The Vegas Golden Knights’ first line is one of the best lines in hockey, and one not to be trifled with.
In the playoffs, Reilly Smith, William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault have accumulated 10 goals at 5-on-5 when on ice together. They have 54.28 percent of the Corsi, 51.92 percent of the shots and 71.43 percent of the goals. They’re also tied in the high-danger battle in terms of chances, but have scored five and only allowed two. That’s all while starting most of their shifts in the defensive zone. They’re an incredibly efficient, proactive and powerful top trio.
And then you add in Shea Theodore to the mix.
In nearly 50 minutes of the first line plus Theodore, the Golden Knights have 62.60 percent of the Corsi. 56.14 percent of the shots, 62.50 percent of the high-danger chances and a 100 percent on-ice save percentage.
That’s right, when the first line plus Theodore are on the ice together at 5-on-5, they haven’t allowed a single goal. They have scored three goals, two of them from high-danger areas.
So I guess the point of this article is: WHY THE HELL ISN’T EVERY SHIFT FOR THE FIRST LINE WITH THEODORE? The foursome plays together on the power play, so they’ve built plenty of chemistry throughout the season, obviously contributing to their massive success together in the playoffs.
Here are the stats for the first line without Theodore: 50.70 percent of the Corsi, 50.33 percent of the shots, 43.75 percent of the high-danger chances. The first line has seven goals without Theodore, but has been scored on four times. The high-danger goal battle is 3-2.
For due diligence, Theodore without the first line: 49.73 Corsi, 49.16 shot share, 56.96 high-danger share. Seven goals for and six goals against, 3-4 high danger. Again, the worse outcomes happen outside of the quartet.
Those are massive drops from their production with Theodore. Perhaps that’s because of the all-around capabilities of what might be Vegas’ best quartet. With the defensive capabilities of Smith and Karlsson, plus the development of Theodore into one of the better defensemen in the series against Winnipeg, the quartet can backcheck effectively.
They can also move the puck up ice on one of four different sticks and do so with speed. Then, once they’re in the offensive zone, they’re able to hold the puck there. The three forwards have excellent awareness and can maneuver even with pressure. Then they can get it to Theodore, who often has space and can create it when necessary. The damage he can do when stick handling is seen often.
That’s probably why they’re so good statistically. They have all the tools at their disposal, and can generate pressure and affect the game when the combination is put together. It still begs the question, why aren’t they put together more often. They have 49:49 of on-ice time as the quartet. The first line has 153:13 without Theodore. But they are drastically different outcomes.
The mind of Gerard Gallant can be hard to figure out, but he always makes the correct decision. Whatever the reason is that he doesn’t put them together more often must be a good one.
Still, going into the Stanley Cup Final, it’s always good to have a secret weapon or two. The quartet of Marchessault, Karlsson, Smith, and Theodore might be the Golden Knights’ most powerful, and could be used in crucial offensive situations going forward.