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Avalanche at Golden Knights — Game 3 Preview: Time to actually win

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The Golden Knights were a much better team in Game 2; now they need to actually claim victory.

Vegas Golden Knights v Colorado Avalanche - Game Two
Mark Stone of the Vegas Golden Knights advances the puck against Devon Toews of the Colorado Avalanche during the third period of Game 2
Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

The Vegas Golden Knights played much better in Game 2 after a horrendous Game 1 against the Colorado Avalanche. But the same result goes in the record book, as the Golden Knights took a penalty in overtime for the third-straight time and were defeated by the opponents’ power play, again.

It’s easier to look at the positives after Game 2, as there actually were some in this game. The Golden Knights limited the Avalanche to just 13 shots in 46:18 of 5-on-5 time. Vegas blocked more shots (19) than they allowed anywhere near the net at 5-on-5. In terms of quality, Marc-Andre Fleury had to deal with just 0.89 expected goals at 5-on-5, while Philipp Grubauer saw 2.02 at his end.

The Golden Knights were the better team in Game 2, but it’s hard to use that as an excuse when down 2-0 in the series. Vegas needs to limit its mistakes and keep the game at 5-on-5, where the Knights have actually played the Avalanche very close when they’ve not been chasing down Ryan Graves, as in the third period of Game 1.

The Golden Knights can play this series a lot better than they have so far. Game 2 saw a team that actually stands a chance at winning against the Avalanche, they just needed to start four periods sooner in the series. The first period in Game 2 was much closer to Game 1 than it was the rest of Game 2, as Vegas made a series of mistakes and took some regrettable penalties that resulted in an early 2-1 deficit. Vegas wasn’t good in enough in first periods against the Minnesota Wild, and that trend has continued into the second round.

Vegas can also be better about their play in overtime, as for four straight playoff games that went to sudden death, the Golden Knights took a penalty that cost them the game. The game before this streak lasted just 34 seconds.

There’s a lot to like from Game 2, but there also remains room to improve. Here’s what to watch for as the Golden Knights continue to pursue their first postseason win over Colorado.

What to watch for

  • There is a very clear pattern that emerges when you look at Vegas mistakes versus Colorado mistakes. When the Golden Knights take as many or fewer penalties than the Avalanche, they are 4-2-0. When they take more, they are 0-3-1. Getting those penalty minutes down is critical to Vegas’s success moving forward, as keeping the penalty killers fresh will allow them to play crucial late-game minutes. Looking at giveaways, the Golden Knights are 4-0-1 when they give away the puck less than the Avalanche. They are 0-5-0 when they are on the side with more giveaways. This seems like a simple solution to a big problem — stop taking penalties and stop giving the puck away. But that’s because it is. The Golden Knights need to stop doing those things. The Avalanche will take advantage, and if Vegas is better in those two areas, they stand a much better chance at extending this series and getting some wins.
  • Staying off the penalty kill would also help those units, as they’ve been suffering in this series against the Avalanche. In 21:45 (yeah, Vegas has played that much time shorthanded), the Golden Knights have allowed 37 shots and 3.05 expected goals, resulting in four goals against. Vegas allowed just one goal to Colorado’s power play in the regular season, but then again, they maxed out at eight minutes in the regular season. The power play is also broken, as in 9:08, the Golden Knights have just seven shots and 0.66 expected goals. The only goal came from Alec Martinez. It’s time to put Cody Glass in the damn lineup. He helps on the power play and he’s also fantastic in terms of forcing the puck out of the Avs’ hands — he had five takeaways, up with Mark Stone (six) for the most in the games he played against Colorado this season. Taking the puck away against this team is unequivocally good, and Glass is good at it. He deserves another chance at being in the lineup after Game 6 against the Wild, when he had the most expected goals among Golden Knights skaters. Put him between Nicolas Roy and Alex Tuch and see if that line can start accomplishing things again. What’s the worst that can happen? They’re already down 2-0 in this series and played an utterly horrible game. “Oh no, Glass scored some goals in the playoffs and helped us look a lot better, now our fans will be upset when we trade him for no reason” is a very good problem to have.
  • Speaking of scoring some goals, please do that more. Three goals in the first two games of a series when the other side has 10 is not... traditional when it comes to Vegas numbers. The Golden Knights generated 2.02 expected goals at 5-on-5 in Game 2 but were able to score just one goal. The Vegas current bottom six — without Mattias Janmark — has not scored a goal since Game 4 against the Wild. That’s an awful lot of nothing from six forwards. Against the Avalanche, who have the potential to score on every line — that can’t happen. Vegas needs to insert more scorers, and the good news is that they have them. Jack Dugan had a solid rookie season in the AHL. Danny O’Regan is an AHL veteran who knows how to score goals. Put Glass in the lineup, hell, even Pavel Dorofeyev was good once over from the KHL. There is not a need for a traditional fourth line against the Avalanche, especially one with just one goal in these playoffs. Until William Carrier learns how to use his hands, he does not need to be in the lineup. Patrick Brown’s usefulness is likely one goal per postseason, and he has that goal. Vegas needs skill and scoring, as physicality has proven to do very little against the Avalanche and has actually proven to be a liability.

How to watch

Time: 7 p.m.

TV: NBCSN

Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM