Video Credit: NHL

FSM Essential Recap: VGK vs Stars – Western Conference Finals – Game 5

 

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The 2019-2020 campaign has come to an end for the Vegas Golden Knights. The Dallas Stars won game five in overtime to send VGK to the golf course.

 

 

Photo Credit: Action Network

Chandler Stephenson scored on a breakaway eight minutes fourteen seconds into the first period to give VGK the lead. The second period was scoreless. Reilly Smith scored just fifteen seconds into the third period, and all seemed well for VGK. But Dallas would not go away. Jaime Benn put the Stars within a goal when he converted on a rebound with plenty of traffic in front of Robin Lehner. Joel Kiviranta seems to score goals in the biggest of moments for the Stars. He would get the game-tying goal with less than four minutes to play on the powerplay.

Dallas had all the momentum, and it felt like there was limited time remaining in VGK’s season. The game would go to overtime, and Zach Whitecloud was sent off for a delay of game early on. Paul Stastny was without a stick, Dallas worked it around the perimeter, and Denis Gurianov slapped it low glove side to beat Lehner.

Although the series went five games, it really could have gone either way. VGK’s only win was by three goals, and their four losses were all by one goal. Playoffs are about low scoring games and dirty goals. At some point, you need a bit of luck on your side to make it all the way. VGK played very well over their last twelve playoff games and got little lousy luck in return. Thatcher Demko and Anton Khudobin had the performances of their respective careers against VGK.

VGK vs Stars
Photo Credit: NHL

My heart breaks for Zach Whitecloud. He has had such a fantastic rookie season and played extraordinarily well in the playoffs. NHL rules dictate that if you send the puck over the glass from your defensive zone, you will be assessed a two-minute penalty. Coach Pete DeBoer has this to say about the penalty, “It’s such a shitty penalty to begin with.  For that type of penalty to secede a game is not right for me.  He (Whitecloud) played his ass off.” 

DeBoer hit the nail on the head. The puck was on edge, and Whitecloud just tried to poke it away. It was a deplorable way for a series to be decided. If there is a bright side, Whitecloud will be a long-time contributor to the VGK blueline.

 

The first two players that may have their numbers retired by VGK are Marc-Andre Fleury and Deryk Engelland.

 

Engelland became an afterthought upon DeBoer’s arrival, and the Lehner / Fleury controversy has played out in a very public setting. DeBoer is bound to become a lightning rod of controversy upon returning to Vegas. We all love Engelland, but the focus of anyone wearing media credentials will be an explanation for benching Fleury. DeBoer has been clear that he starts his goalies based on who gives the team the best chance to win that night.

So, what did Lehner do to set himself apart from Fleury? The two goalies traded starts upon Lehner’s arrival. Both did well. Then the COVID-19 pause happened. Fleury and Lehner alternated VGK’s first four games in the bubble. Fleury gave up five goals in two games, and Lehner gave up six goals in two games. After those first four games, Fleury would get just three more starts to Lehner’s fourteen.  Lehner had a stellar postseason; no one should try and take that away from him.

 

VGK vs Stars
Photo Credit: Defending Big D

Has Fleury played his last game wearing a VGK jersey?  I believe so.

In Monday’s pregame presser, DeBoer stated, “The worst thing you can do is to change our game.” Sure, there could have been a bit of lip service when he made that statement. After all, he is not going to come out and say how he is going to try and change it up. But I took the information at face value, for the most part. DeBoer was happy with the team’s performance even though they were on the brink of elimination. Even though they had only scored six goals in four games.

 

To be frank, that statement scared me when I first read it. After watching the game, DeBoer did not seem to change VGK’s gameplan.

 

I will say it again, DeBoer is going to be a lightning rod and his end of season press conferences and interviews will be interesting. As will Fleury’s, Kelly McCrimmon’s, George McPhee’s, and Bill Foley’s. All of them give honest interviews and are straight forward.

 

Let us end this on a high note. We are a city that did not have a hockey team three short years ago. We have been to a Stanley Cup Final, lost a heartbreaking game seven in the playoffs, and were conference runners-up in our first three seasons. VGK has been a Stanley Cup contender since birth. VGK has more playoff wins that ANY OTHER NHL franchise over the last three seasons. Let that sink in for a moment.

Here is another stat, VGK has more playoff wins than the following franchises – Winnipeg / Atlanta, Columbus, Florida, and Minnesota. VGK will be among the top two or three early favorites for the 2021 Stanley Cup as well.

What more is there to say?

 

 

Go Knights Go!

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-Chris Gawlik – Franchise Sports Media

Twitter: TDChrisG

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