Golden Knights Analysis
Golden Knights Report Card: DeBoer Concedes, Wild Bill Rides Again
LAS VEGAS — The city of lost wages was the city of lost chances for the Vegas Golden Knights. They had 60% of the scoring chances, 69% of the high-danger chances, and two third period leads.
And yet they needed overtime. However, all is well that ends well as Brett Howden pulled a classic “Sidney Crosby” and chipped a puck off Dallas Stars goalie Jake Oettinger for the OT winner. The Golden Knights won 4-3 at T-Mobile Arena Friday.
“I just tried throwing it in there. I got lucky it went in,” Howden said. “I think Oettinger put it in himself, (but) I was just trying to throw it in there.”
All stats are from NaturalStatTrick.com.
William Karlsson had one of those games he’ll remember, too. Karlsson scored the first two Golden Knights goals and was a catalyst for most of the nearly 62-minute game.
The game was almost perfect to the Golden Knights script … except for Oettinger standing on his head. The Dallas netminder nearly stole one, and if not for his defenseman and forward knocking Keegan Kolesar into him midway through the third period, Oettinger might well have been a one-armed bandit.
Instead, Oettinger was helpless beneath Kolesar and Dallas forward Jamie Benn as Teddy Blueger deposited just his second career playoff goal into the net. Blueger’s tally gave the VGK a 3-2 lead, forcing Dallas to come from behind again.
It chagrined VGK coach Bruce Cassidy, but perhaps not the players.
“I think the players, when they give up a lead and score right away, don’t remember that they gave up a lead as much as we do as coaches because we’re watching everything, and we want to be perfect,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “So I think players that just look at it sometimes as the natural ebbs and flows of games.”
The Golden Knights’ second blown lead in the third was in crunch time when Benn scored a 6v5 goal after Dallas coach Pete DeBoer pulled Oettinger. However, Howden’s goal erased any potential negativity and sent the Golden Knights to the room, smiling from ear to ear. The Golden Knights outchanced the Dallas Stars through two periods 21-8. The VGK had eight high-danger chances and allowed just three after 40 minutes. Yet the game was tied 1-1.
There was little doubt which team had their legs and was the better group Friday. However, Oettinger was his very best, and the puck squibbed away from the Golden Knights on several scoring chances. The Vegas Golden Knights were this close, including a second-period sequence when a deflection eluded Oettinger, hit the post, and glided along the goal line but never crossed.
Dallas coach Pete DeBoer, who coached the Golden Knights for three prior seasons, conceded defeat.
“They were more ready to play than we were. We probably could have anticipated it. They had a shorter series starting at home,” said DeBoer. “We’re coming off a Game 7, so I knew the first 10 minutes would probably be a little unknown (regarding) what we would get. And they were better than us. I thought we battled back in the game. They were better in more areas than us most of the night. So, (it was) probably the right result. We’ve got to up our level.”
Vegas Golden Knights Chalkboard
The game started according to Golden Knights’ script. They pinned Dallas deep in the defensive zone. Shift after shift, four lines rolling, the Golden Knights found speed through the neutral zone by blunting any Dallas rush and attacking. They kept possession deep in the offensive zone. They walked the puck toward the front of the net but could not get a clean follow-up. The bouncing puck skipped past, bounced past, and otherwise avoided the Golden KThe Golden Knights’ stiff forechecks.
What yielded the distinct territorial advantage for much of forecheck. The defensemen played tight gaps, immediately confronting the Dallas rush at the red or blue lines. Dallas wasn’t given a runway to generate speed.
The Golden Knights followed coach Bruce Cassidy’s stated formula from earlier in the week. The Golden Knights forecheck gained possession in the corners and made a beeline for the net.
Karlsson scored by going to the net and backchecking. His second goal was a Dallas turnover trying to exit the zone.
While the Golden Knights’ defensemen won’t get much credit or publicity, they were stout Friday, mostly keeping Dallas to the perimeter.
The heat map from NaturalStatTrick.com shows Dallas didn’t get much near the net, while the Golden Knights big orange blob near the net meant they had heavy concentration.
Vegas Golden Knights Player Grades:
Though there were a few soft spots, it’s hard to argue with the territorial advantage. Despite passing the eye test, the Golden Knights’ fourth line with Teddy Blueger, William Carrier, and Keegan Kolesar was on the wrong end of 70% of the shot attempts. However, they limited the scoring chance advantage against them to 4-3, and Blueger scored the biggest goal of his career.
Adin Hill: B+
Another solid game from the Golden Knights goalie. He’s won four of his first five playoff games and is posting a solid .930 save percentage. The Golden Knights’ defensive strategy is to keep play to the perimeter and keep Hill’s eyes clear. They do a good job, but largely when called up, Hill has been good.
His first-period save against Wyatt Johnson, who had a wide-open poke from the back post, was a game-changer. He’s controlling rebounds, anticipating the plays, and standing tall in net.
Smith had, perhaps, his best game of the playoffs. The puck seemed to follow him, and he had six shots on goal. However, the star of the show was Karlsson. He had the puck on his stick in prime scoring chances and converted for a pair of goals. To beat a hot goalie takes a little luck, but Karlsson earned his bounces.
“It’s a great time of year. You want to be one of the guys to contribute,” Karlsson said. “This is what matters the most. Maybe that has something to do with (scoring more). I’ve been feeling good, and the puck is bouncing my way.”
Bruce Cassidy: A
When players are executing, coaches look a lot better. The VGK had the right game plan; they attacked at the Dallas weak points by stepping into the forwards immediately. Dallas didn’t have a response to the neutral zone pressure as they tried to move the puck. Nor did Dallas have an answer to the Golden Knights paying behind them. It was rinse, lather, repeat as the Golden Knights put the puck deep and retrieved it.
Cassidy had the superior game plan in Roud Two and is off to a good start in the Western Conference Final.