All-Star head coach Gerard Gallant created a few cliches for his team that he’s spent the last six months repeating to the media every chance he’s gotten. Things like “one game at a time,” “work hard and have fun,” and “roll four lines.” They are all obvious for a coach, but usually, they have little actual meaning and are more like those motivational posters supposedly successful people hang in their office.
Every once in a while though one of those sayings manifests itself from a cliche into reality. The Golden Knights won Game 3, and are now ahead 3-0 in the series because of their conditioning, because after a double overtime game in Game 2, Vegas came back and was the fresher team for 60 minutes, and especially the last 20. That’s not because they were taking it one game at a time or that they were working harder than the Kings, it’s because they’ve rolled four lines all season long and it’s allowed them to keep playing the same way, with the same speed and ferocity, even after a 95 minute marathon two days prior.
We’ve never relied on anybody to create all the offense or all the defense. It’s really a great job by Turk (Gallant) to stay the course with that. There were games this year where we were losing and maybe a couple guys wanted more ice time but that’s why he coaches that way so that situations like this happen in the playoffs and we just play the same way. -David Perron
The Golden Knights did not have a single player in the top 50 in total ice time in the regular season. William Karlsson ranked 30th among centers in average time on ice, and Vegas’ first winger to appear in the ATOI rankings was Reilly Smith at 38th among all wingers.
The reason Gallant spread his minutes out all season wasn’t that he had Game 3 of Round 1 in mind, it’s because he could get away with it. Most coaches want to roll four lines and keep everyone fresh, but they can’t because there’s a major drop-off in play from top line to bottom. Most teams, like the Kings, have a group of high-end players and a group of below average players. Not the Golden Knights.
Whatever shifts we got we created those bounces that created those momentum shifts and we know the bench gets excited when we play that way, so it’s not that difficult for us to recreate that. -Pierre-Edouard Bellemare
Vegas’ fourth line of Bellemare, Tomas Nosek, and William Carrier put in important shifts at important times against the most important players on the other side, and they have one job on their mind.
We don’t have to score, we just have to create momentum for the team. -Bellemare
Because of that fourth line playing important time, the longer the games have gone, the better the Golden Knights have gotten.
Our top guys play a lot of minutes on PK and power play, so when you throw that fourth line out there it gives them some time to rest but they also gain momentum for our club most of the time. -Gallant
It’s not just that Vegas is deep, it’s that they use that depth. Gallant trusts Bellemare and the fourth line to take defensive zone start shifts against opposing team’s top lines, and not only survive but thrive. They’ve done it all season long, and they did it again in Game 3.
So, when the game heads to the final period and the Golden Knights are down a goal, they aren’t worried, they are ready, because they know they are the more conditioned team. And it’s not because they have better trainers, stronger lungs, or some cheat code that allows their legs to never stop moving, it’s because they simply their players don’t play as much as the players on the other team.
Gallant has been preaching it all year long, and last night it paid off and big.
The difference between the Knights’ and then Kings’ energy in the third period was stark. Not only did it seem that the goal was coming, but that once it did, more would come. That’s exactly what happened. Eakin’s equalizer shut the Kings’ fans up as well. The energy had been sucked out of the building. A couple Kings’ fans next to me were already resigned to not scoring again and complained, “not overtime again.” That was with more than 15 minutes left in the 3rd period!!! As much mouth as they showed they had during the first 2 periods, it was readily exposed to be nothing more than a thin disguise for the fear they all had. Knights were not perfect, but they were good enough to win, and that’s how teams make deep playoff runs.
I don’t think the crowd played a part in the game at anytime last night.
Michael V Smith
Nice article Ken. I’ve been a “four line” believe fo a few years now. Until VGK, no team has kept the ice times low enough to be this effective. Vegas drafted and traded for team speed, which made it even more so. The age of “star” heavy teams is wanting.
I agree 100%! Think of the non issue of cap space when you dont have heavy contracts. That said, doesn’t sound like McPhee would want to resign Neal and Perron, because they would expect a big payday.
Michael V Smith
The defense that Tomas Nosek played in the 3rd period was off the hook amazing to watch. His effort and results on the PK were unbelievable. Talk about a behind the scenes core contributor….. WOW !!
Great move getting Perron back in the lineup. Yes, it sucks to see Tatar in the press box, but it’s the right call at the moment. I sure hope GMGM can get both he and Neal to re-up. Maybe a Cup can convince them to stay…… !!
So true. Last night during that Kings power play at the end of the 3rd period (possibly one of the Kings most important power play of the season) Nosek made them look silly every time they started coming down the ice. He looked fresh and precise and the Kings looked tired and sluggish.
For generations to come, this entire organization will be studied in business schools and other institutions the same way the movie “Moneyball” and the methodology depicted in that movie has been studied. The verb “to Vegas” will be added to the syllabus of college curricula, defined as “to come from behind and overcome the greatest of challenges and best the most-entrenched opponents”.
Great article, Ken! Turk has been saying rolling 4 lines all year, and I have heard other teams say this over the years, but he and McPhee have perfected it to a T.
It will be interesting how many teams will adopt the VGK 4 line roll philosophy next season. This reminds me when NJ introduced “the trap” and it was adopted by some teams that next season.
Big and Heavy is old school NHL. Any team with executives who still prescribe to the old school way of thinking will be/ are being left in the dust of faster stronger fresher smarter teams. The Kings will get that figured out eventually. GMGM had already figured it out when he and his staff built what the VGK are today—-a WINNER !!!
Having elite top 6 and way lower tier bottom 6 is not a recipe for long term success in today’s game.