Top 5 Reasons the Vegas Golden Knights are Winning
I’ve watched every minute of every game and have a really good idea as to “how they are doing it.”
1. System- this team plays like no other team in the league. Using a basketball analogy they essentially play a full court press all game on defense, and a transition fast break team on offense. If they kept a stat for the quickest team in the league that causes a turnover then moves the puck up ice, no other team would be close. They play an up tempo high variance game and constantly are looking for odd man rushes that lead to lots of high quality chances. Most teams win the puck, possess it, look for what options are available, then decide to make a play. Not this team. It’s instantaneous. Blind passes, stretch passes, quick transition and it catches teams on their heels constantly. They are more effective 5 on 5 in transition than they are on the power play in relation to most teams. Power plays don’t play to their strengths, but they more than make up for that with their 5 on 5 play.
The other key reason this system can work is that George McPhee drafted SPEED. There isn’t just one line to key in on, all four lines play a very similar up tempo style that depends heavily on speed in transition.
2. Rolling four lines- That rolls into my next point nicely, the use of all four lines and all three defensive pairings. On most teams you will see all-star minute munchers on the back end playing upwards of 30 minutes a game. On Vegas, their top d-man in terms of average ice time is Nate Schmidt clocking in at just 22 minutes a game. Everyone plays. Most teams use their fourth line sparingly, as little as possible. This team’s fourth line is used often and have developed a real chemistry. They possess the puck, and while they don’t score a lot of goals, when they are out there, neither does the other team.
When defending this team, you can’t just focus on one speedy line and then take a break in between those shifts. They come at you in waves. Consistent in their approach, and while the 4th line plays a bit more of a North-South game, the other three lines played an incredibly similar style of hockey. Teams get no time to catch their breath, it’s constant pressure for 60 minutes.
3. Discipline- They don’t take penalties! I believe they rank as the second least penalized team in the league. Vegas also ranks in the bottom five in total hits. Outside of Brayden McNabb and William Carrier, this team isn’t built to punish opponents physically. They don’t take many dumb penalties being overly aggressive. The focus is on winning the puck, and turning it up ice as quickly as possible.
4. Trust- This is where I shower heavy praise on coach Gerard Gallant. The players love him. He was the perfect coach for the job. Unlike a John Tortorella, this is a players coach for a new team of guys who may be coming in with bruised egos after being let go by their previous team. The last thing they needed was a guy barking at them that they suck. Gallant earned their trust and has the players, to a man, believing in the system. Not many teams can say that losing their best player wouldn’t have a major impact on their success, but Vegas is unique, in that, no one player is bigger than the system. Somebody goes down, next guy up is plugged into the system and gets the job done.
5. Chemistry- This team had the opportunity to bond early with the tragedy we saw in Las Vegas a week before the home opener. They were out in the community showing their support after the tragedy, and while it’s hard to gauge how much closer an event like that can bring people together, I wouldn’t underestimate it. These guys seem to really like each other. This high tempo style relies on players knowing where each other is going to be and the chemistry on this team developed rapidly and is undeniable. They all share the bond of being either underestimated, underutilized, or underpaid by their previous team. They play every night with a chip on their shoulder. Every night there is a player on that team with something to prove. Whether it’s Marc-Andre Fleury showing the Pens that he still has plenty of gas left in the tank, or William Karlsson putting on a clinic against Columbus letting them know that had he been given a chance, he could have been the all-star for them that he is for this team.