If you watched last night’s season opener between the Golden Knights and Seattle Kraken you probably noticed a bit more of a wide-open game than we’ve grown accustomed to seeing in Vegas since Pete DeBoer took over.
At first blush, most of the credit for that would seem to belong to the expansion team, coming in with a highly aggressive style in all three zones, one that both caused them to fall into a 3-0 hole but also climb out of it. But, a tweak to the Golden Knights system may have played as big a role in the look and feel of that game as well.
If there’s one thing the Golden Knights know they must do this season, it’s learn how to generate more offense than they have when the going gets tough in the playoffs. It was going to take some soul searching, some creativity, and a willingness to try something new.
This has been a historically great rush team. We all know rush dries up in the playoffs, everybody is more diligent in their checking. So, how do you create more rush? -Pete DeBoer
The answer the Golden Knights came up with is what Alex Pietrangelo dubbed a “new neutral zone.” It’s a systematic tweak Pete DeBoer and his coaching staff have implemented into the Golden Knights forecheck as the opposing team exits their own zone and makes their way through the neutral zone.
We’ll get into the X’s and O’s of it as the season progresses, but the simple way to describe the difference is in the Golden Knights’ increased willingness to try and jump passing lanes and/or hound the player receiving the first pass.
We came into camp and we wanted to turn more pucks over in (the neutral zone). We’re really pressing in that area trying to create turnovers for our transition game. -DeBoer
Of the four Vegas goals in the opener, two were created directly off turnovers in the neutral zone leading to rush chances.
The first was a play made along the wall by Zach Whitecloud. As the Seattle defenseman moved the puck out of the D-zone and into the neutral zone, Whitecloud stepped in front of the forward and broke up the play. That allowed Mark Stone to not only collect the loose puck but gave him the space to carry it into the zone cleanly. He took his time, spotted Nic Hague, who read the turnover brilliantly and instantly jumped into the play shooting the puck off Max Pacioretty’s shin and into the goal.
On the other one, the game-winning goal, just moments after Morgan Geekie had tied the game and subsequently pissed off the Golden Knights bench with a stick twirl, sword-sheath, glass high-five, bench stare celebration, it was Stone who made the play in the neutral zone.
Part of the new tweak is to drop a forward back to the defensive blue line essentially daring the opposition to try a stretch pass. When they do, that forward has the green light to jump up the ice and either intercept the pass or challenge the receiver. When it works, you get VGK’s 4th goal. Stone stepped up, stole the puck cleanly, and went directly into the offensive zone leading to the
kicked deflected goal off the foot of Chandler Stephenson.
It’s going to take a little bit of time to adjust. I think we turned a lot of pucks over in the neutral zone and (the 4th goal) is a perfect example of it. -Alex Pietrangelo
It’s not always going to work perfectly though, and last night’s game was evidence.
According to stats from SportsLogiq, posted on the Kraken’s official website by Allison Luken, the Golden Knights denied just 28.6% of Seattle zone entries. The Kraken successfully denied more than 47% of VGK entries.
One of the bi-products of an aggressive forecheck, either in the offensive zone or the neutral zone, is leaving yourself exposed at the blue line. The numbers indicate that three out of every four times the Kraken tried to enter the Golden Knights zone, they were successful.
Now, Seattle was relying on the dump and chase quite a bit last night, which may prove to make last night’s number an outlier as the sample size increases, but there’s no doubt there were plenty of times in which a Kraken skater carried the puck across the blue line cleanly.
If we’re playing any of our systems the right way, regardless of what our opponent is doing we should set ourselves up to have success. -DeBoer
It’s certainly something to keep an eye on over the course of the first month of this new season. The Golden Knights have been a strong team at denying entry and going into what I’ve called “Shot Suppression Mode.” That had been a successful strategy for Vegas at holding leads, but they appear aware they must get those leads first in order to hold them.
This new aggressive neutral zone forecheck is designed to create more of the chances the Golden Knights are best at scoring, rush chances. But, it may also lead to more clean entries for the opposition which will likely put more stress on the goaltender to stop rush chances coming at him.
One game is far too small of a sample to get a true feel for how this will materialize over the course of an 82-game season followed by a likely playoff run, but there was a lot to see in that game, and for me, it was much more good than bad.
New strategy my ass!
Under Gallant jumping passing lanes and hounding the player receiving the first pass was the signature of the year 1 and 2 teams under him. It’s not something new.
I throw the bullshit copyright flag on that.
Nobody is saying it’s an original strategy. Ken is correct to highlight it.
So, then. It goes without saying that the offensive strategy under Gallant of tipping the ice was thrown out with PDB. Now, they are realizing that PDB’s strategy was flawed.
That’s how I read this. Tipping the ice was the right strategy.
Pete DeBoring’s strategy didn’t work in the playoffs. Why wasn’t he fired?
DeBoring and Lehner are the two worst moves made by this franchise. BUT, they both have the opportunity to prove me wrong.
The old Knights played fast and loose and then DeBoer came in with his structured game now he wants to go back to fast and loose. We’ll never know but I don’t think Gallant was fired for his coaching rather disagreeing with management maybe on personal or a difference in philosophy. Looking forward to watching the Rangers tonight.
Because FO made a ‘suggestion’ to Gallant in which he told them “I run this team, stay out of it.” So, you are right.
So how did the Rangers do tonight? Surely they will be invincible with the incredible Gerard Gallant coaching them, who has made it past the 1st round of the playoffs exactly once in 9 seasons of coaching!
Gallant was fired for not building on a great first year. His inability to call time-out in Sharks game 7 and having a losing streak after making first place in season 3 is why he was terminated. The right call.
While you didn’t say so Ken they were lucky to win.
HD! How are you doing these days? My guess on the change in strategy by PDB was a talk from the McBoys at the end of the preseason since that was abysmal. Something like “Hey, Pete! Don’t get confused or comfortable, because if we don’t get the SC this year, you will be out faster than Capt Kirk’s return from space. We have the cab company on speed dial, so figure it out fast.”
THE hockey GOD
capt . kirk had to get back to earth because no one in space would change his depends. He is the real rocket man.
VGK won the Kracken game because as of Seattle’s first NHL game VGK is a better team. No extra luck. Kraken looks promising though.
Not sure where this fits in with the tweak……Shea played 17+ minutes and had no shots, no hits and no blocks.
THE hockey GOD
@ Vic , He is no one. A faceless man.
PS with all due respect, he was injured and just getting his legs back. The rest of team had virtually no hits either. This is turning into a hitless wonder team.
Vic, I’ve said it before Theadore is the man of mystery the darling of national media but I don’t see it. Heskates well has a good shot but doesn’t take advantage of what he does well. Here’s a politicly incorrect comment but I don’t give a shit. I’ve watched Theadore since he came up and let me say he’s a little slow meaning he doesn’t process things as fast as he should which causes his numerous turnovers, the reason with his speed he doesn’t drive the next and why he’s only comfortable taking his 80 foot shots from the blue line he does’t have to think on that shot. To be a good hockey player like chess you have to be two moves ahead not just in the moment. Before someone tells me in chess you need to be ten moves ahead I was just making an example.
Theodore is career .4 pts/game +42. He is one of the best two way offensive D’s in the game. Wait til he goes on another run.
Theodore would be a better player if he played a little more physical style, normal dman aggressiveness, instead of the pokecheck, no contact style he uses very ineffectively. Watch the replay of goal #2 by Seattle, it was Theodore who allowed his man Schwartz to beat him from the boards to the front of the net and score on the rebound because Theodore will not play physically, i.e. box out, in front of his net.
Also, the Knights would give up fewer goals if their forwards would quit the bs move of stopping and turning back along the sideboards, and trying to force a low % cross ice pass, when they carry the puck into the zone…a perfect example was the turnover play by Marchy on goal #3 by Seattle…also, Stone did the same thing on his penalty, he caused it by pulling up and trying to force a cross ice pass
When did this fan base become so whiny? They really hate winning teams.
Not whiny. Just puzzled as to why you would tinker with success and dump almost all of the original team so quickly including their Coach of the Year.
Puzzled? It’s called a salary cap. Are you seriously confused as to why you can’t have Nate Schmidt and Alex Pietrangelo on the same team? I’m sure Tampa wanted to keep their entire third line from last year but they can’t because of the salary cap. Brayden McNabb and Reilly Smith won’t be on the team next year. There isn’t a single team in the league that remains the same every single year.