There hasn’t been a better time to be a Vegas Golden Knights fan. The team cannot lose! Heading into Saturday night’s tilt against the Anaheim Ducks, the boys from Sin City we’re on an eight-game winning streak. Having already clinched a playoff spot, they are now essentially playing for first place in the Honda West Division, as well as bragging rights against the second-place Colorado Avalanche.
Not only did they secure their ninth straight win on Saturday night, they absolutely controlled the game from the get-go. So, without any further ado, let us jump right into it and analyze three key takeaways from last night’s 5-1 win over the Ducks.
Fly, Stephenson, Fly
Chandler Stephenson had arguably his best game of the entire season last night, as he finished with two goals and an assist, as well as playing like a true No. 1 center throughout the entire game. What was the key to Stephenson’s success last night? His speed.
Stephenson possesses underrated speed, which many opposing defenders don’t seem to appreciate. This makes it easy for him to catch the defense flat-footed. An example of this would be his second goal last night, which was a partial breakaway. Stephenson finds an opening and is being clocked by his teammate Shea Theodore the entire time.
As soon as Theodore sees Stephenson has a bit of wiggle room to maneuver with his speed against the defender he hits him with a beautiful tape-to-tape pass for a partial breakaway. Once he receives the puck, all he needs to do is take one to two strides and he is gone. Because the opposing defenders didn’t realize how fast and explosive he actually is, he walks in and shelfs it on John Gibson.
His speed throughout the night created lethal scoring chances for the Golden Knights and led to him posting three points on the stat sheet. If Stephenson can stay in this groove heading into the playoffs, the team will easily get by anyone in the first two rounds.
Defense Wins Championships
How many times do I have to write about it until people start taking notice? The Golden Knights defense is one of, if not the, best defensive corps in the league. Last night’s performance further solidified that argument. The defense last night was outstanding; their breakout passes we’re superb, causing so many odd-man rushes and counter attacks that it swamped the Ducks. Their ability to hold the line and not let the Ducks forwards get through was sensational and their ability to flow and weave with each other was remarkable.
The defenseman who had the biggest game out of all was Theodore. He is one of the most underrated players in all the NHL. His on-ice vision is up there with the best, his ability to read the play and create defensive structure in our own zone is superb and he has a hell of a shot that seems to find empty holes in goalies’ equipment.
Theodore now has seven goals and 33 assists for 40 points in 44 games, but his biggest contributions are off the scoresheet. His abilities as a leader are paramount and the Golden Knights should count themselves lucky to have such a stud of a hockey player on the back end.
Shoot for the Stars
As stated earlier, the Golden Knights have now won nine in a row and will look to make that 10 in a row on Wednesday against the Colorado Avalanche. If the boys in Gold and Silver keep playing the way they are, they could realistically take this winning streak as far as they want.
The key to their success during this winning streak is their ability to create speed while in the neutral zone heading into opposing zone, as well as their players’ ability to retain a high shots on goal converted percentage, as they currently have six players who have taken more than 50 shots and who have a percentage higher than 13 percent converting on their shots.
These numbers are remarkable and if the Golden Knights can keep this up, which is feasible, then we will most likely see more five- and six-goal games from them in the future.
Onto the Next
As stated earlier, the Golden Knights take on the Avalanche on Wednesday and will look to push their winning streak into double-digit territory.
How far do you think this winning streak can go? Let me know in the comments below!
Michael Vidakis is a Montreal native who writes for the Vegas Golden Knights team here at The Hockey Writers. In his spare time, he enjoys the finer things in life such as Jean-Claude Van Damme movies, staring aimlessly outside windows and tangerines.