The Golden Knights have played in nine regular-season overtime periods since they last scored an OT goal. They are 0 for 4 finding the back of the net in OT this year and went five straight without scoring in overtime to close out the 2018-19 regular season.
Add it all up, and Vegas has played 29:29 of overtime hockey since they last walked off the ice an overtime winner. They’ve gone an acceptable 4-5 in those games, winning all four in shootout, but their inability to score in 3-on-3 overtime is concerning.
The four OT games this year have totaled 13:48 of play. Vegas spent 1:38 of that time playing on the power play against Chicago yet still didn’t score.
In the nine games over the last two seasons, Vegas allowed the game-winning goal within the first :30 of OT on three separate occasions, including most recently against Montreal last week.
Since Mark Stone has been a member of the Golden Knights, they’ve not scored a single overtime goal despite playing in six OT games.
No matter how you slice it, it’s bad. It cost Vegas a few points last year, it’s cost them a couple already this year, and if it’s not corrected, it’ll cost them even more as the season progresses.
I wanted to see if I could identify some of the symptoms to the Golden Knights overtime issues, so I went back and watched all four OT games Vegas has played this season. In two, neither team scored and the Golden Knights won in shootout. In the other two, defensive breakdowns led directly to opposition goals in which the goalies had no chance. Obviously, those need to be avoided, but it’s been more than just the final moment that has been the problem for Vegas. There are two substantial issues they’ve had to this point. One when they have the puck, one when they don’t.
First, there have been way too many careless giveaways in overtime. In four overtime games, Vegas has given the puck away five times prior to creating a scoring chance on that possession. Stone, Theodore, Smith, Karlsson, and Marchessault have each had one and not a single one of them was even trying to make a play to lead directly to a goal.
In OT, the name of the game is possession. If you have the puck, you have a great chance to win. So, giving it away is a cardinal sin. It’s one thing to try and make a great play to set up a chance, but that’s not what’s been happening for Vegas. Instead, it’s simple giveaways, usually trying to keep the puck in the zone rather than taking it out and resetting. Here are two examples.
Every possession in overtime has to lead to a chance. Until there’s a chance, there’s no reason to do anything risky. Plain and simply, the Golden Knights have to take better care of the puck if they plan on winning in overtime.
The other issue is much trickier to correct. It is trying to keep forwards out of precarious defensive situations, especially when defending oncoming rushes. Because the standard formation for any team on 3-on-3 is two forwards and one defenseman, forwards are often caught needing to defend while skating backward. Most are not good at it, but Vegas has a few that are (Stone, Karlsson, Stastny, Smith). Marchessault and Pacioretty have been caught in tough spots more than once a piece and they’ve always led to Grade A chances.
The simplest fix to this is to stop playing the forwards who struggle defending, but that’s easier said than done when you only have four that are capable of doing it well. So, the next best option is to pair the two that struggle with two that are great. Again, easier said than done considering how difficult it is to change in overtime.
Finally, it comes down to game-recognition and taking care of the puck to make sure when it is turned over, the defense is set up with the better defensive forward back as opposed to chasing.
All in all, 3-on-3 overtime has not looked pretty for the Golden Knights and they need to figure it out because with 67 games left on the schedule, you better believe overtime will be needed in at least eight of them.