Vegas Golden Knights
Golden Knights Push; 3 Lessons to Take From Game 1
The drum line rappelled from the ceiling of T-Mobile Arena. The showgirls and Elvis mascot danced. And the Las Vegas crowd roared. The energy emanating from the other side of the glass was palpable before the Vegas Golden Knights began their fourth Western Conference Final in six seasons.
It was the Dallas Stars who cracked the Golden Knights in 2020, setting forth a change in organizational thinking and blockbuster trades for No. 1 defenseman Alex Pietrangelo and No. 1 center Jack Eichel. Whereas once the team relied on Chandler Stephenson as their driving pivot, coach Bruce Cassidy can now drop Stephenson to a more appropriate second or third-line center.
And Golden Knights’ Game 1 win showed a few of those lessons learned, including coaching adjustments with new bench boss Bruce Cassidy who redesigned a system to use his big defensemen and forward depth.
Despite a win in which the Golden Knights dominated the even-strength battle, they still needed overtime to earn the win. There were lessons from Game 1 to learn.
Vegas Golden Knights Lessons:
1. More defenseman
The Golden Knights and Dallas Stars battled in the low zone. William Karlsson scored the first VGK goal by going to the net and putting an errant shot from defenseman Zach Whitecloud to bed.
There was more space at the top of the zone for more Golden Knights shots; the low-to-high game was available, but the Golden Knights didn’t take full advantage. With their march to the net, they could create more chaos and scramble the defense with a few more blasts from the top of the zone. Let the Haguer bomb rip and get the loose puck or rebound.
2. More Greasy Chances
Dallas Stars goalie Jake Oettinger was dialed in from the opening moments. He won’t be beaten with one-off chances from outside 25 feet. It will take a few greasy chances, one rebound, maybe two.
Teddy Blueger’s go-ahead goal midway through the third period was a prime example. Keegan Kolesar went to the net. Actually, Kolesar did more than go to the net, which forced two Stars to defend him, and Jamie Benn made a mistake when he plowed Kolesar into Oettinger.
The incapacitated Oettinger could do little to stop Blueger with the puck on his stick and lots of net to hit.
Karlsson’s first goal was also greasy. Brett Howden’s OT winner was below the goal line, too. The Vegas Golden Knights would do well to pummel Oettinger from 10 feet, break down the Stars’ defense as they scramble, and wear them down.
The Golden Knights did a tremendous job getting pucks deep and forcing Dallas to defend in the battle zones. The green and white defense won’t last a seven-game series like that.
3. Keep Building Adin Hill
The Golden Knights kept their starting goalie clean. He didn’t have to deal with too many deflections, net-front traffic, or crashing. The goaltender has made just five playoff starts. He’s won four of them.
“It’s a fun time of year,” Hill smiled Friday night.
Hill stopped 33 of 36 shots in Game 1 after stopping 94% of the shots the Edmonton Oilers put his way. Hill is outperforming Laurent Brossoit, who was the Golden Knights’ playoff starter, but the defense must keep Joe Pavelski away from the front and Roope Hintz from getting more clean looks. He had a few and converted on one in Game 1.