Depth is one of the big reasons why the Vegas Golden Knights have been able to have an incredible inaugural season. They used the expansion draft to create a solid lineup and that group has carried them to the Stanley Cup Final. But, somehow, depth is proving to be an issue for them against the Capitals.
For Vegas to play themselves back in this series, they’ll need their second line to pick up their play by a notch or two. James Neal, Erik Haula and David Perron have to get going before it’s too late.
Despite starting in the offensive zone 75 percent of the time in Game 3, the line really struggled at even strength. Perron had a team-worst CF% of 32.14 percent, while Neal (37.93) and Haula (45.16) were all below 50 percent.
Perron was moved to the second line in an attempt to get himself and the other two players rolling, again. That simply hasn’t happened. The 30-year-old is still searching for his first goal of the playoffs and outside of Neal’s tally in Game 2, the trio hasn’t produced much.
“We just weren’t good enough,” Neal after Game 3, per the Vegas Review-Journal. “That’s our line, for sure. A lot to blame. We were on the ice for every goal, so we’ve got to be better. We’re a veteran line and we’ve been in this situation before.”
When a Stanley Cup Final has been tied 1-1, the team that wins Game 3 goes on to win it all 78 percent of the time, so the odds are stacked against the Golden Knights at this point. Thankfully for them, this isn’t the first time they’ve overcome long odds.
In fairness to them, many people counted them out after they dropped a 4-2 decision to the Winnipeg Jets in the Western Conference Final. Not only did they bounce back, they managed to sweep the next four games to punch their ticket to the final.
The first line of William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith helped carry them to this point, but they’ll continue to get most of the tough matchups, especially in Washington. That’s where the Haula line has to come in and do the job. There’s going to be nights when the first line doesn’t chip in. If Vegas doesn’t get any offense from the top two lines, there’s a very good chance they’re not going to come away with a victory.
Using their speed to get to the dangerous areas in the Capitals zone is vital to their success. They haven’t done it enough in this series and that has to change.
“I’m sure everyone can play more simple,” said Perron. “But as a line, for us, we’re offensive guys, and if there’s a play, we need to execute. We made it up to this point because we executed all year, and we’ve got to do it again.”
• NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub