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Defenseman Credits Forwards For Forecheck And Breakout Success

(Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke,

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.

“The Best Team” Resides In Vegas

(Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke,

The Vegas Golden Knights are now just two wins away from scaling the mountain and claiming the Stanley Cup. After throttling the Florida Panthers in Game 2 of the Final, the complete picture of this version of this team is coming into clear view to the entire hockey world.

That picture is of a team without weakness.

For every obstacle in their way, they have a method to clear it, and for every question asked, they have an answer.

I just feel that we have the best team, from player 1 through 20. Our depth has been a strength all year. I think it is the biggest reason why we are still here and why we beat Winnipeg, Edmonton, and Dallas and we’re ahead against Florida. -Bruce Cassidy

The depth of the Golden Knights begins at the top.

Vegas is a city filled with superstars and the Golden Knights are no different. Jack Eichel, Mark Stone, Alex Pietrangelo, Shea Theodore, Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson, and the list goes on. Like the amazing array of performers on the Strip, it’s the collection of all of them that makes it special. If one takes a night off, there are plenty of others to pick up the slack.

Eichel hasn’t scored a goal in the last nine playoff games. Marchessault didn’t tally one until midway through the Edmonton series. Pietrangelo was suspended for a game. Stone took a while to get back up to speed after returning from the injury.

None of it has mattered.

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Recap: The Golden Knights were looking to take a two-game series lead with a victory in Game 2.  Early in the period both goaltenders made several key saves keeping it tight. Vegas drew a penalty at the seven minute mark and Jonathan Marchessault took advantage on the power play. Ten minutes later Alec Martinez flipped a puck into the net to give Vegas a 2-0 lead. 

A few shifts into the second frame, Vegas took a 3-0 lead. Nic Roy shot through scored his second goal of the postseason giving the Golden Knights a commanding three score advantage. Brett Howden joined the offensive party minutes later with a weaving highlight reel goal. 

A weird hop found its way into the Vegas net quickly to start the 3rd period. It didn’t take long for the Golden Knights to make up for it though as Marchessault tallied his second of the night. William Karlsson set up Michael Amadio for a tap-in to give the Golden Knights a 6-1 lead that would eventally be extended to 7-2 with Howden’s second of the night.

The Golden Knights win both Games 1 and 2 at are two wins away from winning the Stanley Cup. Vegas will take their 2-0 series advantage to South Florida for two contests. Game 3 is scheduled for 5 PM on Thursday. (Recap by Jason)

Analysis: A lot like Game 1, the Golden Knights were the more effective team on the forecheck. The difference in Game 2 was that the effectiveness was taken up even another notch by Vegas. They were all over the Panthers in the offensive zone and consistently forced turnovers and uncontrolled exits. From there, the Golden Knights’ skill took over as they created chance after chance that no goalie could stop. It was an absolute clinic in a game in the Stanley Cup Final. Incredible. (Analysis by Ken)

Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs Florida Panthers Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final at T-Mobile Arena.

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League’s Best Defense Won Game 1 For The Golden Knights

(Photo Credit: @GoldenKnights on Twitter)

They always say defense wins championships. And while the Golden Knights won nothing more than Game 1 last night, defense was the main reason they were able to take the 13th step toward ultimate glory.

There were three areas in particular where Vegas’ back end rose to the occasion in the opening game of the Stanley Cup Final.

Driving offense

To reach this point the Golden Knights had played 17 games against three very different opponents. VGK D-men had scored just three goals in those games. In Game 1, both go-ahead goals came from a similar spot on the ice by Golden Knights’ defensemen.

First, Shea Theodore masterfully walked the blue line leaving Anthony Duclair in his wake before firing a perfect wrist shot through traffic to the top right corner. Theodore first received the puck near the wall in front of Vegas’ bench. He skated it to the center looking for a shooting lane but was blanketed by Duclair. So, he kept carrying it all the way across the rink to the opposite set of boards. That’s where he did a pirouette before a double inside-out dangle to lose his marker. The rest was history.

Against a Florida defense that likes to take away the front of the goal, the high slot is an area that is expected to be open at times for the Golden Knights. In previous years a lot of Vegas’ in-zone offense operated by seeking out this exact look, but this season, and especially this postseason, it’s been rare. On the Theodore play, you can tell the emphasis that has been placed on getting to the high slot. The play started with a shot from Theodore in that space, then as the puck was worked back up to him he instantly brought it there again, and finally when it was taken away, he used his skating and skill to work it there a third time inside of 10 seconds.

That exact area of the ice would manifest itself in another goal from a Vegas blueliner later, which eventually stood as the game-winner. Following a rush chance by Jack Eichel and Ivan Barbashev that was stopped, under pressure by multiple backcheckers, Barbashev sent a pass to Zach Whitecloud who was just entering the zone. Typically, Whitecloud favors a play where he activates down the dot-line on his forehand, but this time he held onto the puck and brought it directly into the high slot. With a Panther providing a screen on his own goalie, Whitecloud sent one back across his body where he beat Sergei Bobrovsky clean.

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Recap: The Golden Knights and Florida Panthers met up for the Stanley Cup Finals from T-Mobile Arena. Vegas was awarded two first period power plays which resulted in a goal by each team. Florida opened the scoring with a shorthanded wrap-around goal, but Jonathan Marchessault evened the score on the man-advantage. The game was locked in a 1-1 tie going into the first intermission.

Florida pushed the pace to start the middle frame, but Vegas’ Adin Hill made a sprawling paddle save to hold the game 1-1. Midway through the game, Shea Theodore danced the blueline and wristed in the go-ahead goal. After several close chances the Panthers scored the equalizer with :10 left in the second period.

The game tightened up early in the final frame with each team limiting the other’s offensive chances. Seven minutes into the period Vegas defenseman Zach Whitecloud jumped on a loose puck and gave the home team a 3-2 advantage. Late in the period Mark Stone knocked down an errant puck flip and ripped the puck into Florida’s net to make a two-goal game. Vegas took advantage of a double-minor power play to eat the remaining time and added an empty net goal.

The Golden Knights take a 1-0 series lead with their 5-2 victory over the Panthers. Both teams will return to the ice on Monday night for Game 2. Puck drop for Game 2 is scheduled for 5 PM. (Recap by Jason)

Analysis: It was a back-and-forth affair for a good portion of the night, but the Golden Knights got the better of the style of play for the better portion of the night. Sure, a few posts helped VGK along the way, but they stuck to the main game plan and made forechecking difficult on the Panthers while going in hard on the forecheck themselves. The 3rd period could have gone either way and it ended up going Vegas’ way with a great shot from Whitecloud and then an unbelievable goal by Mark Stone. The Golden Knights lead the Stanley Cup Final 1-0. Next up, improve on the last time around.  (Analysis by Ken)

Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs Florida Panthers Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final at T-Mobile Arena.

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Stanley Cup Finals Predictions From Experts, Insiders, Computer Models & AI

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

If Southern Nevada was simply asked who will win the Stanley Cup Finals, 99% of those polled would choose the Golden Knights. You’ll find a few cynics but overall, Las Vegas is a city packed with optimists and Stanley Cup parade planners. Elsewhere in the hockey universe, NHL beat writers, experts, fans, insiders and reporters are making their often-wrong Stanley Cup Final’s predictions.

We gathered predictions from various outlets and publications and even asked ChatGPT. So, let’s jump right in, starting with us. 3 Pick VGK

  • Ken Boehlke – Vegas wins in 7
  • Mike McKenna – Vegas wins in 6
  • Jason Pothier – Vegas wins in 6

For only the second series this postseason, all three of us on the same page. Mike and Jason lean towards the Golden Knights hoisting the Stanley Cup on the road in Game 6. Ken wildly predicts six straight road winners meaning Vegas would drop the first two games but go to win Game 7 in front of home fans. In the end, it doesn’t matter how the Golden Knights pull it off, as long as they make us look smart.

Spittin’ Chiclets: 3 Pick VGK, 3 Pick FLA

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Golden Knights Player Quotes From Stanley Cup Final Media Day

(Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke,

Jonathan Marchessault on this time vs. last time in Cup Final

“It’s not as overwhelming as it was the first year. I think we know what we are coming into this time and it feels good to be because. But, this means nothing if we don’t win it and that’s the mentality I have this year.”

Mark Stone on original members of the Golden Knights “finishing what they started”

“I’m not so sure they are here to finish what they started as much as it’s just they want to win. These guys really want to win, man. Everybody in this organization wants to win. The owner stated he wants to win badly and you’ve seen that we’ve spended to the salary cap and we’ve added top-end players and key pieces throughout the time we’ve been here. These guys will do anything it takes.”

Alex Pietrangelo on players asking him about Stanley Cup experiences

“Guys ask the questions and I’ll give them an honest answer and I hope that helps because that feeling of having that opportunity is something we all want to have at least once… if not more.”

Brayden McNabb on playing against physical forecheck

“It’s going to be a physical series. They come hard and they finish their checks and we’re aware of that. It’s going to be about having good first touches, getting to the puck first, and making good reads. There won’t be a single play we can rely on every time either, we’re going to have to moce our feet and make reads and be smart with where we go on the first touch.”

“Dallas is a great forecheck team and we got better and better dealing with it as the series went on.”

Shea Theodore on long layoff before Stanley Cup Final

“We just felt like it was such a long time. When you’re waiting for that first game sometimes it can benefit the guys who are nursing some injuries but I remember us really wanting to get after it. It kind of got us out of a little bit of a rhythm.” 

“When we had the layoff we kind of were flashing back to the whole year. It was a magical run and we had a lot of key bounces and we were always scoring timely goals. And then our luck kind of ran out.”

Nic Roy on 4th line being challenged after Game 5

“We felt that challenge and he talked to us a little bit before the game. We know what (Cassidy) expects from us. He wants us to be physical, be hard on the forecheck, and set the tone at the start of the game. That was the message and I thought from the get go we did a really good job of that.”

Jonathan Marchessault on the possibility of the next word engraved on the Cup being Vegas

“It’s a lifetime achievement. You can ask anyone here, what’s your dream if you can have anything you want and winning the Stanley Cup is the answer. It’s what I’ve been working on my entire life.”

Get To Know Every Florida Panther Expected To Play In The Stanley Cup Final

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Florida Panthers struggled out of the gates this postseason falling into a 3-1 hole to the Boston Bruins. Since then, they’ve gone on to win 11 of their last 12 games including six in overtime. The Panthers are headlined by Matthew Tkachuk, Aleksander Barkov, and Sergei Bobrovsky, but they boast a deep roster that will be a handful for the Golden Knights. To get a rundown of every player we turned to Kirby Lupul, co-host of the FLA Cats Podcast.


Aleksander Barkov

Mr. Everything for the Florida Panthers. A Selke-level defensive center who makes loads of plays that go unnoticed over the course of a game. Incredibly intelligent player who plays in every situation. Had a bit of a down regular season and started the playoffs slowly but has really turned it on since the middle of the Boston series and has risen back to the level of being either the best or one of the best Panthers every night.

Carter Verhaeghe

Posted his first 40-goal season in the NHL this year and has been a clutch scorer in the postseason. A dynamic offensive player that generates a majority of his offense at even strength.

Anthony Duclair

A speedy winger with an excellent shot who is at his most dangerous when he’s able to carry the puck into the offensive zone. Battled through an Achilles injury that kept him out of the lineup until February. Took some time to fit into the new forecheck-heavy style system the Panthers are running, but has really begun to gel with Barkov and Verhaeghe in the playoffs.

Matthew Tkachuk

The heart of the Florida Panthers, a tenacious and skilled forward that is dangerous in just about every way a player can be on a hockey rink. One of the best in the NHL at tipping pucks and causing chaos around the front of the goal. Dominant at both 5-on-5 and on the power play.

Sam Bennett

One of the toughest players not only on the Panthers but in the league. An excellent backchecker that allows his wingers freedom to aggressively forecheck. Does most of his damage at 5-on-5 and really helps balance Florida’s lineup as the 2nd line center.

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Dissecting The Conn Smythe Discussion For VGK Hopefuls

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

As of today, Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky is the favorite to win the NHL’s Conn Smythe Trophy. The league’s ultimate personal piece of hardware has a strong history of being given to the leader or star of the winning team. Of course, there have been exceptions, but fans should expect a member of the 2023 Stanley Cup champion will be named as the recipient. Both clubs have their leaders in the locker rooms and their postseason superlatives, who’ve consistently performed on the ice in the previous three series. However, there are dark horse candidates that have worked their way into the Conn Smythe conversation. While some are deserving, there are likely only a few plausible options.

William Hill’s Conn Smythe Odds:

  • Sergei Bobvrovsky +200
  • Matthew Tkachuk +250
  • Jack Eichel +375
  • Jonathan Marchessault +500
  • William Karlsson +600
  • Adin Hill +1200
  • Mark Stone +1200
  • Chandler Stephenson +4000
  • Aleksander Barkov +5000
  • Carter Verhaege +5000

While the Panthers top the list of Conn Smythe hopefuls, Vegas has six of the top ten contenders. The odds would suggest that if Florida wins, Bobrovsky would be the first choice if the goaltender can continue his Vezina-type run. Tkachuk would be next man up, if the Golden Knights are able to score more per game than the Leafs or Hurricanes but not enough to win four Stanley Cup Finals games. On the flip side, if Vegas ends up hoisting the Cup, the voters will have several names to consider.

Jack Eichel +375

Voters tend to target the marquee players for each team. Eichel is one of those for the Golden Knights. The eight-year veteran has rewritten his career story in just 17 postseason contests. As a point-per-playoff-game player, the top-line center has made it easy for his fans and impossible on his detractors. Even Buffalo Sabres fans would have to keep their comments to themselves. Since Eichel has performed up to expectations he’s being considered as one of the favorites for the Conn Smythe award, but has he been more effective than some of Vegas’ other impact players?

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Golden Knights Have Stymied Top Players Deep Into Each Series

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights have faced their fair share of offensive superstars this postseason and they’re about to see a few more.

Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Roope Hintz, Jason Robertson, Pierre-Luc Dubois, and now Matthew Tkachuk and Aleksander Barkov.

As with any playoff series, the biggest names dominate the conversation before it begins. Then, as it wears on, the winning team usually finds a way to slow them down.

As a staff and as a team we’ve done a good job of taking certain players away from what they want to do as that series has gone on and that’s why we’re still playing. -Cassidy

Vegas has struggled against opposing stars early in series. In Game 1 against Winnipeg, Dubois and Connor each scored to give the Jets a 2-0 lead. Draisaitl scored four in the opening game of the second round and then added another pair in Game 2. And Game 1 of the series against Dallas saw both Hintz and Robertson hit the back of the net.

However, the impact of the best players for the other team dwindled as the series got deeper and deeper.

Points Per Game (Game 1 & 2)Points Per Game (Game 3 & Beyond)Goals Per Game (Game 1 & 2)Goals Per Game (Game 3 & Beyond)

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