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How The Golden Knights Can Score On Carey Price And The Montreal Canadiens

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights enter Round 3 of the playoffs as a sizeable favorite. That’s because they seem to have the advantage on paper at pretty much every position on the rosters. However, even as good as Marc-Andre Fleury has been, beating Carey Price is always going to be tricky.

That certainly doesn’t mean it can’t be done though. In 11 playoff games this season, he’s allowed 22 goals on 337 shots. That’s good for an impressive .935 save percentage to go along with his 1.97 goals against average. Excellent numbers, but 22 goals nonetheless.

I went back and studied all 22 goals that got past Price to see if I could spot any common threads. Not just in beating Price himself, but also in places where the Golden Knights can exploit Montreal’s defense.

Of the 22 allowed, I qualified just six as stoppable shots by Price. It’s important to note that I’m being fairly lenient in favor of Price, marking any shot that was tipped, deflected, through traffic, or into an open net based on a rebound or cross-ice pass as “unstoppable.” This doesn’t mean a goalie like Price can’t stop them, or that he won’t moving forward, it instead means that they are goals created that scored on the defense as opposed to beating the goalie. These are goals that a goalie is not expected to stop, and the unstoppable shots accounted for 73% of the goals scored against Price in the series.

Let’s start with the six that he did have a chance to stop. Three of them are pucks that are picked up by players standing in the circles. Two are from passes from the high-slot to a defenseman walking in (the same defenseman both times in the same game actually), and the other is a pass from under the goal. On all three, the player released a hard wrist shot that beats Price. All three scored are shot short side on Price and all three he looks up to the sky like he can’t believe he missed them. I’d be hard-pressed to say we can expect one of those in this series, but three in 11 games makes me think it’s possible. Looking at Max Pacioretty, Alex Tuch, Alex Pietrangelo, or Shea Theodore as the most likely options to do it.

The other three are all different. One is a shorthanded breakaway that the guy makes an awesome deke to open up Price’s five-hole. Another is a shot that hit the post and Price knew he was out of position so he flailed back into the net like we’ve seen Marc-Andre Fleury do many times, but was unable to make the spectacular stop. And the last was a chance right out in front of him that would have required an incredible save, but one Price will need to make if he’s going to help his team pull off the upset.

On to the other 16, the ones that are born out of plays that leave the goalie helpless. The largest group of these is eight goals that are scored directly off a deflection or with enough traffic in front that Price never sees the puck. A few were tips by the offensive players, a few were off the Montreal players’ sticks or skates, or a few were simply thrown through and the Habs didn’t do a good enough job blocking them.

This is a place the Golden Knights can absolutely take advantage of the Canadiens and can neutralize the superstar they have between the pipes. While Montreal is adept at blocking shots, a lot do get through and they are susceptible to players getting sticks on pucks in front of Price. Creating traffic will be a huge story of this series if VGK are to win it.

Next, there were just two chances created directly off rebounds. They both happened very early on in the Toronto series and one was an incredible play by Auston Matthews as he collected a rebound right out in front while moving full speed, in one motion he put it into the abandoned goal. Hard to imagine the Golden Knights can rely on one like that. The other one is your classic first to find the puck tap-in rebound goal. There’s only one of those over 22 playoff goals against Price, and the Golden Knights are not particularly great in this area, so those are probably not to be expected in this series.

Finally, we have the last six, which are mostly off the exact same style of play. Like any goalie, when Price is forced to move from post to post to defend a one-time shot, he’s at risk of allowing a goal. One of the six was a cross-ice pass on an odd-man rush which was brilliantly finished. It’s the other five that are the most intriguing though. In just 11 playoff games, the Habs have allowed five goals that are from passes into or through the slot that are hammered in by opposing players. These are the pretty goals, like the one we saw from William Karlsson in Game 6.

The Golden Knights are likely going to have quite a bit of offensive zone time in this series. Plan A should always be to get traffic in front of Price in order to take away his vision and deflect pucks past him. But Plan B needs to be something the Golden Knights don’t do a ton of, and rarely tried at all against Colorado, and that’s hitting the pretty seam pass through multiple defensemen. Normally, it’s best to be conservative with these types of passes as a poor one means the end of the offensive possession, but against Montreal, they’ve shown poor enough stick position and enough of an inability to bat pucks out of the air that Vegas should be seeking out these plays as a way to beat Price.

All in all, the Golden Knights must be aware that goals will be hard to come by in this series. As good as Phillip Grubauer and Cam Talbot at times in each series, Carey Price is on another level beyond both of them. The Golden Knights will need to work incredibly hard to fight through what is likely to be a collapsed Montreal defense in order to get traffic in front and sticks in the offensive shooting lanes. Then, they’ll have to have the awareness and the guts to fire cross-ice passes to expose one of Montreal’s weaknesses.

And if none of that works, just rip a bunch of shots short side and pray to the hockey gods that Carey Price has another human moment.

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How The Montreal Canadiens Have Generated Offense In The Playoffs

36 Comments

  1. Joel Esrig

    I hope the VGK coaching staff is doing as good homework as Ken is. Do I forward this to them ???

  2. vgk21

    Several of the Mtl forwards are smallish and have a short reach, so the seam pass is more likely to work vs them than it would vs others. i.e. Tatar, Gallagher, Caufield, Byron, etc

    also, Plan A, the Knights need to play just like on the Carrier goal…..crash the net, create net front traffic and crease chaos, and get in Price’s head, both literally and figuratively.

    here are the Mtl lines as of last game:

    Artturi Lehkonen
    Phillip Danault
    Brendan Gallagher

    Tyler Toffoli
    Nick Suzuki
    Cole Caufield

    Paul Byron
    Jesperi Kotkaniemi
    Josh Anderson

    Joel Armia
    Eric Staal
    Corey Perry

    that 4th line, 3 veteran big guys, has 8 goals and 12 assts, while the vgk 4th line has only 4 goals and 5 assts, so stopping Perry and Armia, total 7 goals, especially will be key. I could see the vgk 3rd line vs them, and the vgk 4th line vs the Lehkonen Gallagher Danault line, a smallish line with a defensive center. watch out for that line of Suzuki, Caufield, 2 young snipers, with the veteran Toffoli. I could see the Stone line or the Karlsson line vs them in matchups.

    it looks like Petry and Evans will be out of game 1 with injuries, but all are very close to returning. Petry is their key dman along with Weber on the PP, and Evans is their checking center.

    go Knights go

    • Pete Turner

      I worry about the MTL 4th line. Armia, Staal and Corey Perry are seasoned vetrans and are big, heavy players that like to play in front of the net. Not to mention someone as dirty as Perry could seriously try to hurt our players like he did in that Maple Leaves game when they had to take Tavares out in a stretcher. Perry was a pain in VGK’s butt during last season’s WCF and I doubt he’s changed his ways. We need to neutralize him with Patrick Brown rather than Reavo. Trust me, unlike Ken, I’m a big Reavo fan but in this situation as in the last playoff series against Dallas, Reavo is no match for Perry. We need someone faster who can forecheck hard and push players around while looking innocent. MTL’s 4th line is built to put the hurt on our star players. Our 4th line needs to take ’em out while running circles around them such that they feel the need to check into senior assisted living.

      Go Knights Go.

      • Martin Croteau

        I wanted to see the comment of somebody out of the box regarding the hit on Tavares. I saw it and I’m very disappointed. Maybe you should stop watching hockey if you cannot be honest. Perry did not hit Tavares on purpose. Watch the replay carefully. Perry was actually one of the cleanest player of the league and play like a real pro veteran. Hope he’s gonna put a couple in the VGK net, just to make you swallow what you just said!

      • Sean Rosebrugh

        Someone’s been reading too many Toronto blogs. That was as much a tripping penalty on Tavares as it was a dirty hit. Both ridiculous. Hell even foligno and Tavares said it was accidental.

    • Muhammad

      The Danault-Gallagher line will be out against the Pacioretty/Stone line guaranteed. They shut down any line they play against and generate quite a bit of offensive zone time and pressure themselves.

      You’re right about the Suzuki line, I’m not sure what line VGK will try and slow them down with but that’s the line that has the most potential to burn you.

      Both of these teams are built very similarly with tons of depth, a tendency to control and drive the play as well as being very dangerous off the rush and having a strong forecheck. Both blue lines present problems for the opposition and each are deep with a lot of experience. I’d give Montreal’s blue line a slight edge and VGK’s top 6 a slight edge. I do think Montreal has more to offer in the bottom six though especially with that Perry line being on fire.

      I really think this series is going to be wild and incredibly intriguing. It probably comes down to goaltending and special teams as most NHL playoff series do. Can’t wait for this.

  3. Rick

    It’s going to be a great series Montreal nothing to lose and Vegas with all the pressure Habs in 6

    • Tesssss

      Yessssss!

    • Pete Turner

      Au Contraire, the Vegas Golden Knights has been in the playoffs every year since it’s inception and have reached the Semis 3 out of 4 times in their short history. The Habs on the other hand, hasn’t been here since 1993. VGK is playing with house money as far as I’m concerned. Win or Lose, VGK has nothing to be ashamed of. We’re a resilient, well balanced team with great players and coaches. On top of that or because of that, we have the best fans any NHL team would want. VGK has nothing to lose. MTL has more pressure on their side if you ask me. If we beat them, we’d be the first team to beat both teams from Montreal in the playoffs back to back. The Nordiques and the Canadiens.

      Go Knights Go!

      Go Knights Go!

      • Lily

        While Montreal’s recent history in the playoffs is not nealy as good as Vegas, I have to correct you: they did reach the semi finals in 2010 et 2014 :). They never went further since 1993 however. Oh and the Nordiques were from Quebec, not Montreal… not quite the same place

      • David Aikman

        Dude, I sure hope you meant Quebec as a province and not that the Nordiques were from Montreal. The Nords came from Quebec City, quite a ways from Montreal.

    • knights fan in minny

      what are you smoking ricky

  4. Peter Turner

    I’d like to caution all VGK fans about thinking this series will be a cake walk because the bookies, after losing a ton of money betting against VGK, decide to flip the other way.

    If you watch CBC or any Canadian TV, they’re talking about the past matchups and that out of 6 regular season games, VGK has only beaten Montreal once. Of course the real report is that VGK only lost 2 games and the other 3 were OTL, one of which was a shoot out, which doesn’t translate in the playoffs. So basically they beat us twice and we beat them once. Not exactly a domination.

    What’s different this time however is this. We have Max Pacioretty, former captain of the MTL Canadiens. If anyone knows more about Price and his tendencies, it’s none other than our own Sniper Max. Although it’s a different coach for them this season, Max knows the system before when they were coached by Thierren and Claude Julien. Another factor is Mark Stone, who while at Ottawa had plenty of games against MTL and knows the team well. It was during that time did he build up his animosity towards Patches.

    As for the MTL offense, obviously VGK has the complete scouting report on Nick Suzuki since we drafted him. Tyler Toffoli is a beast and likely the biggest threat to us. Fortunately, we have his old buddy Alex Martinez who played with Toffoli during their two Stanley Cup wins in LA to tell us all about stopping him. Another hotshot is a Kaprizov-like rookie who has tallied 4 goals for MTL this post season, Jesperi Kotkaniemi. Helluva name. He is young and sneaky fast and we need to put some bodies on him to slow him down.

    As JP mentioned, blocked shots are the key to limiting the offensive threat. Unfortunately, MTL has as their new captain, Shea Webber, a guy known throughout the league as the perennial winner of the NHL hardest shot competition that might scare some of our players from trying to block shots. All I can offer our brave blockers are the wise words of Lt. Ronald Spiers in the HBO series “Band of Brothers” who was quoted saying the following about courage.

    “The only hope you have is to accept the fact that you’re already dead. The sooner you accept that, the sooner you’ll be able to function as a soldier is supposed to function: without mercy, without compassion, without remorse. All war depends upon it.”

    That’s the mentality our players have to go into the game with if they want to block shots from the MTL captain.

    Similarly on their end, the MTL blue line is no pushover either. Joel Edmundson is former line partner of Alex Pietrangleo when they were in STL. Offensive D-man Eric Gustaffson learnt from the best in Duncan Keith and blocking shots like Niklas Hjalmarsson during his time with the Chicago Blackhawks. Likewise, Philip Danault got his training wheels from the likes of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.

    Finally we have the matchup we always wanted to see. Carey Price vs Marc Andre Fleury. All I can say is:

    Salary 2021 Stanley Cups
    ========== ==========
    Carey Price $ 10,500,000 0
    Marc Andre $ 6,500,000 3

    Go Knights Go!

    • Howard

      Habs and VGK have not played each other since Deboer took over, so with a totally different system than Gallant’s, what happened in the past between these 2 is especially irrelevant for the specific reason I just mentioned.

  5. Tesssss

    Yessssss!

  6. Jeffery Van den engh

    As a Habs fan I have to say Vegas, for a fairly new team in a desert, has very knowledgeable fans. This series is settled in one area of the ice. The neutral zone. Whichever team breaks the neutral zone trap the best will win the series. Speed is equal. Skill is equal (compare teams player stats, almost identical) goaltending goes to MTL but D zone coverage goes to Vegas. Size is about equal, both teams have BIG D men, some big and some smaller forwards, MTL has more small forwards, but they all play big. Gallagher plays like he’s 8 feet tall, Byron as well, Caufield is small but that is actually his strength. See the series clinching goal by Toffoli against the Jets, Caufield uses his small, quick stature to make a pilon of the larger Jet player and feed Toffoli for the win. It is going to be a great series. HABS in 6.

    • Vegas Pete

      Jeffery, based on all that the Canadians should have no problem taking care of the knights. I did not know they were that comparable. You convinced me. I’ll go habs in 5

    • Pete Turner

      Jeff,

      Our series in round 1 against Minnesota Wild will show you how Vegas deals with small fast forwards. VGK plays like the 2014 Stanley Cup champion LA Kings. Our guys are bigger, strong on the puck, fast and forecheck hard and often. All other things being equal, it’s all depends on puck luck and nobody knows more about luck than Las Vegas.

    • Howard

      If Habs are really so good, why just 59 points? Jets suck, Toronto is soft without a D. North division – every single team is weak defensively so it’s not shocking Habs are here. In a regular season and alignment, Habs don’t even make the postseason. While Habs could win 2, maybe 3 games, they won’t win this series unless VGK makes mucho mistakes.

      Habs speed is nowhere near what VGK’s is, I mean not even close. Habs play like Dallas last year, but not nearly as good or as fast as Dallas did.

      Leafs beat themselves in round 1. an absolute bed-shitting performance.

      The only chance Habs here is to stack 5 and hope VGK over presses like they did against Dallas last here, and hope Price really plays above his head. He’s been good, and in the past, the most fundamentally sound goaltender for sure.

      • Martin Croteau

        Byron is the fastest player in the league, Lekhonen, Gallagher, Suzuki are not that bad. Your team is not faster and whether you accept it or not, even if yes your team is by far considered better, I would not jump too quick to conclusions that your team is much better. While you have 3 big defensemen, we have 5 who are over 6´3’’ and are quite heavy. A couple of them can carry the puck even! We have well balanced lines and might not be the fastest but no need if They successfully control their man to man games. May I add that all them 4 liners can score. Our Golden age line with Perry and Staal (and Armia who is younger) can make you look like fools!

        I think the series will be a nice one. I don’t dare saying who will win, I just hope they will play up to their capacities on both sides especially Price and Fleury and hope the referees will be impartial! You guessed, I’m a Habs fan, but I know if VGK underestimate their opponent one slick of a second, the red-white and blue will play the Stanley cup finals!! Go Habs Go!! Forgive me for not wishing you good luck, even though you might need some!!

      • Jeffery van den engh

        Wow, your hockey knowledge is legendary. Lol. Regular season is like practice, an exhibition. The playoffs are a new season. How many president’s trophy winners have been knocked out early in the playoffs? Go ahead and look that up

    • Howard

      To add, Habs have been really good on the forecheck against – leafs, whose D core is as soft as it gets, lousy puck clearing. Against Jets, who are slow, cumbersome, and also have a soft Dcore. I can see you don’t watch much VGK hockey. VGK’s Dcore clears the puck, but had some issues against AVS, The fastest most swarming team in The NHL.

      The best matchup you have is your 4th line, so if u are to have any chance, you need that matchup a lot. I suspect Reavo will be out in this series and Brown back in. So, at home is where you will have best chance to win games or if Deboer shits the bed, or if VGK just makes a lot of mistakes. so of course you have a chance to win, but a small one.

      Habs are nowhere as good as VGK, but this is why they playoff – anything can happen and I suppose an experienced older team will crumble to young inexperienced team?

      Look, u are Habs fan, good to hope and that’s what u will need – HOPE VGK beats themselves as Leafs did in round 1.

  7. Billy

    I am so tired of hearing people gas up Montreal! Did anyone actually watch their games compared to every other series? The Canadian teams play at a snails pace compared to what every other division has been doing. There isn’t 1 Canadian team that is scary to play against and hasn’t been one in several years. VGK wins in 5! Stop overthinking a “hot” team. They played a bad Winnipeg team without their best player. Who have they played all season that compares to us? Theyve been in Canadian jail due to COVID and are about to play in a stadium with 18K+ Nutty fans….good luck with that in games 1-2. I say Montreal wins game 3 or 4 but as you all have failed to say, the coaching advantage is a massive edge on the VGK side. Depth to VGK (look at how many can sub in/out). All of a sudden Fluery isn’t good? Price is amazing but Fluery isn’t good? Mackinnon didn’t score a single goal on him all series. Can’t wait to say I told you all so! VGK in 5! Bring on the Islanders for the upset over Tampa!

  8. Jeffery Van den engh

    Wow, lots of Vegas fans feeling pretty cocky about this series. Should be very satisfying to see how the Canadian team (as some fool put it) will do against the mighty team from the desert, the home of hockey afterall. I wonder if any of you have bothered checking the national status of many of your top players, the majority in fact, are Canadian.

    • CDN in LV

      Enough with the ‘but most of your players are from Canada’ crap. Been hearing this for 40 years. I’m Canadian and can’t stand when this is thrown out there.

  9. Gil

    I’ll tell one thing for sure,time tells everything.

  10. Jacques

    Forget about it Vegas Golden Girls are no match for the gritty tough men from Montreal. You guys think you are a good team??? LOL the vegas team is a joke. Watch our guys run circles around your team and put in pucks past your overrated goalie. Did you see how he let in stupid goals? That is why he is not Canada’s choice for goalie. FACT! You fired the coach who brought you to the Stanley Cup finals. What a bonehead move. Now Gallant is hoisting a cup for Canada.
    Vegas only have fans now because the team is winning. Wait until you a normal NHL team and you will see your fan base drop like flies. In 2 or more years you will be like the Coyotes and you will be begging Canada to take over another expansion team. Good luck to you Vegas Golden Showers, we are more rested and hungry to show you what real canadian hockey is, Your players look tired. Your team played more games than Montreal. We will sweep you guys easily. Habs in 4. Tomorrows game will be like your Avelanche game 1. Habs: 7 Vegas Golden Kites: 1

    • VGK 4 Life

      Wow Jacques, so how about game 1? What happened to that sweep??

    • VGK for Life

      Wow Jacques, how about that game 1? What happened to that sweep you were talking about?!

  11. knights fan in minny

    jacques take off your mask its giving you brain damage are do you have to ask justin boy

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