The Vegas Golden Knights have a few patterns in their game. They have their defense join the attack frequently. They have great goaltending which gives them a chance to win almost every night. They like to use speed against the opposition both through the neutral zone and on the forecheck.
Oh, and they start slow. Really slow.
Even when the Golden Knights score first, they still tend to hit snooze until the second period and flush the initial lead. Sometimes they hit snooze again and sleep through more of the game. Then they fly out of bed like a bad cartoon, pillows and blankets flying, and jump suddenly into attack mode.
It’s gotten to be so bad that after Game Two’s opening 20-minute nap a reporter asked head coach Pete DeBoer to talk about the things the team has done right because everyone always asks what’s wrong at the start. That’s probably your answer right there, boy-o.
Mark Stone couldn’t explain why, but he knew it. And he knows it’s a pattern. DeBoer knows it. Marc-Andre Fleury has to be razor-sharp from the opening faceoff because anything else isn’t enough. Word has gotten around: attack Vegas early, before they wake up, and hold on at the end. The Montreal Canadiens are actually good enough to not only scrape out a few goals, get a lead and sit on it, but they have the ultimate snake charmer in Carey Price who is delivering his most clutch playoffs in years – if ever. Price bails them out and if the clock is favorable, the Habs escape with a win. Ask the Toronto Maple Leafs. Or the Winnipeg Jets. Believe it or not, the Canadiens have now won 9-of-13 playoff games. That’s a .693 win percentage.
They’re not here by accident, no matter what you read from the doubters. Those who said the Golden Knights were going to sweep them, or those who said Montreal was here because the North was a weak division. Last year in the playoffs, the Habs did the exact same thing, but this year they have a little more jam. The veteran element is a bit different. They’re also one more year of experience along the path towards winning. The Montreal media loves to pound on GM Marc Bergevin, but he’s done a pretty darn good job building that team. They are solid all the way around if not spectacular, save in net.
So once you decide to give the Canadiens the credit they deserve as a team, you realize that there’s not a single shift you can squander against this team, let alone an entire period. Yet the Vegas Golden Knights continue to miss the starting gun most of the time.
For me, this falls equally on the players and the coaches. I don’t want to hear “we weren’t ready” from a single player or “I didn’t have them ready” from PDB. I’m equally fed up with the standards like “they (Montreal) come out of the gates hard” or “they’re a really good team” and ” we have to respect them”. Following Game Two, Alex Pietrangelo repeated some variation of “we weren’t good enough” in several ways. Absolutely none of it explains the slow starts. You’re professionals. Find some fire in your belly, or realize you aren’t the group that will bring a Stanley Cup to Vegas.