In the month of November 2020, I formally wrote my first ever article here at The Hockey Writers. “What did you write about, Mike?” you may be asking yourself. Oh you know, nothing too big, I just wrote about how the Vegas Golden Knights would win it all this year. Well, last night the team took a step in the right direction towards making my prediction a reality as they thwarted the Minnesota Wild to advance to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Without further ado, let’s analyze and check out what made last night’s game so great.
Janmark? Yes, Please
Last night Mattias Janmark silenced all the critics and doubters as he proceeded to record his first ever NHL hat trick, which would propel the Golden Knights to trounce the Wild by a score of 6-2. When Vegas first acquired the 28-year-old Swede back at the trade deadline, I wrote an article about how the Golden Knights we’re getting speed and grit in the 6-foot-1 power forward. Last night served as an example of exactly that.
Janmark’s first goal was the product of his speed, as he battled for a loose puck with a defensemen who just couldn’t keep up, resulting in Janmark picking up the puck and gracefully sliding it past Cam Talbot. His second goal of the game was a result of him being a tremendous net-front presence, as he read the play that was occurring behind the Wild’s net and quickly bounced to the front of the net to receive a pass, which he ever so gently redirected past Talbot once again. The third and final goal was an exact omen to the hustle and heart he plays with. The puck was bouncing and he had to fight off a defender in order to retrieve it, but couldn’t quite do that, so he did the next bet thing. He dove and swung at the puck resulting in it sliding into the empty net and giving Janmark his first ever hat trick.
I do have to say Janmark had disappointed me in this series, but he more than made up for it last night. His Game 7 heroics will serve as a reminder that just because a player may be down, never count them out. After recording his first career NHL playoff hat trick, you already know Kelly McCrimmon is smiling that his trade deadline acquisition is paying dividends.
A Pair of Rookie Defensemen
Not only did a trade deadline acquisition stand out last night, but a pair of rookie defensemen did, as well. Nicolas Hague and Zach Whitecloud were absolute beauties last night and proved that the Golden Knights may have the most depth and most solid defensive corps in the NHL.
In 15 minutes and 47 seconds of time on ice last night, Hague made a huge impact, scoring a big goal to make it 2-1 for Vegas early on in the game, as well as playing as the mobile, shut-down, physical defenseman we know him to be. He was everywhere last night, procuring one goal, one block, two hits as well as posting a plus-1 plus/minus rating.
Whitecloud’s play was very similar, if not better. In an exact 17 minutes of time on ice, he was able to register one goal, which was an absolute beauty of a snipe, a plus-3 plus/minus rating, one hit and three blocks. All this from a rookie defenseman!
You have to love seeing a pair of rookie defensemen stepping out and enjoying success on such a stacked Golden Knights team. I think they both played superbly throughout the entire Minnesota series and am looking forward to seeing what they will be able to do in the next round.
Before the shortened 2020-21 season started, there was loads of speculation surrounding Marc-André Fleury and his $7 million cap hit. The census around the hockey world was that Vegas management would try and off-load Fleury in order to become salary cap compliant before season’s end. Well, that ultimately never came to fruition and, boy, are Vegas fans and management happy about that. Without Fleury we probably wouldn’t be sitting here talking about how the Golden Knights have advanced to the second round.
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If the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Andrei Vasilevskiy didn’t have the season he had, I would have pegged Fleury as the Vezina Trophy winner. In the playoffs, Fleury’s play has been just as masterful as his regular season and last night cemented that. He only faced 20 shots (and stopped 18), but with Fleury it’s not the amount of shots he stops, it’s the way in which he stops them.
Save after save, Fleury was pulling off the spectacular. He makes it very easy to forget that he is 36 years old. I’m sure he is grateful the hockey gods are shining down on him at such a ripe age, and we as Vegas fans are glad that Fleury is enjoying his time in the limelight. Here’s to the Stanley Cup Final!
Onto the Next
Vegas now lines up to take on their Honda West Division foe, the Colorado Avalanche. The Avalanche are coming off a sweep of the St. Louis Blues and will look to transfer that momentum into their upcoming series. I have Vegas in six games for this one, but who knows. This one is looking like it’s going to be a doozy.