Seven days into the Stanley Cup tournament and WOW, this new format really has produced some spectacular hockey! Let’s start with the upsets.
In both conferences, the 12th-seeded teams knocked off their hugely favored opponents — enjoy your summer Pittsburgh Penguins and Edmonton Oilers. In the Western Bubble, the 11th-seed Arizona Coyotes smashed the Nashville Predators 3 – 1 to advance to the 16-team playoffs. Over in the Eastern, a herculean comeback by the host city Toronto Maple Leafs has them in a do-or-die game on the last day of play against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
In the final games to determine the number one seeds in the Eastern and Western Conferences, the Tampa Bay Lightning battle the upstart Philadelphia Flyers, while the west has the Vegas Golden Knights facing the Colorado Avalanche. The winner gets the Chicago Blackhawks and the loser gets the Arizona Coyotes.
Related: Vegas Golden Knights Jersey History
The Golden Knights matched the Av’s at 2-0 with a complete domination of the defending Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues, 6-4. Yes, I know, the score does not indicate domination, but follow along as I give you the three takeaways that show you just how lopsided the game was.
1. Complete Statistical Domination
Normally when you see a 6-4 score, domination is not the word that comes to mind. This, however, is an exception to that rule. What the graphic below doesn’t show is that the Golden Knights held the Blues without a shot for the first 16:05 of the third period, and to one shot until St. Louis pulled Jordan Binnington with about three minutes to play. If you are a regular reader of my columns you know I am not inclined to fill the page with a bunch of stats that I don’t believe most of you want to read. The five stats below tell the story.
2. Secondary Scoring
One of the only concerns for the Golden Knights going into the Stanley Cup Playoffs was going to be secondary scoring. There is no denying the quality of their top two lines. Beyond that, where were the points going to come from?
Last night’s version of the third line featured Nick Cousins, Nic Roy, and Alex Tuch. Last night they combined for two goals (Tuch) and three assists along with seven shots on goal.
To top off the secondary-scoring parade, rookie defenseman Zach Whitecloud netted the first goal of his NHL career and first playoff goal, tying the score at four early in the third period.
Whitecloud has proven to the coaching staff that he is very responsible in the defensive zone. While he isn’t expected to have much offensive upside, with coach Pete DeBoer’s new system of activating the defense on the rush, there will be a lot more opportunities for offensive contribution from all the Golden Knights defensemen.
For the third time this season against the Blues, the Golden Knights fell behind by two goals. And for the third time this season, the Golden Knights came back to win. Two wins were in overtime, 5-4 on a goal by Chandler Stephenson on Jan. 4, and 6-5 on a goal by Jonathan Marchessault on Feb. 13. Last night they did not need overtime, as Mark Stone led the Golden Knights in a dominant third period that had them scoring three times to erase a 4-3 St. Louis lead.
In both games of the round robin, the Golden Knights have overcome two-goal deficits for wins. They have outscored their opponents the Dallas Stars and St. Louis 7-0 in the third period. One last stat of interest, neither Dallas nor St. Louis had lost in regulation leading after two periods.
Related: Mark Stone’s Top 5 Expressions
While these games technically don’t mean anything (other than seeding), it is crystal clear that the Golden Knights are 100% prepared and focused to make a deep Stanley Cup run. With a win over the Avalanche on Saturday, the Golden Knights will secure the number one seed in the Western Conference, something they have said they coveted from the minute the round robin format was announced.