Upon entering the Western Conference Final against the Dallas Stars, the Vegas Golden Knights seemed to be following an interesting trend. Their offense is producing high-quality chances and generating plenty of shots, but they cannot find the back of the net. This unusual combination of the large amounts of shots and minimal goals has continued from the Vancouver series and is one of the main reasons why Vegas faces a 3-1 series deficit to the Stars.
The Golden Knights are seemingly having trouble finding the back of the net. This started when Thatcher Demko replaced the injured Jacob Markstrom in the second-round matchup against the Canucks. Demko was not fazed by the immense pressure put forth on him by the Vegas offense. He was able to force Game 7 where the Golden Knights ultimately won, 3-0. However, the offensive firepower of the Golden Knights may be fizzling out.
So far in the Conference Final, Vegas has only been able to score six goals in four games. They have also been shut out once. During this stretch, Vegas has outshot the Stars 130 to 92. Vegas seems to be doing the small things right, such as forechecking hard, crashing the net, and finishing their checks. This has seen them be rewarded with 19 power plays. Normally, this would be exciting news as the Golden Knights converted on 22 percent of their power plays during the regular season. In this series though, they have only converted on 3 out of the 19 chances.
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Another reason for the decrease in scoring can be attributed to a lack of production from the top two lines. As it stands, only William Karlsson and Mark Stone have scored a goal from the traditional top lines. Depth is a large part of the Golden Knights identity, but it can only excel when the top players are also performing. Granted, the top players are getting their chances and have been dominant in the offensive zone.
Don’t Doubt Dobby
Much can be said about how the Golden Knights’ stars are not producing, but a big reason why they are not can be credited to Stars’ goaltender Anton Khudobin. Khudobin, who replaced an unfit to play Ben Bishop, has been playing excellent for Dallas. He has been matching Robin Lehner’s impressive stat line and recorded his first career postseason shutout in Game 1. Through the first four games in the series, Khudobin has posted impressive numbers, with a .952 save percentage as well as a 1.64 goals-against average.
This is nothing new from Khudobin when the regular season is brought into play. He was in the top five in save percentage in the league, but first in the league among goalies who played at least 15 games. Khudobin is an 11-year NHL veteran and he knows how to hold down the crease when called upon. Although this is his first true experience as the starter in the playoffs, Khudobin is a skilled goaltender with solid fundamentals.
As a team, the Golden Knights are still playing well despite their goalscoring trouble. Shea Theodore is showing that he is a true Conn Smythe candidate. Lehner has also had a solid series between the pipes. The Golden Knights need to continue to play their style of hockey. With their skill, speed and aggression, they should be able to get back into the series.
This is not the first time that they have lost two games in a row either. Against Vancouver, the Golden Knights dropped both Games 5 and 6 to the Canucks but were able to regroup to win Game 7. However, those were slightly different circumstances as Vegas was ahead in the series. With that being said, Vegas could look back at it as inspiration to show themselves that they are still in the series. After all, crazier things have happened in the quest for the Cup.