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Blueprint To VGK Beating The Minnesota Wild

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

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.

Safety First

The greatest challenge the Wild offered the Golden Knights this season was when the puck was laying in front of either net. Offensively, it would be great if the Golden Knights could pick up their game and score a few more of these than they have in the past, but that’s not necessary for them to win the series. What is necessary is the ability to clear the front of their own goal. When the puck is laying out in front of Fleury or Lehner, Vegas cannot be thinking about exiting the zone. Instead, they need to be thinking about safety. Get the puck out of that area because the longer it’s there, the more likely the Wild are to win a battle and put it in the net.

Vegas should have an intense focus on clearing rebounds without any regard as to where the puck goes. Have to ice it? Fine. Punch it into the corner? No big deal. Heck, even take a penalty to avoid a rebound goal, we’ll take our chances on the PK. The Wild have killed Vegas in that area more than anywhere else on the ice, and Vegas must avoid it in this series.

Consistency at the defensive blue line

For Vegas to control the run of play consistently in this series, they’ll have to have the shot suppression machine turned all the way up. While that starts in the offensive and neutral zones, it will be of massive importance that the Golden Knights challenge every entry the Wild make in this series. If Vegas consistently deny the Wild from carrying the puck into the zone, they’ll limit their mistakes in exiting and they’ll make scoring an absolute chore for even a deep Minnesota team.

Gap control will be the key as the Wild like to get going through the neutral zone with their excellent skating defense corps. But, the Golden Knights’ blue line is full of great skaters themselves. If the gaps are good, the Wild will struggle to generate consistent offense and they’ll likely grow frustrated and start handing Vegas transition chances.

Make the goalie decision unimportant

No matter who Pete DeBoer decides to start or if he goes with the rotation, the goalie position will be a ticking time-bomb for the Golden Knights once again this postseason. In this series, the Golden Knights are fully capable of making that a non-story. By that, I mean limit shots, limit chances, and limit any opportunity for the goalie to be the difference in the game. If Minnesota are consistently struggling to reach 25 shots, it won’t matter which goalie is in the net. The more chances the Golden Knights allow, the more challenging the goalie decision will become, even if the guy in net stops a majority of them.

 

Do all this, and the Golden Knights will win in four. Don’t and we could be looking at a barn burner of a series.

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51 Comments

  1. Daryl

    So, VGK wins in 4 or the series goes the distance and it’s anyone’s game? MIN doesn’t stand a chance to win in 4?

    Anyway, just like the Pens and the Caps, eventually a team learns (or get’s lucky) and beats the other. Hopefully it will be this way for VGK over MIN

  2. Jeff

    You haven’t mentioned injuries. Also we have shooters not scorers.

  3. DOC (Ode of a FAN)

    PLAYOFF TIME! ** The magical time of the season!

    Best Teams ** Best Players ** All games do or die!

    For the pure hockey fan, like me, the intensity can be overwhelming, at times!

    The Knights go to battle for the 4th constitutive time in their existence!

    I go into these playoffs, possibly for last time, proud of what our boys have done and with hope maybe they have something, yet, to obtain!

    I will no longer respond to negative thoughts or comments, as they mean nothing to me anymore!

  4. Pistol Pete

    Conventional wisdom tends to assign limited value to the homestretch of regular season games. That is, postseason-bound teams may rest starters and otherwise may not bring a full effort to bear. Aside from this notion, the last two Blues vs. Wild games may be telling heading into the playoffs. The Blues soundly trounced the Wild 4-0 and 7-3 at home, both by crushing four goal margins. The first game was largely scratch free on both sides, however the second game was scratch heavy on the Minnesota side with Kaprizov, Fiala, Zuccarello and a couple decent pointing defensemen, while St. Louis scratched only Schwartz and Parayko. Still, the mostly scratch free first game went in the Blues favor by the same wide margin as the second game.

    The play of the Blues picked up nicely in the last eighteen regular season games going 11-4-3 finishing with the back-to-back four goal margin wins against the Wild. Clearly, the Blues wanted to send a message heading into the playoffs. The Avs should take notice.

    • Pistol Pete

      Needless to say, VGK fans should cheer the Blues on. Should they win their series and the VGK their’s, the VGK will become the league number one seed.

      • Thinking about becoming the number one seed at this point if about as useful as considering plant grass in the dead of winter with a foot of snow on the ground. VGK have a hill or two to climb before worrying about that. I admire the fan from miny vegas vs canes for the Cup that’s a ballize prediction. In any event Vegas needs to address one game at a time as you well know and it all starts Sunday. Go knight go

      • Daryl

        Who’s the better team right now? We may not want to cheers on the Avs

  5. NevadaBlue

    Agree 100% IF Reaves, McNabb and Kolesar can PHYSICALLY intimidate the opposing teams EVERY game.

    IF they can, VGK will NOT go past FIVE games until they get to the Cup Finals.

    Will take SIX games for VGK to win the Cup, “maybe” 7.

    • Daryl

      VGK can’t afford to play Reaves AND Kolesar at the same time. Way too slow and not enough offensive power…. and lack of defense. They play maybe 7-8min so they wouldn’t be effective at all

    • Thatsajoke

      Is this a troll job? If so, nice. If not, you’re delusional.

  6. knights fan in minny

    lets here your cup finals pick vegas and the canes

  7. Mark

    Who’s out ??? We can’t beat these bums without our full team. Tuch ?? Patches ?? Krebs out ! Reaves ?? Nosek ?? WTF !! Does anybody know anything ??? This is chickenshit, all this secrecy !!

    • THE hockey GOD

      @Mark, all this secrecy is to keep the enemy from putting together a game plan until the very last minute. We probably won’t know starting goalie until a few hours before the game starts.

      So be patient. What are you a spy for the other team ??

      • Mark

        I’m not worried about our goalie situation, its solid, but Fluery is our guy for game 1. I have been know to make a bet here and their, it would be nice to know earlier than 2 minutes to puck drop who’s in, who’s out. No, I don’t work for The Wild, my loyalties lie with our Knights. Ok, I will be waiting !!!!!!

        • THE hockey GOD

          get a on line account, wait until post time like horse bettors , then hit the wager button MULTIPLE TIMES.

          then after you lose schedule those GA meetings so that others whose fate is sealed can console each other in a round table meeting setting with people assigned by the court system to mandatory 12 week attendance. Remember each session starts with ” My name is Pete Rose and I have a gambling problem”

      • Daryl

        I disagree, there is eough tape on these teams that opposing teams don’t care who is in or out, especially when you aren’t even talking about the top lines. It’s not like football when you are preparing for a team for a weak and want to set up your defense from a pocket QB to a scrambling QB. Injury reports are basically for the betters

        • Jinklu

          Again I agree with you, Daryl, as I often do. These 4 teams have played each other so often there are no surprises and the other 3 are so well coached they are ready for whoever the VGK puts on the ice.

    • The last person on your list needed is Reaves – he contributes nothing and takes up room on the bench. If you truly believe he is a difference maker your hockey knowledge I am sorry to say is limited at best – no offense just reality. They need speed, great passing, and putting the puck in the net – that is not any of Reaves attributes. Concerning secrecy – there is zero value in playing all your cards face up – they haven’t and shouldn’t disclose anything. Assuming you knew all the problems what would that accomplish other than satisfying your curiosity – nothing.

  8. Tim

    Ken the real question is who’ll still be standing when our game starts Sunday? Of coarse everything is a game time decision.

    • THE hockey GOD

      @ Tim , yes yes yes. And just as importantly who will be standing after hard hits in first game and will the beat up players (if they start) withstand the bashing that comes with play off hockey.

  9. DOC (Go Knights Go)

    We have the best goalie tandem in the league, which I think will serve us importantly in the playoffs.

    My guess for game one is Flurey … BUT:

    PDB may continue the rotation and put Panda in there.

    I don’t care who’s in net, I’ll root just as hard for either.

    Based on last two games vs Wild, this should be a physical series.

    I sure hope to see Revo back for this first game. Patch & Marty also?

  10. John

    Knights will win. It doesn’t matter we are the best TEAM in the league. Put all the other bests and we will raise the cup!

    • Looney

      You must be new to hockey. Never under estimate any team in the NHL playoffs. Often the best team exits early. Moreso than in any sport.

      • Howard

        Yes, they’re VGK fans whom the overwhelming majority of them are ignorant about The NHL. When they experience years of the futility of sucking, then they’ll understand what just about every other fan base of every NHL team has understood – humility.

        • Jinklu

          Yes. The storied Montreal Canadiens have not won a Cup in 28 years. The VGK and we fans will learn that lesson starting in the 2022-2023 season.

    • Yeah...

      Minnesota has knocked out the 1 seed as the lowest ranked seed multiple times in the past, with much less talented rosters. Anything can and will happen. Flip a coin!

    • Howard

      VGK is best team in NHL? Because they’ve beaten up on the AHL Ducks. Kings, and Sharks? VGK is very good and IF HEALTHY, are capable of winning Cup, also provided its Front Office doesn’t get in its way.

      Saying any team is the best this year is honestly absurd seeing that they’ve only played within each others respective division. No way to gauge who is best under those circumstances, not at least logically 🙂

  11. Tim

    Forget about the cup will we get by the first round? The reality is you pay good money to acquire good players such as Patch, Martinez, if there out and your playing AHL players do you really think you’ll beat a quality team. Krebs is obviously out for the year he’s sipping milkshakes threw a straw I know I broke my jaw once. If Tuch’s out who replaces him? Nosek solid player who replaces him? Then whether you like Reeves or not he’s an enforcers and he’ll probably be out. Let’s just say if you don’t think we have an uphill battle your only kidding yourself.

    • Daryl

      I completely agree with you…. I personally don’t think VGK will win the Cup with all their players but if they have key injuries, I really don’t think it’s possible. If MAF can stand on his head and all players are available, with A LOT of luck, VGK has a shot but they need everything to fall into place perfectly. I know some of you will say I’m being negative but to them, the only way to be positive is to say VGK wins it all.

      As I stated elsewhere, VGK wins first round in 6 if they are healthy but lose in 5 if they have several skaters out.

  12. Vic

    Kiss of death from the NHL Network tonight as three of their people picked the VGK to go all the way. They didn’t bother to mention any injuries, so hopefully they believe most are coming back healthy for Sunday or didn’t bother to research. Now to figure out how to stop #97 and Fiala before worrying about any later rounds.

    Off topic…..Back in the day, when a broken stick occurred, the ref or linesman would immediately pick it up. Today, we see broken sticks remaining on the ice sometimes for several minutes until the next whistle….even with 4 officials on the ice. Many times I’ve noticed guys skating into them, pucks hitting them, and players needing to move the stick in order to set up a play. Surprised this player safety issue hasn’t been addressed as it seems like more sticks are exploding.

    • THE hockey GOD

      @Vic
      That is odd Vic. I still have my sticks from the 90s. But they are not this graphic stuff they use now.

      Wild is definitely NOT a good match up for the VGK. Adapting to their game style is key to winning this series.
      If not it is going to be a long summer for some .

  13. Mike StG

    Another issue to address: MIN allows their Fs to release early in the breakout. Vegas needs to defend this well, to limit breakaway and OMR chances.

  14. I think the VGK will show their character against the Wild and be too much to handle. I do have one question that I hope will find an answer to as being as new to hockey as Vegas, the league table has me stumped… The NHL site has Colorado on top, the ESPN site has the VGK on top https://www.espn.co.uk/nhl/table/_/group/league – I read everywhere it’s regulation wins that is the tiebreaker yet I’m seeing 40 for the VGK and 39 for the AVS … If someone could fill me in, all I’m looking for is to understand… Cheers 🙂

    • Mike StG

      Vegas had more overall wins (40-39) but included in those total wins are games won in overtime. Colorado won more games that didn’t go to overtime.

      • Howard

        Absolute horrendous way to determine President’s Cup winner this year. VGK’s record overall in wins and losses is 40 -16. AVS are 39-17 (VGK has 2 OT losses, AVS 4) Only NHL out of all major sports can reward the team with the overall lesser record but this is one of the many signs of the current times we live in so..

      • Merilee.

        It goes by points not number of games won. We have 82 points and so do the Avs. The tiebreaker is regulation wins. Avs have more regulation wins. Therefore, they won the division.

  15. Vic

    Right THG….Worst possible 1st series matchup I believe. Crazy year….The VGK fight hard to pile up the points, and that usually means excellent 1st and 2nd series match ups. This year, several excellent teams will be gone in a week to 10 days. Teams have to come out flying out of the gate in what is simply survival.

    I am keeping all my wooden sticks as relics….even though I still use one when skating around in the cool months.

    • THE hockey GOD

      ” that usually means excellent 1st and 2nd series match ups.”

      yep NHL really doesn’t get it. There is no reason to maintain this covid induced schedule because they do away with it in the next round ! They should have each conference’s highest point getter play each conference lower point getter in first round, and so forth.

      This is insane !! It’s mad I say COMPLETE MADNESS !!

  16. DOC (Go Knights Go)

    Sticks were mentioned.

    I played about 25 years of hockey, mostly in the 70s – 80s.

    My stick of choice was Northland, of which many used. Some fiberglass wrapped blades came around, but basically all wood sticks.

    Not much bend or give in them babies. Broke a lot of sticks on slap shots. But what fun.

  17. knights fan in minny

    christian brothers was my choice made right here in warroad minnesota made by the christian family olympic and nhl fame

  18. DOC (Go Knights Go)

    I’m talking about the same style Northland stick as the NHL guys were using at that time.

    Sherwood sticks were also popular as they were a little bit cheaper. But, they were a little bit less sturdy and broke more than the Northlands.

    Wish I had a couple of my old sticks, but they’re long gone.

  19. Interesting – a lot of old timers on the post – Northland sticks – catalogs for shin pads etc .- they were the good old days when we played for the love of the game not necessarily the money. How things have changed – crazy world we are living in and will probably get crazier based on how things are going. GO KNIGHTS GO – show them you can win it all – yes one game at a time.

  20. ROBERT A YEZEK

    The wild will win the series in six games.

  21. DOC (Go Knights Go)

    Never know huh Robert Y ? Appreciate your confidence.

    But, do come back and say howdy, when THAT doesn’t happen, Ok! 😉

  22. Big D

    so…. ah….. how’d the blue print go for game #1? asking for a friend.

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