Golden Knights fans, sing it with me!
Vegas is heading to the Stanley Cup Final after disposing of the Dallas Stars in six games. There was a bit of a scare in the series (we’ll get into that later). But the Knights are moving on as YOUR Western Conference Champions. Golden Knight fans, it’s time to unclench your butt cheeks and let out a “YEEHAW!”
The Golden Knights will take their talents to South Beach against the Florida Panthers (okay, it’s actually Sunrise. But still…) in the Stanley Cup Final. Matthew Tkachuk and company await, hoping to complete their underdog story and hoist Lord Stanley.
What must Vegas do to prevent that from happening? What worked for the Golden Knights against Dallas and what didn’t? What can we expect from the Florida Panthers?
What I Liked:
Once again, the Misfits stepped up in a huge way. Jonathan Marchessault (four goals, three assists in the Western Conference Final) and William Karlsson (five goals, one assist) came up aces for the Golden Knights, providing an offensive spark.
But it wasn’t just the Misfits that were on fire. Trade deadline acquisition Ivan Barbashev (two goals, four assists) made a difference. Same thing for Jack Eichel (four assists), despite the former Sabre star not having a goal in the series.
The forecheck gets mentioned so much on here that it’s a bit nauseating. However, this is what head coach Bruce Cassidy has emphasized all season. Make the other team work and wear them down. Push the puck down the ice. Eventually, you’ll find pucks in the back of the net. Speaking of which…
Bruce Cassidy and the Sundance Golden Knights
The former Bruins coach doesn’t get enough credit as the head coach for the Golden Knights. When there were whispers of a potential collapse against the Stars, Cassidy reeled in his team and said, “Get harder.” The result? A 6-0 beatdown against Dallas in Game 6.
He’s gotten the most from his Golden Knights during the playoffs while facing solid goaltending, too. Connor Hellebucyk and Jake Oettinger aren’t pushovers, yet Vegas beat them. That’s a testament to the depth and coaching of the Golden Knights.
Having a more aggressive approach and a united mentality is unleashing the Vegas attack. Whether it’s the top line or even the fourth, every player gets to eat. That’s what makes Cassidy different from the previous two coaches for the Golden Knights, with Vegas reaping the rewards.
What I Didn’t Like
Carelessness for the Golden Knights
In Games 4 and 5, the Golden Knights were too relaxed. In Game 4, it was a Brayden McNabb penalty in overtime that doomed Vegas. In Game 5, it was 24 giveaways that did them in. As a result, panic started settling in Sin City.
Of course, all that was forgotten in Game 6. But if Vegas finds themselves in a rut in the Stanley Cup Final, it’s over. It’ll be a repeat of their inaugural season, where Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals ran away with the Cup.
Fans don’t realize this series could’ve gone the other way. If Vegas doesn’t win in overtime of Games 1 and 2, the Stars are with the Campbell trophy. This was a tough Dallas Stars team that had the pieces to win the Stanley Cup. One mishap and the series could’ve been over.
As mentioned before, such incidents have happened to Vegas in the past. Aside from the San Jose gaffe in 2018-2019, there was the near-scare in the bubble against Vancouver and Minnesota a year later. It’s wise for the Knights to leave their foot on the gas pedal.
Looking at the Florida Panthers
I want you to think about this for a second. If the Pittsburgh Penguins had gotten just TWO more points, they would’ve been in the playoffs. Their last two opponents were the Chicago Blackhawks and the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Pens were eliminated at the end of the regular season as a result. Talk about a major OOF!
It’s crazy to think that a little luck propelled Florida to this position, yet here we are. But it’s been more than luck for the Panthers. Boston was due to fall back to earth (and they did), Toronto’s Core Four was neutralized against the Panthers, and Carolina got swept. Florida’s a good team that can take down the Golden Knights, too. How?
For starters, Matthew Tkachuk is an offensive force. The former Flames star has 21 points this postseason, establishing himself as a top Conn Smythe candidate. Tkachuk is already establishing himself as one of the best young superstars in the NHL. It’s clear the Florida offense runs through him, so taking him out of the equation’s key.
However, he’s not alone. Carter Verhaeghe (six goals, nine assists) and Aleksander Barkov (ten assists) have also contributed. Florida has depth on their other lines, which will test the Golden Knights.
But wait! There’s more. Sergei Bobrovsky has been tough to beat. Suddenly, the former Blue Jacket has stopped .935 of his shots in the postseason and has made some acrobatic saves. The Hurricanes couldn’t figure out the Russian goaltender and he’ll pose as a test for Vegas.
Golden Knights’ Guide to Winning
If Vegas is to hoist Lord Stanley, they’ll need Adin Hill to match Bobrovsky’s energy. So far, that hasn’t been a problem: the former Sharks goalie has a GAA of 1.91 and a save percentage of .937 after Game 6.
While the Golden Knights’ mantra is blocking shots and taking away shooting/passing lanes, Hill has been phenomenal on his own. Getting two shutouts against a loaded Dallas Stars team is nothing to scoff at. Hill will face a similar team in the Panthers, so he must be prepared.
Vegas must also stick to its game plan, which is blitzing the other team and wearing them down. It’s what Bruce Cassidy has preached the entire postseason. If they stick to the script, the Vegas Golden Knights will fulfill owner Bill Foley’s promise of a Stanley Cup in six years.