Typically, when we think of tall, heavy teams in the NHL, we equate them with big hits, strength along the walls, and boxing out in front of the goal.
For the Golden Knights, one of the physically largest teams set to compete in the playoff this year, it tends to materialize in a different way.
Vegas ranks just 12th in the league in hits and they have only one player in the top 40 in the category. They certainly are strong along the walls but rarely will we see a game dominated by VGK pushing the opposition off the puck. And while Bruce Cassidy’s zone defense has helped with winning pucks in front of the goalie, of playoff-likely teams only the Edmonton Oilers have allowed more rebound goals at 5-on-5 this year.
Where size has helped the Golden Knights most is when they are in possession of the puck. Vegas has been one of the best teams scoring goals off the rush in the NHL, but when they spend time in the offensive zone they are not the most creative. So, instead, they rely on wearing down opponents and exposing lapses in coverage to score. The best way they’ve done this is with extended puck possession, especially by one player holding the puck for 5-10 seconds at a time.
When VGK are at their best, they begin to control games by holding the puck near the faceoff circles in the offensive zone. Jack Eichel, Nic Roy, William Karlsson, Chandler Stephenson, Jonathan Marchessault, and many other Golden Knights forwards are excellent at fending off defensemen to maintain possession of the puck. The longer they are able to hold it, the more options open up as the defense scrambles to stay in position. From low-to-high passes that bring VGK’s offensive-minded defensemen into the play to cycling the puck behind the net to let the next forward hold it, eventually, better more dangerous passing lanes become available.
This has all been especially evident in the last two games against the Minnesota Wild, and Cassidy has a theory as to why.
Maybe some of it is matchups. Their right D are active offensively but they aren’t the biggest guys. So if you are against them you might have a competitive advantage when you are longer and I think we acknowledged those situations well. -Cassidy
Minnesota’s right-side defensemen are Matt Dumba, Jared Spurgeon, and John Klingberg. All three players are offensive-minded, they each weigh less than 200 pounds, and Spurgeon stands just 5’9″ tall. It’s a stark contrast to what they roll out on the left.
During both games, but even more so the one in Vegas, the Golden Knights took advantage of this size mismatch to start their offense on that side of the ice. Often there would be zone entries against a covering forward when the puck was turned over, and then they’d hold the puck on the right (VGK’s left) side of the ice until the rest of the play opened up. In each game, it led to opportunities for Vegas’ defensemen to get shots from the point and forwards to camp out in front of the goal looking for chances in close.
It was a point of emphasis. It’s something we talked about that we feel we can create offense against them in that manner because they are pretty good in the neutral zone, tight defensively, and have a solid PK. So I thought we needed to do it that way and it worked out well for us. -Cassidy
The next time the Golden Knights see the Wild would likely not be until the Western Conference Final. But there’s another team with a similar makeup as the Wild they could see much sooner, the Winnipeg Jets. Winnipeg deploys three right-side defensemen all standing 6’0″ or smaller, each likes to get forward offensively, and the biggest physically is 194-pound Nate Schmidt.
The same cannot be said about a few of the Golden Knights’ other potential matchups. Edmonton, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Calgary all have a bit larger defensive units that make holding the puck a bit tougher a task than Vegas experienced against Minnesota.
Puck possession will be a crucial aspect of Vegas’ success in the playoffs. If they can continue to exploit matchups as they did against the Wild, the offensive droughts they’ve experienced in the past shouldn’t return this postseason.
Correction from last thread:
4-1-1 = 110 pts and 52 wins (both records)
I erred in claiming 5-1-0 would be required to reach a record 52 wins (5 more wins would be 53 where the current record is 51).
To Ken’s point the Vegas D-men are heavy. Only Theodore at 197 is listed under 200 lb.
Can’t figure this out on even the second try lol.
3-1-1 = 110 pts (new record and would tie most wins @ 51).
4-1-0 is the minimum needed for record 52 wins.
I assume Quick in net tonight. He needs to come up big as I certainly feel the boys will have some thoughts about their big game with Kings in their head. Still, no reason we shouldn’t prevail tonight. As fans we got to put up with ESPNs coverage. I’m still going to believe we will do enough to get points. Might not be pretty though?
According the NHL.com lineups he is. Heaven help us lol. He’s 5-2-0 but a scary GAA 3.53/SV% .896. Other than the Canes SO he’s won due to the scoring in front of him giving up 3 on the other 4 wins. I suppose 3 is ok but I’m still nervous. I can’t see Cassidy starts him vs. LA unless he’s able to stand in his head vs. the Preds and even then I expect Brossoit to start on Thursday in a mammoth game.
If Quick is horrible Cassidy will need to call up Patera.
Patera is still hurt I believe..
Did he get hurt during the 3/29 start or was he pulled and replaced by Saville after allowing 5? Neither has been doing very well. After coming up from the ECHL Saville stats are not good at all which is disappointing because he was excellent joining the roster towards the end of last year.
Great analysis. Thank you for this, and everything else SinBin does.
FYI to all season ticket holders read your contract, my contract reads VGK can not increase first round tickets over 50% above your season ticket price in the first round of the playoffs. However, they did charged over 50%, in my case, so please review your contract. Its important to note because the second and third round can go up 75% per round and the finals 100%.
I think Cassidy has tried to make the best of the hand he was dealt, as a new coach. He’s capitalizing on the things the players do well. We have issues, the PP is tops…waste of time. Literally.
I HOPE for a deep Playoff run; but, realistically, I’m just happy they made it in, and just want to see a great VGK team effort. Win or lose.
Good analysis by Ken here. The coach is smart, and has the boys rounding into playoff form. Huge pleasant surprise has been the play of William Karlsson the past few months. He looks much quicker and very intense.
Hope the coach pushes the right buttons by sitting the right people. Let’s throw out the sentimental stuff such as Quick has to play versus LA, and Kessel has to play due to iron man status. No affirmative action allowed now. Just plug in the right people for the opponent. Nice problem to have, dare I say it……some healthy guys ready to go every night.
THE hockey GOD
teams know all these, playoffs they will make adjustments; it will be a chess match.
I am counting on bobby fischer to win in the scheme of things.
the greatest chess player there ever was, next to Beth Harmon.
THE hockey GOD
know all these match ups
Killer article Ken … something that the average Joe (like me) would never realize. It’ll be interesting to see if they work that bias against WIN should that matchup come.
Appreciate all the effort you put into this … you guys make the games more enjoyable!
THE hockey GOD
If I have sex with a woman who used to be a man, is that okay? I love people who have sex changes.