Welcome to Round 3 of the Stanley Cup playoffs... it sort of feels like that, right? The Vegas Golden Knights are home after a hard-fought road win against the San Jose Sharks, who was their Round 2 opponent last year. Their next opponent? The Winnipeg Jets.
The Winnipeg Jets are the top team in the Central Division. While they haven’t yet clinched a playoff spot, they are just three points away from that 95-point mark, which practically guarantees them a spot. For many reasons, they have become somewhat of a rival for Vegas, and beating them tonight would be meaningful.
While the Jets are sitting pretty at the No. 1 spot in their division, the Golden Knights sit at third, below the Sharks and the Calgary Flames, with 87 points. They are close, though not as close as Winnipeg, to securing their playoff spot. And they want to climb out from third, maybe to second over the Sharks.
So, how do the Golden Knights win tonight’s game? It might be difficult, especially considering that the Jets have won both previous matchups this season. But Vegas is warming up, and they might be ready to finally get that W against Winnipeg tonight.
“I don’t know what took them so long”
After their win against the Sharks on Monday, Gerard Gallant told reports what he thought about the first line’s productivity as of late: “I don’t know what took them so long.”
Indeed, it seems as though the Marchessault-Smith-Karlsson line has decided to wake up all the sudden. All season long, we’ve heard talk about the second line, the All-American Line, Brandon Pirri, Mark Stone. The first line? Who’s on the first line, anyway?
Turns out, the first line is back and better than ever. And sure, it took them a while, but what better time than right before the playoffs?
Jonathan Marchessault in particular has been on fire lately. He earned himself four points against the San Jose Sharks, two from assists and two from goals. He scored two goals the night before, too, after not scoring one of his own since February 22. He now leads the team in points (excluding Mark Stone, who did just join) with 53. William Karlsson and Reilly Smith trail him in third and forth place, respectively, but not by more than five.
It all sounds great, and it mostly is, but defense wasn’t as good as it could have been for this top line against the Sharks. The first line’s Corsi for percentage worked out to be 50.00 exactly. That’s not terrible considering how explosive they were on offense, Winnipeg is explosive, too. They average 3.4 goals a game right now. That needs to be met with solid defense from everyone, including Marchessault, Smith, and Karlsson.
Does well-rested = ready?
The Golden Knights have had an unusually long break between games going into tonight’s matchup against the Jets. Logic says that a well-rested team is the team with the advantage, but for the Golden Knights, how does that hold?
For games that Vegas has had two or more days to recover from the previous day, they hold a record of 15-4-1. Not bad.
Meanwhile, the Jets played last night. How do they do with back-to-back games? Turns out, on the second end of a back-to-back, Winnipeg is 6-2-0. Both of those two losses are from late October and early November. The remaining six are from mid-November onward. Three of those wins come from overtime or a shootout. So, they’ve only gotten better, and they’ve proven they can fight until the bitter end, even when they’re exhausted. That’s dangerous, especially when you consider how uneven the Golden Knights can be in OT or SO.
It can’t be stressed enough—tonight’s game will be difficult. But Vegas has to be ready for tonight. They know what’s at stake. They know what they’re capable of. It’s time for the Jets to see that themselves.
How to watch
Time: 7 p.m. PT
TV: AT&T SportsNet
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM