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Golden Knights Analysis

Dallas Made Changes, Golden Knights Whiffed; Breaking Down Game 4



Vegas Golden Knights, Adin Hill, analysis

The Dallas Stars staved off elimination with a 3-2 OT win over the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 4. More than avoiding elimination, they may have finally found their game in a series in which the Golden Knights have, with the exception of two periods, controlled.

The Golden Knights lead the series 3-1, and Game 5 is Saturday in Vegas, but things will be different going forward.

Get the Golden Knights Game 4 recap.

First, the VGK goalie Adin Hill was spectacular. He was large in net, challenging shooters, and robbed a couple. Overall, he made 39 saves. A chaotic play in overtime snapped his five-game winning streak.

Because of Hill, the game was there for the taking. The Golden Knights had it in their hand but never squeezed it. They surged and pressured later in the third period, but the Golden Knights’ 200-foot game faltered for the first time since the middle of Round Two.

And that was their big mistake.

“I think that’s not the way we play. I think we play above, we play hard, a hard-checking game, (with) discipline, and tonight that was not always the case,” Golden Knights winger Jonathan Marchessault said. “I thought we gave them way too many chances. I thought (Adin) Hill made unbelievable saves all (through) the game. And it’s not fair to him. It’s been so good for us.”

The Golden Knights didn’t squeeze Dallas like a python from a reptile farm. Instead, the Golden Knights skated with Dallas and made things too easy.

The game was played far more wide-open than it should have been. In that speed and space, Dallas found hope.

“On the forecheck (our lack of effort showed). I thought our breakout was not good enough. And it’s not only on our D,” Marchessault said. “It’s five guys out there, and we’ve got to give easy the options (on the breakout). In the third period, we started doing little better plays, and it showed.”

Dallas Stars Changes:

For the first time in the series, Dallas used their defensemen. Pete DeBoer activated his blue line. Miro Heiskanen played 30 minutes but also put his stick in the puck, seemingly, much more so in Game 4.

Heiskanen had three shots on goal and two misses. More importantly, he had two assists.

Esa Lindell also let go five shots, including two on net and had one assist.

The Dallas defensemen were on the rush in the play, creating an extra stick in the zone. They were conservative in the first few games, to their detriment.

The VGK had a few odd-man rushes from bad pinches, but goalie Jake Oettinger bailed them out. Jack Eichel even had a breakaway when the defensemen tried to hold the blue line in favor of the offense.

“I think they were willing to trade a little bit more. Their defense was pinching a little bit and giving us some chances for two-on-ones and three-on-two,” Reilly Smith said. “So sometimes, you get caught going the wrong way, and they got some opportunities.”

It worked.

The Golden Knights should not engage in a game in which shots are 42-39. Their game is depth, responsibility, and controlling the middle of the ice.

Should the Golden Knights advance to the Stanley Cup Final against the Florida Panthers, playing open or giving them the middle will be deadly. Florida can finish.

In fact, if the Vegas Golden Knights ease up in Game 5 as they did in 4, they could well be headed by to Dallas for 6. The Golden Knights need to simplify again. DeBoer will activate his defense again. The Dallas Stars have got nothing to lose.

One way to negate the activating D is to contest the puck in the neutral zone, shrink the gaps, and slow the march at the blue line. Then the defensemen have to pull up, pucks are easier to retrieve, and it’s easier to counter-attack.

“So that’s what it is. We got another opportunity in two days, and we’ll make the most of it,” Smith said.

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