Call it a mulligan. Call it an extra life. Call it whatever you’d like, the Golden Knights got it in Game 7.
After having a season defined by a 5-minute major penalty in which they allowed four goals, the Golden Knights faced the same beast a year later when Ryan Reaves was assessed a match penalty for a hit to the head.
The stakes were actually even higher this time around. Rather than having a cushion, the game was tied with three and a half minutes left in the 2nd. If Vegas faltered again trying to kill off five minutes, their season would be over and the stigma would live with them forever.
Instead, Vegas got to try the “level” again, and this time they passed with it flawlessly, albeit with a lot of help from their opponent.
In the five minutes against the Canucks, the Golden Knights allowed just one shot on goal, foiled seven Canuck entry attempts, blocked multiple shots, and played just 1:36 inside of their own zone.
All in all, on the 11 minutes of power plays for the Canucks in Game 7, they got just two shots on goal, had a measly five scoring chances, had seven shots blocked, miss the net on five more, went 10 for 25 on entry attempts and allowed three shots on goal to the shorthanded Golden Knights.
Vancouver’s power play was without answers. Nothing illustrated that more than the image of Quinn Hughes on an empty bench during the 2nd intermission staring at an iPad searching for a solution.
In the series, the Golden Knights killed 23 of the 26 Canuck power plays including each of the final 14. Vegas was on the kill for 44 minutes in the series and allowed just 30 shots on goal. They consistently stood the Canucks up at the blue line and they took away cross-ice passes with ease. Literally the only place in which Vancouver has success was in the faceoff circle.
Prior to Game 6, after the Golden Knights had killed off three straight penalties in Game 5 and six overall, I asked Pete DeBoer if his penalty kill system was completely where he wanted it to be after taking over mid-season and implenting changes. I was a bit surprised when the answer wasn’t a resounding yes.
Getting close. Definitely more seamless. I think the concepts, the responsibilites are definitely getting better. I wouldn’t say it’s exactly where we want it to be, but much improved from where it was prior to the pause and we’ve got to keep building on that because it’s a critical piece. -DeBoer
Since then, Vegas killed eight penalties consecutively including the five-minute one in Game 7.
I think it’s purely execution. We’re given an outline of what we have to do and a part of that is getting in front of pucks and limiting entries as much as possible and just doing our job when we get into our zone. You’re given a plan and as long as you go out and execute it you’ll be heading in the right direction most nights. -Zach Whitecloud
I went back and watched all 19 minutes of Vancouver power play time in Games 6 and 7. While the Golden Knights played without making a mistake, a lot of the credit for the Vegas PK success belongs to the team with the man advantage. Simply put, Vancouver was terrible. They were terrible when Vegas wasn’t pressuring them and they were especially terrible when Vegas was.
To Whitecloud’s point, if the Golden Knights follow the plan, it will take something special to beat them on the power play. Vancouver couldn’t deliver that, and Vegas now heads into the Western Conference Final looking like a PK juggernaut.
But, with DeBoer still not of full belief that the system is a perfectly oiled machine, it’s something to keep an eye on with Dallas as the next opponent. Their power play shredded Colorado but struggled against Calgary.
At the very least though, Vegas will enter with confidence, and no longer with that 5-minute major monkey on their back.