As Game 2 of their first-round series against the Minnesota Wild is officially in the books, Vegas Golden Knights fans have a lot to be excited about. Tuesday night’s game was the complete performance the team needed to bounce back from their Game 1 loss. Without further ado, let’s jump right in and look at three key takeaways from Game 2.
Tight and Physical
Seeing as the Golden Knights are the tallest and heaviest team in the NHL, while the Wild are seventh, you would expect exactly the type of hockey being played in this series. Due to the physical and chippy play of the Wild, the Golden Knights are finding their high-flying offense being stifled.
As we all know, playoff hockey means more hits, which in turn means that teams that rely on their speed, such as Vegas, will have to severely adapt their game plans to suit a more physical style of hockey. Once the game gets physical, the play slows down, which is where the Golden Knights will need to adapt.
They did a good job of that in Game 2, relying on their dump and chase and forechecking to garner them quality scoring chances around the Wild net instead of walking through the middle of the ice. Some key players who contributed to that forechecking department were Chandler Stephenson and Mattias Janmark. Stephenson played exceptionally well last night, using his speed and elusiveness to create scoring chances, while Janmark showed us exactly why Vegas picked him up at the trade deadline. The 28-year-old Sweden native got into the corners, wasn’t afraid of using his body and chased down the puck on the forecheck like a man on a mission. I give both those players an A+ for their gritty performances.
Smell the Flowers
Speaking of A+ performances, Marc-André Fleury posted one last night as he continues to etch his name in the book of greatest goaltenders of all time. Watching him play is such a joy, it really is. This is a man who was essentially written off at the beginning of the season, then stepped in for an injured Robin Lehner, put up several Vezina-worthy performances and is now leading the Golden Knights by playing the best hockey of his career. Oh, did I mention he’s doing all of this at the tender age of 36 years old! One word; unbelievable.
On 35 shots faced, Fleury stopped 34 of them, many of which were spectacular. In my opinion, if it weren’t for Fleury, this game would have gone a completely different way. There were at least five Wild chances I counted that should have gone in, but due to the sheer magic of Fleury, they were kept out. If I’m the Golden Knights management, I am counting my blessing that I didn’t get rid of this gem last off-season.
Left is Best
The Golden Knights left wings had an amazing game, specifically Alex Tuch and Jonathan Marchessault, who combined for all three of Vegas’ goals in Game 2. Tuch stepped into the first line to replace the injured Max Pacioretty and I do have to say he did a beautiful job. He got open at the right times, found empty seams to thread passes over to his line-mates and was always skating hard, which is why he was rewarded with two goals. On the other hand, Marchessault was his usual self; aggressive, intense and an absolute spark plug for this Golden Knights team.
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His goal singlehandedly saved Vegas from giving up the momentum to the Wild, who has scored 18 seconds prior to his goal. If he didn’t score that goal as quickly as after Matt Dumba’s goal, the Wild would have taken the momentum and possibly the rest of the game with them. Instead, the Golden Knights tied the series 1-1 and now head to Minnesota for Game 3 on Thursday night.
Who Takes It?
Game 3 of this tight series is to be played on Thursday night at Minnesota. The Golden Knights will get their first taste of playoff road hockey and it will be interesting to see how they fare. Win or lose, I’m just happy playoff hockey has started back up again, aren’t you?
Who do you think takes Game 3? Let me know in the comments below!
Michael Vidakis is a Montreal native who writes for the Vegas Golden Knights team here at The Hockey Writers. In his spare time, he enjoys the finer things in life such as Jean-Claude Van Damme movies, staring aimlessly outside windows and tangerines.