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‘It Hurts to Win’: Golden Knights Ignore Dirty Hits, Keep Rolling



Vegas Golden Knights, Dallas Stars

The Vegas Golden Knights t-shirts said, “It Hurts to Win.”

The Golden Knights paid the price in Game 3, beginning with Mark Stone, who used his face to absorb a cross-check from Dallas captain Jamie Benn. After Benn knocked Stone to the ice, Benn followed through with the cross-check earning a five-minute major penalty and ejection.

Wednesday, Benn was suspended for two games.

The Golden Knights didn’t retaliate with penalties. They retaliated with goals.

“I could hear the ref making sure I was all right, and I felt okay to get up. The refs did a great job making sure that the right call was made,” Stone said. “Our team always sticks up for each other. But then, we had a huge opportunity to take over the game with a five-minute power play. We got momentum off that goal late in the power play. Carrier comes out and gets another one with Blueger and Kolesar. It’s hard to come back from down three. So at that point of the game, it was probably just time to put the pride away and play the game.”

Defenseman Nicolas Hague merely laughed when scrappy Dallas center Max Domi threw punches late in the second period. Domi earned four minutes and a misconduct penalty. Hague was inexplicably given two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct, but the game had largely been decided.

NHL Player Safety fined Domi $5000 for slashing, also against Stone in Game 3.

“We did exactly what we needed to do, stuck together, and scored some big goals when they started the runaround,” Hague said following the game. “Stick together and keep pushing forward … I think it’s no secret that everyone here will always stick up for each other, and we’re going to have each other’s backs. What they’re doing, it’s nothing we can handle. Some dirty plays, I thought. We just kind of stay out of it and focus on winning a hockey game.”

The attitude is similar to the 2016 Pittsburgh Penguins, who had a moniker of “Just play.” After about five seasons of being temperamental and easily distracted by physical play. Then-new coach Mike Sullivan instilled the mantra to great success. They won back-to-back Stanley Cups.

The shrugs and smiles from the Vegas Golden Knights are very reminiscent.

Shot Blocking

The Golden Knights had 33 blocked shots in Game 1 and 26 blocks in Game 2. Game 3 was an outlier with only 20 because even Dallas had quit in the third period.

The Golden Knights’ redwood defensemen are all over 6 feet tall and 200 pounds (Shea Theodore is about 200 pounds, depending on the bio). In Cassidy’s system, defensemen play closer to the net. They absorb a lot of shots.

In the Round Two series vs. Edmonton, it worked against the Golden Knights a few times, as blocked shots bounced directly to Edmonton skaters, who quickly scored.

Fluky goals aside, the Golden Knights are again paying the price to win.

“I think our D plays close to the front of the net, so you’re close to that area to block shots. If you track stats like that, I think the teams that play a little more layered defense will probably have more blocks … And that’s certainly the way we play,” said Cassidy. “Now, our group of defensemen has done it here for years, so I think it comes very natural to them. They’re very willing to do it, and they’re long, they’re big bodies. So that has something to do with it as well.”

Dallas has also not been able to get between the dots to get good shots on Adin Hill. A goalie’s job is a lot easier when the shots are from the perimeter.

The Golden Knights have also been winning corner and wall battles, keeping the puck out of the scoring areas.

“If you can choke off the plays sooner before they kind of roll it low to high — kill them behind the goal line. We wanted to be more aggressive in those situations,” said Cassidy. “Denying entries can help there, too. I think we’ve our forwards have done a good job recognizing they have to make it harder … You can take away passing and shooting lanes. I think we’ve been really cognizant of that.”

The Golden Knights have paid the price to win. Whether it’s keeping Dallas to the outside, letting a frozen piece of rubber hit them at 90mph, or grinning and bearing a cross-check to the face for the power play, winning hurts.

One more win, and they play for the Stanley Cup.

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