The Vegas Golden Knights lost again. Their record has fallen to 5-7-1, and their offense has vanished. The first line isn’t producing, their defense can’t keep up and at this point, even Marc-Andre Fleury can’t bail them out. Everything that worked well for Vegas last season seems to have disappeared.
This isn’t the result of a curse. We like to joke about it, but that’s nonsense. In the light of November, it’s clear the Golden Knights just aren’t getting enough good chances and are giving up too many to other teams. That’s why too many of the Knights’ games have been multi-goal losses.
Yes, the Golden Knights were better than their opponent, yet again, in terms of Corsi, shot share and scoring chances. But the St. Louis Blues got the best of the Knights in the high-danger areas, out-producing Vegas at 5-on-5 (9-6), and they took advantage of opportunities when the Knights couldn’t.
Here’s the heat map that proves that:
Ultimately, a quick power-play goal for the Blues and two goals from Oskar Sundqvist proved too much for the Golden Knights to overcome. It seems as though Vegas can’t overcome an opponent’s lead this season. Either everything breaks in their favor or it’s the opposite. There doesn’t seem to be a middle ground.
Tonight was another game where things just didn’t go Vegas’ way. It’s getting harder to write off these losses for this team.
But let’s break down how this one played out.
Sundqvist started the scoring for St. Louis with this move:
That occurred thanks to a confluence of bad decisions. Brayden McNabb fell short defensively, Fleury positioned himself awkwardly, taking himself out of any second-chance save, and William Carrier didn’t get all of it with his stick. Carrier made the best play here, though, so he’s not the one who should shoulder most of the blame.
Then, following a great shift that included strong plays by both Carrier and Ryan Reaves to keep the puck on net, great cycling as well as multiple chances, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare did this:
That’s consistent with a common theme so far this season — at times, the fourth line has been the best line for Vegas. While that’s a good sign for those three forwards — Bellemare, Carrier and Reaves — it’s a bad sign for everyone else. The team as a unit doesn’t operate successfully when the fourth line is the only one that’s scoring.
After an insane Vladimir Tarasenko goal where the puck magically found him eight seconds into a power play, Erik Haula responded quickly. This was an example of the Golden Knights hockey we saw last year.
GOAL. Erik Haula with the deflection to tie it up. pic.twitter.com/3gG28BEmJs— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) November 2, 2018
In the play, Shea Theodore took the puck off the faceoff and got it to the net, where Haula tipped it in. This is the type of play Vegas hasn’t mastered so far this season, but it works. That’s because Haula was in the high-danger area, exactly where he needs to be.
It’s not all good news for Theodore, however, as a turnover at the opposite blue line later led to a snipe goal for Sundqvist, his second of the game and second of the season. Theodore has been trying to do too much to try and gain entry to the zone or keep the puck from trickling back over the line, and that’s two games in a row now where it’s come back to hurt him.
Colton Parayko later score what turned out to be the game-winning goal. Everyone on the Knights blew their assignment in this play, leading to a wide-open shot for Parayko, who put it away. Yes, he’s a defenseman, but as one of the Blues’ best offensive defensemen, he can’t be left alone. In fact, no player in an NHL game can be left alone the way he was in this play.
GOAL. Colton Parayko makes it 4-2. pic.twitter.com/YRgk0cgY8V— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) November 2, 2018
Alex Tuch then scored from the paint on the power play to make it 4-3.
GOAL. Alex Tuch scores a sludgeball to make it 4-3. pic.twitter.com/KGumwYrVSF— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) November 2, 2018
Again, Tuch was exactly where he needed to be, in the highest-danger location, and he took advantage of his positioning. It’s clear from Tuch’s performance over the last few games that the Knights desperately needed him back. Plus, this goal makes it four games in a row in which Vegas has lit the lamp on the power play.
But St. Louis later took advantage of a shoddy defensive setup, which ultimately put the game out of reach. Tyler Bozak got assigned to Tuch, who blew the assignment after some shuffling. It just didn’t work.
GOAL. Blues reclaim the two-goal lead. pic.twitter.com/AMc7jjhxzy— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) November 2, 2018
That’s the message of this game: it just didn’t work. That’s the message of the season so far. Nothing’s working. It’s more than just luck; the team just isn’t finding a way to get enough high-danger chances or opportunities that can actually beat a goaltender.
A few bounces leading to a close loss is puck luck. Two-goal deficits like tonight’s, as well as multiple losses in a row, is this team just not being good enough.