Every great superhero must have a competent villain. As Alfred Hitchcock said, “the more successful the villain, the more successful the picture.”
In this series, the superhero is Nathan MacKinnon. I’d list off all his accolades, but this is a VGK website, so if you really need to know them, Google it. But I will offer up some stats.
MacKinnon has played in 49 playoff games, he has amassed 67 points in them, good for an average of 1.37 per game. He’s scored at least one point in 34 of the 49 games and has multiple points in 20 of them. In the Avs First Round sweep of the Blues, MacKinnon posted six goals and three assists, more than two points per game.
Then, his villain showed up.
No, the villain isn’t the Golden Knights. It’s not a specific line from Vegas, and it’s not even Selke candidate Mark Stone. Instead, it’s the guy standing behind the Golden Knights bench, Pete DeBoer.
After Game 1, when MacKinnon exploded for two goals and an assist to arrive in the series with a true superhero entrance, he’s gone quiet over the past four games, and completely silent in the last three. 0 points in three games.
(Insert creepy laugh from DeBoer)
In the 49 game playoff career of MacKinnon, there have only been two stretches when he has been held off the score sheet completely in three consecutive games in the same postseason. These last three games and Games 5-7 in 2019 against the San Jose Sharks.
In other words, in the past eight postseason games MacKinnon has gone against a DeBoer-coached team, he’s come up pointless in six of them. Remember, this is a player that has registered a goal or an assist in all but 15 of his 49 playoff games. DeBoer has been responsible for six of them, or 40%, in just the last eight games!
So how is he doing it?
Like any good villain, he’s never going to actually tell us. Instead of riddles, DeBoer speaks in cliches.
Make him defend. Force him to come 200 feet. Take away his time and space.
It’s all true, but it’s so much easier said than done, as literally every coach not named DeBoer has figured out.
The villain has the superhero looking as human as he’s ever looked. If DeBoer can keep MacKinnon down for one more game, the Golden Knights will have overcome an 0-2 series deficit and will be off to the NHL’s Semifinal. If not, and the superhero regains his powers, the storybook ending is there for the taking.
Lucky for us, this is real life, not an Alfred Hitchcock movie. The villain has won before and he absolutely can win again and if he does the villain will have made this one of the most successful “pictures” the Golden Knights have ever been in.