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Stone: “We Just Never Felt We Were Going To Lose”

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

This summer the Canadian province of Manitoba has seen its share of the Stanley Cup trophy and then some. Champions Brett Howden, Keegan Kolesar, and Mark Stone headlined the celebration parades in their hometowns or rinks where they began their NHL dreams. Vegas’ captain made a pit stop at his family’s favorite golf course to share the Stanley Cup trophy with friends and family. Stone sat down with Andrew Patterson of Winnipeg Sports Talk to chat about his championship run and being able to bring the Cup back to his hometown. (You can watch the entire interview below.)

The hardest part of the Cup run was in between periods between the 2nd and 3rd, trying not to laugh or smile and stay serious. We knew the game was over, 6-1 going into the 3rd period. We made it 7-1 early. It was hard to play that last period to be honest with you. Our heads were going all over the place. It was awesome. –Mark Stone to Winnipeg Sports Talk

Vegas’ heart and soul donned a two-toned Golden Knights hat with the Stanley Cup trophy standing an arm’s length away as he chopped it up from Breezy Bend Country Club in the Winnipeg Metro Region. Stone was candid and admitted winning 16 games wasn’t all that hard. Especially, since Vegas never faced an elimination game. The World Champions never doubted themselves, well, except after losing 5-1 to the Jets in Game 1 of the playoffs.

I came home and kind of laughed with my wife, maybe it was going to be a short playoff run for us, but we turned it around pretty good. Looking back after that, we didn’t face any elimination games and it went pretty easy for us actually. Winning is contagious. We want to do it again. –Stone to Winnipeg Sports Talk

While the journey began with an embarrassing home loss, Stone mentioned how he had full confidence in his teammates after they performed so well in his absence. After healing from his second back surgery in under a year, VGK’s captain knew he’d return in time to lead his club to a deep playoff run.

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What Did We Learn About The Golden Knights In Round 1

(Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke,

Just like five years ago, the Golden Knights completed the gentleman’s sweep of the Winnipeg Jets, dropping Game 1 before then rattling off four straight wins. As the series went Vegas’ game continued to grow while Winnipeg’s felt like it was deteriorating. What appeared like it was going to be a long, hard-fought series turned into a one-sided affair that culminated one of VGK’s best games of the year to close it out.

Win or lose, there’s always plenty to glean from a playoff series. Here’s what we learned from Vegas’ five-game win over the Jets.

Balanced lineup held up in all situations

Heading into the series Bruce Cassidy had a lot of decisions to make with Mark Stone returning to the lineup. Rather than loading up, he opted for a balanced lineup highlighted by three pairs of top-end players on each of the first three lines. Danger lurked after Game 1, but as the series wore on it became clear all four Vegas lines could be trusted in any zone against any line of the Jets.

Nine different Vegas forwards spent at least 20 minutes on the ice against the Jets’ most dangerous player in the series, Kyle Connor. Whether it was home or away, the Golden Knights did not have to chase matchups in this series and it allowed for each line to have great moments at different points.

Plus, Cassidy was able to spread the wealth in regards to minutes load, which clearly had an impact in Game 5. The Golden Knights looked like the fresher team and it’s because they were.

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Recap: The Golden Knights were looking to wrap up their quarterfinal series against the Winnipeg Jets with a Game 5 victory at home. Vegas immediately attacked Winnipeg’s zone and scored :50 into the game. Chandler Stephenson tapped in his third goal of the series off a great feed from linemate Mark Stone. After the opening 20 minutes the home team led 1-0.

Vegas’ offense heated up in the middle frame, receiving three goals in the first eight minutes of the period. Stone doubled the score :42 seconds in, William Karlsson scored his fourth goal of the series, followed by a second goal from Stephenson. The Golden Knights took a commanding 4-0 lead into the second intermission.

In the final period the Golden Knights protected their four-goal lead and continued to frustrate the Jets offense. Winnipeg broke the shutout, but Vegas killed the clock and sealed the series with a 4-1 victory.

The Golden Knights clinched their first-round series with a 4-1 victory over the Jets. Vegas will now rest and prepare for the winner of the Edmonton-Los Angeles series. (Recap by Jason)

Analysis: Vegas has been in the situation of being up 3-1 in a series many times before. They haven’t had a ton of success in it. It seemed like they were aware of that history tonight and were willing to do whatever they needed to in order to avoid the slippery slope that comes with losing this game. They came out on fire with the forecheck completely eating the Jets alive from the very first shift of the game. It was only 1-0 after one period but the dominance of the 1st was just foreshadowing for what was to come. VGK’s best 30 minutes of the series saw them officially ground the Jets (or cut them in half, as I prefer). (Analysis by Ken)

Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs Winnipeg Jets Game 5 at T-Mobile Arena.

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Both Teams Confident Entering Thursday’s Elimination Game

Being up 3-1 in a seven-game series can make a team full of confidence. Especially, coming off back-to-back road wins in Winnipeg. The stage is set for the home team to wrap up the series on Thursday night and advance to the second round. But it can’t be that easy.

The message for us is we haven’t won anything yet. You need to win four, right? -Bruce Cassidy

(Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke,

Clearly, the Golden Knights are feeling good about their position and history shows that they should be. In NHL history, only 31 teams have blown a series up 3-1, while 299 went on to win the round.

Five times in Vegas history, the team has been up 3-1 and won 4 out of the 5 playoff series. Twice the organization sealed the deal in Game 5 and the other two series went the distance in Vegas’ favor. Overall, it’s been highly difficult for opponents to overcome a tw0-game series deficit to the Golden Knights. But the Jets don’t seem too worried about the past.

At this point, you just take it one game at a time. We don’t need three, we need one and we’ll go from there. A bounce here, a bounce there and things can go well. I think we have the character in our room to do something special and to do something great. And like we said, we’re looking for one game. We need one game and we’ll move on to the next one and we’ll prepare the same way… We’re inches away from really flipping the script on this. -Connor Hellebuyck, Jets goalie

It hasn’t been a walk in the park for Hellebuyck throughout the first four games of the series. He’s allowing more goals per game, making fewer saves, and has recorded only one quality start in the postseason. The Golden Knights have gotten to the Jets goaltender early and often, but they haven’t broken his or his teammates’ confidence.

We haven’t had good luck so far. We’ve been playing pretty good though, despite all of our adversity. Now, we have to make sure our heads are right and know we’re in for the grind and we’re not out yet. It’s a bounce here, a bounce there. And we’re not asking for a ton, we’re asking for one a game. That’s all we need. We haven’t gotten it yet, and you’d imagine it would show itself at some point. -Hellebuyck

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Recap: The Golden Knights were looking to take a 3-1 series lead with a Game 4 win in Winnipeg. The Jets opened the scoring early into the first period but Vegas settled in and tied the game four minutes later. Brett Howden registered his first goal of the postseason tying the game at one.

Vegas’ offense really picked up in the middle frame. William Karlsson broke the tie with his third goal of the series and Ivan Barbashev extended Vegas’ lead less than a minute later. After 40 minutes the Golden Knights held a 3-1 advantage.

Winnipeg got within one early in the period with a power play goal. The Golden Knights fought off a late push from the Jets and sealed the game with an empty-net goal.

The Golden Knights take a commanding 3-1 defeating the Jets 4-2 in Game 4. VGK will have a chance to clinch the series on Thursday night from T-Mobile Arena. Puck drop for Game 5 is scheduled for 7 PM. (Recap by Jason)

Analysis: Early in the game the Jets got a breakaway chance, Mark Scheifele came in on Laurent Brossoit, and the goalie stoned him, then Scheifele went flying into the boards. It ended his night and it foreshadowed the rest of the game. VGK didn’t play the best game, but when they Jets had chances, Brossoit was there to shut them down (wacky power play goal aside), when VGK got chances, they buried them. It’s a 3-1 series lead with Scheifele, Morrissey, and Ehlers all out, the Golden Knights have one foot in the 2nd round. (Analysis by Ken)

Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs Winnipeg Jets Game 4 at Canada Life Centre.

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Penalty Drawn Before OT Changed Tenor Of Locker Room During Crucial Intermission

(Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke,

When the Golden Knights walked off the ice at the end of regulation, they had to be in disbelief. Vegas had not surrendered a three-goal deficit at any time this season, and they had won 34 of 37 games in which they held a lead at the start of the 3rd period.

Yet here they were, headed back to the locker room with 18 minutes to prepare for an overtime period knowing if they don’t score next, it’ll go down as one of the worst losses in franchise history.

At that moment, there’s shouldn’t have been much positive to draw on. They’d blown a massive lead and turned what was a subdued environment into the most hostile one they’d played in for years. However, they did have something to hang their hats on, which offered a sense of calm and belief.

After the Jets scored to miraculously tie the game with 21.9 seconds left, captain Mark Stone, Jack Eichel, and Chandler Stephenson hopped over the boards looking to make something happen in the short time they had left. Stephenson won the draw, Eichel moved it back to Shea Theodore who stretched it into the zone back to Stephenson. He carried the puck with a purpose below the goal line and sent a centering pass to Stone. Brenden Dillon blocked the pass, but Stone kept working towards it and was hauled down by Pierre-Luc Dubois. Penalty!

I know the power play hasn’t been good but we had two tonight and we were feeling good about it. The message was that we have the power play and almost a full two minutes of one with good ice. Obviously we didn’t get it done but it was definitely something that we were able to look forward to and allowed us to get right back to pushing. -Chandler Stephenson

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Recap: The Golden Knights were looking to take a 2-1 series lead with a win against the Jets in Winnipeg. Chandler Stephenson got Vegas going right out of the gate with his second goal of the series. Minutes later Jack Eichel doubled the Golden Knights first period lead to 2-0. The Jets scored to get within one but the Golden Knights held a 2-1 advantage going into the first intermission.

Midway through the 2nd period Eichel scored his second power play goal of the game. Later in the period, Keegan Kolesar stretched VGK’s lead to 4-1.

Winnipeg scored quickly into the final frame to give themselves life. Phil Kessel committed a late-period penalty allowing the Jets to get closer on the power play. The home team took advantage to get within one. With their goalie pulled, the Jets fought to the last minute and forced overtime with a late game-tying goal.

In double overtime, the Golden Knights jumped on a fortunate bounce and Michael Amdio shot in the game-winner to win 5-4.

The Golden Knights hold on to win Game 3 in Winnipeg and now lead the quarterfinal series 2-1. The two teams will battle it out on Monday night for Game 4. Puck drop from Winnipeg is scheduled for 6:30 PM. (Recap by Jason)

Analysis: The game started out a lot like the end of the previous one with the neutral zone wide open and Vegas zipping out of their own zone and in on goal. They converted an early one and then got a fortunate play on the power play to grab control of the game. Then, things went off the rails a little bit as the Jets stormed back into the game with three goals on different strengths. A late power play really helped to settle things down before the OT. VGK did what they wanted to do coming into the series in OT, create turnovers on the forecheck. Plan E with the amazing shot on the game winner. (Analysis by Ken)

Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs Winnipeg Jets Game 3 at Canada Life Centre.

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One Major Momentum Swing Has The Series Tied

(Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke,

For the first four periods of the series, the Golden Knights looked like they were trying to catch up with the Winnipeg Jets. Vegas generated just 26 shots in the first 80 minutes of action, mainly because of their inability to consistently possess the puck in the offensive zone.

Then, it was almost like a switch was flipped. In the 2nd period, Vegas came alive, scoring two goals, putting 19 shots on Connor Hellebuyck, and flying around the ice at a speed the Jets hadn’t seen to that point in the series.

The Golden Knights continued that success into the 3rd period where they broke the game open and eventually took home a crucial victory to even the series.

That’s playoff hockey, the momentum swings. -Bruce Cassidy

Typically, playoff series tend to see plenty of swings like this over the course of each individual game. Two games into this series, we’ve seen just one swing, a massive one from the Jets looking like far and away the better team to suddenly Vegas exerting their dominance and looking like the #1 seed.

The term momentum does a lot of heavy lifting in the hockey world as somewhat of a catchall to explain why things go from good to bad or vise versa in a hurry. What it doesn’t do is actually explain what changed in the way the teams are playing that caused it to happen.

Clearly, the momentum of the series did shift in favor of the Golden Knights. But why?

For us a lot of times it’s puck management. In the 1st period on the 2nd shift of the game we give their best line opportunity after opportunity, we get the huge saves but it just gives them life. So we got that corrected. If you look at the scoresheet, our top guys are all over the sheet tonight, their guys were all over the sheet the other night in Game 1. -Bruce Cassidy

Cassidy also pointed to the first goal of the game that energized the crowd and seemed to wake up the Golden Kights.

Maybe the other team feels a little pressure to be cleaner and all of a sudden we’re on top of them. -Cassidy

On the other bench, they felt the shift in the game was mostly self-inflicted.

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Recap: The Golden Knights looked to tie up their seven-game series with a win over the Winnipeg Jets in Game 2. Both teams were awarded early power play opportunities but only Winnipeg cashed in. The Jets deflected one by Vegas goaltender Laurent Brossoit to open up the scoring midway through the period. The final five minutes were full of after whistle scrums which resulted in nine penalties handed out in the opening 20 minutes.

William Karlsson evened the score 1-1 six minutes into the period with his second goal of the postseason. Moments later Jack Eichel deflected in the tie-breaking goal to record his first career playoff goal. The Jets tied the game late in the middle frame, taking a 2-2 tie into the second intermission.

The Golden Knights began to heat up at the right time. Quickly into the final period Chandler Stephenson poked in a loose rebound to snap the tie and later captain Mark Stone extended Vegas’ lead. It was Stone’s first goal of the postseason and his first since January 5th. The captain scored four minutes later to widen VGK’s advantage to 5-2.

The Golden Knights even the series with their 5-2 Game 2 victory over the Jets. The series shifts to Winnipeg and will resume on Saturday afternoon. Puck drop is scheduled for 1 PM. (Recap by Jason)

Analysis: It took another period of malaise before the Golden Knights really got going in this series. After a bundle of penalties for both teams, Vegas came alive in the 2nd. Their speed started to push the Jets back further into the zone and that led to much easier entries and much more zone time. From there, it took a massive scoop and score from Karlsson to get VGK on the board and then they started rolling. Winnipeg didn’t go away, but they certainly looked much more impotent tonight than in Game 1. (Analysis by Ken)

Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs Winnipeg Jets Game 2 at T-Mobile Arena

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Examining The Line Matchups VGK Preferred In Game 1

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

With Mark Stone back in the lineup, the Golden Knights had to do a bit of line shuffling to begin their opening-round series with the Winnipeg Jets. The captain found his way back onto the right wing of Chandler Stephenson, while Jack Eichel stayed with Jonathan Marchessault and Ivan Barbashev, and Phil Kessel was placed with William Karlsson and Reilly Smith.

It was meant to be a well-balanced lineup focused around three pairs that have played together for extended stretches.

There’s a few moving parts because of Mark Stone’s recovery and we all knew that may or may not happen. It is happening now so we’re going to try to make the pieces fit around it if he’s available to us. -Bruce Cassidy

About halfway through the game, Cassidy opted to shift some players around to try and inject some offense into what had been a fairly listless performance to that point from the Golden Knights.

He started with


Then switched to


That came with a significant boost in minuted to each of the top six while the remaining group filled in the gaps.

With Game 1 in the books, Cassidy has elected to return to the lineup he began the series with, hoping for more success the second time around.

Looking back at usage, there were a few matchups Cassidy seemed to prefer when he had the opportunity with last change. First, he typically turned to Stephenson, Stone, and Amadio when the opposing 1st line would hit the ice. It didn’t take long for the Golden Knights’ head coach to show his hand with that matchup, going to it just 37 seconds into the game on the first defensive zone draw. He then went back to it three more times in the 1st period including twice in the defensive zone.

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