Connect with us

Vegas Golden Knights

Golden Knights Analysis: Jets were Easy, Eichel and Wild Bill Keys in Round Two

LAS VEGAS — As NHL Stanley Cup playoff series go, Round One was a cakewalk for the Vegas Golden Knights. They sent the increasing…



Vegas Golden Knights, Jack Eichel

LAS VEGAS — As NHL Stanley Cup playoff series go, Round One was a cakewalk for the Vegas Golden Knights. They sent the increasingly disinterested and soft Winnipeg Jets packing in five games. By the end, Winnipeg players humbly accepted their fate even as coach Rick Bowness railed against his team.

Round Two won't be so easy. 

Whether it is the I-15 battle with the LA Kings or a showdown between draftmates Jack Eichel and Connor McDavid's Edmonton Oilers, the Golden Knights will not have the same greenlit runway to victory. 

Should Edmonton close out the LA Kings in six, it will be a matchup of the top of the 2015 NHL Draft class. McDavid was first. Eichel was a salty second, who may or may not have told teams in his pre-draft interviews he would be better than McDavid. 

Obviously, no one in the modern era except maybe Sidney Crosby has been better than McDavid.

Fast forward eight years, and neither has sniffed a Stanley Cup. In fact, these are Eichel's first playoff games. 

"Nothing is better than playoff hockey, I guess. I haven't played in it but watching it, it's always really intense, and I'm looking forward to being a part of it," said Eichel before the Round One win.

It probably showed that Eichel was a playoff newb, too. And therein lies the hope the Golden Knights' best player will figure it out. 

The Stanley Cup playoffs are a different animal. Faster, more intense, and even the fans have a little gear, right? Eichel had five points against Winnipeg, but three were power-play points. 

Make no mistake, if the Golden Knights are to beat the insanely fast and talented Oilers or the rugged Kings in Round Two, on Eichel's shoulders rests heavy responsibility. 

The Golden Knights' top center had only four shots between the dots in Round One, including a tip goal. Otherwise, Eichel's shots were from 30 feet or more. 

His heat map on does not tell a great story. He wasn't getting in the dirty zones. His production tells an equally compelling and mixed story. 

Eichel was on the ice for more scoring chances against but more high-danger chances for (slightly in both cases). He had a near 60% goals-expected (xGF) rate but was a minus-1 in the series. 

The Golden Knights need the Game 3 version of Eichel, who scored a pair of goals (power play) but added an even-strength assist and had his best skates on. Coach Bruce Cassidy rode Eichel for nearly 25 minutes. 

Whether he matches against McDavid or Kopitar, Eichel can't be a minus, nor can he be a power play specialist. 

William Karlsson

Wild Bill was back. Whether he is the second-line center or third is a matter of semantics. The Golden Knights line with Mike Amadio and Reilly Smith is, on paper, a bit of a makeshift line. 

Yet they dominated Winnipeg. The line filled the net five times at even strength and allowed only one goal. Karlsson had six high-danger chances in the series, and his lines had more scoring and high-danger chances. 

There was little doubt Karlsson had that same step he did for the Vegas Golden Knights' inaugural run in 2018 when he had 15 points (8-7-15) in 20 playoff games. 

Karlsson's performance makes Eichel even more critical. Chandler Stephenson and Mark Stone are eternally a productive combo, even as Stone eases back from his back injury, which kept him out of the lineup since Jan. 13. The Karlsson to Stephenson middle-six is as strong. 

The middle six was the driving force in the series win, but to keep winning in the spring, a team must come in waves

But that won't be enough. 

Eichel must be what he's paid to be. The Vegas Golden Knights' top center.