It’s hard to think of a series in recent years that has been more anticipated than Avalanche-Golden Knights. Rarely do the top two NHL teams meet before the third round, or more likely at all given the whims of hockey. But with the divisional setup this year, it was going to be difficult for these two to avoid each other. Fans pulsed at the thought of how fast these games could reach.
Well, yes, but only one team came here.
While the series is tied 2-2, with Game 5 tomorrow night in Denver, since somewhere in between Game 2, the Golden Knights have absolutely beaten the Avalanche. The Aces were really lucky to get out of Game 2 with a win in overtime. They could say they were less than half a period away from having a 3-0 lead, and technically it’s true. But Vegas ’two wins in Nevada have been nearly the least they deserve.
The numbers are staggering, considering the Asses were one of the best metrics / analytics teams since the analytical era of hockey began (post-Bettman Lockout II). The Asses did things during the regular season that we had rarely seen, dominating the trials and odds in a truly despotic way. And now it happens. In Game 2, Vegas had 62 percent of the tries and 71 percent (!) Of predicted goals. In game 3 those figures were 63 and 76 (!!). In game 4 yesterday they were 56 and 69 (not very good always).
A look at yesterday’s heat card from NaturalStatTrick.com it practically shows what’s going on throughout. You can check here.
Either way they failed, the Knights put a shoe on Colorado’s ass with a twist the last three games.
How did they do it? Just walking the hell bent for the skin on the forecheck. He is often heard talking about teams that “hold a third man on high” when expected in the offensive zone. Even the most aggressive teams will hold their third forward near the blue line to read the piece and drop if the opponent starts to come out clean, while also being willing to dive deep to join the forecheck if the opportunity arises. to create a turnover.
The Knights completely ignored this. They don’t hold up a third man. Sometimes not even a quarter. Avs are most dangerous when Cale Makar, or Devon Toews, or Samuel Girard come out in open ice and wheel through the neutral zone. Not only did the Knights not let them do it, but they didn’t even have time to breathe before the first forechecker was on his ass. And when they move the disc to a teammate there is already another Knight on it. And the same goes for the next Avs player to try to touch the puck. The risk is that the Av might get through all this and have weird man-runes all day, but they’re not getting close. Because the intricacy and precision needed to make three passes, all at once, to get out of the area at the required speed against the expected horse is almost impossible, even for a team like Colorado. And every mix leads to serious problems. Here is an example from Game 2, About three minutes into the video. Ryan Graves slips, but there are already three Vegas ahead under the circles. The billing means the Avs aren’t installed in any defensive structure, which leaves the points open for the Knights to get the drive into the net.
That has consistently happened over the last three games. That’s why the heat chart appears volcanic around the Avs network. Billed with puck means they can’t get into shooting lanes before the D-Men Knights shoot, and then there are crazy scrambles around Phillip Grubauer. The only thing the Avs defense has is that it’s not very big, and they’ve been powerless at times freeing Vegas forward from the slot.
The only answers the Avs have found are just to get the puck out of center without a goal, the hockey equivalent of gasping through the air, which restarts only the entire cycle. Then, they either try to step too far into the neutral zone to cut all Vegas dump-ins before they start, or they are leaving their blue line to have a first step on the search to try and find some separation from the forecheck. Both have allowed the Knights to find a track in the area with possession, which is exactly where they don’t want them. Here’s Max Pacioretty’s winner from Game 3, and see how easily they get into the zone first:
Makar isn’t close enough to Stone, who gets into a waltz and drops the drive to NIck Holden who has all the time and space and track to get a shot that Pacioretty can give a tip. Or Jonathan Marchessault’s hat trick goal yesterday, all started by Reilly Smith being able to sashay through the slot:
This has happened all the time in the last three games. So what are the Avs to do? They tried to bring their center and even an additional low-wing winger to try to help the defenders, but all that’s done is leave the points fully open when the puck is turned when the Aves have three or four players underneath. or near the target line. They tried to climb on the tables and then jumped the puck in the middle of the defensive zone to hit the forward who fell low in motion to go striking the other way. But again, the accuracy required for this usually means that it is a turnover more often than a success and a rush the other way around. And when left, the Avs have one or two attackers who have invaded the game, leaving the defensive zone a playing field.
Colorado could admit defeat and try to trap themselves in the neutral zone, but that’s hardly their nature. Probably, instead of trying to get around the boards and then in the middle with the puck, they should just go straight to the middle. It’s risky, because any mix means a free drive three meters from the net, but there’s little choice. The Knights are closing the edges aggressively, and the only way the Avs are going to pass is to split them in half. They did well enough and were able to get the Vegas defense to sustain a bit and get more space between them and their attackers to gain speed through the neutral zone.
Or they can just keep scrambling around and hope Grubauer saves them for two of three games. There are only bad answers.