The Vegas Golden Knights have started the season 3-0 largely thanks to the team’s scoring depth and ability to get that important goal when needed. But the team has had its share of issues so far too, and needs to figure a few things out before hitting the teeth of the schedule in a few weeks.
Starting On Time
The Vegas Golden Knights have been getting away with slow starts and falling behind largely because of the quality of opponent so far. With no disrespect, the Arizona Coyotes and Anaheim Ducks were not playoff teams last year and likely not playoff teams this year either. Falling behind hasn’t been an issue yet because Vegas hasn’t allowed an untenable margin of defecit to a team that can lock things down.
Once teams like the Colorado Avalanche, St. Louis Blues and Minnesota Wild dot the schedule, the Golden Knights won’t be able to get away with falling behind a goal or two early and just expect to rally every time. There’s no doubt being able to grab some of those come-from-behind wins early helps team confidence. Already this team can say “we’re not out of any game” because of the dramatic way they tied, then won the second game against the Ducks. Rallying from down a pair to the Coyotes Monday and scoring four unanswered goals shows they can shift the momentum back to the right side of the ice and keep it. But this isn’t a recipe for long-term success. Starts must be better.
Wake Up the Power Play
If you have watched any games around the league besides those of the Vegas Golden Knights, you’ll notice that for the most part power plays aren’t going well. Teams look rusty, timing is off, players are still getting it going when it comes to regular season form. While I know it gives coaches grey hair (or makes them tear it out entirely) to see the errant passes and missed shots, those things tend to get better with game play.
Right now Vegas is definitely one of those teams struggling in this area, although they aren’t exactly generating a ton of chances either. Monday against Arizona I thought the puck movement looked crisper and the new pieces to the power play puzzle were starting to blend in more. Alex Pietrangelo has to learn his teammates and their tendencies. Once that happens he’ll be able to make better plays from up top as the QB.
All of these things require some time to work out. Vegas could help itself immeasurably by starting to generate more opportunities through hard work and forcing teams to contain them by taking penalties. It’s a little concerning that the Golden Knights have only generated seven power play chances-for (tied for second-worst) with zero power play goals. Hopefully this also improves with time. Plus we’ve already seen Pete DeBoer tinkering with the two units in an effort to jump start things.
Consistent Forecheck Pressure
When the Vegas Golden Knights forecheck is on, it forces turnovers, generates scoring chances, and generally makes life miserable for opponents. We’ve seen flashes of it in effect so far this season, but it hasn’t dialed up that constant nagging pressure just yet. The remaining three games against the Coyotes is a great stretch to work out the remaining kinks on pressuring the puck in the offensive zone. Once the forecheck is working at a high level, tangible results follow on the scoreboard.
Honorable Mention: Breakouts
I’ve seen and heard a lot of people harping on the breakouts. As a veteran of too many training camps to count, I know that breakouts are all about timing and route management. Those things take time to get burned in for players. Alex Pietrangelo might be new, but he’s an excellent puck mover. Shea Theodore is an excellent puck mover. The forwards are smart and capable. It’s going to take a little time but be patient. It will be ok.