Attention to detail(s) key to Jets winning in Vegas
The response by the Winnipeg Jets tonight at T-Mobile arena is one that will likely dictate the outcome of this series. That's a bold statement because a 2-1 series lead is hardly devastating when looking at coming back but something seems different with these two teams.
First and foremost, the Jets have to understand that a lot of what went wrong in the game two is correctable and requires that extra level of effort to focus and then execute. That's what Vegas did very well and the Jets did not- almost the opposite of game one.
Where the Jets need to be concerned is with the relentlessness of the Vegas puck pressure and pursuit, and it's like amplified on home ice. The Golden Knights are a lot like the 2012 and 2014 Kings, the literally could not care what the score is- they simply keep coming at you. If the Jets are going to beat this system, we'll talk about that soon enough, they have to understand the little nuances that make it work. After that they have to execute the tactics to beat it, they did that on Saturday but not Monday. If both these teams perform at the same level this game could be a barn burner.
The Vegas system is built on a tenacious disrupting forecheck and puck pressure attack. They drop two forwards in to forecheck in the offensive zone and leave one high to pressure the outlet pass. They also skate like the wind and seemingly have a player available to check the puck carrier. The Jets often had time in their own zone with the puck to start an attack but would be changing lines or players which helps Vegas because it gives the defense few options to send the puck up.
To add to the problems the Golden Knights change there players in one of the most aggressive fashions of any NHL team. They take liberties with too many men that is rarely seen but it's also like slight of hand with a magician, perhaps Penn and Teller are consulting. With the way the Golden Knights move officials watch the play while the rest are changing and often there are a lot of Vegas players on the ice around the bench. Byfuglien tried to draw a penalty by shooting the puck into that area once and in Winnipeg the crowd made their own call on it too. Vegas did get one bench minor for too many men.
Now with home ice it seems the problem could be magnified for the Jets but it's one that can be beat. First the Jets cannot cheat the zone on exits. Too many times there are Jets players waiting at the Vegas blue line for the other to bring the puck up or get it too them- that's far too easy to defend. Other times the forwards were not coming back soon enough. When they did the puck carrier, usually the defense, was being pressured and making evasive moves that prevented a good pass as players were on top of each other. Given the turnovers the Jets had would it not be better to assure zone exists and force Vegas to regroup and come back in rather than give them better opportunities at the Jets blue line or in the offensive zone?
Positioning has to be better as do the passes and that goes hand in hand, one affects the other. H
Here's a variable that few talk about, Vegas is 2100 feet above sea level. It's a bit like Calgary-ight which is 3400 feet above sea level. I think that has a factor in how the teams feel in that arena, it's still less that half of Denver at 5200 feet. Given the speed the Golden Knights play at it would be hard to believe that a bit of a higher altitude is not a disadvantage for the opposition.
One can nitpick about the game on Monday night when looking at what the Jets have to win tonight. It's pretty simple really, keep the Golden Knights busy doing something else than pressuring the Jets in their own zone.
Nik Ehlers- when is he going to score?
Parik Laine- when is he going to score more with just 2 goals in 14 games
Morrissey/Trouba- had tough games on Monday and need to be better in Vegas and beyond
Paul Maurice- has to be able to adjust and manage the game a bit better when his team is flat, better yet don't let them start flat.