Tuesday evening’s game was a Western Conference Finals rematch and the Winnipeg Jets were able to exact some revenge on the Vegas Golden Knights, winning the game 4-1. Winnipeg got a two-goal performance from University of Michigan grad, Kyle Connor, who scored his 17th and 18th goals of the season. Mathieu Perrault and Mark Scheifele were the other goal scorers for Winnipeg.
Brandon Pirri had the lone goal for the Golden Knights to start the second period, cutting the Jets’ lead to one goal. For the game, the Golden Knights outshot the Jets 44-27, on their way to their second loss in the last three games. With the Golden Knights' loss and the San Jose Sharks’ win over Pittsburgh (current seven-game winning streak), Vegas slid two more points behind San Jose, for third place in the Pacific and now trail by three point. San Jose also has a game in hand. Vegas holds a sizable lead over the fourth place Edmonton Oilers, 13 points ahead, with three more games played. It is still early, but worth noting now, in the second half of the season.
Brandon Pirri-Brayden McNabb (USA Today Sports)
What went wrong for the Golden Knights in this one? With such a disparity in shot totals, one would assume Vegas ran away with the game, especially with a backup goaltender in net for Winnipeg. Much to the dismay of the Vegas Golden Knights and their fans, that was clearly not the case. The Golden Knights did not play a bad game, by any means, but simply couldn’t get the job done. Their constant pressure was evident throughout as they accumulated 18 High Danger Chances (confirmed by Natural Stat Trick). Vegas also dominated the Corsi (shot creation) numbers, with a 61.4 CF% against the Jets, for the game. The Golden Knights generated a total of 70 shot attempts, with 44 registered as being on goal. They out-chanced Winnipeg 36-20 and still lost a 4-1 game. Two of the goals were empty-netters, so it is more accurate to look at this one as a one-goal game, that Vegas couldn’t even up. How can a team dominate a game and lose? Let’s look at the three major things that stood out from this game.
1) Goaltender Laurent Brossoit is White-Hot:
Winnipeg opted to send out their backup goalie to face the Vegas Golden Knights. Coming into the game, Brossoit boasted a rock-solid line of a 9-1-1 record, 2.10 GAA, and .939 SV%. Somehow, he was able to improve every one of those numbers against the Golden Knights. The 25-year-old netminder turned away 43 of 44 Golden Knight shots for his 10th win of the season. He has outperformed incumbent starter Connor Hellebuyck thus far, albeit in far fewer games. After this performance in Vegas, Brossoit will be on many teams’ radars; he is no slouch. Brossoit now owns a 10-1-1 record, 2.01 GAA, and .943 SV% in 11 starts this season. For a guy with just 40 NHL games (career: 17-14-3, 2.65 GAA, .914 SV%), he looks like the real deal in goal. Winnipeg has a good one here, but Hellebuyck will continue to start, with his $7 million raise this past offseason.
2) Vegas’ Power Play is Going Through a Power Outage:
Watching the Golden Knights, it is clear to see that there is an issue with the power play. On Tuesday night in Winnipeg, the Golden Knights had six power play opportunities, including a prolonged 5-on-3 advantage, but were unable to score a goal. It seems as if the Golden Knights staff are unsure of what personnel to use and where, on the power play. For much of the game, the power play units operated as follows. PP1: Cody Eakin-William Karlsson-Jonathan Marchessault-Oscar Lindberg with Shea Theodore on D. PP2: Max Pacioretty-Paul Stastny-Alex Tuch-Brandon Pirri with Nate Schmidt on D. One thing that was lacking throughout the power play was a net-front presence. Say what you want about Ryan Reaves, but at least he wreaks havoc on the goaltender, creating traffic out front. Gerard Gallant gave Reaves a shift on the power play, to no avail. Reaves’ presence out front, could help snap the Golden Knights out of their current power play funk. Vegas is currently 18% with the man-advantage, below the league average of 19.94%. Winnipeg took six penalties in the game, seemingly feeling safe against the Vegas power play.
3) Vegas Dominated the Game in All Standard and Advanced Stats:
As mentioned previously, Vegas played a solid game, especially at even strength. The Golden Knights held a 17 shot on goal advantage over the Jets. In the Corsi battle, which measures game flow, pressure, and shot generation, Vegas held a distinct advantage. The Golden Knights attempted 70 shots on the evening, versus 44 for Winnipeg, meaning 26 were blocked or missed the net completely. Below you can find the Natural Stat Trick Gameflow Chart to help visualize the momentum held by the Golden Knights. On the chart, there are dots to show when goals were scored.
Vegas predictably had the edge in Scoring Chances For (36-20) and High Danger Chances For (18-8), going on four more power plays than Winnipeg. Normally when a team gains such an upper hand in Corsi, but loses, they did not get to the high danger areas, but that was not the case last night for Vegas. As displayed in the heat maps below (also from Natural Stat Trick), Vegas’ presence in the high danger areas is evident.
The Golden Knights are usually advanced stat darlings, therefore a deeper dive is normally required to figure out what went wrong on a game-by-game basis. Vegas often falls victim to playing on the perimeter too regularly and not working the puck to the low slot, which is the easiest place to score goals. Their over-reliance on outside shots does not look to be what did them in on Tuesday evening.
Essentially, the hot goalie in net for Winnipeg, mixed with a need for revenge got the Winnipeg Jets past the Vegas Golden Knights. The Jets had a good crowd in attendance for this rematch of the Western Finals, where the Golden Knights won four straight games to take the series 4-1, on their way to the Stanley Cup Finals. Every Golden Knight player had a target on their back walking into the Bell MTS Place. Vegas responded well to the challenge and were simply unable to crack Brossoit. The Vegas Golden Knights return home for a three-game home-stand, with the first game coming Saturday against the Pittsburgh Penguins. With a few days off, the Golden Knights have time to figure out the power play. With a goal or two on the power play, the Golden Knights could have swung momentum and won this game. Since December 1st, the Golden Knights’ power play is operating at 17% (11 for 63) which isn’t terrible, but is also below the aforementioned league average. Be sure to head over to City National Arena on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday to check out the team’s prep for Saturday’s game against the Penguins.
Coming into the game, Alex Tuch had an active nine-game point streak, trailing only David Perron of the St. Louis Blues (11 games). Tuch failed to record a point. Perron picked up a goal against the New York Islanders, extending his league-best streak to 12 games. Brandon Pirri extended his point streak to six games with his eighth goal of the season. Pirri is the only point per game player on the Vegas Golden Knights (8 goals, 5 assists for 13 points in 11 games).
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