It’s possible in Game 1 the Golden Knights defeated a Canadiens team that didn’t play to their full identity. Clearly, Vegas executed theirs by pressuring Montreal resulting in four goals scored against goaltender Carey Price. However, things were different in Game 2 and likely for the remainder of the Semifinals series.
Everybody who was supposed to be who they are identity wise for the Montreal Canadiens played to their role. And it got Vegas uncomfortable. Where Vegas hasn’t been uncomfortable before. -Aaron Ward, Former defenseman and TSN analyst
Canadiens defenseman Jeff Petry was absent for Game 1 but his presence on Wednesday allowed the Original Six franchise to clean up their endzone coverage and move the puck effectively. In their second matchup, the Canadiens pushed Vegas shooters wider than they had in Game 1. The Golden Knights had only eight low-quality attempts on net as opposed to 11 in Game 2.
This postseason with Petry in the lineup the Canadiens allow 2.20 goals per game and given up 3.00 without him.
My best asset is my legs my skating ability. Just focusing on that and closing quickly. -Jeff Petry, MTL defenseman
Tonight, Vegas will need to find ways to utilize the traffic in front of Montreal’s net. 13 of the 32 goals the Canadiens have allowed in the playoffs were from defenseman, including five in six periods from Golden Knights blueliners. Alex Pietrangelo’s goal in Game 2 was a great example how to get around Montreal’s stingy defense. The former Cup winner patiently waited for a screen to develop and slipped a shot through Petry’s legs and past Price. There’s not much an elite goaltender can do when he can’t see the puck.
The Golden Knights have scored on mobile defenseman this postseason but neither of their prior opponents were as big as the Canadiens defensive unit. To combat that, Vegas can match with their own size to jam, screen, and stuff in front of the goaltender. And of course taking advantage of rebounds, loose pucks, and all the grease that occurs in the playoffs.
Since their Game 6 loss against Minnesota, Vegas has responded well after a playoff loss. There’s no reason to believe they won’t tonight for Game 3 in Montreal. Sure, with a full deck the Canadiens will be more difficult to break through but Vegas has the creativity, size, and skill to neutralize any club’s defense. Price can’t bail his teammates out the entire series.