One of the main reasons for the switch behind the bench was to help the Golden Knights generate more offense. The primary focus was on the power play, but a huge part of Bruce Cassidy’s mission in Las Vegas is to help a talented group of offensive players score more at 5-on-5.
They can no longer be completely reliant on chances off the rush, turnovers in the offensive zone, and shots from the point to generate the offense. While those tools must remain in the box for the Golden Knights, improvement on in-zone offense generation will likely be the difference between what has happened in the previous few playoff runs (and the one that came up short of the postseason), and what could happen this year.
Through four games, it’s not happening.
The Golden Knights have tallied 12 goals, which on its face is plenty for four games, especially for a team getting good goaltending and playing strong team defense. It’s how those goals are being generated that is the concern. Here’s a run-through of each of the 12 goals.
Goal 1 vs LAK (Rush) – Bad change by LAK leads to 3-on-1 rush. Marchessault to Karlsson to Marchessault.
Goal 2 vs LAK (Power Play) – Rebound shot deflects off a King’s skate, then off Eichel’s skate to his stick where he roofs it. (Technically not a PP, as the guy had just left the box but hadn’t rejoined the play)
Goal 3 vs LAK (Power Play) – High-tip from Karlsson on a beautiful shot pass from Pietrangelo.
Goal 4 vs LAK (Rush) – Pietrangelo creates turnover in the NZ, Stephenson finds Stone who shots through traffic.
Goal 1 vs CHI (Rush) – 2-on-1 started from inside VGK’s blue line. Cotter buries it
Goal 1 vs SEA (OZ Turnover) – Flubbed pass, partially created by Carrier, by Kraken leads to 2-on-1 in front of the goal. Carrier to Kolesar into the net.
Goal 2 vs SEA (Power Play) – Seattle overcommit on PK, Pietrangelo makes strong move and pass to Roy who finds Marchessault for tap-in.
Goal 3 vs SEA (Power Play) – Stone attempts jam play on power play, puck falls off stick before attempt, directly to Smith who slams it home.
Goal 4 vs SEA (Rush) – Stretch pass from Stephenson to Marchessault, Marchessault carries into zone shoots from odd angle.
Goal 5 vs SEA (In-Zone) – Eichel wins 2v1 stick battle in corner to create space for Kessel behind the goal. Kessel finds Theodore activating through the slot. Theodore slides it in.
Goal 1 vs CGY (Goalie Error) – Carrier flips a shot on net, Markstrom whiffs on glove save.
Goal 2 vs CGY (In-Zone) – VGK win draw, work puck to point where McNabb takes wrist shot hoping for a tip. Howden works around two players to reach out and get a stick on the puck, deflecting it in.
So, four power play goals, four rush goals, two in-zone, an OZ turnover, and a goalie error. For most teams, this variety would be viewed positively as it shows an eclectic collection of ways to score. But for the Golden Knights, it remains concerning because the variety still relies heavily on chances off the rush and a power play that isn’t yet convincing.
To be successful over the course of the entire season, and more importantly in the postseason, Vegas will have to take greater advantage of their time in the offensive zone. The best example is Los Angeles, where they outshot the Kings 43-24 at 5-on-5. However, did not score a single goal by generating a chance from inside the offensive zone.
Instead, they potted a pair of goals off horrible LA mistakes (bad change, stretch pass), and got the other two with the man-advantage.
Especially with the balanced lineup Cassidy is currently deploying, there has to be more danger coming from each of the top three lines. In Calgary, the Golden Knights amassed just three high-danger chances at 5-on-5 and two of them came from the 4th line of Carrier, Roy, and Kolesar.
To make matters worse, look at the shot chart from that game.
There’s not nearly enough in and around the goal mouth to be threatening. It’s a trend the Golden Knights have to work out of their game, especially against strong defensive teams.
This year, the Golden Knights can’t rely on shot volume and expected goals or use the “hot goalie” excuse. The in-zone offense has to improve, and despite a 3-1-0 start to the year, it simply hasn’t to this point.