Golden Knights’ shattered power play proves costly against Canadiens
Of all the damning stats against the Golden Knights power play, this one stands out from Thursday.
The Knights generated two shots on goal on their two power play chances. Montreal had three penalty kicks on goal.
“Just a lot of wasted opportunities,” right winger Reilly Smith said.
There are several reasons the Knights’ season ended below expectations following a 3-2 overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup semi-finals in the Bell Center.
Near the top of the list is a broken power play that coach Pete DeBoer and senior assistant Steve Spott were never able to fix.
“I just didn’t play with confidence,” DeBoer said. “You saw the same as us. If we knew what was wrong, we would have fixed it. This is obviously something that needs to be fixed. You need your power play this time of year and your power play this time. Special teams are huge. It was disappointing.
The Knights failed to convert their two chances to a power play on Thursday and finished the series 0-for-15. They failed to score in their last 18 playoff power play chances and went 4 to 43 against Minnesota, Colorado and Montreal.
Of those opponents, only Colorado was ranked in the NHL’s top 10 shorthanded during the regular season.
The Canadians were 23rd in the regular season shorthanded at 78.5 percent, but had 30 consecutive power feats and allowed no goals despite being shorthanded in the last 13 games.
“A goal here, a goal there changes the game,” said Smith. “Every game in the series, except two, was really close. It would have given us a huge boost.
The Knights were able to mask their weakness on the power play during the regular season (17.8%, 22nd in the league) with a strong five-on-five game, but it cost them in the playoffs against better competition.
The 1-3-1 lineup favored by DeBoer and Spott didn’t seem to fit the Knights’ staff, who lack a true finisher aside from Max Pacioretty and pose no threat from the “bumper” or middle position.
Neither Shea Theodore nor Alex Pietrangelo became a point quarterback that could unlock a penalty with a menacing pass.
“I think we’re looking at everything. I know we have moved staff. We have mixed the bridge with people and units. Nothing seemed to take, ”DeBoer said. “I don’t have an answer for you. It was a frustrating part of our playoff game and a season where the big chunks of our game were really good. “
Here are three other takeaways from the season-ending loss:
1. End for Fleury?
At the start of the game, goalkeeper Robin Lehner was caught on camera shouting that he forgot to chew gum, and Marc-André Fleury ran to the locker room to look for a stick for his partner.
When you are about to play one of the most important games of your career and you forgot your chewing gum
Fortunately for Robin Lehner, he has Marc-André Fleury pic.twitter.com/mib8LIYcjt
– Tim and his friends (@timandfriends) June 25, 2021
This could be the last act for Fleury in a knights uniform.
After a season in which Fleury has proven that there is still plenty left in the tank, the 36-year-old is heading for an uncertain offseason with a year remaining on his contract.
The Knights explored Fleury’s trade last offseason, and he helped his score reach 26-10 with a 1.98 goals-against average and .928 save percentage en route to being named a finalist. of the Vezina Trophy as the best goalkeeper in the league.
With changes expected after another playoff loss, the Knights may be looking to move his salary cap by $ 7 million again.
2. Close does not count
The Knights’ inability to win close games presented itself for the second straight season.
The loss in Game 6 dropped the Knights to 3-5 in one-goal playoff games, including 2-4 in overtime. Three of their four losses to the Canadiens were by one goal.
In the last playoffs, the Knights were 4-5 in games decided by a goal, including five consecutive losses. Their four losses to Dallas in the Western Conference Finals were one goal.
“For me, our group, I thought we had taken a step up from a year ago when we got to this point,” DeBoer said. “We were better. We were better during the regular season. We were better in the playoffs against two really tough teams in Minnesota and Colorado, but we still fell at the wrong time. “
3. Future star
Canadiens rookie Cole Caufield made the difference against the Knights and looks like a potential 40-goal scorer.
The 5-foot-7 winger scored four goals in the series and made a skillful play to crush the puck past defenseman Brayden McNabb before his deciding goal in the second period of Game 6.
Caufield was the 15th pick in the 2019 draft and won the Hobey Baker Award as the best varsity hockey player in Wisconsin last season. His mind games with Lehner were one of the most entertaining exchanges of the series and showed Caufield’s confidence.
Meanwhile, the Knights’ roster for Game 6 included a team drafted player (defenseman Nic Hague).
“When a puck went the other way on Caufield’s or (Nick) Suzuki’s stick, they got it stuck in the net,” DeBoer said. “It’s playoff hockey. We did the same in Colorado. The tables have turned against us here.