The Vegas Golden Knights played perhaps their worst game of the postseason in Game 1 against the Dallas Stars. Still, the Golden Knights only lost 1-0 as Marc-Andre Fleury made 24 saves on 25 shots, stopping 1.3 goals above expected.
The problem was Anton Khudobin made 25 saves on 25 shots and stopped 1.4 goals above expected for a shutout. The Golden Knights were entirely outplayed at 5-on-5, perhaps a result of two tiring games against Vancouver in Games 6 and 7, the latter just two days before Game 1 of the Western Conference Final.
Or maybe the Golden Knights were just outplayed — 46.91 percent Corsi, 36.36 percent high-danger share, 41.39 percent expected goals share. None of those numbers are good enough. The Golden Knights after two commanding performances against a faster team than Dallas — although a younger one in Vancouver — couldn’t do the same thing again.
Now, though, Robin Lehner is likely to return to the net for the Golden Knights. But he’s not the only one returning as Ryan Reaves returns from suspension in Game 2.
The Golden Knights missed Reaves, as the line of William Carrier, Tomas Nosek and Nick Cousins had a 27.27 percent Corsi and 17.97 percent expected goal share, allowing the one goal against as Cousins’s turnover directly led to John Klingberg’s lone tally.
Against the Vancouver Canucks, the line of Carrier, Nosek and Reaves had a 75 percent Corsi and 96.53 percent expected goal share. Reaves didn’t give up the puck (he has just one giveaway through 15 postseason games while Cousins has six). He also added an assist in the round-robin game against Dallas.
His penalty was unnecessary and his suspension deserved but the Golden Knights need him, especially against a bigger Stars team.
Here are the keys to beating Dallas in Game 2.
It has been four games since a forward scored a goal on a goaltender for the Golden Knights. In that time, Shea Theodore has scored two goals. He’s the only player to have goals without an empty net. The Golden Knights have beaten a goaltender twice and have been shut out twice.
With the Golden Knights’ depth at forward, that’s inexcusable. It’s something that must change to beat the Stars. Dallas wasn’t the team that showed up in Game 1 against the Colorado Avalanche. They don’t have Thatcher Demko. Their goaltenders are not unbeatable. Colorado scored 29 goals against the Stars in seven games. Dallas has allowed the most goals of any team left in the playoffs by 19.
And in the round robin game, the Golden Knights got those goals from forwards. Mark Stone, Chandler Stephenson, Carrier and William Karlsson all scored (so did Nate Schmidt). Stone, Karlsson and Schmidt each had two points.
However, in two games this postseason, the Golden Knights’ lead in expected goals is Schmidt (.71). Second place is Carrier (.51), who had zero in Game 1. Stone has just .09 and Pacioretty, Vegas’s leading regular season scorer, had .13 in Game 1. Not nearly good enough.
Not many teams can claim to be better at generating high-danger chances in one end and denying them in the other than the Golden Knights at 5-on-5. In the regular season, the Golden Knights were second in that category (with a 55.72 percent mark) to the Minnesota Wild (56.89 percent). In the postseason, they’re still second (60.14 percent), this time to the Edmonton Oilers (60.76 percent).
Unfortunately, the Golden Knights have also allowed the most high-danger goals at 5-on-5, both in sheer number (19) and at a per 60 rate (at least among those who made the second round, 1.51).
But one team that can claim to be better than Vegas has been the Dallas Stars. In the two postseason games the teams have played Dallas has beaten Vegas with 20 high-danger chances for and just 14 against at 5-on-5. In Game 1 the Golden Knights got just four high-danger chances.
That number must improve, especially with Vegas allowing as many high-danger goals as they have.
The Stars are tied with the Avalanche for the most power-play goals this postseason at 15. However, the Stars have also allowed the most shorthanded goals with three. Their power play is something the Golden Knights need to counter, but something they absolutely can and in a way that gives them an advantage.
The Golden Knights had the most shorthanded goals in the regular season with nine. They’ve scored just one in the postseason, but it may be time to collect some more. The penalty kill got more aggressive against Vancouver especially towards the latter end of the series and that worked in their favor. They should continue to try that against Dallas.
The Golden Knights had just 34 seconds of penalty kill time in Game 1. They allowed just two shot attempts, one on goal. However, that much discipline will likely be rare to find, as Vegas had the second-most penalty kill time in the second round (only Dallas had more). They’ll need to counter a powerful Stars power play with an aggressive penalty kill, one that goes for possession down the ice instead of constant clears.
Pacioretty — Chandler Stephenson — Stone
Jonathan Marchessault — Karlsson — Reilly Smith
Nicolas Roy — Paul Stastny — Alex Tuch
Carrier — Nosek — Reaves
Brayden McNabb — Schmidt
Theodore — Alec Martinez
Nick Holden — Zach Whitecloud
Jamie Benn — Tyler Seguin — Alexander Radulov
Mattias Janmark — Joe Pavelski — Denis Gurianov
Jason Dickinson — Roope Hintz — Corey Perry
Joel Kiviranta — Radek Faksa — Blake Comeau
Esa Lindell — Klingberg
Jamie Oleksiak — Miro Heiskanen
Andrej Sekera — Taylor Fedun
How to watch
Time: 5 p.m.
TV: NBCSN, NHL.TV
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM