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Why The Golden Knights Have Had So Much Success With Their Net Empty

On Sunday afternoon the Golden Knights were in a situation they’ve admittedly found themselves in too often this year. Down a goal late, Pete DeBoer called Laurent Brossoit to the bench with just under two minutes left in an attempt to score the game-tying goal.

For the sixth time this year, the Golden Knights found the back of the net with their goalie on the bench and a sixth skater on the ice. That’s the fourth most of any team in the NHL this year and ties most by a Golden Knights team in a season ever.

In fact, in just 35 games, the Golden Knights have scored more goals with their net empty than they did in the last 100 regular season games.

The question becomes, why?

We’ll start with the coach-speak answer, but one that certainly has quite a bit of validity.

There’s never any panic with our group in those situations, there’s a calmness which you need. If you are running around trying to make something happen you can’t enter with possession. You’ve got to have a calmness to your group to get organized, to get set up, and to know that we’re getting the goalie out early enough that the clock is our friend, and we don’t have to rush or force anything. I think our guys get that concept. -DeBoer

Along with calmness, there’s definitely a sense of belief that shines through. As DeBoer says, panic rarely, if ever, sets in, which allows the Golden Knights to continue stacking up chances until one goes in.

As for the player reasoning, it’s a bit more specific.

We’ve talked about a few things systematically that have worked. From up top we are setting up with good shooting opportunities for me and Theodore and whoever else is at the top with us whether it’s Pacioretty or Marchessault or whoever. And if you look at all the success we’ve had at 6-on-5, it’s because we have guys standing in front of the net. You’ve got two people in front and us shooting up top it’s obviously pretty difficult for the goalie to see it. Also, you want to create those scrums so you can get those second opportunities because you have the extra guy out there. -Pietrangelo

If you look at a still frame from the shot that led to the goal on Sunday, it’s pretty clear what he’s is talking about.

There are actually three players down around the goalie and two of them are directly in the Connor Hellebuyck’s sightline of the puck.

Another reason the Golden Knights have had this much success is their ability to re-enter the zone with their own net empty. Just in the final 100 seconds of the game, Vegas was able to enter the zone successfully three times with the net pulled. There have been two main principles that have helped them in this area.

First, with the extra man, they commit numbers to board battles which usually leads to either Vegas winning the puck, or a hopeless clearance attempt from the opponent. Second, the Golden Knights have been strong at keeping pucks in the zone at the blue line. Both Theodore and Pietrangelo have quick enough hands to settle the puck and then move it before the pressure arrives.

Because of both, this has allowed the Golden Knights tons of zone time that other teams (and VGK teams of the past) have not enjoyed with their own net empty.

When I asked both DeBoer and Pietrangelo about the success though, both went to the same place fairly quickly in speaking about it.

Unfortunately, we’ve probably been in that situation more than we’ve wanted to which leads to a little bit of confidence. Hopefully we can rectify that and not be in the situations where we have to pull our goalie and have to come back. -DeBoer

Too much experience, I guess, that’s not a good thing. We want to make sure we are not getting in those situations. -Pietrangelo

The Golden Knights have played 25:08 with their net empty this season, more than all but three other teams in the NHL. Last year, in 56 games, Vegas had six skaters on the ice for just 27:10 over the course of the entire 56-game season. And, since the franchise’s first season, only the Boston Bruins have spent less time with their net empty than the Golden Knights.

The objective moving forward will be to stay out of this situation as often as possible. But, if it does come to it, which it will from time to time no matter how well they are playing, being a dominant 6-on-5 team is a dangerous tool to have in the bag.

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14 Comments

  1. You would think that a slight modification of the 6 on 5 could be developed as other teams have accomplished when it’s 5 on 4 or less for the PP. Looking back their biggest issue in that regard appears to be their lack of screening and being shy to do so. Ken since you have the info in front of you how often has the 6 on 5 failed in Vegas?

  2. Blitz

    @Tim, Marty is back on the practice ice (in a red no-contact jersey). The theory is all but shot. 🙂

    • Tim

      Blitz, I’m glad to see Alex back it maybe now that Patch is out maybe he’ll be the sacrificial lamb. I’m still in the belief they will hoodwink the system some how some way.

  3. Blitz

    Looks like a possible Logan Thompson start tonight AND maybe even a Dylan Ferguson backup role depending on Lehner. Excited about Thompson, but I also understand that the defense playing in front of him is going to matter big time. Low expectations, but hoping for the best!!

    • THE hockey GOD

      looks like a younger version of RL,

      VGK own player knee to back up goalie head in last game appears to put him on the bench; despite playing well in replacing RL for last few games. Plus starting all those games in a row probably took a toll on his endurance level.

      • Blitz

        Younger version of RL? Why do I feel like you are trying to bait me in? 🙂

        Thompson doesn’t even catch with the same hand. It messes with my brain to watch him.

  4. Daryl

    In the article it says the vhk has success with offensive zone time, more so than any other team. I’m just curious as to what VGK offensive zone time is compared to other teams in this situation.

    And while it’s great VGK has had success, just being in this situation is not a good thing. I’ll have to go back and see what their success rate is vs good and bad teams also

    • Daryl

      I tried looking up some of the information myself but I had limited time, but this is what I found on that short investigation….

      This year (it appears) VGK has used the extra attacker 3 times against DAL, NYI and Jets. All 3 were successful in tying to the game and overall VGK ended up winning 2 of 3. They beat DAL (15-14 overall), and NYI (10-18 overall) while losing to the Jets (11-16 overall).

      Two other times they had the man advantage with under 2min to go. First was against ANA (17-18 overall). VGK scored a PP goal but also gave up a SH goal. VGK went on to lose this game. The second was against the Flyers (13-19 overall). VGK scored a PP goal to tie the game but still went on to lose.

      Overall, the with man advantage, one way or another, VGK is 2-3… only one of those teams, Dallas, has an overall winning record.

      I’m not sure what any of this teams really…. for all the games they had to pull a goalie, no team was ranked higher than 5th in their Conference. Their only two wins came against a 6th ranked and an 8th ranked team

  5. THE hockey GOD

    past results or no guarantee of future performance

  6. ChitownVegas

    What is our ranking of goals scored 6-5 per game since 2017? I’m guessing very high

    • VGK are basically right in the middle of the pack since 2017. To be exact, they are 13th in 6-on-5 goals, but when you add in 6-on-4 they fall to 14th.

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