Pick a stat, any stat really, and it’ll paint an ugly picture of how poor the Golden Knights have been defensively through three games. It’s something that’s been out of the norm for the Golden Knights as a franchise and even more so since Pete DeBoer took over 21 months ago.
Many will point to the guy standing between the pipe simply because the name on his back does not roughly translate to Flower, but the reality is the Golden Knights have gotten above average, bordering on great, goaltending through three games.
The problems lie with the skaters in front of Robin Lehner. It’s not just the six playing defense though, it’s the entire group of 18, albeit a different group so far in each of the first three games.
We gave up probably 10 Grade A chances in the 1st period which should be the number for the entire game. We’re not going to win games playing like that. -Reilly Smith
It’s a small sample size of just three games, but the Golden Knights lead the league on a per-game basis in shots against, scoring chances allowed, and high danger chances allowed. They are second in shot attempts conceded and expected goals against, and they are in the top 10 in literally every other negative category NHL stats keep.
It’s essentially the same group that led the league in goals against last year so I know we can defend and I know we can defend better than we have, it’s just getting to it… This isn’t a symptom that this group has been dragging around for three or four years. We’ve been a real tight defensive team and we’ll get back to it. -Pete DeBoer
DeBoer did express some level of concern especially considering the fact they know they’ll be without their two top-scorers for the foreseeable future.
The issues have been all over the map to this point. The opener was a scrambly-type game, which was expected playing against an expansion team in their first-ever game. The Kings game in LA was a simple case of being slow on pucks. It led to constant breakdowns which saw the Kings pile up chances. Last night the effort and speed of play were much better but a myriad of problems led to St. Louis scoring chances.
I thought early in the game some of our coverages were a little loose around the net. Then the rest of the game it was essentially turnovers. -DeBoer
In the 1st period, the Golden Knights allowed eight high-danger chances according to NaturalStatTrick.com. When I re-watched the game, I counted 10 separate instances where the Golden Knights experienced a breakdown that led to a dangerous scoring chance for St. Louis.
Of those 10, there were nine different Golden Knights at fault with the issues ranging from puck-watching to physical mistakes to overly aggressive play to poor skating.
It’s a little bit that time of year. If you look around the league there’s a lot of sloppy hockey being played. -DeBoer
While DeBoer certainly has a point to see players like Smith, Karlsson, Theodore, and McNabb making mistakes is alarming.
After it became clear they’d be without Pacioretty and Stone, the Golden Knights basically to a man admitted they needed to ramp up their game in the defensive zone. One game in, they were far from successful.
This team deserves the benefit of the doubt because as DeBoer said, they did win the Jennings Trophy last year. So, it’s not time to panic, but there’s been plenty of evidence to give cause for concern. It must improve and quickly, otherwise, the Golden Knights are going to start digging themselves into a hole even they may not be able to get out of.