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Vegas Won As A Team By Dominating Every Important Individual Matchup

(Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke,

In a series highlighted by individuals, both head coaches kept using the term “team” in the postgame press conferences directly after Game 6.

Nobody on our team is asked to carry the team on their back. That’s part of the story here is the team that plays the best usually wins. We feel our team outplayed their team. It wasn’t about this player outplayed this player or this goalie against this goalie. -Bruce Cassidy

We win as a team and we don’t win as a team and we stick together. -Jay Woodcroft

While both coaches are absolutely correct, the reason the Golden Knights won as a team was they won all of the key individual matchups in the series. From front to back to on the ice and off, Vegas dominated in all the places necessary to beat the Edmonton Oilers and now they’re headed to the Western Conference Final for the fourth time in six years.

Here are five specific matchups the Golden Knights got the better of on their way to dispatching the world’s greatest player in the second round.

Jack Eichel and Jonathan Marchessault vs Cody Ceci and Darnell Nurse

You don’t have to look further than the scoring numbers when breaking down this matchup. Eichel was 5-1 against Ceci and 4-1 against Nurse while Marchessault was 6-1 against Ceci and 4-1 against Nurse.

Beyond the scoring though, the Golden Knights’ forwards were consistently able to hold the puck in the offensive zone against Ceci and Nurse. Eichel in particular was excellent in gaining controlled entry over the course of the series which relieved pressure on the VGK defense and forced whichever forward line was against them to defend. Marchessault’s forechecking caused havoc and he scored four times from directly in front of the goal.

In a series where puck possession was always going to be paramount for the Golden Knights, Eichel and Marchessault delivered in as big a way as they could over the six games. The Oilers only had one pair that should have been able to handle these two, and they weren’t able to do it.

William Karlsson vs Connor McDavid

In Game 6 in Edmonton, Jay Woodcroft was purposely using his benefit of last change to keep McDavid away from Karlsson. In fact, he was so concerned with the matchup that McDavid saw just over five minutes of ice time in the 1st period, his lowest of any period the entire series.

Karlsson’s ability to limit McDavid’s speed with positioning and awareness kept the Golden Knights from having to constantly defend the light speed entries McDavid is known for. Karlsson dominated McDavid in stick battles along the walls as well, consistently hounding every pass the 153-point man tried to make.

Marchessault said after the series he thought Karlsson deserved much more recognition than he was getting in the series, and he’s absolutely right. In 32:28 of ice-time with both Karlsson and McDavid on the ice, the score in the series was 0-0. For Vegas, that’s about as big a win as you can get.

Ben Hutton and Zach Whitecloud (plus Nic Hague) vs Philip Broberg and Brett Kulak

In Game 5 both Alex Pietrangelo and Darnell Nurse were forced to watch the game from the sidelines after being suspended. This thrust a new player on each team into a much larger role with each team’s biggest minute-munching defenseman out.

The obvious story was Ben Hutton and Philip Broberg coming into the lineup, and Hutton clearly had a bigger impact than his counterpart in this matchup. Hutton allowed just three shots on goal while on ice in his 12:24 TOI and drew a four minute high-sticking call that helped VGK close the game out in the 3rd. On the flip side, Broberg saw just 6:01 of ice time and still managed to allow more than a third of an expected goal (0.34 xGA).

Where the matchup was really won was in the players that actually took over the bulk of the minutes with Pietrangelo and Nurse out. Zach Whitecloud saw his TOI increase over four minutes and he acquitted himself quite well in them. He was on the ice for the game-winning goal at even-strength. That goal was scored, of course, by Whitecloud’s partner, Nic Hague. Compare the performance of Whitecloud and Hague to Brett Kulak who was the beneficiary of the extra minutes for Edmonton and the results were night and day. Kulak posted a 24% expected goals rate in his 20 minutes of ice time, the worst he experienced in any game all series.

Adin Hill and Laurent Brossoit vs Stuart Skinner and Jack Campbell

Coming into the series goaltending was a big focus. With a pair of inexperienced guys in the goals to start the world wondered which side would get the better of one of the most important matchups in the series. Brossoit played well in his time in goal and then when he went out hurt, Hill stepped in and played just as well if not better. Vegas’ goaltending advantage became abundantly clear in Game 6 when both goalies allowed a goal early and Hill went on to stop the next 39 shots while Skinner found himself on the bench to start the 3rd

And, that wasn’t the first, or even second, time Skinner was pulled in this series. Skinner could not seem to put together back-to-back consistent games and he was forced out of the game in three of the Oilers’ four losses.

The series was not won or lost on the backs of any of the four goalies, but Vegas’ tenders definitely helped tip the scales.

Bruce Cassidy vs Jay Woodcraft

From lineup decisions to matchups to challenges to goalie pulls, Cassidy outclassed his opposing bench boss in this series by a wide margin.

Despite a few games going dramatically against him Cassidy stuck with his balanced lineup and continued to trust all four lines to get the job done against whatever the Oilers threw at them. The one significant move Cassidy did make was to move Nic Roy up the lineup and bring in Teddy Blueger while leaving round one hero Michael Amadio on the bench. The impact was limited in Game 5, but he stuck to his guns and it paid off in Game 6.

Woodcroft’s main coaching tactic in this series was the utilization of his two best players. Whether together or separate, Cassidy had a counter which helped his team succeed in other matchups.

Finally, as the series went on, Cassidy helped provide his team with answers on how to slow down McDavid and Draisaitl. After Leon scored six in the first two games, he posted just one point in the final four. McDavid’s offensive was consistent through the series, but at no point was he able to take over the game. The Golden Knights kept getting harder and harder to play against as the series went on and Cassidy’s minor tweaks were a big reason why.




Coaching Familiarity Goes Both Ways In Western Conference Final


  1. Ricardo

    A quote from Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Sn;
    “Bottom line, two men and a power play can’t beat a team.” Nuf said.

    • THE hockey GOD


      how about two men will move you?

      or two brothers and italian restaurant?

      or two and an half men and malibu beach house ?

  2. TS

    Ken, BEST article of the season! And may have been the BEST game of our Playoffs. This year’s team, HUGE thanks to Coach Cassidy, has the BEST chance at the CUP this year. “What a long, strange trip it’s been”!!!

  3. I have already predicted a kraken double overtime victory tonight…as i would prefer to face the kraken rather than the stars…we have obviously not had happy recent success with them…they are a veteran laden team along with good young talent …and a stud in the nets…we all know a hot goalie is often THE deciding factor…i took the kraken lightly all year and i mean all year regardless of their successes….i see with my own eyes how they play and do not disrespect them any longer…having said that….grubauer in net i will take my chances….especially with jonesy as his backup

    i must also mention that after 82 games of preaching…and the 1 or 2 playoff games #8 played for him to be a healthy fucking scratch…my prayers and those of the vgk nation were finally answered…and golly gee we seem to be a much better and deeper team for it!!!…GO KNIGHTS GO!!!

    • THE hockey GOD

      why not go for five overtimes, a suspended game, and jimmy d’s double vanilla strawberry shake ??? and trial by combat ?

      your killing me LARRY!!!!!!!

  4. Jailbird

    Be careful what you wish for regarding the Kraken. They are playing well. They remind me of the Knights in year one.

  5. Roberto

    I really enjoyed the series and the match-ups as detailed above.

    The Oilers were a great team and potential Cup winner, who just ran into the wrong opponent in Vegas. We got them in the end, but Edmonton definitely smoked us in the games they won.

    There’s a lot of talent out there on other teams remaining ahead, but I won’t miss seeing McDavid gather steam while heading up the ice and towards the goal. Dude gets a lot of criticism, and I don’t get it. As Vegas showed, it’s a team game and coaching strategy matters. One guy can only do so much, and he did a ton.

    Really glad we get more games with this team. A lot of talent, grit and determination on the bench (and in the box with guys not playing, but who would contribute if called upon like Hutton and Blueger did). And again, props to the front office for assembling the team and running a top to bottom A+ organ-eye-zation.

    • THE hockey GOD

      McDavid and Leon ran out of gas

      no petro lefto en el tanko – Fred G Stanford.

      the G stands for gretzky

  6. Vic

    Friday start for the next VGK series is a bit far away. Gives the winner of game 7 tonight too much time to rest, and stalls our guys a bit. That’s life.

  7. Jailbird

    So Dallas it is. Easy for us to find reasons not to like them! This will be a tuff series and will most likely be 6-7 games.

  8. THE hockey GOD


    the most hated coach by fans on this forum, because he is a really really really
    bad coach who doesn’t know how to bring teams to the conference finals.

    Motivation is on the coach’s side.

    Dallas is a very tough match up for VGK, two teams who play basically the same style of grind it out , defensive hockey.

  9. THE hockey GOD

    Durham report out – Hillary is evil

    “On August 3, 2016, within days of receiving the Clinton Plan intelligence, Director Brennan met with the President, Vice President and other senior Administration officials, including but not limited to the Attorney General (who participated remotely) and the FBI Director, in the White House Situation Room to discuss Russian election interference efforts. According to Brennan’s handwritten notes and his recollections from the meeting, he briefed on relevant intelligence known to date on Russian election interference, including the Clinton Plan intelligence. Specifically, Director Brennan’s declassified handwritten notes reflect that he briefed the meeting’s participants regarding the “alleged approval by Hillary Clinton on 26 July of a proposal from one of her [campaign] advisors to vilify Donald Trump by stirring up a scandal claiming interference by the Russian security services.” the report said.

    • B-Rad-Lee

      I would file a defamation suit against all of the actors in the individual capacity, not against the government. Discovery would be wild and crazy.

    • Dude, I’ve warned u b4- this is a HOCKEY forum & it’s Stanley Cup Playoff time….spare us the frickin politics!!

  10. Tim

    Pete DeBoar has been intertwined in our lives since the beginning and it’s probably why he was never fully excepted as the Knights coach. First the San Jose playoff disaster, then coaching us, and now to meet him in Dallas. He’s like a bad penny he keeps showing up.

  11. Emmanuel

    Who won the match-up against Leon?

  12. Jailbird

    Make no mistake this will be a long tuff series. They handled us in regular season, but this is the playoffs. DeBoaring knows all about the Knights, so his guys will be prepared. But we have a smart coach who knows what his team needs to do. I expect a change or two in lineup. Probably Bluger out Amado back in? We will see.

    • Rashaad

      Pete DeBoer is an outstanding coach. The greatest front office in the league would not have hired him if he wasn’t great. Bruce Cassidy is also an outstanding coach.

      • Agreed, many of my fellow VGK fans cringe when I say this, but I believe he may only be a cpl more winning seasons from a HOF selection after retirement.

  13. Rashaad

    Jay Woodcroft is a loser. He sucks as a coach. With some experience, it’s possible, he could become a good coach in the future. The way he just kept putting Stuart Skinner in net and then pulling him was hilarious. I know that Jack Campbell has been awful at times this year, but I saw him in the playoffs last year and he was competent. I still can’t believe that Stuart Skinner started game six. Somebody got offended when I posted this a couple of months ago telling me that Woodcroft had won an AHL championship to do which I responded that I didn’t care as Sheldon Keefe in Toronto also one and AHL championship and he has a terrible coach. I mis that poster. Where is he now?

    Another poster that I missed that suddenly is so quiet that he probably entered the witness protection program is the so-called Buffalo Sabres fan who was trying to convince me that Jack Eichel was some kind of cancer and responsible for buffalo missing the playoffs for 12 straight years. It was a ridiculously stupid statement as Eichel was their best player for several years, and had no one to play with. Where did that poster go?

    I already miss GW North who I assume we won’t be hearing from anymore. His daily banter about how his beloved Edmonton Oilers were just going to roll over Vegas was also very humorous.

  14. Jailbird

    They come and go with their bullshit! Ha ha

  15. TS

    SIDENOTE: GK fans decorated Marchy’s front yard with dozens of Hats, to celebrate his Hat trick in game 6!! NEVER too late to celebrate!!

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