Robin Lehner and the Vegas Golden Knights will have to bring their best effort tonight against the Montreal Canadiens to stave off elimination and force a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Semifinal series.
“The guys are positive,” said Zach Whitecloud prior to today’s game. “We know what we have to do to win, go out and execute our job.”
There is still a lot of talk in VGK speak. The usual quotes like “we just need to stick with our game and our plan” could be attributed to any member of the team. Today those words were spoken by Tomas Nosek (more on him later).
Publicly, the Golden Knights have not once wavered from the message inside the dressing room. The key tenets are:
- Play with speed.
- Be aggressive but smart.
- Establish the forecheck.
- Move the puck up quickly from the D on breakouts.
- Trust that everyone will do their job.
That’s the “our game” you keep hearing about, the one Montreal has shut down to a large degree in this series. The Canadiens are very good at strangling the middle of the ice in all three zones. It forces the pucks outside and even if you’re moving forward, you’re still not in a prime position to do any damage.
Previously, Vegas has stretched the neutral zone in cases like this with longer outlet passes hitting skaters in stride. Sometimes they’ve been able to drive the wall and get the opposition defense to turn and chase. But that hasn’t worked against the Canadiens, who are a very patient team.
Ah, I forgot the most important bullet of all. Patience.
Patience means waiting for opportunities. Waiting for mistakes. Not forcing a bad decision or making a high-risk play just because you haven’t been scoring a ton of goals. This time of year, it’s hard to be patient. Especially when you’re down in a series. But Vegas has to do just that, wait for Montreal to make a rare mistake, and then capitalize.
Special Teams Battle
One of the areas where the Golden Knight has not made the Canadiens pay is on special teams. Zero power-play goals in the series and only four in the playoffs is not getting the job done. The Canadiens do take penalties. But Vegas has yet to make them pay for it. Putting Montreal behind by a goal or two because of the power play makes them play a different game. And then they play differently yet again when they know they can’t take penalties and get away with it. It’s called fear. But the Habs don’t fear the VGK power play.
“Sometimes you just need a couple of bounces to go your way,” said Reilly Smith, who has just two points in the series and hasn’t scored a goal in nine games. “I think that’s a big factor in the series for us. Struggling on the power play is hurting our game, so we look to…turn that around. If we’re able to I think it’ll go a long way. The power play is an issue for us, not (scoring) those goals.”
The VGK PP must convert.
I’ll leave this quote from Chandler Stephenson when asked about tonight’s game: “Win. Game 6. One game. We can’t look at winning two games. Win one and take it back to Vegas.”