After getting shut out 1-0 in Game One against the Minnesota Wild, Mark Stone and the Vegas Golden Knights find themselves needing a win in tonight’s Game Two for a split on home ice in the Stanley Cup Quarterfinal series.
Head coach Pete DeBoer said that the Golden Knights failed to play “hard enough for long enough” in the overtime loss in Game One. It was an unfortunate deflection that ended the game, and things could have easily gone the other way but didn’t. So with that in mind, here are five players to circle that must step up for Game Two.
This one is almost not fair. Mark Stone has been the best player on this team all season with all respect to Max Pacioretty. He almost singlehandedly tied the game with a late rush through the Wild defense. And selfishly, I’m asking for more of that. Way more of that. Stone has carried this team in good times and bad, and tonight he must step up more than any other game this season to even the series for his team.
Another one that’s a really hard ask, but this is the playoffs. Reaves can dominate a game with his physical presence and needs to upset Minnesota’s apple cart. It looked like he was going to be his normal, truculent self at the start of Game One but Reaves needs to absolutely steamroll someone early tonight, even if it means taking a minor penalty. Finishing your checks is incredibly important because it makes the other team look over its shoulder constantly, and Reaves is one of the best a getting those heads to swivel.
Why not Alex Pietrangelo? Matchups. With home ice advantage, DeBoer is going to try to match Pietrangelo against the Wild’s top line as much as he can. That frees up Theodore to wheel and create. Hopefully he’s able to use that skill and knife through the box to create dangerous chances.
His linemate William Karlsson was generating chances in Game One, and was one of the few VGK players to successfully penetrate the box. Now Marchessault has to follow him into the breach and wake up his scoring abilities. He’s always been a streaky scorer, and now would be an excellent time to catch fire.
Tuch was the Golden Knights leading scorer in the playoffs last season and is another player who can heat up quickly. With Pacioretty out Tuch was elevated to the top line after Tomas Nosek started there in Game One. If he’s able to spend some time with Chandler Stephenson (honorable mention for this list) and Mark Stone, there’s no reason why he can’t generate enough chances to start a hot streak.