Cassidy, the Golden Knights’ first-year coach, walks into the coaches’ room at City National Arena, the team’s training facility, and sees John Stevens, who served as an assistant with the Stars from 2019-22, and Ryan Craig and Misha Donskov, who have been with Vegas since the start in 2017.
“When we have our meeting this morning, I’m just resting to relax,” Cassidy joked ahead of his coaches’ meeting on Tuesday. “These guys have all the information, and it’s up to me what to do with it in a few days.”
On the other side are Dallas coach Peter DeBoer and his longtime assistant Steve Spott, who held the same roles with the Golden Knights for two and a half seasons before being fired exactly one year ago. year Tuesday.
“There’s a little more knowledge in this show, inside knowledge,” Cassidy said, “and we’ll see how that plays out.”
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Cassidy said the knowledge will serve every team well ahead of Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals at T-Mobile Arena on Friday (8:30 p.m. ET; ESPN, SN, CBC, TVAS, ESPN+).
“I think it will help them a lot because [DeBoer] knows the individual tendencies of the players and he can point out some things they might be able to do,” Cassidy said. “I was in Boston for six years, if we play them tomorrow I definitely know what you don’t know. see on film of an individual. That’s where he’s going to help their defenders against our forwards or their forechecking forwards against our [defensemen].
“We have a guy in our room who coached Dallas last season in John Stevens; he’s going to know the individual tendencies of a lot of Dallas guys. ‘Mish’ and ‘Craiger’ know Pete and how he likes to coach.”
None of this changes the challenge the Golden Knights face in the Conference Finals.
Cassidy said he thinks the Stars have some similarities to the Edmonton Oilers, who the Golden Knights defeated in six games in the second round to advance.
He noted that the Stars have a dominant top line with Roope Hintz, Jason Robertson And Joe Pavelsky. The Oilers had Connor McDavid And Leon Draisaitl on separate lines but also played them together during matches.
Hintz’s 19 points (nine goals, 10 assists) are second in the playoffs behind McDavid (20). Pavelski has scored eight goals in eight games. Only Draisaitl (13) and Hintz have more.
“Hintz is probably as close to McDavid as there is left in the playoffs,” Cassidy said. “He’s having a great playoff, a real dynamic player. Pavelski probably has similarities to Draisaitl in his ability to finish.”
The Stars, like the Oilers, are good at generating and capitalizing on power-play opportunities. They lead the playoffs with 41 power plays in 13 games, one more than Vegas in 11 games. But Dallas has 13 power-play goals (31.7%); Vegas has seven (17.5).
The difference, and the reason Cassidy called the Stars “a different animal,” is how the Golden Knights will try to attack them.
“They just play a different system in the [defensive] zone,” Cassidy said. “It’s going to be a lot harder to get to the front of the net or create situations like [Jonathan] Marchessault is there alone. When it comes to a man-to-man fight like in Edmonton, it’s not about backing the puck too much, trying to confuse, then shove your way in and hope that you lost your failure. I think Dallas will do a better job of suppressing those opportunities in net.”
Cassidy said the Stars play more of a low swarm-type defense in the area and try to outnumber you with a low forward, while the goal against Edmonton was to have active forwards who could pull their defenders away from the front of the field. net.
“And then it probably requires the center or one of their forwards to be more disciplined to stay in net if he’s on Marchessault, for example,” Cassidy said. “So you test that, and I think it worked to our advantage. They weren’t always so disciplined to stay with their control or change.
“We tried not to support the puck carrier right away because we knew he just had to beat his one failure. That’s why you’d see a lot of cutbacks and stuff like that, trying to shake your guy 1 on 1.”
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He said the Golden Knights will have to support their puck carrier early in the game and change direction against Dallas because there won’t be as much time and space.
“And I think their [defense] will be closer to the net,” Cassidy said. “I don’t think you’ll see them chasing anyone. They will pass these people on to their attackers. …So we’re going to try and get to those areas where they’re passing people and see if we can generate from there if we can’t attack right away.
Defensively, the Golden Knights will need to complete Stars defender checks early, including Miro Heiskanenwho leads the playoffs in total ice time (367:17) and ice time per game (28:15).
“You can’t let Heiskanen come out of his end every time,” Cassidy said. “You’re going to try and have to wear him down over a streak completing checks, playing with his hands, etc. A lot of their offense is driven by their second layer of attack with their [defense] lift the ice. Sometimes to eliminate this you have to either pass them on the ice or finish your failure in their end so they are too late to jump. This will be the game plan and it sometimes leads to penalties. We have seen it and that will be the challenge for us.”
Another key is maintaining discipline in front of the net and understanding that the Stars will be looking for shots from the outside that result in deflections in the high slot or spikes and rebounds in the low slot.
“So what are we going to do with our central striker? Are we going to give him the outside or maybe protect a bit more with him? That will be determined how we go,” Cassidy said.
“We may have the greatest plan on Earth, but until you feel it and see it, you slowly go through some of these times where maybe it works against you or maybe it works for you. “