- Vegas turned in a dismal Game 1 performance, losing to the Colorado Avalanche 7-1.
- The Golden Knights will be without Ryan Reaves for the next two games due to suspension.
- Marc-Andre Fleury is expected to start Game 2 in net for Vegas.
The Western Conference playoff series between the Colorado Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights was expected to be one of the best matchups of the postseason. In Game 1, however, it was anything but as the Avalanche blitzed Vegas en route to a 7-1 blowout win. Vegas had no answer for the Avs top line of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen but then again neither does anyone else.
As ugly as the Game 1 blowout was for Vegas it gives us more value here for a play on the Golden Knights in Game 2. It was all but inevitable that VGK would come out sluggish in this spot and facing a rested–and speed dependent–Colorado team made that lethargy even worse. Teams coming off of seven game series facing rested opponents is a time honored ‘go against’ spot in any sport and this spot was made all the worse by a ‘quick turnaround’ for Vegas. The Golden Knights beat the Minnesota Wild at home on Friday 6-2 to win their Best of 7 series in 7 games. They were on the ice to face the Avalanche less than 48 hours later. Colorado, meanwhile, had been off since completing a four game sweep of St. Louis on Sunday, May 23.
Vegas also used Game 1 as an opportunity to give Marc-Andre Fleury the night off in net. Fleury had played all 7 games in the first round–7 games in 14 nights–and desperately needed a rest before taking on the high octane Avs offense. Since the schedule wasn’t going to afford him the opportunity to rest VGK coach Peter DeBoer had to do it himself. Robin Lehner has shouldered much of the blame for the loss and he was nowhere near sharp but there’s plenty of blame to go around. Fleury has been the ‘hot hand’ for Vegas and DeBoer also wanted to give Lehner some playing time. Despite the criticism, DeBoer made his rationale clear:
“The decision to go with Robin was Flower just played seven games in 14 days, and an emotional Game . It was a perfect opportunity in our minds to use our other starter. That’s been a strength of ours all year. We wanted Robin to get in a game and stay sharp, in case we needed him. So there was a lot of rationale to it.”
Commenting on Lehner’s play:
“The game tonight wasn’t about Robin Lehner. We didn’t play well enough in front of him.”
Ironically, last season had Lehner in the diametrically opposite situation as he started 16 playoff games while Fleury served as backup. Lehner has done an excellent job ‘putting bad starts behind him’ and that has really been a strength of this entire VGK team since DeBoer took over the reins as head coach. Some teams watch their performance snowball downhill after a bad outing–the Knights simply aren’t one of those teams.
Colorado’s MacKinnon might very well be the best player in the NHL–even considering that McJesus guy in Edmonton–and the Avs top line is borderline unstoppable. McKinnon has eight goals in five playoffs game this year and linemate Mikko Rantanen has now picked up a point in 15 straight playoff games. Vegas has more depth throughout the lineup than Colorado, however, and despite the ugly Game 1 loss is more than capable of matching up with the Avs. Vegas and Colorado finished the regular season tied for the highest point total in the league at 82. Colorado got the Presidents’ Trophy–and home ice during the playoffs–by virtue of more regulation wins. The Avs and Knights played eight times in the regular season with each team winning four.
Expect a strong effort from Vegas in Game 2 and look for the series to head to Southern Nevada tied at 1. Colorado will then have to deal with the (in)famously loud VGK home crowd at T-Mobile Arena which will be at 100% for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.