy
Cassidy also pointed to the first goal of the game that energized the crowd and seemed to wake up the Golden Kights.
Maybe the other team feels a little pressure to be cleaner and all of a sudden we’re on top of them. -Cassidy
On the other bench, they felt the shift in the game was mostly self-inflicted.
Our execution with the puck wasn’t very good. We got on the wrong side of it and we let them play a lot faster than we want them to play and we looked slow because of the execution. -Rick Bowness, Jets head coach
The Jets’ head coach continued using his term of the night, execution, or lack thereof.
Did we make it too easy on them, yeah we did. And that’s the most disappointing thing is the execution. It wasn’t just that they were picking off passes, we were putting passes in skates and away from guys. We were too slow moving the puck and when we did move it, it wasn’t on the tape. That’s when you look slow and when you are doing that you are making the opposition look fast because you are on your heels and you’re chasing too much. -Bowness
It sounds drastically different, but they’re both really saying the same things. What changed was which team was controlling the puck. For the first four periods, the Jets were in control of not only what they were doing with the puck, but also in what they were forcing the Golden Knights to do with it.
Winnipeg stormed out to a Game 1 win and a Game 2 lead because they were exiting their own zone well, limiting mistakes in the neutral zone, and pressuring Vegas in the O-Zone. The Golden Knights’ forecheck struggled to reach Jets defensemen on dump ins, that often led to more space in the neutral zone for Winnipeg to make the correct plays heading towards the Vegas net.
Then, on a single shift, it all changed, as three lines of Golden Knights flipped the script. Following a Vegas icing about four minutes into the 2nd period, Mark Scheiefle won an offensive zone draw against Nic Roy.
Vegas’s 4th line defended the play well and earned a multi-pass exit where they worked it in deep and changed to allow Chandler Stephenson, Mark Stone, and Brett Howden to hop on. A chipped puck into Laurent Brossoit was played quickly up the wall where Stone carried it across the defensive blue and red lines and then made a pass to Stephenson for a controlled entry. Winnipeg eventually made way back into the Vegas zone when the Golden Knights got another strong exit, this time on a kick from Stephenson, a touch pass from Howden, and a stretch pass from Alex Pietrangelo to Stone for another controlled entry. The Jets worked the puck out twice more as William Karlsson, Reilly Smith and Phil Kessel came onto the ice. That group won multiple stick battles against a now tired Jets top line, and eventually Karlsson hopped on a loose puck and zipped it past Hellebuyck.
No longer were the Jets dictating action, suddenly the Golden Knights were. Cleaner exits led to controlled entries and more pressure in the offensive zone. That meant mistakes by the Jets and opportunity for Vegas.
In the VGK locker room, they believe they “got to their game” and started to dictate the action. On the other side, the Jets feel like they failed but making self-inflicted errors. For now, we know what the game has to look like for each team to find success, when the series is over, we’ll know which team truly was in control of making it happen.
This is interesting analysis. But, after 6 total periods, it has been the Jets who have controlled the puck in 4 of those periods to just 2 for the Golden Knights. The question is whether or not the VGK can sustain this momentum going forward. The team wanting it the most, the team in better shape should win the day.
Go get them today boys!
knights fan in minny
quiet that hostile crowd early boys
I was on board with Mark Stone starting thinking that even Mark Stone at 50% is better than Dorofeyev, Cotter or Blueger. I figured it would take 3 to 5 games to really get him going. So happy with his performance last game, but he could take a bit of a step back today. Let’s not get on him. There are several guys that could pick up the slack like they have all year.
knights fan in minny
come on drop the puck
Let’s go – crash the net! We need SHOTS!
knights fan in minny
solid 1st speed is working morrisey out wear down the d i love it the jets think their rough stuff is going to stop the boys
A fight, a big scrum And two goals …. All ready … get em boys!
Ok, 2nd OT getting ready to start. We gave the game away, now it’s time to get it back. Stat: Knights have won 21 straight PO games when they scored 3 or more. We are gonna do this! Come on!
Yes yes yes yes yes we did it ! Son of a bitch. Big win.
Jb, I left my house in dbl OT, heard Ammo’s winner on radio, and hooted and hollered for 5 minutes, windows down, fists pumping– I got some STRANGE looks!! GREAT WIN!!!