Golden knights vs avalanche
Photo Credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

FSM Presents: 2 Minutes with Gawlik – Weekly VGK Update – Vol 19

Franchise Sports Media

 

Welcome to a very happy, “Two Minutes with Gawlik, playoff edition volume 2.”  The Vegas Golden Knights defeated the President’s Trophy-winning, West Division-leading, heavily favored, best team far as analytics go, and the public’s favored to advance Colorado Avalanche in thrilling fashion.  After being down two games to zero, VGK won the next four straight games.  How exactly did VGK win this series?  There were several contributing factors.

 

Golden Knights vs Avalanche
Photo Credit: NHL

The Mad Scientist is back! Pete DeBoer earns the highest credit for this series victory. As always, DeBoer sticks to his guns. Robin Lehner would start game one as Marc Andre Fleury needed an extended rest. Many coaches would in the league would have gone right back to their number one goalie to kick off the next series. Not the mad scientist!  The greater good was to sit Flower and see if Lehner help VGK to steal game one. In addition, DeBoer was not afraid to change up a winning lineup. He also was one step ahead of Avalanche Coach, Jared Bednar, when it came to matching the lines. Colorado’s best players were kept off the scoresheet of long stretches of the series.

The Dude: What more can you say about Fleury? I mean, really, what more can you say? He is the backbone and heartbeat of the Vegas Golden Knights.

The Answer: “We talkin’ ‘bout practice.” Oh, sorry, I am not referencing Allen Iverson. In Vegas, we have our own answer, Jonathan Marchessault. With just over five minutes remaining in game three, VGK trailed by one. Marchy scored a series saving goal. In game four, VGK trailed by a goal early and tied things up. In game five, VGK was trailing by a goal in the third, Marchy tied it up. Going back to the Minnesota series, in game two the Wild had just taken the lead. Marchy answered eighteen seconds later. Marchessault has come up huge through the first thirteen games of the playoffs and is a yummy bet at +1500 to win the Conn Smythe Trophy (most valuable player of the Stanley Cup Playoffs).

The Fans! I am a VGK day one season ticket holder, and I can say, without a doubt, that the loudest I have ever heard T-Mobile Arena was during VGK’s first and second goals of game three. We are the home-ice advantage. The arena has been so loud that you can hardly hear public address announcer, Bruce Cusick, announce VGK goals.

 

Golden Knights vs Avalanche
Photo Credit: Vegas Golden Knights

Our Captain: Mark Stone was a big part in limiting Nathan MacKinnon’s offense during the series. If MacKinnon was out there, Stone was out there. Colorado’s depth was exposed, if their top line is not producing, they do not want a lot of hockey games. Do not forget about Stone on the offensive side of the ice. Stone scored the second biggest goal of the series in overtime of game five.

Nazem Kadri: Another year and another playoff suspension for Kadri. This time it would be an eight-game suspension from the first series that kept him off the ice for the entire VGK series. On February 16th, Kadri scored a brilliant late-game winner against VGK in which he won an offensive zone faceoff, raced to the net, and slammed home a rebound to give the Avalanche a regulation win. If VGK lost this series, I was going to point the blame to February’s game as to why VGK lost the home-ice advantage to the Avalanche. In the same breath, I am not saying that Kadri wins this series for the Avalanche. But the series probably finds a way to make it to seven games.

 

There were many other contributing factors which include all the blocked shots from Alec Martinez, line four scoring big goals in game six, and VGK having more depth than Colorado. Alex Pietrangelo is showing why he gets paid what he does.

 

Golden Knights vs Avalanche
Photo Credit: Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP

What I found odd about this series was the lack of respect that VGK received in the sportsbooks. Colorado was a sizeable favorite before the series began. These two teams had the same number of points in the regular season, split their regular-season games, and VGK had more total wins than Colorado. After game one, VGK was greater than a +300 dog to win the series. After a game in which they had short rest and started their “backup” goalie. All love to Lehner, but he is not seeing the ice outside of practice and warmups unless Fleury gets injured. These two teams were evenly matched in my eyes entering the playoffs. The only reason Colorado had home ice was because VGK only dressed fifteen skaters when the two teams played late in the season. VGK almost won that game.

Looking ahead: The underdog role suited Vegas well during the last series. It took the players and fans back to season one in which no one gave VGK a chance to do anything besides finish last. VGK enters the semi-finals as nearly a -400 favorite in most sportsbooks. The Montreal Canadiens, excuse me, the twenty-four-time Stanley Cup Champion, Montreal Canadiens enters this round assuming the underdog role.

 

Golden Knights vs Avalanche
Photo Credit: NHL

Montreal was the eighteenth-ranked team in total points in the NHL and the #4 seed in the North Division. Trailing the Maple Leafs three games to one, Montreal rallied for three straight victories including a game seven victory away from their barn. Montreal kept up their winning ways by sweeping the Winnipeg Jets and enter the series against VGK on a seven-game winning streak. All eyes will be on the goaltender, Carey Price. Can Price slow down the VGK offense? Can Montreal find a way to get pucks past Fleury? The Canadiens had no problems scoring against Toronto and WinnipegVGK will be a much taller task for Montreal.

Respectfully, Toronto had a +39 goals differential and Winnipeg was at +16 for the regular season. VGK has the best goals differential in the NHL at +67. Montreal was a -9 in regular-season goals differential.

Prediction: I think Montreal gives Vegas a harder time than most believe. The teams will alternate wins and losses for the first four games. Then Vegas will win games five and six to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals. Captain Mark Stone will not touch the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl as this VGK team will not be happy with anything less than a Stanley Cup victory. In the other semi-final, I predict Tampa Bay Lightning to advance against the New York Islanders in seven games setting up a VGK/Tampa Stanley Cup Final.

VGK wins the Stanley Cup Finals in five games ending a long three-year draught in which they did not win a Stanley Cup 😊!

 

I look forward to having you back in the box for another “2-Minutes with Gawlik” next week right here on Franchise Sports Media.

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-Chris Gawlik – Franchise Sports Media

Follow Chris on Twitter @TDChrisG

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