There wasn’t much good to say about Thursday night’s game. Getting beat 5-1 by the Colorado Avalanche and putting forth one of your worst efforts of the season certainly doesn’t sit well in the craw of the Vegas Golden Knights.
“I don’t think you can move on when you lose a game 5-1,” Mark Stone said after the game Thursday.
He’s right, especially through the lens of a world class athlete. You have to use failure as a motivator for future success. If you let that loss stay with you and don’t learn what went wrong, it’s very easy to repeat the same mistakes.
Instead, the Golden Knights will watch some video and likely turn the focus inward for Saturday’s game. Yes, there were things the Avalanche did very well, but the VGK felt it was more about them and the game they played.
For starters, the Golden Knights know they must establish the forecheck against the Avalanche because failure to do so allows one of the best transition teams in the league to easily escape its own zone. Pressuring the puck immediately after putting it into the offensive zone forces the Avs defenders to try and make plays more quickly. The more time they have to consider options, the harder it gets to make them turn pucks over. And if an outlet pass blows by a few guys too quickly, it creates odd-man situations going the other way.
The other big thing when it comes to the offensive zone is winning the puck battles on the boards. Again, arriving quickly to the puck once it’s in the offensive zone is key. If you can tie up the defender and not give him the chance to beat you with a pass, then the second forward into the zone for the VGK can support the battle on the wall. That forward may dig into the pile to help free the biscuit, or stay on the high side of the pile (between the puck and the blueline) in case it comes his way. That allows a quick setup of a scoring chance in the offensive zone as well.
Frankly, the Vegas Golden Knights did neither of those things well on Thursday. We can spend all the time in the world talking about the defensive coverage, mistakes and other issues. But if you have the puck on your stick and are attacking the Colorado goal, there’s no way they can score goals on you. And one goal for is not going to get it done against the Avalanche. Neither is five shots in the first and second periods.
Still, Thursday’s game is likely more of a bump in the road for Vegas. They’ve shown that occasionally they come out flat or have a rough night. All teams do that. What has really separated the Golden Knights from most other teams is the ability to rebound from those nights. Vegas is 5-2 in games after a loss this season, and typically comes out fired up the next time out. That said, one of only two back-to-back loss situations this season was suffered at the hands of the Avalanche last month.
We will know in the first five minutes of Saturday afternoon’s game if the Golden Knights hit the ice with the energy and enthusiasm they need to overcome the Colorado Avalanche. The other key will be sustaining it for 60 minutes, but that’s another article entirely.