The Vegas Golden Knights came out of the All-Star Break with a bang after defeating the Nashville Predators 5-1 on the road, snapping their four-game losing streak and taking back the top spot in the Pacific Division.
While the Predators are fifth in the Central Division and are four points behind the Calgary Flames for the second wild card spot in the Western Conference, they entered the All-Star Break playing some of their best hockey all season. They won five of their last six games before this matchup, including three straight against the New Jersey Devils, Los Angeles Kings, and Winnipeg Jets, all teams who are sitting firmly in the playoff picture.
One of the main storylines for the Predators this season has been the bounce-back performance of former Golden Knights first-round draft pick Cody Glass. After being traded to Nashville in the summer of 2021, he played just eight NHL games before spending the remainder of the season playing for the American Hockey League’s (AHL) Milwaukee Admirals, where he recorded 62 points in 66 games.
Glass is currently having the best season of his NHL career with 18 points through 39 games, and is getting regular top-six minutes playing alongside Filip Forsberg and Matt Duchene. He only ever played 66 games with the Golden Knights through two seasons and recorded just 22 points, so it’s great to see that he’s finally found a role and is having success at the NHL level.
The Golden Knights continued to play without Mark Stone for this game after it was announced that he successfully underwent back surgery on Jan. 31, and will remain out of the lineup indefinitely. On the positive end of the injury spectrum, Zach Whitecloud returned to action after missing 21 games with a leg injury, giving a huge boost to the defensive core.
Golden Knights’ Defensive Dominance
The Golden Knights played a nearly perfect game defensively through the first two periods. They allowed just four shots against in the first period, which was the fewest they’d allowed in a period all season. Then they broke that record by allowing just two in the second period.
They completely denied any rush chances that the Predators tried to develop by getting their sticks and bodies in the shooting lanes, which was something that they had excelled at in the early part of the season.
This is exactly the way that the Golden Knights needed to play coming out of the All-Star Break. Bruce Cassidy has proven that his defensive scheme is meant to frustrate opponents into forcing dangerous plays and cause turnovers, and they re-established that style of play in this game.
Related: Golden Knights’ Analytics Showing Bruce Cassidy’s Positive Impact
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They were able to catch the Predators flat-footed numerous times and generate odd-man rushes with ease, and it was all because of the effort in their own end. They also had a quick pace to their breakout all night, headlined in particular by Shea Theodore and his ability to consistently make the right decisions with the puck and jump into the rush when the time was right.
Golden Knights’ Depth Driving the Offense
The Golden Knights’ bottom six set the tone offensively in this game, and William Carrier was at the center of nearly all of their first-period chances. He seems to have gotten some influence from Stone with his ability to cause turnovers in the neutral zone and was consistently stopping the Predators from getting anywhere close to the net.
Carrier is now riding a five-game point streak and seems to have found quite a bit of chemistry alongside Chandler Stephenson and Phil Kessel, with each of them recording a goal in this game. Kessel’s was his 10th of the season, which is already two more than he scored through 82 games with the Arizona Coyotes last season, and has been playing a lot better at both ends of the ice as of late.
Their zone entries were also as clean as they’ve been all season. They positioned themselves well enough on the rush to spread out the Predators’ defense and give space for wide-open shots while also giving the option for a cross-seam pass. There really wasn’t a lot of criticism to give this line for their performance in this game, but consistency has been this team’s main issue all season, so it only really matters if they continue to play well.
The Golden Knights only managed to score five total goals through their recent four-game losing streak, and they put up five in this game with barely any contributions from their top-six. With Stone out, these are the performances from players deeper in the lineup that are going to make the biggest difference, and hopefully they can build off of this game moving forward.
This was one of the best games that the Golden Knights have played in a long time. After giving up the opening goal early in the first period, they immediately turned things around and had the Predators on their heels for the rest of the night. In previous games, it felt like they were always coming out flat in at least one of the three periods of play, and that just wasn’t the case here.
The Golden Knights will get a day off and continue their road trip on Thursday night when they take on the Minnesota Wild for the first time this season.