History is not on the side of the Vegas Golden Knights entering Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final on Thursday night.
After losing the past three games they are now facing a deficit that only one team has ever overcome in the Stanley Cup Final. After a magical regular season and a seemingly dominant run through the first three rounds of the playoffs everything that was working for them has suddenly disappeared.
Every break and bounce suddenly seems to be going against them.
The other thing that has disappeared at times in this series? The way they have jumped on teams early in games with ridiculously fast starts. Sometimes we make a little too much of scoring the first goal — it’s important because it means you scored a goal, but it’s not always everything — but early in this postseason the Golden Knights seemed to have a knack for flying out of the gate and overwhelming teams in the early minutes.
It is not just that they have scored the first goal in 14 of their 19 games (with a 12-2 record in those games) it’s that in five of those games they have scored a goal within the first five minutes of the drop of the puck. Four times they have done it at home. When it happens, it almost seems to be like a tidal wave of offense where one goal quickly turns into two, and before you know it the game seems like it’s over in the first period. Their season started that way in the first game and it seemed to continue throughout the year.
They had a similar start in Game 4 on the road in Washington and carried the play early, keeping the Capitals back on their heels for the first time since Game 1 of the series. The problem: They hit two posts, including a game-changing and potentially series-changing moment when James Neal was looking at an open net and fired the puck off the far post.
Everything unraveled after that.
The crazy thing is Game 4 was probably Vegas’ best game of the series (perhaps even better than their Game 1 win) even though it ended with what was by far its worst result. If they can replicate that same effort, including the way they started the game, it would be a great start to them digging their way out of this deficit.