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Knights on Ice — Trash
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Dateline: Las Vegas, NV
Thursday, March 11, 2021

 

Before you lose your lunch thinking that I’m calling the VGK performance last night “trash,” all I’m doing is quoting Mark Stone and his assessment of the team in their 4-3 loss to the Minnesota Wild.

“We didn’t break the puck out well, we didn’t transition the puck well, we didn’t make proper plays in the O-zone, we just didn’t get any sustained zone time,” forward Mark Stone said. “Our execution was trash.”

For the second time in back-to-back games, the VGK offered Marc-Andre Fleury virtually no support, except for the last 6 minutes of the 3rd period, but we’ll get to that.

First, VGK rookie defenseman Dylan Coghlan scored his first NHL goal 1:23 after Minnesota took advantage of a Shea Theodore turnover just 19 seconds into the game for the opening goal, a lead they would never lose.

Shea Theodore for some reason thought that moving the puck up through the middle in your defensive zone is the optimum play. Trust me, this is textbook coaching: If you don’t have a clear path to move the puck up the middle in your defensive zone, you use the boards. The boards actually create an additional player for you and a safer outlet. Shea’s play resulted in the opening goal 19 seconds in.

Alex Martinez apparently didn’t learn from Theodore’s mistake. He also didn’t use the boards and in almost the same exact spot gave away the puck in the middle. This time, Fleury made the save with a lightning-fast glove — or, as Patrick Sharp a analyst on NBC Sports Network claimed, the puck just found its way into Fleury’s glove. He had to eat those words during the 2nd intermission after Fleury’s spectacular play, especially with his glove, keeping Minnesota to 1 goal in the first 40 minutes.

The often-reliable Chandler Stephenson also used the middle of the ice in the defensive zone when he didn’t have the time or space with the puck. It didn’t wind up in the back of the net this time, but you just can’t break down defensively like this against a team as good as Minnesota, especially when your team isn’t providing any offense to speak of.

The VGK power play continues to struggle. In the last 2 games, they’ve registered only 6 shots on the net in 5 power play attempts. The Minnesota Wild, who have the 31st-ranked power play in the league, scored 1 PPG on 2 attempts.

Kaapo Kahkonen, who shut out the VGK on Monday, stopped 22 of the 25 shots he faced and increased his winning streak to 8 in a row, the longest winning streak this season for a goaltender.

Marc-Andre Fleury was pulled from the game after Carson Soucy scored Minnesota’s 4th goal to go ahead 4-1 at the 7:41 mark of the 3rd period. Post-game, DeBoer said pulling Fleury was “strictly” about keeping him ready for games on Friday and Saturday.

“He’s played a lot of hockey,” DeBoer said. “It was a chance to get a young guy into a game, so if he does get a start down the road, it’s not going to be brand new for him. But the underlying motivation was to get (Fleury) 10 minutes less hockey and a few less shots going into the weekend.”

The “young guy” was Logan Thompson, an undrafted 23-year-old Calgary native the VGK signed to a two-year entry-level contract last July.

The goalie switch might have been to give Fleury a rest, but it also seemed to send a message to the team. Their play revved up a few notches, with the play consistently in Minnesota’s defensive zone, as Thompson faced only 2 shots his entire time in the net.

DeBoer also pulled Thompson for the extra skater with just under 6 minutes left in the game, a bold move. But being down 4-1, there was really nothing to lose. Thompson did return to the net; DeBoer even changed him on the fly, sending him back in while play was going on. That’s so rare, I’ve never seen it done before. DeBoer claims it was the only time he could recall doing such a thing. With under a minute to go in the game and the VGK scoring 2 goals, which we’ll get to shortly, it was now a one-goal game and things were getting interesting. Could the VGK really muster a 4th goal to tie the game up?

Well, when Alex Tuch found the puck on his stick with just 12 seconds left in the game and a wide-open net in front of him, almost everyone watching assumed that Tuch would put the biscuit behind Kaapo and complete a miracle comeback, while also making DeBoer look like a genius in his decision of replacing Fleury. Tuch shot it wide and was seen bent over with his stick resting on his knees in disbelief as the game ended. He actually skated all the way to the locker room in that position.

We’re now in a tough 2-game losing streak to a divisional opponent that’s now just 2 points behind the VGK for 1st place. Vegas does have a game in hand on the Wild. These games are just not 2-point games this year, with all 56 games being played within the Honda West Division.

Now for the VGK’s second and third goals. As you recall, rookie defenseman Dylan Coghlan scored the VGK’s first goal, also his first score in the NHL. Then he scored the second goal and the third goal. You read that right: a hat trick. Now check this out.

It was the first hat trick for a VGK defenseman in its 4-year history. Coghlan is also just the 3rd player in the history of the NHL to score a hat trick in a game where he scored his first goal. The other 2 players to accomplish this were Uli Heimen for the NJ Devils on 13/31/1984 vs. Chicago, and you have to go back over 103 years for the other player, Joe Hall, who accomplished this rare feat on 1/21/1918 for the Montreal Canadians vs. Ottawa. It’s a crying shame to waste such a momentous occasion.

Other notes. Mark Stone returned to the lineup after missing one game. Robin Lehner has resumed skating and is practicing with the Henderson Silver Knights, which is encouraging news for the team, as Fleury will need to rest with the condensed schedule. Alex Pietrangelo missed his 2nd game in a row and the news isn’t good, as his injury seems to be more than day to day. Speculation is it could be 4 to 6 weeks and the rumors are that it’s a hairline fracture.

My 3 stars of the Game: Joel Eriksson (2 goals), Dylan Coghlan (3 goals and 5 SOG, the most of any VGK player, and that says it all), Pete DeBoer (whose goalie switch woke up the team, but fell just wide on Tuch’s missed shot)

Next game is tomorrow vs. St. Louis at 5 p.m. Pacific Time.

Your comments and opinions are welcome here at Las Vegas Advisor or you may contact me directly at [email protected] or on my Facebook page or the Facebook page of Vegas Hockey Guy or on Twitter @TheRealJoePane

One other note: If you’re reading this blog from Facebook or Twitter and would like to access it earlier in the morning before I share it on social media, it’s usually published by 8 a.m. the morning after a game on LasVegasAdvisor.com. What better way is there to enjoy your morning coffee than reading my take on last night’s VGK game?

Theodore’s giveaway 19 seconds in

One of Fleury’s many glove saves

All of Coghlan’s goals

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