The Golden Knights have been in many different situations in their 56 game playoff history, but down 0-2 is not one they’ve ever seen before.
After being mauled in Game 1, Vegas responded with an excellent Game 2 that slipped away due to a bunch of unhappy red iron, a soft penalty in overtime, and an array of missed opportunities. Quite simply, the Golden Knights outplayed the Avalanche over the course of the 60+ minutes at Ball Arena in Game 2, but they return home without the rewards that usually come with it.
You can’t stress too much until you lose at home, so we need to take care of business in Vegas. -Mark Stone
He’s probably underselling the stress level, but Stone and his teammates absolutely should not feel down in the dumps after Game 2.
This series marks the 6th time in 10 playoff series in which the Golden Knights have trailed at some point on the series scoreboard. It’s the 1st time they’ve ever been down 0-2, but it’s not the first time they’ve trailed by multiple games. The previous pair of series they faced that, VGK went out with a whimper, losing in five to both the Capitals and the Stars.
However, this one feels much different, mainly because of the way the Golden Knights responded after being taken to the woodshed in Game 1.
In the Cup Final, Game 1 was a wacky one in which neither team played particularly well. Vegas responded with a dud for most of Game 2 and Game 3 was a low-event style game that much more suited the Caps style than Vegas. Last year, the Golden Knights were overwhelmed in Game 1 against Dallas, and despite responding with a win in Game 2, the series always felt under control for the Stars. Dallas played the same way in Games 3 and 4 and won them both putting Vegas in the two-game hole.
Those two times, once the series was beyond a one-game deficit, the Golden Knights were cooked. They simply hadn’t played well enough for long enough to make anyone feel comfortable they had a shot of coming back. This series, it’s the complete opposite.
Here, Game 1 looks like the anomaly. The style Vegas played in Game 2 makes the result look like a poster child for why the NHL playoffs are played in seven-game series as opposed to the one-and-done format used by the NFL or college hoops.
It’s not easy to take when you lose in the playoffs. I thought we deserved better, I liked a lot of the things we did. They held serve at home, we’ve got to do the same.
We feel good about our game. After Game 1 we were out to prove that we can play with this team and I think we did that tonight. We’ve got to come out in Game 3 and do the same thing. One game at a time, this series is a long way from over. -Pete DeBoer
The numbers suggest the Golden Knights are in trouble. 87% of teams to go out to a 2-0 series lead go on to win it. But the hockey suggests the team coming back to an arena that will be at 100% capacity for the first time in 458 days has a real shot of being part of the minority group that has recovered.
The Golden Knights limited Colorado’s top line, they held an Avalanche team that averages 35 shots a game to 25, and they created 28 even-strength chances to the Avs 9 in 2nd and 3rd periods.
Plus, Vegas did this all on the road, where they do not control the matchups. Mark Stone, Chandler Stephenson, and Max Pacioretty have made life incredibly difficult on Colorado’s big three, and it’s only going to get harder for Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Gabriel Landeskog at T-Mobile Arena where DeBoer has last change.
Marc-Andre Fleury had one fluky goal slip through him and admitted to letting his team down on the shot in overtime. We’ve seen enough of Fleury this year, and over his career, to know he’ll be even better as the series goes on. In the other net, Philip Grubauer played about as well as a goalie can play in a playoff game, and the Golden Knights still put two past him and hit five posts.
A lot is going to have to go right for the Golden Knights to win four of the next five games in this series. But this is the best position Vegas has ever been in when trailing by two games in a series. They’re going to have to play four nearly perfect games to do it. We’ve already seen one, which should give plenty of hope that more are on the horizon.
This isn’t the Dallas series, nor is it the Washington one. The Golden Knights are down, but they are definitely not out.