The winner of the NHL’s Western Conference Finals is awarded the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl. There’s a long standing tradition in which players and teams refuse to touch the trophy because the only trophy a winner touches is the Stanley Cup.
I didn’t touch it. I’m a rookie, I follow what they say. If they tell me to touch it, I’ll touch it. If they tell me not to touch it, I won’t touch it. -Alex Tuch
It’s a supersition that’s been followed for many years, and according to some, has jinxed many a team, but the Golden Knights were not afraid.
After winning Game 5, 2-1, and clinching the Western Conference Championship, Deryk Engelland skated over to the trophy, immedeatley put his fingers on the handle, and eventually lifted it and brought it back to his teammates.
We decided as a group to take it because we went through the experience togehter. (Fleury) has been the backbone to our team, so more or less it came down to what he wanted to do. -Deryk Engelland
544 days ago the words Vegas Golden Knights meant absolutely nothing. Now, those same words and the logo they’re represented by are on T-Shirts, caps, sweatshirts, and pennants next to the words “Western Conference Champions.”
No matter what anyone says about the price tag, the rules, or other GM’s messing up, this story is nothing short of preposterous. An expansion team, Western Conference Champions and heading to the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season
They started the season 8-1-0 including winning their first three games five, six, and nine days after the worst day in the history of the City of Las Vegas. By Thanksgiving, they were squarely in a playoff position and it appeared they would stay there until the end. On Christmas, the Golden Knights had the best record in the Western Conference, and on January 21st they had the best record in the entire NHL. They waltzed to a playoff berth, then a Pacific Division title. They swept the Kings, dispatched the Sharks, and now have knocked off the Winnipeg Jets in five games to punch their ticket to the NHL’s grandest stage.
It’s just unbelievable and it’s all a credit to all the people that created the franchise and that worked for the franchise before we even got picked up to come to Vegas. When we got to Vegas we all felt welcome and at home. Even if you don’t have the biggest superstars in the league, you still have a bunch of guys that are going to work as hard as they can and they will be tough to beat. -Pierre-Edouard Bellemare
Connor Hellebuyck used the word “luck.” Adam Lowry chose “bounces.” Blake Wheeler said the Jets would have won Game 4 “nine out of ten times,” and Tyler Myers believes his team has been better of the two “for the last five periods.”
The narrative floating around the series has been that the Jets have had control but through a combination of Marc-Andre Fleury’s domination and a touch of luck the Golden Knights are one win away from punching their ticket to the Stanley Cup Final.
Are you having a lucky series? -SinBin.vegas
Are you serious? What do you mean luck? I think we’re playing pretty well. Winnipeg is playing well too. I wouldn’t say we are lucky. We are playing good hockey, we wouldn’t be here if we weren’t a good hockey team. Maybe we’ve had a couple puck luck goals but there’s some luck that’s gone against us too in this series. No, I think we are playing good hockey. -Gerard Gallant
The Jets have the advantage in shot attempts, shots on goal, scoring chances, high danger scoring chances, and expected goals, yet they find themselves down 12-9 in the only stat that matters and 3-1 on the big scoreboard that determines who wins the Western Conference.
Nothing this man is doing is this series has been lucky either. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)
Winnipeg can call it whatever they like, but the fact of the matter is they haven’t been the better team in this series to this point. The games have been tied for 25:39 in the series, and the Golden Knights have scored the tiebreaking goal five of the six times.
The Golden Knights are forcing the Jets into mistakes and then capitalizing on them. It’s what they’ve done all year, and for whatever reason, opposing teams, media, and fans can’t seem to wrap their head around it.
Nonetheless, no matter what anyone thinks, if the any of the next three games go like the previous three, the Jets (like the Sharks and Kings) will leave the series like most leave the fine magic shows of Las Vegas wondering, how in the world are they doing this?
And just like the people who pay hundreds of dollars every night to be amazed by con artists who are good at misdirection, they’ve head home none the wiser and the show on the Vegas Strip will go on. Oh, and none of it has to do with luck.
Hellebuyck had no chance on this one, but the other two… (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)
Like all sports, NHL award voting takes place before the postseason begins. This season, both the Vegas Golden Knights and Winnipeg Jets have several award nominees. One of which is Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, who was nominated for the Vezina trophy along with Eastern Conference finalist Andrei Vasilevskiy, and amateur golfer Pekka Rinne.
Over four games against Vegas, the Vezina nominee has allowed 11 goals and has lost three straight conference final games. Not the trait of a goaltender of the year candidate. Neither is this.
It’s a great effort by Reilly Smith, that’s clear, however Hellenuyck has to have this one. Dustin Byfuglien misses his mark, Smith jumps on the puck and streaks for the net. Hellebuyck had a clear view of Smith’s approach tracking the puck immediately after the turnover. He had plenty of time to get into position. The Golden Knight pulled the trigger at the top of faceoff circle with a good wrist shot, not a great one. Byfuglien’s mishap began the breakout but the Jets goaltender could’ve bailed his teammate out.
Down a game in the Western Conference finals, a reliable goaltender makes that save. Hellebuyck did not.
And that wasn’t even Hellebuyck’s worst mistake of Game 4. He bobbled a seemingly harmless shot from Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, then allowed a rebound shot through the five-hole on Tomas Nosek.
They’ll call the Golden Knights opportunistic. They say Vegas capitalizes on others mistakes, and they’ll throw out quotes like this…
We win that game nine times out of 10. Tonight was the one. -Blake Wheeler, Jets captain
Those terms don’t resonate for the Golden Knights though because they don’t believe dumb luck is what’s making it happen.
Sometimes you create your own bounces. -Pierre-Edouard Bellemare
You go do what you can on your shift, and you rely on the next guy to go do his job on his shift, and hopefully that wear and tear will eventually push them into making a play they don’t want to make. Nate Schmidt
This is a look many goaltenders have had at T-Mobile Arena. It’s a look of confusion, but it shouldn’t be. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)
Vegas is tenacious on the forecheck, they hound teams in the neutral zone, they transition from defense to offense faster than any team in the NHL, they roll four dangerous lines and three solid d-pairings, and they have high-end talent that finish the chances when they come.
This isn’t a mirage, this is a darn good hockey team and it doesn’t take much to end up on the wrong side of the result when teams play against them.
Most people will call the mishaps of the Jets, Sharks, and Kings mistakes, but it’s probably best to call them something else. “Forced errors” is the term that popped into my head, but if you’ve got a better one let me hear it. No matter what we call them though, the Golden Knights are the best in the league at creating them.
There’s just something about this guy… (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)
The man who was recently described by his coach as a “cocky little guy” who “jumps around in the locker room and he has lots to say” has elevated his game to a Conn Smythe level over the past two rounds of the playoffs. Jonathan Marchessault now has eight goals and nine assists to lead the Golden Knights with 17 points in the playoffs.
But as impressive as he’s been off the ice, the “little guy” has been making quite the statement showing up to games at T-Mobile Arena recently.
Marchessault went on to score 35 seconds into Game 3 and then capped off the victory with an empty-net goal becoming the first player in NHL history to score in the first and last minutes of the same playoff game.
Today, we had a chance to catch up with Marchessault prior to Game 4 and he had a lot to say about the Lambo, his old Hyundai Elantra, and much more.
First time was like when you are 12 years old and you are going on a go-kart, it was pretty much the same thing. -Jonathan Marchessault
Whether Ehlers plays or not, VGK’s 2nd line must keep scoring goals and keeping Winnipeg off the board. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)
Before the series on the SinBin.vegas Podcast I harped on the importance of the 2nd line in the Western Conference Finals against Winnipeg. Then after Game 1 I followed up with another article claiming they had to be better in order to Vegas to win the series.
Well, apparently it wasn’t just me thinking it. In fact, all three players mentioned during their press availability before Game 3 that they needed to play better. Game 3 happened, they did, and to no surprise, the Golden Knights got the result they were looking for.
As a line, we played a lot better. We were able to capitalize on a couple of opportunities. Felt good offensively. I still think we need to be a better defensively. I thought our wall play was a little poor at times, especially myself, so I’ve got to be better. -Alex Tuch
James Neal was on the ice for all three Golden Knights goals, and Erik Haula and Tuch were out there for the second and third. They did not allow a goal while on the ice and the line as a whole put up by far the best advanced stat numbers of the game for Vegas.
I thought tonight they were more involved on the offense. They played really well and had a great two periods and fell off a little bit in the third. -Gerard Gallant
The Vegas 2nd line now has the advantage in every major statistical category on the line of Paul Stastny, Patrik Laine, and Nikolaj Ehlers including the most important one, goals scored. However, the Golden Knights’ 2nd line center still isn’t satisfied.
We look in the mirror every morning and we know when we need to be better. We need to be right up there with Karlsson’s line. -Erik Haula
Haula admitted his line played better, but he appears well aware how crucial they are to the outcome in the series. If the 2nd line gets on the board a couple more times in Game 4, the Golden Knights will probably be heading north of the border looking to claim the Campbell Bowl.
The aftermath of two of the best saves Marc-Andre Fleury made all season. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)
Unless you are compiling unbelievable saves by Marc-Andre Fleury, the 3rd period of Game 3 will not make any of the Golden Knights highlight reels. Instead, they’ll probably want to find the film and burn it, or at least the first 14 minutes of it.
:18 in the Jets got on the board cutting the lead from 3-2. Then, they spent the next 13:42 harassing Golden Knights defensemen, dominating the neutral zone, and peppering shot after shot after shot on Fleury’s goal.
There was a lot said… It was 3-2 and they kept on pushing us and pushing us and Fleury had to make some great saves. There was a lot of chatter on the bench saying, ‘Let’s get it going here again boys.’ The first two periods we played really good hockey and then it just seemed like we didn’t have any legs in the third period. -Gerard Gallant
The Golden Knights looked slow and at times timid. They appeared unsure trying to break out of their own zone and were forced to ice the puck six different times in the 3rd period alone. The final stats in the 3rd were staggering. The Jets led 26-15 in shot attempts, 14-7 in shots on goal, and an insane 8-0 in high danger scoring chances according to NaturalStatTrick.com. The score, however, was 1-1, mostly because of Fleury, but also because of a shift that occurred with six minutes to go.
We were flat all period. Around the six minute mark we got a chance, the crowd started getting into it. We started getting our energy back and our legs back. -Brayden McNabb
That chance, which happened at exactly the six minute mark, was a shot off the post from William Karlsson. From that moment on the Golden Knights seemed to get the game back under control. Of course, trailing by a goal the Jets weren’t going to go away, but unlike the first 14 minutes, the Golden Knights had their skating speed back. They were winning to loose pucks, they were breaking out of the zone by passing rather than chipping the puck out, and most of all, they were creating chances in the Winnipeg zone to relieve the pressure.
We calmed down. There were a couple words said on the bench to just relax and breathe. We had that goal lead and there’s no reason to panic. -Shea Theodore
The Golden Knights have always been dubbed a team without a superstar, yet in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals, when everything was going wrong, their superstar goalie made 15 saves in the 3rd period to hold a one goal lead, and their superstar center created a chance that turned the tide of the game.
Tonight is Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals between the Winnipeg Jets and the Vegas Golden Knights. It will be the first home game of the series for the Golden Knights and the first home game since they won Game 5 of the 2nd round against the Sharks on May 4th. The series is 1-1 and in tied series the winner of Game 3 going on to win about 70% of best of seven series.
Add it all up and you have no choice but to come to the conclusion that this is the biggest game in the history of the franchise and the biggest game for just about every single player on the roster. Yet, morning skate and the locker room after looked as if it was just another day at the office.
That’s the coolest thing about our group. Our guys just feel like it’s another game. We’re just having fun. We’re the same way at the rink, same way in the locker room, meetings are the same. (We) keep the pressure on the outside of the room, that’s kind of the way we’ve been handling things all year. Guys are still giving each other crap before games, it’s the same banter as usual, and it’s helping our guys calm down before games. -Nate Schmidt
If I didn’t know better, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you if this was Game 47 against Columbus or a pivotal Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals.
This isn’t normal.
We had a lot more pressure on our team (in Washington) to win, so yeah it’s a different feeling for sure. -Schmidt
I feel differently about this group. We’re such a tight-knit group. It’s just fun to come to the rink and battle with these guys. -Shea Theodore
It’s important to stay the course no matter what, that’s how we got here. -David Perron
Smile, laugh, joke, who cares? It’s not like Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals is in your home building tonight. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)
Those are three players who were in the 2nd Round or further last season and they all agree this team is different.
They are different because everything remains the same. The same guys stepped on the ice first to start morning skate. They maintained the same tradition of putting the players with the closest connection to the night’s opponent in the center of the stretching circle (Reaves and Eakin got the nod tonight both being from Winnipeg). They ran the same drills. They stayed on the ice for the same amount of time as they always do, and then they went to the locker room and it had the exact same feel it’s had every single game throughout this inaugural season.
Marc-Andre Fleury has had players all over him the last eight games, but he’s done well to keep them out. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)
A big story heading from Round 2 to the Western Conference Finals for the Golden Knights was limiting shots in close to the net. San Jose lived in front of Marc-Andre Fleury’s goal, but couldn’t get enough past him to win games. It was assumed if the Jets did the same, the result would be different.
Vegas defensemen made it a point coming into the series with Winnipeg.
Yeah they’re strong and fast, and they can make plays. They’ve got guys that play well in that slot, and play well in tight. That’s going to be our job to make sure that we eliminate those chances. -Shea Theodore on 5/10/18
In Game 1 everything was a mess, especially the first eight minutes (unless you are Ken). Early on in Game 2, it could’ve gone the same direction. In the first period, Vegas allowed multiple scoring chances from the Jets in front of the net. In other words, Winnipeg had a flurry of shots in Fleury’s kitchen.
Well we don’t want to allow chances in front of the net.- Brayden McNabb,