The Vegas Golden Knights have three chances to make this happen. Take One begins today.
It’s always the fourth win of a best-of-7 series that’s the most difficult to get. Try telling that to Vegas, who has not had trouble in close-out games in its inaugural Stanley Cup Playoff run (2-0). Both of those wins also came on the road.
The Golden Knights enter Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals with a 3-1 lead over the Winnipeg Jets. History has come knocking at the door again for Vegas, being one win away from one hell of a party down Las Vegas Boulevard. The Jets come back home as if there is nothing to worry about, which is weird. Isn’t that right, Connor Hellbuyck? You too, Blake Wheeler?
Frustration is a fickle thing.
Here’s what to watch for as the Golden Knights look to do another unreal thing in the sports world today.
Survive the first period
Based on the last two third periods, this might seem a bit odd. The Jets, being the frustrated bunch they are, will be expected to get off to a fast start in front of their home crowd. This isn’t to say Winnipeg will score three goals in eight minutes like it did in Game 1, essentially running Vegas out of Bell MTS Place.
Vegas should worry about getting through the first 20 minutes unscathed. It was key to how the Golden Knights were able to expedite closing out the Kings and Sharks in their last two series. It’s how the Golden Knights have won the last three games and have set themselves up in this position.
One more vintage Fleury performance
Marc-Andre Fleury has four shutouts this postseason. Two of them have come in close-out games. He has 59 saves and zero goals allowed in two close-out games. That is good hockey.
To be clear, it’s not going to take a shutout from Fleury to win for Vegas. But the thought of Fleury not stepping up when needed one more time, in what could be the latest installment of the biggest game in Golden Knights history, doesn’t seem plausible.
After allowing four goals in Game 1, Fleury has given up a total of five in the past three games. Since Game 4 against San Jose, he’s allowed 12 goals with a goals-against average of 2.01. In the past three games, it’s a GAA of 1.66. If you like those numbers, expect one more big-time performance from Flower.
Keep it simple, keep it the same
Over the course of the postseason, it can be tedious to come up with keys to the game. You get enthralled in a series as intense as this one has been and you just throw analytics and concepts out the window.
So, let’s keep it simple: The Golden Knights need to keep it simple. Play a patient game. Don’t overthink it. Limit the mistakes. Play the way you’ve played for the past three games of this series. Play it out the exact way you did in Game 2.
There’s really not more that needs to be said other than that. The Golden Knights are one win away from doing something that still seems too unprecedented to comprehend. Just keep doing what you’re doing. That simple.
I had Vegas in six to begin the series. Cool if I hedge?
Golden Knights 3, Jets 2. Get the party ready at Toshiba Plaza.
How to watch
Time: Noon PT
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM