Again, the Vegas Golden Knights aren’t playing incredibly poorly. They just aren’t playing well. This game, ending in a 4-2 loss, left an increasingly-familiar taste in the mouth, one where defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory. The Golden Knights continued to outplay their opponent everywhere except where it mattered most.
It’s not panic time yet, but something desperately needs to change. Whether that’s bringing in Jake Bischoff to break up the weakest link on the defensive side (the third pairing), keeping in Tomas Hyka, who looked excellent in his first game of the year, getting Tuch back (soon please), or finding a more creative use for the power play. At this point, testing out a two-quarterback unit with Shea Theodore and Colin Miller might not be such a bad thing.
The Knights need to start scoring somehow. They got where they needed to go, and the high-danger spots were lit up against Casey DeSmith.
Yet the Golden Knights are still not able to get anything consistently on the board.
Defensively, the problem wasn’t high-danger chances — the Knights actually allowed very few in this game, just three across the first two periods — but the stretch pass allowed Phil Kessel to score a natural hat trick, leaving the Golden Knights in a deep hole, even after getting the first goal of the game.
Reilly Smith may be back after getting his second goal in back-to-back nights, but besides him and Jonathan Marchessault (two assists), there’s just not enough going on. 1-4-0 is not fun.
Let’s break the game down. Here’s what is meant by the stretch pass being the downfall:
GOAL. Malkin rainbows a pass to Kessel and he makes it 2-1 on the breakaway. pic.twitter.com/S3V5x7CPv8— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) October 12, 2018
Yeah, Kessel just goes neatly in between Miller and Brayden McNabb. That’s a bad goal that could have prevented. Kessel’s first one is one that nobody had much of a chance on:
GOAL. Phil Kessel ties it right off the faceoff. Insane release. We're tied 1-1. pic.twitter.com/lytK1usInd— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) October 11, 2018
Besides winning the faceoff, there’s not much that could have been done by anyone besides Malcolm Subban. Theodore is oddly positioned, but that’s the faceoff strategy. The Penguins build a wall that allows for Kessel to get a shot off. Just not much counter possibility.
Then Kessel beats the same pairing of Miller and McNabb for another stretch pass:
GOAL. Phil Kessel beats the Vegas defense again and gets the hat trick. All three Penguins goals from Kessel. pic.twitter.com/Mia8ssa2y4— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) October 12, 2018
That’s the game-winner. Another preventable goal, especially if Miller skates the entire time and is able to keep up with Kessel.
Tomas Nosek had a nice backhand goal that was the first goal on the board for the Knights, their first lead since Game 1. Here’s Smith’s goal and the excellent setup by Marchessault that preceded it:
GOAL. Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith team up to make it 4-2. Knights aren't out of it yet. pic.twitter.com/xtYgmmMmHH— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) October 12, 2018
That’s two guys who know each other really well, where Marchessault blind passes it and Smith just tucks it in.
For those wanting to know about the performance of Tomas Hyka, here are his stats: 11:43 time on ice, 60 percent Corsi, 53.85 percent shot share, 100 percent high-danger chance share. So yeah, maybe he’s more valuable to keep around the team.