The first round playoff matchup for the Golden Knights is less than ideal considering the history between the two teams. The Wild boast a 5-1-2 record against Vegas this season, they have the best record of any team in the NHL against the Golden Knights at 11-2-3, and Vegas has never won in regulation at the Xcel Energy Center.
However, none of this means the Golden Knights can’t, or even shouldn’t, beat the Wild in four of the next seven games to win the first round. Vegas completed the season as the only team to reach 40 wins, never lost more than three straight, and outscored their opponents by 68 goals in 56 games, so we know they are capable.
Despite the lack of success against Minnesota, the eight games between the teams have shown the advantages the Golden Knights have as well as the pitfalls they must avoid. I’ve studied all eight games and have come up with my “blueprint” of what the Golden Knights need to do in order to beat the Wild. It’s broken down into four parts, with the most important being first, and the least last.
Bottom 6 Hold Strong, Top 6 Advance
One of the most important differences between Vegas and Minnesota is scoring depth. While the Golden Knights have more high-end players with the capability of scoring consistently in a series, the Wild have the deeper roster when it comes to overall scoring ability. Minnesota genuinely roll out four lines that can score on any given shift, the Golden Knights really only have two. Therefore, it is going to be crucial for the Vegas top-six to dominate play when they are on the ice and stick the puck in the net much more often than their opponents. On the flip side of that, Vegas’ bottom-six cannot drown against the Wild.
The good news is that the Golden Knights’ 3rd and 4th lines don’t need to score in order for Vegas to win the series. Instead, they need to be able to hold their own and not require a majority of their shifts to be matched up properly and/or start in the offensive zone. If the VGK bottom-six simply break even, the top-six will be able to carry the water and bring the Golden Knights a fairly easy series win.