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Perfectly Timed Goalie Pull Helped VGK Beat St. Louis

The decision on when to pull the goalie is always a balancing act. Pull him too early and the other team could shoot one into the empty net and kill off the game. Pull him too late and you don’t give your team enough time to operate with the extra skater on the ice.

Against the Blues, the Golden Knights got exactly right, with the sixth skater recording the secondary assist on the game-tying goal within seconds of hopping over the boards.

Sometimes those work out, sometimes they don’t. Tonight, it did. -Bruce Cassidy

William Karlsson drew a penalty with 2:38 left in regulation and the Golden Knights trailing by a goal. Heading to the power play Cassidy could have opted to go directly to goalie pull to give his power play a full two minutes of 6-on-4 action. However, he chose not to.

We were not going to pull him immediately. You want to give your power play a chance. St. Louis’ PK has been just average this year so let’s give them a look early on. They’re also allowed to ice it without any repercussions so you want to be careful there. -Cassidy

Instead, after a discussion with the top players on the team, Cassidy said the decision was made to wait until about 45 seconds into the power play. It was communicated to Logan Thompson and he was ready to come out the moment the time was right.

That time was just short of a minute into the power play. Karlsson skated into the zone, received a pass, and quickly moved it to Alex Pietrangelo for a one-timer. The shot was wide but caromed perfectly to an unmarked Chandler Stephenson on the other side of the goal. Stephenson calmly tucked it into the empty net and the game was tied.

In this particular situation, the extra skater exposed the Blues’ penalty kill system which operates a bit differently than most in the NHL. Most teams utilize a 2-2 system that forms a box around the center of the ice. The Blues use a 1-2-1 in the shape of a diamond around the same area. Here’s how that looks.

The player furthest from the puck in the “2” of the 1-2-1 is responsible for any player heading toward the goal. As you can see in the photo he is checking over his shoulder to see if that player is headed there.

Vegas eventually works the puck to Pietrangelo for a shot, when they still had five skaters. On that one, everyone is accounted for. It’s when the sixth skater enters the picture that things change.

The Golden Knights get a shot from Pietrangelo in almost the exact same spot on the ice. The Blues have a similar coverage on the play. But, now, with the extra skater, Vegas has a numbers advantage near the goal.

On the first Pietrangelo shot, there is a man marking Mark Stone and the other defenseman has his eyes on Stephenson. On the second one, again a man is marking Stone. The other defenseman has to make a decision on which forward to cover. He takes the one in front of the goal, expecting the shot to head there, and leaves Stephenson on the back door. When the shot banks off the back wall, Stephenson is all alone to bang it in.

Had VGK not had the extra player for this shot, they would not have had a numbers advantage around the goal and therefore there would have been coverage on Stephenson.

Here are the two plays back-to-back. First is the 5-on-4 shot, then the 6-on-4 one.

By sending on the extra skater while the puck is actively in play, the Blues did not have enough time to alter their defensive shape and it led directly to the game-tying goal.

It’s a wonderful collection of a great coaching decision, excellent timing, and perfect execution. Add it all up, and it meant a very merry extra two points for the Golden Knights heading into the Christmas break.


Merry Christmas!


Shootout Bench Celebration Breakdown


  1. Sorvino

    First place in the Western Conference at Christmas. I did not expect that.

  2. Emmanuel

    I always thought the 1-2-1 a liability because your own side is screening your own G!

  3. Roberto

    Was fun to watch that live, and enjoyable to read the details of the mechanics of the play afterward. Thank you, Ken.

  4. It is definitely refreshing when a plan works out and excited to the “T”. As l recall that is seldom the case as often one empty netter and sometimes two. Ken do you have any idea on those percentage?

  5. knights fan in minny

    reading on vegas hockey now that said 3 guys sent down i hope that means a few bodies are coming back

  6. THE hockey GOD

    Dr Howard
    Dr Fine
    Dr Howard
    having been working the OT rehab extensively.

    • Tim

      THG most people without a computer wouldn’t have a clue what you were referring to. Moe, Curly, and Larry and I’ll throw in Shep

  7. Sorvino

    So many things have gone right this season. I am very pleased as a fan.

    What has gone wrong? Short list.

    Zach Whitecloud out long term which is very unfortunate.

    Phil Kessel as a support player was a hopeful experiment. He has been terrible. He has provided some creativity on the second power play unit but his 5 on 5 game is sadly pathetic.

    What has gone right is a much longer list.

    Jack Eichel has been spectacular and I did not see him playing well defensively as well. I assuming his injury is not serious.

    Mark Stone was a question mark. His back has held up and he is getting better as the season progresses. This has the potential to go south real fast.

    Another situation that had the potential to be disastrous was the goaltending. Logan Thompson has been competent although he is not as sharp as he was earlier in the season. So far so good but perhaps a situation worth monitoring as the season goes on. Has anyone noticed that Brossoit is playing really well with Henderson.

    Vegas has the 8th ranked powerplay. That’s great news. That needed to be fixed. Unfortunately the penalty kill has been bad.

    Chandler Stephenson has proven that last year was not a fluke.

    • TS

      Sorvino, your optimism is infectious!!
      I, for one, appreciate the good vibes! HAPPY NEW YEAR!

  8. Sorvino

    What do you guys feel are realistic potential additions this team can add at the deadline? Keep in mind the word “realistic” as there is only so much you can do at the trade deadline.

    I know some of you want Bo Horvat and that would be outstanding but if you feel that is realistic perhaps you can provide a trade scenario. I don’t know if Vegas has the assets that Vancouver would want. How would Vegas fit in the 5.5 million cap hit.

    I believe we need a hard nosed physical presence on the third line like a Tanner Jeannot.

  9. Jailbird

    We need a solid tuff d-man. Someone physical, who can enforce! Also a hard checking winger. In short we need to add some toughness. We will need this in the playoffs!

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