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Golden Knights Kind Of Looking Forward To Opening On The Road

The white jerseys are better. Maybe that’s a reason too. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

In Round 1 the Golden Knights opened the series with a pair of home games against the Kings. They used a dominant Game 1 performance to take the lead in the series and followed it up with a double overtime thriller to send the series to Los Angeles at 2-0. In Round 2 they once again started at home, again dominating Game 1 but faltering in Game 2 to head to San Jose even.

Now, no matter who the opponent will be, the Golden Knights will head on the road for the first two games of the Western Conference Finals. However, they don’t seem too terribly concerned about the lack of home-ice advantage in the series.

It may not be a bad thing to start on the road this time around. Something a little bit different. We’re going to spend the next few days trying to get ready for that first period in the next game. I’m certainly happy to be here and have the chance to do it. -George McPhee

I think we’ve played really well on the road and at home. I think our record is 4-1 in both places, is it not? So, it doesn’t really make a big difference to us. I’m not once concerned about starting on the road. I’m sort of looking forward to going somewhere. -Gallant

The Golden Knights have indeed lost just once in five tries away from Vegas. That’s even better than their regular season tally of 22-14-5 on the road. They’ve won in many different ways away from T-Mobile Arena as well. Tight checking games, overtime games, closeout games, they’ve faced it all and passed every test (except that one) with flying colors.

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The Most Impressive Stat Of The Playoffs Came On The Road In Game 6

Through two rounds of the playoffs, the Golden Knights lead postseason teams in a few crucial statistics. First and for most, Vegas is tied with Tampa for the most postseason wins with eight. Vegas leads the playoffs with 204 blocked shots and 106 takeaways despite playing the fewest number of games of any playoff team. However, the stat of the postseason may have happened last night in the series-clinching Game 6.

Against a desperate Sharks team, Vegas played smart protecting the puck and maintaining possession all game. Amazingly, the Golden Knights gave away the puck only once in Game 6. One giveaway in a road closeout game. One!

Unsurprisingly, they are the first team this season to complete a game with just one giveaway.

Some argue giveaway/takeaway stats are not truly accurate, but even with the margin of error involved in scoring hockey games, one giveaway is incredible. The definition of a giveaway is when a player’s own actions result in a loss of possession to the opposing team. Think back, can you even remember the one?

Overall, the Golden Knights have hit their giveaway average in four of ten postseason contests.

Fewest Giveaways in a single playoff game (1)
Fewest total Giveaways in Playoffs (83)
Fewest Giveaway average per game (8.3)

Won’t lose many games giving away the puck just once in 60 minutes. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Vegas was so responsible with the puck in Game 6 that San Jose had trouble gaining possession for a majority of the night. To be fair, the Golden Knights only created two takeaways in last night’s closeout game, but that was likely a result of Vegas playing conservatively with a lead while their opponent chased.

If the Golden Knights continue to play error-free hockey, the remaining teams should look out. Surprisingly, Vegas turned the puck over 15 times in Game 5’s victory. Proving the Pacific Conference Champions can win a sloppy game or two… or eight.

(In case you were wondering, Deryk Engelland committed the one giveaway in the game. Oh, and while we’re on the topic of giveaways, keep your eyes out for the next Adam Kutner contest. He’s giving away, see what we did there, two tickets to every Western Conference Finals game, and it’s free to enter. More details soon.)

Perfection Sends Golden Knights To Western Conference Finals

The San Jose Sharks had to have Game 6 to continue their season. The Golden Knights one the other hand knew that even if they faltered in Game 6, they still had Game 7 at T-Mobile Arena in their back pocket. The Sharks were desperate, they had to have this game, and Vegas simply didn’t give them a chance to take it.

It started in the 1st with Marc-Andre Fleury. He was a brick wall shutting down every great opportunity the Sharks had.

We rely on Flower to make a lot of great saves, he’s a spectacular player. When he’s out there hootin’ and hollerin’ and yellin’ and having fun it really calms our guys down and it gets our group going that much more. -Nate Schmidt to NBCSN

He needed some help from the posts a few times, but all in all, Fleury was able to help the Golden Knights through the tough 1st period on the road and send the game to intermission tied.

That is when Vegas took control of the game and refused to let go until they had fired a puck into an empty net and clinched their spot on the next round.

Think of a player who didn’t play well in Game 6. Yeah, that’s right, there’s not one. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The 2nd period was a four-line, three-pairing display of the brand of hockey that had the Golden Knights one game away from the Western Conference Finals in the first place. They were buzzing on the forecheck, they were flying through the neutral zone, they were breaking out of their own zone with ease using speed and simplicity, and when the chances came to score, they didn’t miss them (even though it seemed like Schmidt did on the game’s second goal). The game stayed at 5-on-5 for the entirety of the period, and Vegas feasted on a Pacific Division foe like they have all season.

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Odd Numbered Wins Prove Massive In 7-Game Series, Especially Winning Game 5

7 down, 9 to go! (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Game 6 is tonight and the Golden Knights are one win away from the Western Conference finals. Kind of chilling, isn’t it? History shows Game 5 was a whopper of a win for the Golden Knights.

In league history, 267 series have been in scenarios where the higher seeds have a 3-2 series lead.

  • Game 5 winner has a 79% chance of winning that series.
  • Game 5 winner on home ice has 81% chance of winning series
  • Teams trying to close out series in Game 6 are 102-61 (.623)
  • Visiting team up 3-2 has 53% chance of winning Game 6
  • Home teams hosting Game 7 have a 58% series edge

We talked about the importance of winning odd-numbered games. Vegas did their job winning games 1, 3, and 5. Odd games give the winning team control allowing them a chance to take over a series with another win. The Golden Knights faltered in their first two chances, but they have a third tonight.

  • Teams that win Game 1 win the series 69.9% of the time
    • Home teams that win Game 1 win the series 76.7% of the time
  • Teams that win Game 3 win the series 65.0% of the time
    • Away teams that win Game 3 win 71.6% of the time

Oh, and if you were worried about Game 6 going to an overtime period, don’t be. Home teams are 36-45 in sudden death.

We’re no good at prognosticating, but stats say, Nighty Knight San Jose.

Golden Knights vs. San Jose Sharks: Game 5 – Photo Gallery – May 4th, 2018

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Major Lineup Shuffling Furthers 1st Period Importance

Game 4 was the first time in the eight-game playoff history of the Golden Knights where they were severely outplayed. It ended as a 4-0 beatdown and the Sharks had evened the series.

In response, Jack Adams finalist Gerard Gallant appears to be making a host of lineup changes. Based on morning skate, it seems Ryan Carpenter, Oscar Lindberg, and Luca Sbisa will be placed into the lineup, while Tomas Tatar, Tomas Nosek, and Jon Merrill will all come out.

Last year, Lindberg was tremendous in the playoffs. If he does it tonight, Gallant is going to look like a genius. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

This will be the first game the Golden Knights will be without Nosek since February 11th, and just the 3rd game all year in which Nosek will be a healthy scratch. Oddly enough, the last time Gallant chose to scratch Nosek it was a 5-4 overtime win against the Sharks on November 24th.

If Sbisa returns, it will be his first game action since February 27th. Lindberg would also be making his Vegas playoff debut having been out since the final game of the regular season on April 7th

You do what you have to do. You put your best lineup in that you think gives you the best chance to win that evening. We’ve done it all year, guys come in and play different spots and play different roles, it’s all you can do. You go with your decision, you talk to your coaches, and you do the best you can. -Gerard Gallant

The changes magnify the 1st period, however. With multiple players who have been out for over a month returning to the lineup and potential changes to three of the four forward lines (see below), the Golden Knights are vulnerable early. It often takes players a bit of time to get back into the flow after missing games, but Vegas can’t afford to fall into a hole.

Throughout this entire season, when the Golden Knights have really needed a game, they’ve usually gotten it. But beyond that, they’ve almost always started out those games well. That was the case the last time they had to “flip the switch” back on going from a disastrous loss in Calgary to the playoff opener, but the time before, against the Flames at home, it took a period or so to really get going.

This team has it in them to play a good game tonight, no one is debating that. They just have to do it right away. They can’t play anything but their best from the moment the puck is dropped, and that’s what makes the lineup changes concerning. The Golden Knights have home-ice advantage in a best of three series, now they have to take advantage of it, and they can’t let cold legs and unfamiliarity get in the way.

Projected Game 5 Lineup



Vegas Losing Battle Of Fourth Lines, Especially In Games 3 And 4

Could use a little more of this in Game 5. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Vegas is a team known for its ability to use all four lines in a game. Prior to the series, we talked about San Jose having the same luxury, and it showed on Wednesday night.

It’s important for us to use everybody and try to save energy. We want to make sure our top guys are fresh. Those are the guys that carry the mail for us. -Eric Fehr, San Jose forward

In Game 4, San Jose’s fourth line of Melker Karlsson, Marcus Sorensen, and Fehr were +3 with 2 points (on an illegal “pick” play). Depth scoring is essential in the postseason, but like Pierre-Edouard Bellemare’s line, San Jose’s fourth isn’t expected to score. Both Coaches expect their depth forwards to clog, pressure, dump, check, eat minutes, and maintain the score.

It was kind of a mix and match. As the game went on we were really just trying to win our matchup with whoever was out there. -Fehr

Fehr logged 12:24 TOI, and created issues for Vegas whenever the center hit the ice. He was four out of five in neutral zone draws, and 70% overall from the faceoff circle. Fehr’s line quieted both third line wingers David Perron and Tomas Tatar. Cody Eakin’s second period shot was the only one on net for the Golden Knights third line the entire night.

We want to do our part when we’re out there chipping in. -Fehr

Fehr sounds like Bellemare after a successful Golden Knights game. Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic couldn’t speak enough about the importance of San Jose’s role players.

It’s our depth that has helped us get this far. The guys that don’t play as much as other guys have stepped up. Played their role and we’re getting contributions from all four lines. Which is what you need in the playoffs. -Marc-Edouard Vlasic, San Jose defenseman

When the Golden Knights get the most out of their fourth line, the game is in VGK’s control. Vegas will deploy the Bellemare-Nosek-Carrier line to win situational matchups throughout the game. When Vegas isn’t getting their normal production from the fourth line it makes Jack Adams finalist Gerard Gallant’s job of balancing lines more difficult. Same goes for the other side.

Well we wouldn’t be here without it. Our guys have recognized the importance of depth and depth scoring for teams that find a way to win. -Pete DeBoer, San Jose head coach

Gallant should expect a bounce back game by his entire team tonight, including Bellamare and the fourth line. Depth can be the difference in this series, and Vegas has the horses to pull it off. It’s just a matter of which team’s fourth line can be more effective, and up in San Jose, it wasn’t the Golden Knights.

Early Non-Call Badly Damaged Vegas’ Chances In Game 4; Tough Breaks Becoming A Bit Of A Trend

The Golden Knights entered Game 4 understanding they were playing against a desperate team, but they also knew they had a chance to all but bury the Sharks with a second consecutive road win. After taking a bit of time to get going early in Game 3, the Golden Knights came out looking like themselves to begin in Game 4.

Then, it all got flushed down the toilet when a line Vegas had bottled up all series, San Jose’s fourth, ran a play, and an illegal one at that, in which the Sharks have become synonymous with. Our buddy Sheng Peng from HockeyBuzz pointed the play out before the series. (Click through for a thorough breakdown of it)

Nate Schmidt said it was a ‘pick.’ Jon Merrill called it ‘subtle interference.’ Gerard Gallant offered, ‘It’s guys skating in front of other guys.’ -Sheng Peng, HockeyBuzz

As Marcus Sorensen skated from the red-line out, Eric Fehr heads back towards the red-line to cross up the defense. Legally, you can skate by, as long as there’s no contact. Here’s the play, you tell me if there’s contact.

It’s not legal doing that, so there’s nothing necessarily we can do. The refs just need to be aware, they were aware in the 2nd period and they called it, but the 1st period they got those two goals because of that and it’s unfortunate. The game moves fast for the refs too and that’s the way it went. -Jonathan Marchessault

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Scheduled Resiliency Helps Teams In Playoffs

The ability to bounce back in a series is one of the most important team elements of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. Teams trailing must immediately forget about the painful losses that got them there and work to stay motivated for the next game.

Oh, it’s easy. We’ll practice tomorrow and play the game the next day. The schedule makers do a good job of playing games every other day. So it’s easy to forget about. – Logan Couture, San Jose forward

Couture’s mindset is shared by the Golden Knights locker room as well. Vegas defenseman Brayden McNabb also felt scheduling allows for players to move on as all players and coaches say in the postseason.

Yeah it’s nice that way where you can reset the next day. The last game is already gone, so you’re focused on the next game. -Brayden McNabb

It makes sense that fans would have a harder getting over bad or missed calls, tough loses and player mistakes or errors.

You don’t have to dwell on the wins and the losses. You move on quickly. That’s the good thing about the playoffs. -McNabb

Win or lose, there’s another game before you know it. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The evidence is there to believe players move on quicker, possibly because of the schedule. In the second round teams that are coming off of a loss are 6-1. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, Washington bucked that trend last night; something the Golden Knights will look to follow in Game 4. McNabb did say you the schedule helps forget about a win as well.

The Difference Between You And Nate Schmidt In Regards To Getting Over Game 2

When Game 2 ended the Golden Knights universe was in a rage. Players were upset about the letting a game get away, coach was mad about the penalties, and fans were up in arms about the inconsistencies of the goaltender interference call. Everyone connected to the Golden Knights felt the series should have been 2-0, but instead it was 1-1.

When the sun came back up on Sunday, the universe had calmed, but not all parties. Players, they had moved on. Coach, he was ready for Game 3. Fans, well, they may never get over it.

One day I’ll get to watch a Vikings game with Nate, that’ll be fun. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

So I wondered, why is it that the people in the building can get over it just a few hours later but fans cannot. Is this what makes them special and allows them to make millions of dollars playing/coaching a sport while the rest of us sit back and watch? Is it that fans are just irrational? Or is it something different? So I found the guy I thought would have the best answer to this question, diehard Minnesota Vikings football fan and Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Nate Schmidt.

Schmidt knows both sides. He knows the heartbreak of watching his favorite team be wronged as he sits on the couch watching and he also knows what it’s like to be on the ice for a game-winning goal, only to have it taken away. First, we talked about it from the player perspective.

You can’t let it get to you because if you do, they’re already in your head. Because if you don’t get over the fact that the game continues to go on. If you give the ‘woah is me, I can’t believe that’s the call,’ then all of a sudden the next wave of attack comes and you’re on your heels. -Nate Schmidt

In other words, you let it go or you lose. He admits, though, it’s not the same as a fan.

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