The Vegas Golden Knights are in a most uncomfortable situation after blowing a 3-1 series lead against the Minnesota Wild and now face a do-or-die Game Seven at T-Mobile Arena on Friday night.
Pointing out the problem is simple. In the three games the Golden Knights lost, they’ve scored a total of two goals and have been shut out twice. I don’t care how good or bad Marc-Andre Fleury plays, if you don’t score goals you can’t win games.
Here’s a roll call of names that should be splashed all over the scoresheet but aren’t and desperately need to be: Chandler Stephenson, Reilly Smith, William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, Alex Pietrangelo and Shea Theodore.
This isn’t me merely reaching for low-hanging fruit. This is a real and serious problem for the Golden Knights. Mark Stone has four goals. Alex Tuch, who is Mr. Playoff Scorer for the VGK, has three. After that? The rest of the team has a total of… seven goals. Only Nic Roy has more than one (he has two, I’ll save you the time).
Patrick Brown has exactly as many goals as Karlsson, Marchessault and Smith. I don’t need to explain how bad that is for Vegas.
At least Stephenson (three assists) and Pietrangelo (two assists) have found the scoresheet minimally, but Shea Theodore has zero points in the series to go with his minus-1 rating. That’s atrocious. These guys need to be difference-makers, and instead, we’re shifting uncomfortably in place and avoiding eye contact if anyone brings it up. There’s no excuse for any of them to be as absent offensively as they’ve been.
I give credit to the Minnesota Wild. They’ve figured out that allowing the Vegas Golden Knights to run themselves around on the perimeter and just stay patient defensively with sticks and bodies in lanes effectively shuts down the Vegas offense. The Wild let the VGK cycle themselves into the ground and when a player releases from the cycle they simply pick up that player in one-on-one coverage and eliminate the threat.
On top of that, I keep waiting for head coach Pete DeBoer to change the game plan but it doesn’t happen. I know there are those who will complain that Vegas “needs to establish its game” and “force Minnesota to play their way”.
That’s total garbage.
What Vegas needs is a different way to attack the net and utilize puck possession in the offensive zone. The VGK has done a good job for most of the series dominating the Wild when it comes to actually having the puck on their sticks. Where Minnesota has done well is exactly what I said above. They know very well that outside threats are less dangerous and don’t care one bit if Vegas has 22 shots in a period when only four are dangerous scoring chances. If there are no bodies at the net, and those bodies aren’t battling, nothing is going to happen.
This brings me to another big bone of contention. The compete level has come and gone at times during this series and if Vegas can’t get excited on a full-time basis about playoff hockey, there’s a bigger problem. The Wild is a scrappy, hard-working team that generates chances across all four lines. Sound familiar? That’s because previously we talked about the Vegas Golden Knights in the same terms. Lately, they’ve been a far cry from that team. If they’re going to beat the Wild and advance to a second-round matchup with the Colorado Avalanche, they’re going to have to return to that form. Anything less means they could be booking tee times as soon as this weekend.
In short, what we see from the Vegas Golden Knights in Game Seven will say a lot. Not only this team’s real chances at playoff success now, but in the future as well. If they’re going to turn it around, there’s no more time to wait.