Vancouver Canucks vs Vegas Golden Knights Second Round Preview

vancouver canucks vs vegas golden knights
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All things considered, the quality of play throughout these playoffs so far has been remarkable. While some powerhouses have shown their strength and muscled their way to the Second Round, there have been some major upsets as well. None of these First Round upsets were bigger than what the Vancouver Canucks accomplished. They knocked off the defending Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues in only six games. The Vegas Golden Knights put their depth and skill on display in their series, dispatching the Chicago Blackhawks in five games. Now it’s time for the Vancouver Canucks vs Vegas Golden Knights series.

The Golden Knights and Canucks haven’t played each other in this calendar year. The Golden Knights historically have a stranglehold on the Canucks, going 8-2 in their 10 meetings since the Knights joined the league. Will the top-seeded Knights continue to flex their dominance, or will the Canucks continue their Cinderella run?

Vancouver Canucks vs Vegas Golden Knights Second Round Preview

Tight Goaltending Battle

This series obviously has serious playoff implications. The winner will advance to the Western Conference Final and be one of the final-four teams in the league. However, on an individual level, this series carries significant weight for Robin Lehner‘s future. The 29-year-old goalie has emerged as one of the league’s premier talents over the past two seasons. He’s averaging a .925 save percentage over his past two seasons of play.

However, that level of play hasn’t carried over into the bubble just yet for Lehner. A .904 save percentage is a far cry from his regular-season results and is also significantly worse than his .936 save percentage last year in the playoffs with the New York Islanders. Lehner is a pending free agent. Poor performance in this series could significantly hamper the amount he earns on his next contract.

The Canucks have no shortage of quality goaltending on their side either. While his regular-season results weren’t nearly as impressive as Lehner’s, Jacob Markstrom‘s first taste of playoff hockey has seen him excel. He currently leads all playoff goalies in wins (seven), saves (325), and minutes played (616). A .929 save percentage is impressive as well, a significant increase over his .918 number during the regular season.

If Lehner continues to falter and Markstrom continues to stop everything coming towards him, this could be a much closer series than most expect. However, the Golden Knights also have Marc-Andre Fleury as a second option, who could easily nullify the Canucks’ potential advantage. Lehner is also very capable of a resurgence. Either way, it projects to be an intriguing storyline.

Offensive Depth

While the Canucks may have the sexier talents in Elias Pettersson and Bo Horvat, the Knights’ depth is enough to make any hockey fan drool. While Pettersson, J.T. Miller, and Quinn Hughes all have more points than the Knights’ leading scorers so far (Mark Stone and Reilly Smith), the Knights have been getting consistent offence from everywhere in their lineup. Every skater who’s played a game for the Knights (there are 20) have all tallied at least a point. Multiple skaters have gone without a point so far from Vancouver, most notably big free agent signing Tyler Myers (although he’s currently injured).

The offensive success enjoyed by Vegas’ depth players such as Alex Tuch (five points in eight games), Nicolas Roy (four points in eight games), Nick Cousins (four points in eight games), and others could easily overwhelm a banged-up Canucks defence. Add in the potential of stars like Mark Stone to take over a game, and things really look out-of-balance. The Canucks may have trouble outscoring the Golden Knights.

Vegas’ Dynamic Blueline

While the play of the Canucks’ Quinn Hughes has been admirable, their defence still poses several weaknesses outside of him. Veterans like Alexander Edler and Tyler Myers are likely playing hurt, and other depth defenders such as Oscar Fantenberg and Jordie Benn are offensively challenged and don’t mesh well with Vancouver’s speed-trap style game.

Contrastingly, the Golden Knights boast one of the better puck-moving group of blueliners in the league. Headlined by Shea Theodore and Nate Schmidt, their defenders are a solid group of possession monsters who will make it tough for the Canucks’ stars to contain the puck and generate offence. Deadline acquisition Alec Martinez has been an impact player in these playoffs as well, adding to a group of skilled defensive defencemen than contains Zach Whitecloud and Brayden McNabb.

The Canucks largely relied on the Blues’ poor puck control and gross turnovers to take control of that series. They won’t have that opportunity against Vegas and may struggle to put the puck in the net.

Overall, this Vancouver Canucks vs Vegas Golden Knights matchup projects to be an extremely interesting series. A powerhouse team in Vegas will look to fend off the upstart Canucks. Barring a goaltending collapse on their end, they should be able to easily.

Prediction: Golden Knights will win the series in five games.

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