Praise Be To Foley, Vegas Golden Knights Hockey Website

Shift In Strategy When Leading Producing Misleading Shot Attempt Numbers

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s no secret to anyone who watches hockey, teams and players play differently depending on the score of the game. It’s true about every team sport, but the fewer goals/points necessary to win a game, the stronger the delta between how a team plays when they are ahead and when they are behind.

A lot of it comes down to human nature and no matter how hard a coach tries to guard against it, there’s no stopping its effect. Some coaches lean into it, while others attempt the opposite.

For the past two eras of Golden Knights hockey, we have heard from coaches about the importance of continuing to “play our game.” From the drop of the puck to when the horn sounds in the 3rd period, both Gerard Galland and Pete DeBoer wanted Vegas playing the same way.

They’d often get frustrated when it wouldn’t happen using a phrase like “we took our foot off the pedal” when the opposing team would push back. Both coaches wanted aggressive hockey all game long no matter how many goals the Golden Knights were up or down.

The same cannot be said about Bruce Cassidy’s Golden Knights and it can be illustrated by their shot attempt numbers in each different game state.

This season the Golden Knights have attempted 1,992 shots at 5-on-5. They’ve allowed 2,023 for a difference of -31. There are 17 teams with a positive SAT (shots attempted) count and 15 with a negative one. Of the 15 in the red, only three are currently in playoff position.

Typically, that would be a gigantic red flag for the Golden Knights, especially considering they have the worst number of the three. However, when you drill into how they got there, it’s not nearly as much of a concern.

When the Golden Knights are tied they have a +43 SAT count. When they are behind it’s even better at +70. But when they are ahead, they drop to a whopping -144. When trailing, VGK have the third-worst shot attempt differential in the league, ahead of just St. Louis and Arizona.

Vegas generates just 45.3% of the game’s 5-on-5 shot attempts when they have the lead in the game. However, when a game is tied the number bumps up to 51.4% and when they trail it goes even higher to 53.9%. The difference between trailing and leading is a massive 8.6%, also the third highest in the league.

Here’s why this is not necessarily a bad thing for Vegas.

Under Cassidy, the Golden Knights alter their play style depending on the score of the game. When they are ahead, especially in the 3rd period, they tend to make a few adjustments. First, the forecheck is often backed down in order to make sure they can maintain their proper 1-2-2 setup through the neutral zone. At times, they even drop further in the neutral zone to what essentially becomes a 1-4 setup in which four VGK players are stacked up across the blue line. Finally, in the defensive zone, their approach becomes even more focused on denying the center of the ice. This often means more zone time for the opposition and in turn more shots, and usually more harmless shots.

When the Golden Knights have a lead, they aren’t looking to play the exact same style of game they play early in games or when they’re behind. Instead, they try to protect the lead and then pounce on mistakes.

It’s working.

VGK have entered the 3rd period with a lead 18 times, they’ve walked away with the win in 17 of them.

This is a fairly significant change from what we’ve seen in the past. Before Cassidy, no matter the score of the game, one of the easiest ways to tell how well the Golden Knights were playing was to simply look up at the shot totals. When they were on, the puck would spend loads of time in the offensive zone, epitomizing the slogan “the best defense is a good offense.”

No longer is that the case, and because of it, there will be some skewed numbers.


Goalie Interference – Season 2 Episode 15 – January 11th, 2023




  1. THE hockey God

    Don’t look up -look down – at the ice…bad ice is the reason for all VGK problems

    • Arnold Rothstein

      only an idiot would think there is no such thing as bad ice in NHL.

      From 2017, storyline, NHL

      Poor ice conditions continue to be a concern for NHL players, arenas
      An in-depth look at the number of recent complaints about the ice conditions throughout the NHL and how they are happening.

      Shayna Goldman
      Feb 28, 2017

      There have been a number of complaints about the ice conditions throughout the National Hockey League recently. From Gila River Arena in Arizona, to Rogers Place in Edmonton, and east to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn; the quality of the ice has been discussed.

      Underneath the concrete floors in all NHL arenas is a refrigeration system. The ice surface is made on top of those concrete floors prior to the start of the preseason. Eighteen arenas feature CIMCO cooling systems for ice refrigeration, including T-Mobile Arena which will soon become the thirty-first arena in the NHL. In creating an ice surface, a chiller, compressor, and condenser are required. Currently, NHL arenas use an ammonia refrigeration system. In the future that could be transitioned to CO2, which likely will require more compressors, but will be a more sustainable system.

      NHL refrigeration systems like CIMCO’s include an infrared camera to give surface temperature readings, which are maintained by a computerized monitoring system that can respond to temperature changes. The computer systems also can be programmed for scheduled usage, like hockey games, to ensure the ice is prepared for a game.

      Issues can stem from a number of facets within a refrigeration system—from ice temperatures, to leaks within the cooling system. Additionally, there can be issues with the ice based on the humidity within the arena.

      Arnold The brain, debunks the Fake Hockey God’s post above.

  2. Jailbird

    These coming games before the all star break are huge! Kings and krakens keep winning, knocking on the door. 5 games left on this home stand. We need at least 4 of them, starting tonight.

    • Tim

      Dream On Jailbird. Jake L. another second round pick bites the dust shipped out to the Rangers.

      • THE hockey GOD

        how many points did Jake L. have this season.

        still waiting

        • Tim

          THG you are so right the question is who in management thought he was a second round pick.

      • Sorvino

        Leschyshyn wasn’t shipped out to the Rangers. He was put on waivers because he is not good enough to play for the Vegas Golden Knights. We have a standard in Vegas. There is a reason why the VGK has played 67 playoff games since 2017 which is second most in the NHL. Tim, I know the VGK aren’t up to your standards but most of us actually enjoy postseason success and long playoff runs.

        • Tim

          Sorvino I’ll ask you the same question I asked THG who in management thought he was a second round pick. I recall when we took him there were questions about his ability. So chalk him up as another mistake. Did you ever notice by giving away many of our draft picks like candy or as George McFee used to say perishable goods in our first 5 years and then not hitting on most of our draft picks does anyone see an issue here besides me.

          • Sorvino

            Tim, I can answer and help you out with that. Respectfully, allow me to elaborate and educate.

            First of all Leschyshyn was taken with the very last pick of the 2nd round so he is almost a third round pick.

            I will do all of the research for you. I will list the eleven players taken before and after Leschyshyn in 2017 draft with their NHL games played in parentheses.

            Zachary Lauzon (0 games)
            Luke Martin (0 games)
            Jack Studnicka (0 games)
            Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (26 games)
            Jonah Gadjovich (70 games)
            Josh Brook (0 games)
            Ian Mitchell (58 games)
            Joni Ikonen (0 games)
            Eemeli Rasanen (0 games)
            Antoine Morand (0 games)
            Grant Mismash (0 games)
            Jake Leschyshyn (0 games)
            Fabian Zetterlund (48 games)
            Michael DiPietro (3 games)
            Jonas Rondjberg (39 games)
            Max Gildon (0 games)
            Morgan Geekie (142 games)
            Scott Walford (0 games)
            MacKenzie Entwistle (93 games)
            Andrei Altybarmakyan (0 games)
            Kasper Kotkansalo (0 games)
            Matthew Villalta (0 games)
            Stelio Mattheos (0 games)

            So there you have it. 11 players taken before and after Leschyshyn which is a total of 23 players including Jake.

            Only 3 of those 23 players have played more games then Jake Leschyshyn. You may notice a familiar name in there and that is Jonas Rondjberg who was taken three picks after Leschyshyn. Rondjberg has played 39 games which ranks 7th among these 23 players.

            NOT TOO SHABBY.

            Jake Leschyshyn was not a bad draft pick.

            Do you have any idea how hard it is to even make the NHL and once you get there stay in the league?

            DO THE MATH!!!!

            When a Jake Leschyshyn or any other late 2nd or early 3rd round draft pick makes the NHL it means that someone has to be pushed out of the greatest league in the world.

            How much turnover do you actually think there is each year in the NHL. 50 players? 60 maybe? I haven’t done the research on this but I imagine I am close. There literally is only one player on the VGK this year that made his NHL debut this year that was not on the team last year and that is Kaeden Korczak. Maybe my estimate of 50-60 player turnover each year could actually be high.

            Just a wild guess but I would say about 30 players retire each year due to age and ability and another 30 get replaced because they are not good enough any more.

            Where do the 60 new players come from? Maybe 10 are veterans from the KHL and other European leagues. Another 40 from the draft mostly first rounders and maybe another 10 are diamond in the rough late bloomers like Logan Thompson that smart general managers like McCrimmon sign.

            Do you know how many 2nd rounders end up even playing one single NHL game? 68%. You can find that with a quick google search. How many 3rd rounders make the NHL? 54%. And by making the NHL that means by playing one single game.

            Jake Leschyshyn is not going to play just one game. Infact, I can see him carving out an NHL career of about 400 games as a defensively responsible 4th line center that doesn’t offer too much but a competent guy none the less. He is not good enough to stick with the Golden Knights because despite what you think the VGK is an elite team.

            I hope this helps you see the light because if the VGK selecting Leschysshyn was a bad pick (it wasn’t) then all of the teams that selected the 11 players ahead and after Leschysshyn were incompetent.

            One more thing, of all three of the 23 players listed that have played more NHL games then Leschyshyn in the NHL, none of them are even with the same team that drafted them.

            Jonah Gadjivich whoom I never even heard of before today was drafted by Vancouver but now plays with San Jose. Morgan Geekie was drafted by Carolina and now plays with Seattle. MacKenzie Entwistle was drafted by Arizona but now plays with Chicago.

        • Jailbird

          Bravo Sorvino! Agree 100% sir. Don’t need Tim, he’s a disgruntled ex baseball coach!

      • Jailbird

        I will Tim (the grouch). What is being a fan, if dreaming is not allowed? Hope Jake does well there, he did nothing here.

  3. Roberto

    Great write up.

    What have the composition of the shots been in the 3rd, with regard to high-danger scoring chances vs. regular scoring chances?

    Also, as I haven’t see anything about it with the injured guys, but are they around the team at all? Lehner and Nolan Patrick, in particular.

    Does Shea Weber have anything to do with the team other than being on the roster? As it would seem his career is probably over, wondering if Weber would want to be around to get going on a transition into coaching or front office work.

  4. Kevin

    Yup … saw it in the Penguins game… 3 goals by VGK in the first period, leading to this…
    SOG by period:
    VGK 13 – 12 – 6
    PIT 9 – 20 – 11

    You can see VGK was content with the “possession/red line/dump/change” strategy … like a 20 minute penalty kill

  5. Sorvino

    Ken, since you actually get paid for this can you enlighten Tim and some of the others who think that the VGK are terrible at drafting. I know they are not. At worst they could be average but maybe better then average.

    Perhaps let them know how little turnover there is in the league and how hard it is to make the NHL and stay there. What is the percentage of players selected in the third round that actually play 200 or 300 games. How lucky and fortunate do you have to be to select someone in the 60-80 range that is an actual difference maker?

    Since Leschyshyn was taken in the 2017 draft so VGK fans even realize what a fantastic 2nd round pick Nic Hague was in 2017.

    Of the 31 players selected in the 2nd round in 2017, Nic Hague has played the second most games only behind Mario Ferraro of San Jose. I’m my opinion and I think most would agree if they look at the 31 players, Nic Hague is the 2nd best player after Jason Robertson.

    I bet that most think that selecting Nic Hague in the second was nothing special. Hague was an outstanding pick. If he is not a top 4 defenceman right now, he is on his way or maybe evening becoming a top 2 defencemen. I believe his floor is a top 4 guy with a chance to be better. Even if he settled in as a bottom pairing guy who plays 800 games in this league he was still a great pick.

    What is a top 4 defencemen (rental with an expiring contract) worth at the trade deadline? The answer is almost always a first round pick or more. Ben Chiarot is a good example. What would Nic Hague be worth? A top 4 defencemen who is only 24 years and signed to a multi year contract at a reasonable cap hit? Two first round picks? One first round pick + two mid range prospects?

    We know that Nic Hague was atleast considered to be traded before this season for the team to be cap compliant. I assume that McCrimmon asked for the moon and wisely hung on to Hague.

  6. Sorvino

    One last thing Tim. I hope I am wrong but I think you are a chronic complainer regardless if you are proven wrong.

    Your first statement was to shit on management for allowing Leschsyshyn to be picked up on waivers by saying that in your words, “another second round pick bites the dust.”

    Then when the hockey god correctly stated / insinuated that losing Leschsyshyn is not a big deal you decided to shit on management again by saying it was a bad draft pick.

    You clearly want to complain about the VGK who are currently 5th in the league in points, 5th in the league in winning percentage.

    They are not going to go 82-0.

    They are a very good to elite team that will more then likely have a great playoff run (they usually do) and be among the top 6-8 teams that have a reasonable shot to win the cup.

    I don’t know why you can’t understand and enjoy that. I personally don’t think they will win the cup but this is a very good team and they will still be a very good team if they lose to Florida in a meaningless regular season game in early January.

    I put in the effort and research to answer your question to clearly prove that drafting Jake Leschsyshyn wasn’t some kind of missed opportunity since he has performed at or better then the 11 players drafted ahead and after him.

    Please don’t respond with more complaining that is based on stuff that is not factual.

    If you want to dispute my opinions which are based in facts then please do so by using factual information as well.

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