It wasn’t just the fact that the Golden Knights recorded their first shutout of the season last night that should have Vegas fans excited about the performance, it’s the way they went about doing it.
Playing against one of the more potent offenses in the NHL, a Capitals team that had not been shutout all season prior to last night’s game, the Golden Knights put in a defensive effort reminiscent to the style of play that led them to last year’s Jennings Trophy.
We talked when we looked at this road trip, the message was very clear, if we weren’t prepared to defend and defend hard we weren’t going to give ourselves a chance to win in any of these four buildings. -Pete DeBoer
The Golden Knights entered the first game of this difficult road trip without Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, Reilly Smith, Jack Eichel, Alec Martinez, and Zach Whitecloud, so they knew they would have to play a detailed game to keep up with the Caps.
Not only did they keep up, they put in their best defensive game of the 2021-22 season holding a team that averages 3.2 goals a game scoreless. The main principal behind the Golden Knights’ game was simplicity.
They played a simple game with possession which led to a simpler game without it.
The Golden Knights were happy to dump the puck into the Washington zone and get in on the forecheck. They were not afraid to loft the puck out of the defensive zone rather than trying to start a break, and they had a commitment to backchecking that has been missing at times this season.
One of the best stats to indicate this from last night’s game was the giveaway/takeaway battle where the Golden Knights recorded 13 takeaways while giving away the puck just five times. It’s the most takeaways the Golden Knights have recorded in a road game this season and just two more takeaways that they’ve conceded in any game this year.
We got great contributions from just about everybody tonight. -DeBoer
The only real downfall in the game defensively was how often Vegas took penalties. They were called five times included twice within three seconds leading to massive amounts of time of the power play. That’s where the last aspect of the defense came into play, the goaltender.
Robin Lehner was excellent all night, but he was elite on the penalty kill. Lehner was called on multiple times during the nearly two minute 5-on-3 and he even ate an Alex Ovechkin shot that broke his mask.
Lehner ended the game stopping an impressive 3.82 goals above average with 1.44 of that coming in the 16 minutes when the game was played at anything other than even-strength.
All in all, this game was exactly what has been missing from the Golden Knights repertoire this season. Now, it’s time to replicate it.