Golden Knights fans, let’s let out a “WOO!”
The Vegas Golden Knights have struck oil, sending Connor McDavid and company home in six games. Granted, it wasn’t easy. It was a physical battle from start to finish, with Vegas being knocked around throughout the series. Still, the Knights persevered and are heading to the Western Conference Finals.
There’s plenty to talk about from this series, from ESPN’s love for McDavid to the Misfits. What went well for Vegas and what wasn’t so great for the Golden Knights?
What I Loved
King of the Hill
It’s not easy to take over for an injured goalie, especially when he goes down in the playoffs. Luckily, that wasn’t a huge deal for Adin Hill when he replaced Laurent Brossoit. The backup goalie played like a propane fire (and propane accessories) was lit under him, stopping 38 shots in the clincher.
Aside from the Game 4 dud (which he got), Hill’s been a solid goalie throughout the Oilers series, saving .927% of his shots and allowing 2.25 GAA. In fact, you can say he was the deciding factor in eliminating McDavid and his crew.
If Vegas wants to go to the Stanley Cup Final, they’ll need Hill to be a factor. That means keeping the rebounds close to his teammates and standing on his head. The last round was a promising performance from Vegas’s backup when Knights goalies have turned into pocket sand all season.
The Golden Misfits had a massive impact on the series, particularly in Game 6. All five of the goals in that game came from either Reilly Smith, Jonathan Marchessault, or William Karlsson. In fact, it’s been a story of one of the line members stepping up in the playoffs.
First, it was the new daddy Karlsson having a big series against Winnipeg. This time, it was Marchessault who was a factor. From his natural hat trick in Game 6 to his three assists the game before, the former Panther came in huge.
With Marchy’s five goals in the series, Vegas can rest easy knowing they’re getting production from their other lines. If the Golden Knights can get the Misfits going for another round, they could return to the Stanley Cup Final.
What I Didn’t Like
Everybody knows that ESPN (or their parent company, Disney) isn’t the best at hockey commentary. From PK Subban talking about Lizzo-sized lunches to John Anderson’s racism against the First Nation, the network tries to position itself as hip. However, it comes off as goofy as… well… Goofy.
Golden Knight fans also noticed a bit of excitement in the commentary towards Edmonton. From the “historic” power play to falling in love with McDavid, the “worldwide leader in sports” couldn’t help but smooch up to the Oilers.
Of course, this is nothing new for ESPN. They’ve been notorious for favoring certain teams (remember the Red Sox, Cubs, and SEC football?). However, it’s showcasing how far the network–and Disney–have fallen regarding its coverage. That’s especially true after angering NHL fans with the Game 6 scheduling fiasco.
This was an UGLY series for both teams. How ugly? We’re talking about 124 combined penalty minutes between the two in Game 2. It was a physical fight that had plenty of noteworthy events, with Game 2 being a sample size.
It started with Evander Kane’s instigating, which caused problems for the Vegas Golden Knights. Then, it devolved into Darnell Nurse instigating a fight and Alex Pietrangelo slashing Draisaitl in Game 4. The series was ugly, with plenty of time spent in the penalty box.
What was more problematic was Edmonton’s vaunted power play, which ran at a 47.4% average this postseason. It’s easy to see why Kane was being a pest; he knew that getting under the skin of the Vegas Golden Knights would create opportunities. Therefore, power plays galore.
If Vegas is to move onto the Stanley Cup Final, they must stay composed. The Dallas Stars have a 32.5% power play this postseason entering Game 7 against Seattle, while the Golden Knights have only killed off 58.8% of their penalties. While that’s not as high as the near-50% that Edmonton boasted, it’s still Texas-sized and problematic. Getting penalties in the Western Conference Final is no bueno for Vegas.
What’s On Deck?
As mentioned before, the Stars are up next and they’ve been a problem for Vegas. In fact, they won all three games against the Vegas Golden Knights in the regular season, with two of them going to a shootout.
Jake Oettinger has been a stud throughout the season. However, he has regressed in the playoffs, saving .903% of his shots and nearly allowing three goals a game. That’s not Oettinger-like, which is a good opportunity for Vegas.
One aspect the Knights must watch for is during the faceoff. The Stars LOVE to fire off the draw. They must also watch for the many offensive weapons Dallas has. That includes Jason Robertson, Roope Hintz, and Joe Pavelski. Unlike Edmonton, the Stars have depth on nearly every line.
Vegas can win against Dallas if they stick to an aggressive forecheck. That’s been their bread and butter throughout the playoffs and there’s no reason to abandon it now, especially with their depth. The Knights must also continue to avoid the penalty box, which nearly cost them in the previous round. If they don’t do this, it’ll be “game over” for the beloved superstars.