The Vegas Golden Knights are going to the Stanley Cup Final.
Of all people, it was Ryan Reaves who scored the game-winning goal. Naturally.
Somehow, this all makes sense. Marc-Andre Fleury made 31 saves on 32 shots for a very nice .969 save percentage. Reaves scored the winning goal, and Alex Tuch scored to open the game.
Off the skate of Carpenter to the stick of Tuch. pic.twitter.com/ayM8B40iuV— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) May 20, 2018
There are multiple heroes in this game, but the scoreboard looked the way it did because of those three players.
The Golden Knights’ abilities all game still came down to Fleury in net. There weren’t as many of the spectacular, eye-catching miracles as usual, but that’s a good thing. He was able to square up to the puck, and that’s what helped contribute to his best game in this series.
At the end of the game, the best result happened, as well.
Deryk Engelland touched the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl. pic.twitter.com/nieEblzbPp— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) May 20, 2018
For once, the Golden Knights are not going to get criticism. Besides the penalties, the Golden Knights looked great. In the second and third periods, the Golden Knights outshot the Jets. They also dominated the first ten minutes of the game.
The puck possession chart:
The Golden Knights were able to keep the puck away in the third period. The Jets lacked their usual ability to jump down Vegas’ throat, and that helped Vegas stem the tide. The Golden Knights looked like the same team that took away the puck against the San Jose Sharks in Game 6 of that series.
The heatmap looks a lot better as well.
While there’s still a scary splotch of red near Fleury, he was able to make all of those saves. No scary splotches in the face-off circles and there’s only one area that got hit a lot — where Fleury was able to see the puck. The defense stepped up.
The penalty kill was perfect, killing all four of Winnipeg’s power play opportunities. They kept the Jets to the outside, making them take lower-danger chances. Without the penalty kill stepping up, it’s hard to tell what would have happened.
The first line continued to generate pressure. The second and third lines looked solid. The fourth line basically won the game. It came down to Gerard Gallant’s ability and insistence on rolling four lines and three pairings. Now it’s not hard to see why.
This is stunning. The Golden Knights are the first team in NHL history to win three playoff series in its inaugural season. They’re looking to make it four, and now the wait begins until either the Tampa Bay Lightning or the Washington Capitals come out of the East.
Hockey just keeps getting better.