The Vegas Golden Knights are heading back to the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in franchise history. Vegas was led by the original “Golden Misfits” of Jonathan Marchessault and William Karlsson.
Golden Misfits Lead The Way For Vegas
Vegas was on a mission when the puck dropped for Game 6. The Golden Knights knew if this series went back to Vegas for Game 7, anything could happen. Not to mention all the momentum would have been with the Dallas Stars after rallying from a 3-0 deficit to force a Game 7. However, that was not the case as Vegas made its mission to end the series in Dallas.
It was a complete and utter domination by the Vegas Golden Knights as they defeated the Stars by a score of 6-0. It was the fourth line of the Golden Knights that got it going. Head coach Bruce Cassidy made a subtle change moving Nicholas Roy down to the fourth line and Nick Howden back to the third line. While Vegas did not play badly in Games 4 and 5, defensively there were lapses as the Stars played the game Vegas likes to play just a little better.
But Cassidy started his fourth line of William Carrier, Keegan Koelsar, and Roy. They set the tone early for the Golden Knights. Early in the first period, that line accounted for three of Vegas’ six shots. That line was all over the Dallas defence giving them no time and space. They were grinding on the boards. Winning puck battles. and getting chances on Stars goaltender Jake Oettinger.
And the line was rewarded for their hard work scoring two of three Vegas first-period goals. The forgotten “Golden Misfit” Carrier opened the scoring on a pass from Koelsar. The duo would connect on the third goal of the period but this time it was Carrier to Koelsar. Another original “Golden Misfit” William “Wild Bill” Karlsson also scored to make it 2-0 Vegas. Roy and Reilly Smith got in on the action.
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The “Golden Misfits” were not done as Jonathan Marchessault made it 4-0 in the second period when Dallas tried to push the pace but got caught deep in the offensive zone. Nicolas Hague sent a great pass out of the zone to Ivan Barbashev. Barbashev rushed the puck up and got through the coverage. He then slid the puck over to Marchessault for the goal.
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In the playoffs, Karlsson and Marchessault lead the Golden Knights each with nine goals. Marchessault has four goals in the series along with seven points. His game got going in the second round against the Edmonton Oilers. He scored five goals in that series including a series-clinching hat trick in Game 6 on the road. Prior to that he only had two points both of them assists.
Karlsson had a great Round 1 with four goals against Winnipeg before slowing down. His pace picked up against Dallas with five goals in the series including two in Game 6. Through three rounds of the playoffs, Smith recorded 11 points for the Golden Knights.
While Jack Eichel, Mark Stone, Chandler Stephenson, and Barbashev were producing for Vegas as many expected they would, it was the “Golden Misfits” that got the job done for the Golden Knights in this series. Especially when the team needed a goal.
The Emergence of Adin Hill
Howe about the play of Adin Hill? Hill came in against the Edmonton Oilers in Game 3 and has played stellar for the Golden Knights ever since then. At one point through 7 game appearances six of which he started, he was 6-1. Hill had been great for the Golden Knights this season. Vegas used five goalies this season and Hill was one of them. He had a 2.50 goals against average and a .915 save percentage in the regular season.
In the playoffs, Hill has a record of 7-3 currently with a 2.07 GAA and .937 save percentage including two shutouts. Nobody knew what to expect from Hill. However, not only did he make the saves he was supposed to make but he made the timely saves as well. Not only that he made the saves he was not supposed to stop as well. He outplayed Oettinger. Who would have thought that when the series began? Even in the losses, Hill played great. He gave his team a chance to win. Hill gave up one bad goal in Game 5. Other than he has been great.
But having a good defence in front of you also helps.
Vegas Neutral Zone Trap Too Much For Dallas
We will get deeper in another article about the Neutral Zone Trap still existing, but Vegas showed exactly how to use it to perfection especially when they had the little. In Games 3 and 6, both carbon copies of each other. Both of these were dominant Vegas victories, they slowed down the Stars offence through the neutral zone.
Vegas just sent one forward in to pressure the puck. That forward would force the Dallas player to one side of the ice where there were two Golden Knights players waiting for him. The puck would get turned over and sent the length of the ice for the Stars to regroup. Either that or the turnover would lead to a goal ala Karlsson’s second goal of the night.
In the two games Vegas lost, the Stars used that system against the Golden Knights. In Game 6, Vegas did not give the Stars much ice through the neutral zone. The Stars could not enter the Vegas zone and when they did Hill was there. Though Dallas had spurts, they were far and few between. Vegas has been playing that way since the start of the playoffs. The Golden Knights constantly attacked the puck or the puck carrier and there was only support.
Even shorthanded the Golden Knights were winning puck battles. It was a perfect team effort.
Off to the Stanley Cup Final
Now the Vegas Golden Knights are off to the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in six seasons. Again they have been around for only six seasons. Again it was the “Golden Misfits” leading the way as Karlsson scored two more goals in an elimination game. He also added an assist on Michael Amadio‘s goal to make it 6-0.
Vegas general manager Kelly McCrimmon knew after losing to the Stars in 2020, he needed to get a number one defenceman and a number one center for the Golden Knights to win a Stanley Cup. He signs Alex Pietrangelo in the summer of 2020. He then trades for Eichel in 2021. It took some time for this team to click, but they have and have been on a mission ever since.
The Stanley Cup Final opens Saturday night June 3rd as the Florida Panthers travel to Vegas to face these motivated Golden Knights.