Brayden McNabb is among the best defense-first defensemen in the NHL, and certainly one of the best on the Golden Knights. He’s played more than 600 regular season and playoff games in the NHL, so it’s fair to say he’s seen just about every type of player, offensive system, and situation a defenseman can face.
Following the season, I asked McNabb a question that generated an answer I found telling, even if he didn’t mean it to be taken the way I’m about to take it.
The question was simple, “what makes a team hardest to play against for you as a defenseman?”
If they play fast. If they are putting the puck in and forechecking us and you are getting slammed into the boards every time they do that I don’t care who you ask no one really likes that. Teams that move around in the O-zone, make it difficult by making you make hard reads and making it confusing. -McNabb
It all makes perfect sense and nothing in his answer should be surprising to anyone.
But it made me think…
Do the Golden Knights do any of it?
“Play fast.” At times, sure, I’d argue that the Golden Knights played a fast brand of hockey this season, specifically in transition. When they were turning pucks over in the neutral zone or defensive zone, they sprung into the attack quickly and would often demolish teams on the rush.
In the offensive zone though, fast is not a word most would use to describe the VGK offensive style. They were much more methodical, placing a high preference on puck possession as opposed to quick passing.
Next is forechecking with physicality. This was rarely a part of the Golden Knights’ game this season at all. Vegas was not a heavy dump and chase type team and when they were forced to do it, throwing bodies was not exactly the preferred method of retrieval. Instead, Vegas would send the first player into the zone trying to force the puck along the boards to where the second forechecker would usually be. They’d then try to turn the puck over and hit their third forward coming through the center of the ice, or recycle the puck to eventually generate shots from the point.