The key battleground coming in this Stanley Cup Final was the war between each team’s strong relentless forecheck and the opposing breakout. The team that was more successful winning the clashes in each zone would not only generate the majority of dangerous scoring chances but also control the flow of the game.
Through two games, the battles in both attacking zones have been a landslide in favor of the Golden Knights.
Vegas has consistently broken the pressure of the Panthers which has allowed them persistent exits, many of which are controlled. On the other end of the ice, the Golden Knights’ forecheck has caused issues for Florida leading to lots of dump, chip, and rim outs, all of which have helped to feed the VGK transition game.
Typically, the credit for the forecheck goes to the forwards while that of the breakouts goes to the defense. In the case of the Golden Knights, veteran defenseman Alec Martinez believes most of the praise on both ends goes to the Vegas front line.
As a defense group we’re doing a pretty good job of getting it to the forwards in good positions but even though we try to get it to them in those spots it doesn’t always happen. The forwards have done a really good job of making plays on the wall. That’s probably one of the most difficult situations to be in during a game of hockey. You get a bouncing puck or one that’s rimmed around and those can be the difference in a hockey game and our forwards are doing a really good job with those. -Martinez
He continued with appreciation for his teammates for their work on the other end of the ice.
The way that our forwards backcheck and reload, that allows us to stay up. Often times when the D have good gaps it’s because the forwards are working back and kind of squeezing them along the blue lines or in the neutral zone. While I’d like to take credit as a D corps, it’s truly a five-man connected unit, it’s a team game, and those forwards allow us to keep some of those plays in and be aggressive too. -Martinez
A couple of wins away from his third trip to the mountaintop, there aren’t many better in the league than Martinez at understanding what must happen for a successful forecheck or breakout.
The Golden Knights are delivering it in the defensive zone and bringing the heat in the attacking zone and the Game 2 goal scorer has taken notice.
As the series shifts to Florida with the Panthers in dire straights, the intensity on both ends is likely to ramp up. Vegas has followed the roadmap so far and if they can withstand the added heat the Panthers bring at home, they’ll likely be bringing a 35-pound silver alloy friend back on the plane with them.