When the 2021 playoffs began, the narrative we heard so often was that a team from the North would have a very hard time against a team from outside their division during this postseason.
The Montreal Canadiens don’t care for your narratives and are currently working to bring down that idea. The Vegas Golden Knights are the current victims, and time is running out.
Going into Game 6, the Golden Knights are down 3-2 in the series and forced to stave off elimination on the road at the Bell Centre – not exactly an ideal situation. Here are three things the Golden Knights need to do better to keep the series alive:
The Little Things Have to be Cleaned Up
In Game 5, Montreal was able to jump to a 3-0 lead before getting an answer from the Golden Knights, and three Montreal goals came off Vegas mistakes. Josh Anderson was able to get in behind the Vegas defense to generate a chance that saw Jesperi Kotkaniemi put home a rebound to open up the scoring.
The 2-0 goal saw multiple Vegas defenders not paying attention to Eric Staal who was able to come into the slot and fire a wrist shot past Marc-André Fleury.
The play that set up the 3-0 goal saw Nick Suzuki force a turnover as Mark Stone came across center ice, unaware that Suzuki was closing in on him.
Montreal is taking full advantage of any and any Vegas error and more often than not these situations are turning into goals for the Canadiens. These are mistakes, for the most part, we didn’t see from Vegas all year long and now Peter DeBoer and company have to correct them to help extend their season.
Special Teams Have to Wake Up
In a recap of Game 5, our own Steven Ellis got into the woes of the Golden Knights and he was bang on about how this team has to get it going on the man advantage. Vegas hasn’t scored yet on the powerplay in this series and only has four goals total in this postseason. Names like Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty have a giant goose egg when it comes to playoff powerplay goals.
Among the final four teams left in the playoffs, the Golden Knights have scored the least on the man advantage. The only other team that was able to advance past the first round with fewer powerplay goals was the Winnipeg Jets.
The last time Vegas scored on the man advantage came in their second-round series in Game 4 against Colorado in a 5-1 victory courtesy of Jonathan Marchessault.
The Aggressive Forechecking Has to Return for Vegas
The forechecking of the Vegas Golden Knights was their bread and butter against Colorado and now we’ve watched it fall off a bit vs Montreal. Vegas has to find a way to apply that pressure and limit the Canadiens’ strong passes out of their own zone and in the neutral zone.
The passing of Montreal has resulted in multiple odd-man rushes or breakaways that have resulted in high danger chances or high danger goals and helped to shift the momentum of the series so far after five games.