A series for the record books. The Vegas Golden Knights not only win their first ever playoff series but sweep the Los Angeles Kings to remain undefeated in the playoffs thus far. It was unclear what to expect for the Golden Knights as the entered the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time. The Kings recent Stanley Cup success was still close in the rearview for many of the players on the L.A. team. Would the Kings playoff experience outway the Knights beginners luck? Vegas had an answer.
Vegas Golden Knights Sweep Kings
The Battle Between the Pipes
The safest bet going into the series was that these matchups were going to be determined by the goaltenders. Both Vegas and L.A. are fortunate to have two of the best goalies in the league. The skill of both Jonathan Quick and Marc-Andre Fleury was undoubtedly on display night after night. Fleury earned two shutouts, one during the first game of the series and of course in the last 1-0 win which won Vegas the series. In total through all four games of the series, Fleury earned an incredible .977 save percentage, having only allowed three goals over the course of the sweep.
Jonathan Quick performed phenomenally for his club as well. By no means does the loss of the series fall on Quick’s shoulders. Out of all goalies who have played four playoff games so far, Quick has the third highest save percentage at .947. He’s only .001 behind Matt Murray who holds spot number two with a save percentage of .948. Andrei Vasilevskiy is beaten by Quick, as Vasilevskiy has a save percentage of .937 over the course of four games.
Jonathan Quick allowed seven goals during the series, and that was all it took to be held without a win throughout it. Fleury currently has the best save percentage out of every goalie who’s played four games in the playoffs so far. Quick was a difference maker for Los Angeles in the series. Unfortunately, L.A. didn’t have enough offense to capitalize on their talented goaltender.
What Didn’t Go Right for the Kings?
Rightfully so Anze Kopitar led on the score sheet for the Kings during the series. However, his team-leading total was just two points. Six other Kings earned at least one point over the course of the four games against the Golden Knights. In addition to Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown leaves the series with one assist and a +1. The entire Kings roster, quite simply, failed to deliver offensively.
Drew Doughty was forced to serve a one-game suspension after he delivered a check to the head on William Carrier of the Knights. As a result, Doughty was forced to sit out game two of the series. A game which ended in a 2-1 Vegas victory in double overtime. Doughty earned 10 goals and 50 assists over the course of this season and is without question one of the best defensemen currently playing in the league. If a talent like Doughty was on the ice for game two it is possible he could have made a difference for the Kings during that game.
Good but Not Good Enough
The two teams finished their series having nearly identical shots for and against. Vegas at 131 shots for, only had one more shot on net than the Kings did during the entire series. It’s apparent that it wasn’t the number of chances the Kings had that was the issue, it was the quality of chances. LA had 13 different powerplay opportunities and only converted on one. They managed to win slightly more faceoffs than Vegas with a 52.4% faceoff percentage, but even still the Kings couldn’t make use of these advantages with many quality chances that would have a hope of beating Fleury.
The unfortunate reality for the Kings is that, despite lacking offensive ability during key moments, they didn’t play a horrible series. Most stats put up by these two teams, both offensively and defensively as extremely comparable. At a glance, it doesn’t seem obviously their series result in a sweep. All four games were decided by just one goal.
What’s Next for Vegas
Vegas is 13th in goals for, but 5th for shots in current playoff leaderboard. Similar to the Kings, Vegas is potentially suffering from a quantity over quality problem. No doubt that Quicks goaltending perpetuated this stat for Vegas, much as Fleury did the same for the Kings. Key players like Jonathan Marchessault and William Karlsson did still come through for their team, however, earning two points each in the series.
The Knights will need all the help they can get from their impact players. Their next opponent the San Jose Sharks are also coming off a series sweep over the Anaheim Ducks. The Sharks scored more than double the amount of goals that Vegas did, with 16. Unlike the Kings, San Jose is not a team that struggles offensively, so Fleury and the Knights will have a brand new beast to face moving forward to the second round.
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