Simply put, the Vegas Golden Knights did not play well in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final.
Of course, the Dallas Stars came out ready, worked hard and deserved to take a 1-0 series lead. The Stars outplayed the Knights; credit should not be taken away from Dallas’ efforts.
But clearly that was not the best the Knights have to offer. Not at all.
That makes tonight’s Game 2 contest a key moment in this series. After all, playoff rounds are best-of-seven for a reason.
In Game 1, the Golden Knights looked lost in each of the first two periods, recording just 12 shots through 40 minutes. They were unable to get to their speed game, fell into Dallas’ traps in the neutral zone and had significant trouble driving play.
Interestingly, the worst frame of the contest was the second period despite the fact that the first intermission gave Vegas a much-needed breather and afforded Peter DeBoer an opportunity to make some adjustments. That did not happen, though; if it did, such changes were ineffective. In fact, Vegas managed a Corsi For percentage of just 27.59 at 5-on-5 in the second, which was lower than any other period the Knights have played in the bubble.
The Knights were able to put together a stronger showing in the third, even if the end result was the same. Vegas’ Corsi improved to 70.37 percent as the Knights managed 13 shots on goal, the highest total by either team in any period of the game, and held Dallas to just two.
That helped Vegas catch up in shots, and the teams ultimately finished tied at 25-25. But the Knights weren’t able to catch up where it mattered. Plus, Thatcher Demko proved that shot count doesn’t necessarily carry much weight.
The more important statistic is that Vegas generated just one high-danger chance at 5-on-5 and two total in the third period. That isn’t going to cut it at this stage of the postseason. The same is true of Vegas’ performance on the power play, as the Knights went 0-for-4. In a one-goal game, that’s a killer.
At the end of the day, the Knights played by far their worst all-around game in the postseason, yet they still lost by a final score of just 1-0. Ryan Reaves’ return to the lineup tonight should give Vegas a bit of a jump, especially against a physical Stars club.
Marc-Andre Fleury played well in Game 1, stopping 24 of 25 shots and keeping the Knights in the game until the very end. However, it will be Robin Lehner back between the pipes tonight as the Knights look to even up the series.
Note: Lineups will be updated closer to puck drop.
Jonathan Marchessault — William Karlsson — Reilly Smith
Alex Tuch — Chandler Stephenson — Mark Stone
Max Pacioretty — Paul Stastny — Nicolas Roy
William Carrier — Tomas Nosek — Reaves
Brayden McNabb — Nate Schmidt
Alec Martinez — Shea Theodore
Nick Holden — Zach Whitecloud
Mattias Janmark — Joe Pavelski — Alexander Radulov
Jamie Benn — Radek Faksa — Blake Comeau
Jason Dickinson — Tyler Seguin — Corey Perry
Joel Kiviranta — Roope Hintz — Denis Gurianov
Esa Lindell — John Klingberg
Jamie Oleksiak — Miro Heiskanen
Joel Hanley — Andrej Sekera