The Vegas Golden Knights are coming off a tough loss in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final against the Winnipeg Jets.
They came out uncharacteristically flat and they didn’t turn up their play until it was too late to mount a comeback. In fairness to them, going into Winnipeg is no easy task, but they’ll have to win on the road in this series at some point if they’re going to advance to the Stanley Cup Final.
“It wasn’t the start we wanted. They played two days ago so they were game-ready and we weren’t,” Jonathan Marchessault said, per the Las Vegas Sun. “It was a good push but we knew they were going to come. It’s part of the game, and we faced some adversity in the first but the second and third were better I thought.
“We are going to see what kind of team we are. It’s definitely a must-win next game and I think as a group everybody needs to step up, not just one or two guys.”
For the first time in the team’s history, they’ll go into a playoff game trailing in a best-of-seven series. That says a lot more about their impressive year than it does about their odds of coming back in this series. Even though they hadn’t trailed in a series, they still overcame adversity when they bounced back from a 4-0 loss to San Jose in Game 4 (series was tied 2-2 after that) of their second-round series against the Sharks. Not only did they bounce back, they were able to close out the series in the following two games.
As good as the Sharks were, the Jets are a different beast. Their goaltender has been terrific throughout the season, their defense is capable of moving the puck and playing a physical style, and their forward depth is probably unmatched by any other team in the NHL.
One of the biggest surprises from Game 1 was the number of shots the Golden Knights fired at Connor Hellebuyck. Overall, they were outshot 26-21, which isn’t a wide margin at all. When you look at their numbers during the regular season though, you notice just how often they outshot opponents. When they had more shots than the opposition, they went 33-11-4. The Bruins were the only team in the league that won more games when they outshot their opponent. Their 32.8 shots-per-game tied them for 10th in the league.
When the Golden Knights had fewer shots, they went 15-11-3. That’s a significant dip which isn’t totally unexpected. During the regular season, they gave up 30.7 shots-per-game (seventh best in the NHL).
Winning the shot battle doesn’t guarantee a victory, but it would put the odds on Vegas’ side.
Again, outshooting a confident Jets team doesn’t guarantee anything and outshooting them at all isn’t going to be easy.
We’ll find out a lot about Golden Knights after Game 2 (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN).