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VGK Returning To Familiar Neutral Zone Setup Under Bruce Cassidy

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Entering last season, Pete DeBoer opted to make a fairly dramatic shift in his systems in hopes of challenging opposition entries more consistently and baiting teams into turnovers that could feed the Golden Knights’ deadly transition offense.

After defeating the mighty Colorado Avalanche by stimying them in the neutral zone and then watching it fall apart against the more patient Montreal Canadiens, DeBoer opted to swap out that system for the one that helped the Tampa Bay Lightning hoist consecutive Stanley Cups.

Vegas shifted to a 1-1-3 neutral zone setup where a forward drops back to the blue line along with the two defensemen. (We did a video detailing the 1-1-3 and what it was supposed to achieve.)

This year, with the new boss behind the bench, the Golden Knights plan on returning to the system they ran for almost all of the first four seasons of the franchise’s existence.

It’s more of a 1-2-2 than the 1-1-3 that Peter used last year. It’s similar to the one he originally used. For the guys that were here, it should be relatively seamless. It’s just about reminding them and getting them back into the habits and details. So I don’t anticipate many issues there. Even players that come from other teams are probably familiar with it. -Bruce Cassidy

Despite showing almost exclusively clips of the Boston Bruins to help implement the new defensive zone system, Cassidy is leaning on the 2021 Playoff film to help re-install the 1-2-2 setup in the neutral zone against opposing breakouts.

They played a different neutral zone against Colorado, Montreal, and Minnesota in the playoffs (than they did last season) and we’ve looked back at that. So some of it is definitely familiar to them. -Cassidy

Through two preseason games, the Golden Knights appear to have picked it right back up where they left off. It was especially evident in the game last night against the Los Angeles Kings. Vegas was able to constantly force the Kings to either turn the puck over, restart the breakout, or dump it into the zone making it difficult for LA to generate much offensively.

Vegas forced nine takeaways with many coming in the neutral zone. They also allowed just 35 shot attempts with only 18 making it to the goalie. Most of the work was done in the neutral zone by making zone entry challenging all night on the Kings.

Maybe one of the biggest benefits that could come with this system change is Shea Theodore’s impact in the transition game. Last year, Theodore seemed to struggle a to generate much offensively off the rush due to his responsibilities in the 1-1-3 system. In his first game back in the 1-2-2, he was noticeably more active making plays in the center third of the ice and instantly turning the play the other way.

Time will tell if the return to the old system will pay off in the long run, but the short-term meaningless game results have been good so far.


LOS ANGELES KINGS 2 VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 1 (Preseason Game 2) (Shootout 6-5 VGK)

Next Podcast #280: Cassidy’s First Lineup


  1. They seemed like a team built for defense, that’s why I was baffled they added Phil Kessel. Will that system work with a Marchessault-Eichel-Kessel line?

    • Blitz

      Team built for defense? Maybe it is, but it is also a team built for not scoring, that just gave away its best two shooters. If only there was a 3 time all-star, 2 time Stanley Cup champion, well known scorer out there that has been buried on the worse team in the league and has something to prove, that is willing to take 4th line money to be on a team that has a chance and also happens to be a good city to play in. So that is why Phil Kessel. The fact that you are questioning it is the baffling part.

      Now you want a Marchessault-Eichel-Kessel line? So you want your top 3 bad defenders on a line that plays the most minutes and rob your 2nd line of any kind of shooter. Did you read about Stone’s production without Patches? There is a whole article on it. It is not pretty. I am not even sure if March is going to be able to fill that hole, much less Smith or Howden or Amadio and for sure not Roy at wing.

      • Rick

        He’s questioning it because Phil Kessel is a defensive black hole and, if he’s going to get first line minutes, than he better offset his complete disinterest in playing D with an offensive output he hasn’t shown in 5 years. That seems unlikely. Mike Sullivan had Jim Rutherford run him out of PGH and Crosby and Malkin ended up despising him because he back-checked about once every 20 games. Malkin supposedly told Rutherford, trade Kessel or trade me.

        • Blitz

          PIT hasn’t even caught a glimmer of the 2nd round since Kessel has been gone. Maybe it’s the constantly bitching Malkin that is holding them back not Kessel.

          Kessel is lazy defensively, but the dude can score points and this team is full of guys that can defend and not score points. He makes 1.5 mil. You can put him on the bench or the 3rd line situationally if defense becomes a concern and it doesn’t matter. It’s a 1.5 million cap hit! I mean Carrier and Kolesar both make 1.5 and are some what defensively reliable. Why don’t you put one of those guys with Eichel? Probably for the same reason they rotated Eichel’s wings all last part of the season and it didn’t matter…THEY CAN’T SCORE GOALS!!

        • THE hockey GOD

          that is why Kessel is the 1, in the 1 2 2 “system”.

      • JV

        Eichel and Marchy aren’t as bad as people believe. Both are + when it comes to even strength oiGF/60- oiGA/60 career wise. (oi= on ice). Kessel is the defensive liability, even when with Pitt. He’s 2.9gf and 3.1 ga career. I know its only one stat and I’m not a fancy stat guy in general. Marchy could be skewed by playing with Smith and Mild Bill. Eichel did play on some bad teams in Buffalo as well. Kessel might be better off with Stephenson.

        • Blitz

          I think Eichel can be a solid, maybe even a great defender if he embraces it. I think he will have to embrace it in Butch’s system. I hope he does. I want to see him become elite, not just the rep he has from buffalo. His make up speed last night on that LA break away was impressive.

          • THE hockey GOD

            @ Blitz, he made a tremendous back check in last night’s game, and didn’t get a penalty.. Which could easily have been called.

  2. Blitz

    I have to say this cause I have certainly said the opposite alot the last couple of years. Still early in the year, but it is very refreshing to see press conferences where the coach isn’t guarded and calculated with every reply. Maybe it will change with injuries etc during the year, but so far I like how Cassidy talks to the media. It is straight talk and not coach speak. I think that style has got him in trouble before, but as a fan I appreciate the hell out of it.

    Also locker room interviews, I hope they really are back this year. Seem to be so far.

    I even thought KM seemed more upfront in his last couple of interviews. Maybe there’s a philosophy change by the VGK this year. I hope so.

    • THE hockey GOD

      “Also locker room interviews, I hope they really are back this year. Seem to be so far.” Darren what’s his face, the in between period guy, and the girl who replaced Stormy , who always wore a mask, said they would be back for locker room interviews this season (unless of course if Covid picks back up ; which wouldn’t be a surprise in October . After all the DEMS have to get all those mail in ballot harvesting schemes back in play if they have a chance in hell to hold onto the Senate and House after last two years of the Biden train wreck. Not a MAGA comment, a statement of FACT. Biden has 38% approval rating, even lower than NIXON.

      • Duh99

        If it looks like a maga and spouts like a maga prob a maga, realisticly considering circumstances potus is pretty good

        • THE hockey GOD

          duh99 thinks looking for dead people in crowd is “pretty good”.
          Duh 99 thinks causing worst inflation in over 40 year is “pretty good”.
          dope99 thinks causing a recession is “pretty good”.
          dope 99 thinks having an open border letting people in illegally is “pretty good”.
          99 thinks killing innocent babies is “pretty good”.
          99 thinks 46 showering with a 12 year old girl is “pretty good”.
          99 thinks having a weak foreign policy allowing Putin to do whatever he wants to do is “pretty good”, like invading another nation and killing people there.
          99 thinks having high crime and defunding the police is “pretty good”.

          46 has a 38 % approval rating, that is far far far beyond MAGA, anyone with a brain can see that.

      • What does this stuff have to do with hockey. Go away and stay there.
        No one else but you thinks you are clever

  3. THE hockey GOD

    i am a big fan of Freddie Shero 0 0 5 system , where he lined up all five of his players on the blue line and smashed the RED ARMY Russians when they tried to enter the zone. They were so frustrated they even left the ice in middle of period three ! IT took Alan Eagleson fifteen to explain to them that if they didn’t return to the ice they wouldn’t be paid.

    Even Ruskies couldn’t turn down capitalism !!

    Too bad USA leaders don’t get it, and are bunch of neo fascist , neo socialist, CRT teaching, dementia riddled scum bags.

    • Daniel Marquez

      You seriously need help. You almost single-handedly ruin these threads to the point where it’s not fun coming here at all.

      Ken, I get that you probably don’t want to wade into the murky waters of moderation, but some of the stuff that gets posted here doesn’t even meet the basic requirements for human decency. Is that worth it?

      • THE hockey GOD

        stop your whining, you anti American, anti Free speech, anti Constitution lib tard moe, and HATER who can’t handle the truth !

        Basic requirements for human decency ? Like voting for a dementia retard who sees dead people in the audience ?? Stands for killing babies, doesn’t enforce our laws protecting our border giving signals to come here and being subjected to coyotes and death crossing harsh environment ? Stops leasing of oil and gas projects driving up the price of gasoline and energy. Causing massive inflation, which leads to recession and two quarters of down GDP. Which is cause of recession? Causing middle class Americans needless pain due to their failed policies ? And the foreign policy in which Biden is so weak Putin walked right over him? And Afghanistan debacle ? You want to talk about HUMAN dECENCY and completely ignore this train wreck ? That lead me to question if you a) are brain dead b) in a coma c) recently had a full frontal lobotomy or d) are just plain stupid and unaware of what’s going on in the real world around you? I suspect a combination of these factors are at work here.

      • THE hockey GOD

        no one is putting a gun to your head to read any one’s comments, take your sick and twisted bull shit and stick it where the sun don’t shine you anti American, anti free speech scum bag with ties to latino left leaning nations who could care less about their people, elitists rule there. Just because you descend from left leaning nation, doesn’t mean that the rest of us don’t want to turn USA into a third world shit hole. Which is what your ilk is doing to all the cities you are in charge of in USA. And don’t tell me MARQUEZ is an English name, and you come from Wales. POS left wing retread.

        • Daniel Marquez

          Wow. Just…wow. I know there isn’t much one can do to argue with a 70-year-old angry white man who’s spent his entire life carrying so much hate in his heart, but think about the mark you’re leaving behind in this world and the people you influence. You clearly don’t care, but maybe stop and think about it before your time runs out. That was some next-level bigotry and spitefulness. Congrats.

  4. Obvious

    There’s always next year….

  5. Ogie Ogilthorpe

    Apparently, VGK now has the youngest coach in the NHL, and by a longshot.

    Printed on the back of the box they gave away at Monday night’s preseason game against LA that had the Bruce Cassidy bust, they list his birthday as MAY 20, 1995 (hint: it’s 1965).


  6. Obvious

    “Knights plan on returning to the system they ran for almost all of the first four seasons“

    ….so in other words we shud have never fired gallant

  7. Tim

    Although I’m not sure how we’ll do this year I do believe Cassidy is an upgrade over DeBoer. DeBoer had a good record but maybe because he was with Sharks or that he followed Gallant I never felt comfortable with him. Today I feel much better with Cassidy so let’s hope he can turn it around.

    • THE hockey GOD

      @ TIm
      he’s a little Napolean, he’s running a very tight camp driving the players to exhaustion. The players should be fit for start of season. How long that goes, and if
      their skill level is high enough compete; we’ll know by end of November.

      I don’t think it’s so much the “coach” in play here, but the players feeding off last years failure that will be motivating factor. The only thing the coach can do here, is to get in the way of that and do things that don’t feed into that motivation.

  8. Blitz I agree with you above on Eichel’s makeup speed on the LA breakaway. Impressive. Overall I thought he looked strong defensively. He’ll be all over Cassidy’s defensive game. You can count on it. Will Kessel back check? If he does not and does not make up for it with scoring he won’t last on the roster imo. He’s not dumb, he must know he has to get on board with the two way game and/or score.

    • THE hockey GOD

      Pee pee in 1 2 2 system, if you are 1, it’s hard to back check. Do you get it yet ?

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