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Tag: Empty Net

Golden Knights Appear To Be Turning A Corner At 6-on-5

(Photo from @GoldenKnights on Twitter)

For the first 57 games of the 2023-24 season, the Golden Knights struggled mightily playing with the extra skater. When they pulled their goalie, they had a hard time entering the zone, couldn’t get shots to the net, and watched the puck sail into their empty net time and time again.

Despite losing 25 games in the first four months of the year, Vegas had not rescued a single standings point with late-game heroics and it had grown to a point beyond concern.

Now though, twice in the previous eight games, VGK have netted a massive goal with their goalie pulled stealing a point in Ottawa and locking up a pair in Seattle.

Last night the Golden Knights were struggling with a familiar problem for the first 90 seconds of empty net time. They couldn’t navigate the clogged neutral zone so they were forced to dump the puck in. Their puck battle win rate was slightly better than it has been in this situation all year, which allowed them a bit more O-Zone time than they’ve been used to. Then, the magic happened.

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Identifying The Golden Knights’ Shortcomings When Defending Against An Empty Net

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

This season the Golden Knights are one of the stingiest teams in the league when it comes to allowing goals. On a nightly basis, no one allows fewer than Vegas’ 2.4 goals per game. So, it’s not surprising when you break the numbers down, the VGK defense is at or near the top in goals against in every situation.

However, there is one glaring situation that is so much worse than any other it’s almost unbelievable.

VGK goals against per 60 (NHL rank)

All Situations – 2.35 (1st)
5-on-5 – 1.93 (2nd)
Even Strength – 2.39 (6th)
Penalty Kill – 4.19 (4th)
Power Play – 0.34 (2nd)
Against Empty Net – 26.55 (32nd)

Yes, you’re reading that right. At 5-on-5 the Golden Knights allow less than two goals per 60 minutes. On the penalty kill, down at least one man, they allow 4.19 goals per 60. But, when the opposing goalie comes out, that number jumps to an astronomical 26.55.

In 11:18 of ice time against an empty net the Golden Knights have allowed five goals, the worst in the league by nearly three goals per 60 minutes. The only team even in the same galaxy are the Montreal Canadiens at 23.95 while every other team is under 17 and two-thirds of the league has allowed fewer than 10 goals per 60 against the empty net.

It’s a problem and the Golden Knights know it.

We had a meeting with our PK unit and let’s face it we need to be better in that area, it’s happening to us a lot. If that’s a playoff game those can really hurt you. We’re aware of it, we just have to keep drilling down on it. -Cassidy

You don’t want to be giving up goals but it’s better now though because you can learn from it. It hasn’t cost us yet, but it will if it’s not corrected. -Stone

Cassidy mentioned a few specific areas in which he thought the Golden Knights could be better when facing the empty net. He said it starts with entries. Vegas have to be better at denying entry at the blue line.

There’s no better illustration of this than the San Jose game. Moments before the entry that led to the game-tying goal, San Jose waltzed through the zone to get a shot off the rush that Jiri Patera held. VGK’s 1-2-2 neutral zone got caught slightly out of position as Alex Pietrangelo lagged too far into the defensive zone and Mark Stone was unable to deny the pass through the center of the ice. Then, on the play in which San Jose did score, there was a similar breakdown. On this one, the Golden Knights won the draw and instantly cleared the puck. They denied the first entry but were unable to regroup quickly enough as the Sharks started another one. At 6-on-5, it’s bad enough to let the puck be carried across the blue line once, let alone twice in 30 seconds.

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Why Have The Golden Knights Struggled When Playing In Front Of An Empty Net?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights have hit a bit of a snag after getting off to a torrid start to the season. Following the record-setting 11-game point streak to open their Cup-defending season, Vegas has dropped five of their last seven games.

In many of the games they’ve lost, the same problem has cropped up. Finishing. The Golden Knights generate plenty of dangerous looks, but just can’t seem to convert enough of them to get on the right side of the scoreboard. For a team as talented, and with a history of success, as the Golden Knights, there is not much room for concern when that is the issue. Eventually, as long as they keep generating those chances, they’ll start going in again and Vegas will return to their winning ways.

There is however one particular portion of the game in which the scoring chances have not been there, and it has been a significant contributor to why the Golden Knights have not been able to erase deficits late in games.

This season the Golden Knights have been forced to pull their goalie for the extra skater at the end of a game on four separate occasions. In all four instances, the same two results have occurred. First, the Golden Knights did not land a single shot on goal, and second, the other team scored into Vegas’ empty net.

In those four games, the Golden Knights have played 3:44 of time with an extra skater. They have generated just four shot attempts and amassed a measly 0.09 expected goals. To illustrate how poor these numbers are, if you extrapolate them to a 60 minute game, that would mean 64 shot attempts and 1.45 expected goals. Those numbers would be rough at 5-on-5, let alone with a 6th skater on the ice.

So, what’s going on? Why is it so bad?

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VGK Developing Poor Habit Late In Close Games

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

In the end, the NHL is a results-oriented business, so the only thing that matters is winning. That being said, the way you win can often be just as strong a predictor of future success as the result itself.

Recently, the Golden Knights have done a lot of winning, but they’ve also begun to develop a bit of a nasty habit.

It’s another game where we had the puck on our stick a couple of times when they had their goalie out and we weren’t able to finish the game. -Cassidy

When the Lightning tied the game with 27 seconds to go, it marked the fourth time in the last 17 games in which the Golden Knights have conceded a game-tying goal in the final 70 seconds of the game. On top of that Tampa’s two goals with their own net empty added to the tally of six goals Vegas has allowed against six skaters since January 24th.

Also, the Golden Knights blew 3rd leads to both New Jersey and Carolina at home and nearly allowed Montreal to recover from a three-goal hole before this road trip began.

It’s tough. We want the two points but you can’t really worry too much about (giving up the lead). You just have to worry about the next shift. I think we answered very well but it’s always tough especially when it happens as late as it did tonight. -William Karlsson

The worst part about all of this is that they are all happening in different ways, but as Cassidy alluded to, each and every time there has been a moment when the Golden Knights have the puck on their sticks and haven’t been able to make a play.

It comes down to details and execution, and recently Vegas just hasn’t reached the standard necessary to close out games in the NHL.

In the first 38 games, the Golden Knights did not allow a single goal when playing against six skaters. With two more in Tampa, Vegas now sits tied for 3rd place over the course of the entire season allowing seven.

Even though VGK have rescued many of the points that potentially could have been lost in overtime, it’s something that must be worked out before the postseason because a single mistake in a playoff series could be fatal.

Why The Golden Knights Have Had So Much Success With Their Net Empty

On Sunday afternoon the Golden Knights were in a situation they’ve admittedly found themselves in too often this year. Down a goal late, Pete DeBoer called Laurent Brossoit to the bench with just under two minutes left in an attempt to score the game-tying goal.

For the sixth time this year, the Golden Knights found the back of the net with their goalie on the bench and a sixth skater on the ice. That’s the fourth most of any team in the NHL this year and ties most by a Golden Knights team in a season ever.

In fact, in just 35 games, the Golden Knights have scored more goals with their net empty than they did in the last 100 regular season games.

The question becomes, why?

We’ll start with the coach-speak answer, but one that certainly has quite a bit of validity.

There’s never any panic with our group in those situations, there’s a calmness which you need. If you are running around trying to make something happen you can’t enter with possession. You’ve got to have a calmness to your group to get organized, to get set up, and to know that we’re getting the goalie out early enough that the clock is our friend, and we don’t have to rush or force anything. I think our guys get that concept. -DeBoer

Along with calmness, there’s definitely a sense of belief that shines through. As DeBoer says, panic rarely, if ever, sets in, which allows the Golden Knights to continue stacking up chances until one goes in.

As for the player reasoning, it’s a bit more specific.

We’ve talked about a few things systematically that have worked. From up top we are setting up with good shooting opportunities for me and Theodore and whoever else is at the top with us whether it’s Pacioretty or Marchessault or whoever. And if you look at all the success we’ve had at 6-on-5, it’s because we have guys standing in front of the net. You’ve got two people in front and us shooting up top it’s obviously pretty difficult for the goalie to see it. Also, you want to create those scrums so you can get those second opportunities because you have the extra guy out there. -Pietrangelo

If you look at a still frame from the shot that led to the goal on Sunday, it’s pretty clear what he’s is talking about.

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Golden Knights Shining With Own Net Empty

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Throughout the course of this season the Golden Knights have been in survival mode. Whether the reasons have been self-inflicted or not, this version of the Golden Knights hasn’t looked anything like the ones we’ve grown accustomed to watching in the past.

Often times we hear coaches talk about the process over the results. Basically saying that over a long season it’s more important how a team is playing than whether or not they get a win on any given night. This season, the process for the Golden Knights hasn’t been great. They’re allowing far too many chances, the power play is pushing historically bad levels, and they aren’t finishing the opportunities to the same degree they are capable of. The results have been ok, but everyone’s aware they could be much worse.

There is one place where the process has been stellar, if not elite. It’s when the Golden Knights have trailed late in a game and have been forced to remove their goalie to push for the comeback goal.

Vegas has spent 11:40 with their net empty this year which has resulted in just one goal for and three against. Not exactly the results a team is looking for with the goalie pulled, but not terrible. However, the process has been excellent, and there was no better display of it than last night.

Trailing by two, Pete DeBoer opted to pull Laurent Brossoit from the goal with 4:08 left in the final period. At that moment, Vegas had Alex Pietrangelo, Shea Theodore, Nic Roy, Reilly Smith, Chandler Stephenson, and Jonathan Marchessault on the ice.  With the help of a timeout 68 seconds in, all six of those players put in more than three minutes of ice time in the final four, and Pietrangelo and Theodore were on the ice for a three minute and 47 second long shift.

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Goalie Out; Great

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Any time the Golden Knights lead the league in a statistic, it’s worth noting (usually with a tweet). When they lead the entire NHL by a 2:1 margin in that stat, it’s worth a full article.

Despite playing the most games in the league (tied with seven other teams), the Golden Knights allowed the fewest empty-net goals of any team. Vegas conceded into a goalie-less net just three times during the entire 2019-20 season. Columbus came in 2nd with six and then a group of nine teams finished with nine or fewer.

There were just two teams with a Goals For Percentage above 50% with their net empty, Vegas and the New York Islanders. The Golden Knights came in with five goals for and just the three against for 62.5% while the Islanders had eight for and seven against for 53.3%. Every other team in the league conceded more goals than they scored with their net empty.

Vegas did finish with the second to lowest total time without their goalie (ahead of Boston), but when the stats are adjusted for time, it remains incredibly impressive for the Golden Knights.

Vegas ranked first in goals against per 60 with 5.65 while the next closest team, Carolina, came in at 9.25. Only four teams were under 10.0.

They also finished in the top five in Shots For/60, Corsi For/60, Scoring Chances For/60, and High Danger Chances For/60 and the top 10 in Goals For/60. This all indicates that not only were the Golden Knights terrific at keeping the puck out of their own empty net, they were also putting massive amounts of pressure on the opposing goalie and chased down crucial 6-on-5 goals on five separate occasions.

You probably remember most of the Golden Knights’ handiwork with the net empty too. The most memorable goal is Max Pacioretty’s 0.3 seconds remaining equalizer in Nashville which started a four-game winning streak. There was also Nick Holden’s game-tier at Chicago, and Vegas scored twice with their net empty in one game this season, a game in Montreal. Pacioretty and Reilly Smith tallied in the final two minutes to help earn a much-needed point at the Bell Centre.

So, when the games finally get back underway and the Golden Knights trail late, don’t give up, they’ve got a better chance than anyone in the league to tie it back up.

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