The Wraparound: Pressure is on Golden Knights to close out series with Wild
The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2021 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down the NHL playoff games today with the all-important television and live streaming information included.
• Vegas looks to do something they have struggled to do recently: Finish a series.
• The Second Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs begins on Saturday with the Bruins vs Islanders (8 p.m. ET; NBC). The winner of Vegas/Minnesota will play the Avalanche in Game 1 on Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.
• Want to catch up on Wednesday night’s action in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs? Read the NHL Playoff Buzzer.
Maybe the third time will be the charm for the Golden Knights.
They get a third crack at finishing their First Round series with the Wild on Friday night when the two teams meet in Game 7 (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN) at T-Mobile Arena. The Wild, a popular upset pick at the start of the playoffs, have refused to go away quietly in this series and have won each of the past two games when facing elimination to force the decisive game.
One of the biggest reasons they are still here is starting goalie Cam Talbot, who has been sensational in the two must-win games, allowing just two goals and recording his second shutout of the series.
It has given the Wild new life, and put added pressure on a Golden Knights team that has struggled to close out series over the past few years.
Including their losses in Games 5 and 6 of this series, the Golden Knights are now just 2-8 in potential close out games over the past three seasons. Two years ago they blew a 3-1 series lead to the Sharks in the First Round (the infamous Game 7 loss with the five-minute power play) and lost three straight games. Last year they went 1-1 in close out games against Chicago in the First Round, before losing consecutive games against Vancouver with a 3-1 series lead to force a Game 7 (which they won 3-0).
It creates a sort of good news/bad news situation.
The good news is they are good enough to keep building huge leads in a series. It is not easy to win three in a row or three out of four against another Stanley Cup playoff team, so the fact they keep doing it so regularly is a good sign.
The bad news is they keep putting themselves in these winner-take-all games where anything can happen. They might be the better team overall, but sometimes the coin does not land your way.
Given the expectations around this Golden Knights team letting this series slip away would not be good for anybody within the organization. This is one of the league’s best teams and a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. Losing another 3-1 series lead and going out in the First Round for the second time in three years would not be good enough for this roster.
The common theme in their close-out game struggles has been a lack of offense. In the aforementioned 2-8 sample, the Golden Knights have scored just 18 goals in those potential close out games. The offense always seems to dry up at the worst possible time. Is it bad luck? Are they doing something different? Just the hot-and-cold nature of offense in the NHL? Probably a combination of all three, and it is very similar to what used to happen to the current Lightning core when they struggled to finish series’ before finally winning the Cup this past season.
The Golden Knights have been missing their top goal scorer from the regular season, Max Pacioretty, in this series, and his availability for Friday night remains unknown. Getting him back would be an absolutely massive boost.
There is also the question of which goalie the Golden Knights will go with. Pete DeBoer has not publicly committed to a starting goalie at any point in this series (it has always been Marc-Andre Fleury) and has remained consistent with that going into Friday. Fleury has been mostly outstanding in the series, but you can not completely rule out the possibility of a switch to shake things up going into Friday. Is it an unlikely change? Yes. It is almost certainly going to be Fleury. But given how both Fleury and Robin Lehner split the playing time the past two years, and how DeBoer went with Lehner in the playoffs a year ago, and how Vegas has lost two in a row, you can not completely rule it out.
FRIDAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE
Game 7: Wild at Golden Knights (Series tied 3-3), 9 p.m. ET - NBCSN (livestream)
SATURDAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE
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