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Why Ryan Reaves and Alex Tuch are the heroes the Golden Knights’ power play needs right now

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After an incredibly rough start — talking bottom-of-the-league rough — the Golden Knights’ power play is still dead last, despite a three-game run of goals. Here’s how they can continue to build off their recent success.

NHL: Vancouver Canucks at Vegas Golden Knights
Vegas Golden Knights right wing Ryan Reaves (75) celebrates his goal
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Last in the league.

Let me say that again. The Golden Knights’ power play is the worst in the entire NHL — well, tied for last (with the Chicago Blackhawks). This is not ideal. The Knights have the worst capitalization rate, with a 12.2-percent success rate and just five goals in 41 opportunities.

This is not ideal, and not nearly good enough. Especially when last year, the Golden Knights were tied for 10th in the league. Their lack of success on the power play is also contributing heavily to the below .500 performance the Knights have had.

So what’s the problem here? More importantly, what is the solution? How do the Knights fix what is plaguing them, and get back on track? Hopefully, if the Knights can be better on the power play, that can lead to more wins. After all, there’s nothing wrong with more goals for this team.

It starts with, surprisingly, Ryan Reaves. See, Reaves (and Alex Tuch) represents something the Knights haven’t had a ton of without him on the power play — high-danger opportunities. In the 16 straight opportunities the Golden Knights blew, they only had 7 high-danger chances. Part of this is because of the lack of a net-front presence.

That’s why a power play of Max Pacioretty, Shea Theodore, William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith didn’t work, even though every indicator says it should have. Those five generate a ton of rebound chances, and with due respect to Smith as a net-front presence, nobody was there to clean it up. It’s why Tuch and Reaves are so necessary.

Since the seventh game of the season, the second game against the Buffalo Sabres, Reaves has begun playing more and more time on the power play. He has two high-danger chances since then. He also has a goal. Tuch began playing in the ninth game this year, against the Vancouver Canucks. He has four high-danger chances since then, one per game. He has a primary assist.

In the three games that they have both been on the power play for at least one minute, the Golden Knights have one power-play goal per game. They’ve increased the number of shots, high-danger chances and have just looked downright better.

They both represent the reason the Golden Knights score on the power play. High-danger chances. Of the five goals the Knights have, three have come from home plate. One has come from royal road — the stretch of ice extending from the paint to the blue line. Only Smith’s goal is an oddity, from outside either high-percentage area. He scored from the playoff circle, but on the wrong side.

Besides the game against the Canucks, when the Knights have generated three or more high-danger opportunities on the power play, they have scored. Nashville is also an outlier with just one high-danger chance, but considering Nashville’s defense, that makes sense.

Also, when the Knights generate more than five shots, they score. Vancouver obeys that rule, and so does Nashville (the Golden Knights had four against Buffalo, however). This team is one that thrives on creating a multitude of chances, putting everything on net and finding a way to put everything towards the goaltender. When that becomes the strategy on the power play, it works.

The opposite is also true. No Golden Knights defenseman has a high-danger opportunity to their name on the power play, which explains why the Golden Knights’ defensemen have not had a power-play goal despite 12 shots on net. Both Colin Miller and Shea Theodore have created multiple rebound opportunities, however, and with better net-front presences (and screens), goals should start coming.

So the strategy needs to be finding ways to the high-danger areas and getting to the middle on the power play. Launching shots on net from there will help the Golden Knights get better and is a good strategy at even-strength as well. Reaves and Tuch help with that, which is why they’re valuable on the man advantage, and should be permanent fixtures. Their ability to screen the goaltender doesn’t hurt either.

Who knew the solution to the power play was Ryan Reaves (and Tuch, but everybody knew that)?