Shea Theodore and Deryk Engelland: Locking down and not letting go

Deryk Engelland was perhaps the best defensive defenseman in the series against the Kings. Shea Theodore was the best offensive defenseman. How are they doing it?

Shea Theodore was in on the first two game-winning goals in the Vegas Golden Knights’ sweep of the Los Angeles Kings. He scored the game-winner in Game 1, then followed it up with a secondary assist on Erik Haula’s goal in Game 2.

Theodore played 90:34 in the series against Los Angeles. He had the highest Corsi For percentage at 5-on-5 (61.96) of any player on the team, despite a pretty even workload in both zones. He’s been able to drive the puck forward, even against a stingy Kings defense, and was definitively the best offensive defenseman in the series on either side.

Deryk Engelland played 16:57 shorthanded and was on the ice for just one goal against, which accidentally hit him on the way to the net. Besides that, though, Engelland played 101:43 in the series, the second most of any Golden Knights defenseman.

These two have been paired together all season with Engelland providing the seasoned mentorship Theodore has needed, as he is essentially a rookie. Theodore played just 34 games last season with the Anaheim Ducks before playing 14 in the playoffs. Engelland, on the other hand, has played at least two thirds of every season since 2010. Last season with the Calgary Flames, Engelland played 81 of 82 possible games, averaging 18 minutes per night.

In the first round, Engelland and Theodore were likely the Golden Knights’ best pairing. They faced a list of players that includes Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, Dustin Brown and Alec Martinez, but became particularly familiar with the Kings’ Jeff Carter line, which registered zero goals and zero points in the series. Clearly the defensive duo did their job at even strength.

The ability of Theodore and Engelland to continue to lock down second lines and take away secondary scoring will be important for the Golden Knights. It’s a surprising ability, given their narratives going into this season — Engelland as a veteran who didn’t fit in Calgary and Theodore as an underproven asset who was thought of as having mostly offensive gifts. But they’ve both become better in their own zone as the season wore on. That includes in the playoffs.

Theodore allowed just five high-danger chances in 90 minutes against the Kings, with Engelland allowing 16 in 101 minutes (12 at even strength). For reference, Nate Schmidt allowed 16 and Brayden McNabb allowed 17. Schmidt and McNabb also allowed two goals.

Engelland and Theodore, when playing as a pair... zero.

While Schmidt and McNabb were primarily assigned to Kopitar and Brown, both Theodore and Engelland got time against that line as well, and more than held their own.

They also both drove play very well, with Theodore getting 124 Corsi For versus 65 Corsi against (104-65 at even strength) and Engelland getting 106 for and 109 against (101-86 at even strength) despite getting most of their faceoffs in the neutral and defensive zones. The two of them are deadly.

If they can lock down the Logan Couture line the same way they locked down Carter, then the Golden Knights are that much closer to four victories against the San Jose Sharks.