The Vegas Golden Knights may be the only undefeated franchise in NHL history, but that doesn’t mean everything is rainbows and butterflies for the boys in Sin City.
As the Golden Knights prepare to take on the Arizona Coyotes in what should be an emotional home opener Tuesday night, one thing remains a major issue — the power play. The Golden Knights have had 11 power play opportunities to start the season and they’ve converted on exactly zero of them.
Of course, it’s only been two games, though. They can’t possibly be that bad on the man advantage, can they?
As a matter of fact, yes. They can be that bad.
This isn’t an out-of-the-blue problem for the Knights. Vegas’ power play has been struggling since long before the season even started. Dating back to their Sept. 24 game against the Anaheim Ducks, the Golden Knights have gone scoreless on 32 straight power play opportunities, which is almost unheard of.
So what’s the problem? What do the Golden Knights need to do to fix the issues on the man advantage?
One possible solution would be getting closer to the net. In the Golden Knights’ 2-1 win over the Coyotes on Saturday, they had a hard time getting into the greasy areas of the ice. In the chart below (via HockeyViz), you’ll notice how Arizona forced Vegas to take the majority of their shots outside the slot, thus allowing Antti Raanta to see shots more clearly when shorthanded.
It also doesn’t help that the Golden Knights lack the personnel necessary to ice two effective power play units. While Vegas’ first unit (James Neal, Jonathan Marchessault, Brendan Leipsic, Reilly Smith, Colin Miller) has more than enough artillery to put pucks in the net, the second unit is far from a formidable ensemble.
Each skater on the second power play unit (William Karlsson, Cody Eakin, Erik Haula, Nate Schmidt, David Perron) combined for a grand total of 17 power play points last season (13 of which came from Perron). That’s chump change compared to the 44 combined power play points accumulated by the skaters on the first unit, and that’s not counting the six power play goals Leipsic registered with the Toronto Marlies.
The Golden Knights are clearly top-heavy on the power play and it may be a good idea to break up the first unit to distribute the talent more evenly across both units.
That said, keeping the units as they are may also pay dividends. The majority of players on Vegas’ roster still need time to develop chemistry with their linemates. Repeatedly rearranging the lines may only prolong the issue rather than end it altogether.
But if chemistry proves not to be the problem, the Golden Knights could always call up training camp darlings Alex Tuch and Shea Theodore, who have combined for nine (9!) points in just two games for the Chicago Wolves. The two proved in camp that they have the skill to make an impact on the man advantage. If current trends persist, they may finally get that opportunity.
And let’s also not forget about Vadim Shipachyov! The 30-year-old KHL star should be playing for the Golden Knights as is, but Vegas is apparently dealing with a “numbers issue” that’s keeping him off the squad. Shipachyov, coming off a 26-goal, 76-point campaign (including 11 power play goals) in the KHL, would probably be able to contribute a thing or two on the man advantage.
The Golden Knights take on the Coyotes once again this evening in the first-ever regular season contest at the T-Mobile Arena. What better time to get the power play going than in the home opener?