Uh... huh. Wow. This is... not good. This is bad. Don’t like this one bit.
That was the stream of consciousness in the first eight minutes of Game 1, as the Vegas Golden Knights very quickly fell behind 3-0. Even after a controversial call on a challenge by Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice overturned the on-ice call and went against the Knights, it was clear the Golden Knights had lost their edge.
It started off rather poorly with Dustin Byfuglien scoring a goal just 65 seconds into the game:
Not quite the start Vegas was looking for! Byfuglien beat Fleury with a laser just 65 seconds in. pic.twitter.com/5Fas12rRp2— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) May 12, 2018
Both Shea Theodore and Deryk Engelland track Mark Scheifele on that play, leaving Byfuglien wide open. Communication was a problem on this goal, and it would be a problem all game long.
Patrik Laine would follow it up with this one-timer:
Winnipeg takes the 2-0 lead. Patrik Laine's shot's even filthier than his beard. pic.twitter.com/xSmhDEFRAP— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) May 12, 2018
The Golden Knights ignored Laine, which is never a great idea. On a later power-play goal, they overcorrected for him. Neither ended well for Vegas.
Finally, the controversial goal from Joel Armia, which occurred just 46 seconds after Laine’s marker:
Jets score again, but it's waived off for goalie interference. Looks like Ryan Carpenter may have aided in Armia running into Fleury. pic.twitter.com/Xb3EXZQUd7— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) May 12, 2018
That’s not a cut-and-dry case, but if the Martin Jones play was goaltender interference in Game 2 of the San Jose Sharks series, then this is as well. That’s why it was initially ruled as such on the ice. Toronto - not the on-ice refs - eventually determined that the contact came too late and therefore didn’t prevent Marc-Andre Fleury from making a save. Still, it appears as if Armia runs into Fleury’s stick before the goal. There’s a lot to look at here, but there’s no inscrutable evidence to overturn the on-ice ruling of no goal.
The Knights had an excellent response as Brayden McNabb scored on a hell of a shot just 35 seconds later, cutting Winnipeg’s lead to two goals at the end of the first.
The Jets came back with another power-play goal 9:54 into the second frame, this one from Scheifele. But the Knights made the most of their power-play opportunity later in the period as William Karlsson scored this goal:
GOAL. William Karlsson redirects one past Hellebuyck to bring Vegas within two. pic.twitter.com/kUbcz9VCOa— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) May 13, 2018
Great job by the entire first unit there. Karlsson’s redirection is crucial, but everybody pitched in on that goal. The Knights need to keep doing that, especially at even strength. That’s how you beat Connor Hellebuyck. That would be it for the scoring, however, as neither team found twine in the third.
Finally, the singular best moment of the game:
Ryan Reaves sends Blake Wheeler into the Vegas bench. pic.twitter.com/L5a4r73bR4— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) May 12, 2018
This game was completely dominated by the Jets. In ways the Golden Knights haven’t yet faced so far this postseason.
The Golden Knights were limited to just 21 shots and won 44 percent of the faceoffs. They need to be better in both categories. They got just one takeaway on the game, from Luca Sbisa, and had 11 giveaways. The Golden Knights won the Corsi battle but lost the shots battle and the high-danger chance battle.
Here’s the heat map:
The Jets got to the high-danger areas and were taking high-percentage shots all game long. That red splotch right in front of Fleury is unhelpful. So is the fact that the Knights got more shots from the face-off circles than the crease.
Couple that with the fact that Fleury was pedestrian and you don’t have a recipe for success. He made 22 saves on 26 shots, good for an .846 save percentage. Fleury allowed three goals on Winnipeg’s first 12 shots. The penalty kill wasn’t much better, allowing two goals on four chances.
The first line disappeared for long stretches of this game. So did every line, however. The only line that was consistently solid was the fourth line. Ryan Carpenter finished with the best Corsi For percentage among forwards (72.73), Pierre-Edouard Bellemare was third on the team (71.43) and Ryan Reaves finished at 54.55 percent.
Everything needs to be looked at. Everything needs to be addressed. From top to bottom, this wasn’t a good game, and the Knights will need to improve upon it quickly for Game 2 on Monday. Hopefully they won’t allow three goals in eight minutes again.
Here’s the good news: everything can be improved. If this is rock-bottom in this series, and the Knights improve on the areas that need work, this is a series they can get back into. Hellebuyck doesn’t give up many goals, but the Knights have the capacity to beat him. If the penalty kill can be better and if communication returns, this is a series the Knights can still be competitive in.
After all, it’s just one game. You know who lost Game 1 in the previous round? The Washington Capitals. They’re now in the Eastern Conference Finals. This isn’t a deep hole, at least not yet.