There are those who like to say things like “it’s only Game One,” and “It doesn’t matter that they lost, there’s tons of time left in the series”.
Those are usually the ones who lose Game 1.
The Vegas Golden Knights struck first in their Western Conference first round series against the Los Angeles Kings, winning 1-0. The lone goal coming from Shea Theodore, his third career postseason goal.
Marc-Andre Fleury made 30 saves for his 11th postseason shutout. Here’s how it went down.
Setting the Tone
This was awesome, by the way. pic.twitter.com/16Ji1eBBEs— y - Knights On Ice (@knightsonice) April 12, 2018
This is especially true in a series like this where the two teams have a history, albeit brief, of simply hating one another. The Golden Knights and Los Angeles Kings definitely hate each other.
Neither side will want to show weakness, both sides will not back down from a challenge, so getting out and setting the tone for the series, be it with a big hit (there were 127 hits overall, by the way), a shoving match, or via an exchange of ideas will go a long way toward surviving to the second-round.
Or, of course, you could just win the game.
Just 3:23 into the first period, Shea Theodore, with an assist from Tomas Nosek, scored to open the scoring in the series and give Vegas its first playoff goal.
Bellemare deflects Theo's shot past Quick! pic.twitter.com/I9VzEyk38t— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) April 12, 2018
Despite leaving the first period with a lead the Golden Knights were outshot 12-8 (though led in Corsi-For 19-18). This in large part due to taking two penalties in the frame, both of which they managed to kill off.
The second period was a flipping of the script as, despite an early penalty by James Neal (tripping), the Golden Knights controlled the period by outshooting the Kings 11-8 (20-19 for LAK overall) in large part due to L.A taking two penalties of their own. They also controlled possession, another way to set the tone, by developing a huge advantage, 44-36 (55 CF% for Vegas).
Killing penalties can hurt possession and offensive production? Funny that.
The Kings also had a player looking to set the tone. Drew Doughty.
The Norris Trophy winning defenseman had what can only generously be called a questionable hit on William Carrier in the third period.
We can be sure the NHL will look at the play. Whether it leads to a suspension is left to be seen. One way or another Doughty will likely have to answer for this hit.
Ryan Reaves, do your work.
The man they call Flower
In the series opener for the Golden Knights and Kings, especially early on in the night, it was Marc-Andre Fleury leading the way.
Not to say Fleury doesn’t get a bit chippy sometimes, as the Kings found out first hand, but his largest contribution came between the pipes for the Golden Knights.
Fleury stopped all 12 of the Kings shots in the opening frame, a period which saw his team outshot 12-8, and helped kill two L.A powerplays (more on that later) to defend his club’s 1-0 lead through the first.
This continued in the second period where, again, the Golden Knights would find themselves in some penalty trouble early in the period but Fleury managed to both hold the fort and have a little fun amidst the chaos.
Fleury lives to entertain (and give everyone heart attacks). pic.twitter.com/JU5q5oGEJ6— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) April 12, 2018
Fleury being as solid as he was allowed for the Golden Knights to dig themselves out of the hole their penalties had created in order to turn back the momentum of the game and as such his important to the Golden Knights in this one cannot be overstated.
A Masterclass in holding a lead in the NHL
One of the most difficult things to do, especially in the playoffs, is hold onto a lead. The biggest mistake teams make, especially young and inexperienced teams, is to go into a shell and play trying to survive by NOT allowing a goal instead of continuing to play the way that got them a lead in the first place.
The Golden Knights seemed to turn UP the pressure when they got their lead.
This is how you defend a lead. With relentless pressure. Something the Vegas Golden Knights are built to bring. And they performed it flawlessly for over two periods of hockey.
From the start of the second period onward the Golden Knights won the shot battle (20-18), the shot attempts battle (54-35), despite holding a lead the entire time. Because of this, Vegas was able to hold on to take the game 1-0 and now leads the best-of-seven series 1-0, as well.
Talk about setting a tone.
Game 2 is at 7 p.m. on Friday.