"We're not sharp at all," admitted Jonathan Marchessault on Monday. "We're not satisfied with any part of our game."
After a 2-3 road trip -- a fortunate result, I might add, highlighted by Marc-Andre Fleury's spectacular shutout of the Flyers -- the Golden Knights needed a 60-minute effort to open their five-game homestand.
They got it, trouncing the visiting Sabres 4-1:
Vegas turned to Brad Hunt (77), a healthy scratch to start the season, to spark a 0-16 power play, placing him on the top unit with Max Pacioretty and the William Karlsson line.
Hunt did his part, contributing to the team's first power play goal of the year and quarterbacking clean zone entry after zone entry.
On Marchessault's (81) power play strike, Hunt skates with speed at the F1 and F2 of Buffalo's penalty kill, Evan Rodrigues (71) and Patrik Berglund (10). This is important because when Hunt drops the puck back to Karlsson (71), both Sabres forwards are flat-footed and driven back.
This gives Karlsson -- who receives the drop pass in stride and not too deep in the zone -- the space to rocket out of the zone...and right at Rodrigues and Berglund. It's critical to preoccupy the penalty-killing forwards up the middle because it opens up Reilly Smith's (19) lane on the outside.
Karlsson hits Smith with the pass. While Smith doesn't have a lot of momentum, Hunt and Karlsson have created so much space for him, he can walk into the zone with little immediate pressure. Karlsson, who hasn't lost any of his speed, enters simultaneously with Smith -- and one Berglund blown assignment later, Marchessault beats Carter Hutton.
Hunt and company took advantage of a passive Buffalo PK on the Marchessault goal. But here, both the F1 (Vladimir Sobotka) and the F2 (Zemgus Girgensons) are up on Hunt, who's coming from behind the net, heading to his left.
Hunt feints to his right, drawing Sobotka and Girgensons over there for a split-second. That gives the blueliner a little more time and space to hit Smith standing at the left. However, Smith, who has no momentum, is too far from the blueline. Smartly, Smith pauses with the puck, allowing the two Vegas trailers, Karlsson and Marchessault, to build speed.
It's basically a delayed drop pass and Hunt's part isn't done yet. Karlsson, who has received the Smith drop pass, benefits from Hunt setting a pick on Girgensons. This gives Karlsson easy entry, which almost leads to a Pacioretty (67) chance.
In all, the Golden Knights enjoyed seven clean zone entries i.e. carry-ins in seven entry attempts. That's impressive. For some perspective, Vegas only had a 62.0% successful 5v4 carry-in success rate before last night's contest, which partially explains 0-16 and the constant shifting of power play personnel in the earlygoing.
(For a primer on power play entries and why carry-ins are generally more effective than dump-ins, read here.)
In comparison, Corey Sznajder tracked 28 Golden Knights games last year. Their overall power play carry-in success rate was 72.7% in those contests.
Not to say that Hunt deserved all or even most of the credit. But it was a solid effort from the offensive specialist.
"The breakouts were really clean," agreed Gerard Gallant. "Reminded me a lot of when [Tuch] is playing, he comes down that dot with a lot of speed. I thought the guys had more speed tonight. They made good passes."
For the purposes of simplicity, I counted successful carry-ins and passes into the zone as one and the same. After all, the result, a successful controlled offensive zone entry, is the same.
Through seven games, here are overall 5v4 carry-in success rate figures for the Golden Knights: