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VGK’s Top 6 Stanley Cup Playoff Assists

(Photo Credit: @_jkarsh on Instagram)

Yesterday, we went through the Golden Knights Top 6 goals of the postseason, today it’s time to pick some apples. We took a different approach when selecting six elite playoff assists. Many were picked because of their pure beauty not their impact. Others were a blended mix of spotlight skill and the game situation. So, let’s start dishing.

6. Stephenson and Howden Assist Stone’s Second Goal of Game 2 vs. Winnipeg

After a disappointing Game 1 loss to open the postseason, Vegas’ captain knew he needed to steer the ship. Mark Stone did just that in Game 2 of the opening round vs. Winnipeg. In the final period, Stone assisted on Chandler Stephenson’s tiebreaker and wrapped the game up with two goals. Brett Howden started the rush from the defensive zone and flipped it over to Stephenson on the wing, who found Stone for a perfect tap-in down low. Each forward touched the puck and it resulted in a point for the home team. Even though it’s a different sport, coach Norman Dale would’ve been proud.

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VGK’s Top 6 Stanley Cup Playoff Goals

(Photo Credit: @_jkarsh on Instagram)

It’s been more than a month since the Golden Knights raised the organization’s first Stanley Cup. It’s been an incredible summer in Las Vegas while the championship parties roll on in VGK players’ hometowns. So, let’s stretch the fun out a little longer with a series of Top 6 moments of the Golden Knights’ thrilling Stanley Cup winning run. Of course, we chose six over five because of The Creator‘s sixth-season championship proclamation.

6. Michael Amadio’s Game 3 Double-Overtime Winner vs Winnipeg:

After blowing a 4-1 lead the Golden Knights were forced to fight off the tenacious Jets in sudden death. After several hit posts in the first overtime, Vegas woke up and took care of Winnipeg three and a half minutes into double OT. The series was essentially done after Amadio’s dart.

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How The Golden Knights Successfully Slowed Down Edmonton’s Zone Entries In Game 1

How do you slow down Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and the Edmonton Oilers? That’s the million-dollar question coaches have been asking themselves since the two paired up seven years ago. As the Oilers roster has been built up with even more speed around them the answers have been fewer and further between.

Last night though for good stretches of Game 1, the Golden Knights drew up a successful blueprint. After 40 minutes, Vegas had limited the best offense in the NHL to just one high-danger chance at 5-on-5. Then, down the stretch, Edmonton could not consistently gain entry to the offensive zone and it led to a panicky goalie pull and a too-many-men penalty that helped seal victory for the Golden Knights.

So, how did they do it?

It all comes down to gap control. The Golden Knights are well-equipped on the back end with six defensemen fully capable of stopping anyone in the league if they are placed in a good position to do so. It’s getting in that position that’s tricky.

The first, and simplest, way to gain good defensive position against a speedy Oilers team is to just not let them have the puck.

We spent a lot of time in their end with O-Zone puck possession. That allows our D to rest a little and be able to hold their gap. It also forces their forwards to go check in their own end so now they are below the tops of the circles on the breakout which also allows us to hold our gap. -Bruce Cassidy

Yes, it really can be that easy. Spend time in their offensive zone, make them defend, and when the puck comes out of the zone, they’ll be more focused on getting off the ice as opposed to attacking.

(Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke, SinBin.vegas)

In the 1st period, especially after the Oilers scored their first power play goal, all four Golden Knights lines spent the majority of their shifts hemming Edmonton into their own zone. This continued in the 2nd when the Oilers managed just three scoring chances in 14 minutes of even-strength play.

Of course, spending the entirety of the game in the opposition’s defensive zone is not possible, so eventually, the puck will come out and that’s when the next part of the blueprint comes in.

Reloads.

It’s a term Bruce Cassidy spent so much time talking about this year that I made a video to explain exactly what he means. You can watch it here.

In Game 1, Vegas’ reloads were excellent at not only keeping the puck in the O-Zone longer but also forcing the Oilers to navigate more traffic when trying to carry it through the neutral zone.

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Penalty Drawn Before OT Changed Tenor Of Locker Room During Crucial Intermission

(Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke, SinBin.vegas)

When the Golden Knights walked off the ice at the end of regulation, they had to be in disbelief. Vegas had not surrendered a three-goal deficit at any time this season, and they had won 34 of 37 games in which they held a lead at the start of the 3rd period.

Yet here they were, headed back to the locker room with 18 minutes to prepare for an overtime period knowing if they don’t score next, it’ll go down as one of the worst losses in franchise history.

At that moment, there’s shouldn’t have been much positive to draw on. They’d blown a massive lead and turned what was a subdued environment into the most hostile one they’d played in for years. However, they did have something to hang their hats on, which offered a sense of calm and belief.

After the Jets scored to miraculously tie the game with 21.9 seconds left, captain Mark Stone, Jack Eichel, and Chandler Stephenson hopped over the boards looking to make something happen in the short time they had left. Stephenson won the draw, Eichel moved it back to Shea Theodore who stretched it into the zone back to Stephenson. He carried the puck with a purpose below the goal line and sent a centering pass to Stone. Brenden Dillon blocked the pass, but Stone kept working towards it and was hauled down by Pierre-Luc Dubois. Penalty!

I know the power play hasn’t been good but we had two tonight and we were feeling good about it. The message was that we have the power play and almost a full two minutes of one with good ice. Obviously we didn’t get it done but it was definitely something that we were able to look forward to and allowed us to get right back to pushing. -Chandler Stephenson

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Appreciating Michael Amadio

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Earlier this year head coach Bruce Cassidy referred to Michael Amadio as “Plan E” when it came to finding a third player on the line with Mark Stone and Chandler Stephenson. In other words, he was barely even considered for the spot and it took multiple injuries and failures of other guys for him to get his chance.

For the first few months of the year, Amadio couldn’t even secure a consistent place in the lineup. He was a healthy scratch 14 times in the first 30 games of the season. In his first 20 games he played, bouncing around the lineup including games with William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault as well as a few with Jake Leschyshyn and Jonas Rondbjerg, Amadio scored just one goal and added two assists. He was averaging just over 10 minutes of ice time per night and carried a -4 rating.

Then, in Game 35, it happened. He was bumped up to the 1st line to play with Stone and Stephenson and from that moment, he has taken off. Amadio quickly rattled off five goals and eight points in his first six games on that line, saw his TOI increase more than six minutes a game to 16:18, and went from a shooting percentage of 4% to 26%.

It wasn’t just dumb luck or being in the right place at the right time either. Amadio fundamentally changed the way he plays the game to succeed alongside his elite linemates.

(Amadio) came up as a junior guy and minor pro and he was the guy making the plays to the guy going to the net. Now, the shoe’s on the other foot so he has to be that guy to go there and he’s bought in well. Give him credit for changing what he has to do to compliment a line. -Bruce Cassidy

There’s no better graphic indication of this change in style than looking at where Amadio’s 5-on-5 goals have come from this season. Here’s the chart from MoneyPuck.com.

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Using Ice Below The Goal Line Has Helped VGK’s In-Zone Offense

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights have always been a pretty good offensive team. They currently rank 7th overall in total goals since 2017 and sit in 5th this year after what was considered a down year finishing 12th.

One of the main reasons for that has been how deadly they’ve always been off the rush. From the moment the Golden Knights stepped on the ice for the first time, transition offense has been their calling card. James Neal helped VGK to their first-ever win on a quick-strike chance off the rush and they’ve been doing it ever since.

However, over the course of the last two years, there have been extended stretches in which that style of offense has dried up for Vegas. The most notable instances came in postseason series against the Canucks, Stars, and Canadiens.

When Bruce Cassidy was brought on board as the third coach in team history, he knew that had to change. Of course, no one would want to take away from the Golden Knights’ most consistent avenue of generating offense, but it was clear they had to build other roads to success as well.

Even though we’ve been good all year I think it’s been more rush. We’ve really focused on our power play and the pace of that and I think it has shown up well for us lately. Now it’s about building in some O-zone play where we don’t get chances off the rush. -Cassidy

That focus has started to shine through for the Golden Knights, especially in the last few home games, a trio of wins.

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Bruce Cassidy Details His Ideal Minute And Role Distribution Among Forward Lines

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Every coach at every level in the sport of hockey wants to balance minutes equally across the entire lineup. In a perfect world, the coach could just sit back and roll four lines keeping everyone fresh and ready to play at the highest level in their next shift.

But, the NHL is not a utopia and the divide between high-end players and everyone else often causes an imbalance of ice time.

I don’t know that you should have guys up in the 20’s (minutes) that are forwards. Are you getting maximum value out of them if they are over 20 every night for 82 games? We’ll see how that plays out and how the guys who are used to that manage that. If they can pull it off and give you maximum play then I’ll change the way I think. -Bruce Cassidy

Same goes on the flip side.

We shouldn’t have anybody under 10 minutes a night. If this team is functioning as we see it, I think that 4th line would be closer to 12 minutes because they are going to play against good people, get D-zone starts, and play on the PK. -Cassidy

Historically, VGK have used their 3rd and 4th lines in checking roles, but often would see their usage sheltered with offensive zone starts and/or favorable matchups. Cassidy wants his 3rd line of William Karlsson, Brett Howden, and Michael Amadio to operate as a strong defensive line with the 4th line also taking some of the most difficult minutes.

That’s defending, that’s penalty kill, the hard minutes. We have to be careful with guys over the course of the year because of fatigue, injury, and maybe age. -Cassidy

The challenge for Cassidy though will be the abilities of the players in the bottom-six in regards to holding up to the rigors of what he called “stressful minutes.”

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