vs. St. Louis: (2-1) 4-2 L, 5-4 W OT, 6-5 W OT
Let’s start with this, all three games between Vegas and St. Louis were highly entertaining. It’s hard to forget former Golden Knight David Perron hugging current Golden Knight Max Pacioretty’s leg, which then led to seven different roughing penalties. Vegas was fortunate to win the two OT games because of two improbable comebacks. In both victories, the Golden Knights trailed the Blues after two periods of play. They will need some of that never-give-up mentality in the round-robin, especially with Jordan Binnington in net. However, it’s unlikely St. Louis will blow many more three-goal leads.
Areas of Adjustment
- Keep your heads on straight
The Golden Knights will have to improve their discipline against St. Louis. Not only for the fear of the Blues strong power play, but also because St. Louis can successfully agitate teams. They pestered their way to the Stanley Cup final last season, and they clearly enjoy annoying the Golden Knights.
Against St. Louis, Vegas averaged only six minutes in penalties per game, however in their second matchup the Golden Knights spent 12 minutes in the box. Granted many were matching penalties but when the Blues power play hit the ice they took advantage. St. Louis scored the opening and overtime forcing goals on the power play. Take those away and Vegas probably wins the game in regulation. Vegas turned the tables on St. Louis in their third matchup, scoring four times on man-advantages including on in OT. Their four power-play goals were the most scored in one game for the Golden Knights.
The Golden Knights are the better team at even strength so if they keep from being dragged into the muck, they should be able to handle the Blues.
- Contain Offensive Defensmen
It’s no secret St. Louis has elite weapons on the blue line. Three of their top five season leaders in shots were defenseman, Alex Pietrangelo led the entire team with 225 shots on net. In the three meetings with the Golden Knights, the Blues got 23 shots and 10 points from defensemen. Vegas will have to get in the way of some of those shots or make it tough altogether for St. Louis’ D-men to get one off.
One way the Golden Knights can frustrate the Blues defensemen is by blocking shots and by creating high-zone pressure. Quite like the strategy Vegas used against Pete DeBoer’s San Jose Sharks in their 2018 postseason series.
… the Sharks defensemen did not score a single goal at even strength and they managed only a total of 35 shots on goal. The Golden Knights blocked 58 shots from Sharks defensemen in the series.
Nearly 40% of the Sharks shot attempts come from defensemen, yet against the Golden Knights that number shrinks massively to under 30%.
There is one drawback to this defensive style for the Golden Knights though, and that is that it gives more space to San Jose’s forwards. This leads to extended zone time and often times high-danger chances. In turn, that leads to the ice appearing to be tilted in the Sharks favor. But, if the Golden Knights keep the puck to the outside, and take away shooting lanes, the zone time will be just that, zone time.-Ken Boehlke, April 2019
Shutting down St. Louis’ extra offense could change the game dramatically. The total number of goals scored will decrease which benefits Vegas’ strong 5-on-5 play. Early pressure will eliminate options from a puck-moving defenseman. Clogging passing and shooting lanes will create hesitation and lead to blocked and missed shots, or turnovers for the Golden Knights to feast on.
- Bother Binnington
St. Louis goaltender Jordan Binnington went 1-0-1, allowing 8 goals vs. Vegas this season. His 3.92 goals allowed average was the fifth most an opponent scored on the 26-year-old this year. The Golden Knights will have to get to Binnington often because the Blues bring offense as well. Vegas allowed 4.33 Blues goals per game in their three contests. Sure Vegas won two of those games, but they were both in overtime.
Normally, Binnington allows an average of 2.56 GAA per game so he’s had much less success against the Golden Knights than the majority of other opponents. That’s how Vegas will win their round-robin dance with St. Louis. Scoring first, early, and often is a formula that will earn the Golden Knights a victory. However, against a competitive team with an outstanding goaltender, it’s not likely.
Winning the round-robin match could really be as simple as shutting down the Blues offensive defensemen. Which I’m sure is the gameplan for DeBoer and his players. If Vegas can play a perfect game by solving Binnington early, shadowing their puck-moving defensive, and stay away from the St. Louis muck, Vegas will have success.