Coaches’ Room Former NHL coaches and assistants focus their attention on the game during the 2019-20 season and explain it through the teacher’s lens. Rob Jetler and Rob Cookson provide insight into the rest of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
In this edition, Jetler, a former assistant to the San Jose Sharks’ 3-0 victory over the Dallas Stars in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals, tied the Best-of-7 series 1-1 with the Stars. He discussed why not switch to Golden Knights Game 3 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, the hub city for the conference finals and the Stanley Cup Final (8pm ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).
A big key to the success of the Golden Knights is how well they play in the transition game. Turn quickly when they are puck and the snow will come up.
Vegas also defends in that way, right in your face, with its defenses keeping the opposition at the blue line, its forwards coming back strongly, backtracking and making any forwards in the NHL, forcing turnovers.
The Golden Knights have always been a good tracking team, giving their defenders a lot of confidence that they will be able to stand at the line if they get a beat, knowing that there is a good chance of backing them up.
We always talked about their tracking and how much pressure they put on the puck through the backcheck when I was training against them with sharks.
The Stars, however, do not even like to play that kind of up-and-down style in Game 2.
Instead, it was like Dallas, and I didn’t know if it was strategic, I wanted to play more games side by side with hopes of opening more ice and relaxing the Vegas gaps, blocking the Golden Knights. From defending your face and relentlessly back checking.
Stars content appeared to try to use the width of the ice instead of the length, but it played against them as it was slower to move sideways through the neutral zone. They were unable to produce much speed from the rush and lost 3-0.
Tweak Dallas is looking for Game 3, trying to produce more speed with the takeover.
The coaches are probably talking about that Wednesday, the day between games, “How do we overcome their good gaps and penetrate them with speed? How can we create speed through a cleaner, clearer and more neutral zone? Quick entries into the offensive zone?”
It’s good to play with the Stars puck when they’re in the offensive zone, but they should do a good job of creating possession chances against the Golden Knights.
They have a few ways to do this.
One obvious strategy is to put the puck on top of the ice and create footraces. I’m not against it, but I want to have a Dallas puck because the Stars have some skill. I don’t see them always chasing it.
I don’t care if they play it off the wall and into the zone, but they have to have a game plan. If you chip it, you have to have some speed to get to the puck so you can get it.
That is why close support is crucial.
You may be faced with a red line or a blue line by the defenseman and you have no choice but to get that puck behind the defenseman. So you put it behind him, but if you want someone close to you, come up with the speed you can skate to get it.
Close support on the breakout is important if Dallas Vegas is going to break through the neutral zone in Game 3.
Before thinking about placing the puck behind the defense and skating on it, the Stars must be in a position to create passes that are no longer than 10-15 feet. Even if they come back to the skaters and then go up the ice, going with close support creates options in both directions.
This allows the Golden Knights to be separated, but at speed.
In addition, there is a lot of talk about heavy hockey in this series, with each team trying to establish its physicality. Stars don’t have to do this by trying to hit hard, just put the guys through the boards and pull them out of the rink.
Vegas does well and will not lose in that game genre.
Stars physicality can come when they puck. They have big forwards Jamie Ben (6-foot-2, 210 lbs), Alexander Radulov (6-1, 205) and Roop Hintz (6-3, 220), those who can control the puck with their bodies, bounce the hits and wear the Golden Knights, trying to execute them and match the hit for the hit.
I don’t think you can beat Vegas trying to play that game.
I think the Stars will bounce back in Game 3, but I want to see them try to create more capture time, possession entries and their size and skill to wear the Golden Knights.