Clearly the Vegas Golden Knights wants to take care of business tonight in Minnesota against the Wild and not risk returning home for a Game Seven where anything can happen. Here are three important keys for the Golden Knights to win and advance to a second round clash with the Colorado Avalanche.
Get Out of the Gate
Let’s face it, the Vegas Golden Knights have a really bad habit of not starting on time. Even if they manage to score first, sometimes they just don’t finish the first period. In several games of this series, Vegas has been the better team win or lose. The problem, and Game Five is a prime example, is that just because you decide to play the last 40 minutes far better than your opponent you’re automatically going to overcome any deficit. Minnesota is a good hockey team. They are getting exellent goatlending from Cam Talbot. They are still a confident bunch and believe they have a great chance to win on home ice.
Vegas needs to get after the Wild immediately. VGK head coach Pete DeBoer likes to start the fourth line to stir the pot, but I’m not sure this is one of those games. Get the Mark Stone line out there and let them fly around. William Karlsson and his linemates are up next. Roll those top two lines for the first four shifts and see where you land. Let Minnesota know you mean business right away. If you don’t pop an early goal, turn Ryan Reaves and company loose.
Don’t Worry About Hitting, Worry About Details
I feel like there have been times in the series when the Vegas Golden Knights have been guilty of chasing hits and/or physical play. Let’s be clear, I’m not saying don’t hit. But we’re deep enough in the series where opportunities for physical play will present themselves in abundance. Instead of taking yourself out of position to throw that extra hit in the neutral zone, focus on playing well in the offensive and defensive zones. Details like forecheck routes, breakouts and defensive coverages need to be paramount. It’s cliche for a reason, but simplifying your game this time of year pays dividends.
Win the Board Battles
Puck possession is going to determine who wins the scoring battle. Supporting the puck on the wall high-side is something the Vegas Golden Knights can do very well, and when they do they generate a ton of chances. Scoring off the rush or a turnover is great and it happens on occasion. Hard work on the wall is where playoff goals are born on a more regular basis.