LAS VEGAS — The Vegas Golden Knights made a few mistakes in Game 1 that would turn a head coach’s hair gray. There were shorthanded breakaways, a shorthanded goal, and one sequence in which two Florida Panthers, including Matthew Tkachuk, were along with the puck near the crease.
The Golden Knights won Game 1 going away, 5-2.
“It certainly wasn’t our best,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. However, the victory allowed him to laugh about defensive defensemen Zach Whitecloud and Nic Hague yielding a shorthanded breakaway in the third period.
The pair were on the power play with a two-goal lead specifically to prevent a shortie.
Vegas Golden Knights Path in Game 2
The Golden Knights did a lot right, and in their victory were multiple matchup wins. At the risk of patting ourselves on the back, our Stanley Cup Final preview and predictions circled the Golden Knights’ ability to keep Tkachuk away from the net as the biggest reason they would win the series and the Stanley Cup.
They followed through in Game 1. Except for one breakdown, Tkachuk was kept to nothing more than a shouting distance from Adin Hill.
Make no mistake, Tkachuk was shouting and attempting to agitate Hague, but the VGK’s ability to win the battle instead agitated Tkachuck. Late in the third period, Tkachcuk was one of two Panthers assessed a 10-minute misconduct.
Keep Tkachuk in check. Keep the Cup in control. Simple as that.
The Florida Panthers also gave the Golden Knights seven power plays. The Panthers were forced into taking penalties as the Golden Knights tilted the ice with a superior forecheck.
The Golden Knights’ special teams were a net +1 after Reilly Smith scored a power-play goal into an empty net.
First take away — the Golden Knights need to win the special teams battles more often. Play with fire long enough, and you will get burned.
Second take away — the Golden Knights created turnovers, rush chances, and goals from Florida turnovers created by a good forecheck.
The Golden Knights won the battle of Stanley Cup-worthy forechecks significantly.
Keep Tkachuk in check, keep Florida defensemen going backward to play the puck, and the Golden Knights are going to have a good time. The Golden Knights already have a significant advantage by pursuing Florida defensemen Marc Staal and Brandon Montour. Still, if they can get to Aaron Ekblad, the series will be over in a jiffy.
Oh, Adin Hill. It remains funny that many in Vegas, perhaps including the organization, thought of Hill as their fourth-string goalie.
He’s not. At this point, he’s a bit of a journeyman, but there was always talent and something coaches can’t teach: size.
Hill well outplayed Stuart Skinner in Round Two. He matched Jake Oettinger in the Western Conference Final and outplayed Sergei Bobrovsky in Game 1.
Bobrovsky was the hottest goalie in the playoffs, winning 11 of 12 before the Stanley Cup Final opening game, but Hill had a slightly higher save percentage. That gap grew after Game 1 as Hill’s stopper percentage increased to .938 and Bobrovsky’s dipped to .931.
The Golden Knights are the deeper team with a better blue line. Hill doesn’t need to win the goalie battle, but if he keeps it even, that’s another arrow in the Vegas Golden Knights’ quiver.
Get the Game 2 Preview with lines, notes, and how to watch here: Golden Knights pregame.