In the West Division first-round playoff between the Vegas Golden Knights and Minnesota Wild, the Vegas team holds a 2-1 advantage. Much of those results have been due to the dominating play of goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury extended his streak to 12 straight games of allowing two or fewer goals. That means the Wild have their work cut out for them.
Marc-Andre Fleury Is a Difference Maker for Vegas Golden Knights
In the three games thus far, Fleury has allowed just four goals. The way Game 3 started out, it looked like the Wild may have figured out the 36-year-old netminder. That was until the Golden Knights scored three in the second period and went on to gather five unanswered tallies to get the pivotal Game 3 win. Fleury has a .951 save percentage and a stellar 1.32 goals-against-average in the three games.
While the Wild took Game 1 to grab the home-ice advantage in the best-of-seven series, they relinquished it by dropping Game 3. If they intend to even the series at two games each, they will need to determine how to score more against the impregnable Vegas goalie. The Wild had issues with being outscored 61-46 in the second period during the regular season. They were also outshot by a 36-9 margin over the last two periods of Game 3. It was almost like two different games when you compare the first period to the last two stanzas.
The Golden Knights Are Winning Without Max Pacioretty
With one of their star players in Max Pacioretty still injured, the Golden Knights are still finding ways to win. His regular-season statistics of 24 goals and 27 assists in 48 games would be an extra asset with which to take down the Wild. The Golden Knights are still getting scoring from Mark Stone (2-G, 1-A), Reilly Smith (1-G, 2-A), and William Karlsson (1-G, 2-A) to pace the offence.
Pacioretty, who was a game-time decision for Game 3 did not play and is still out with an undisclosed issue. If the Golden Knights get him back for Game 4, it may be a vital addition to their offensive arsenal.
The Wild Need To Get Back to Their Winning Ways
The Minnesota club has an impressive 11-2-3 record lifetime against Vegas. So, they’re hoping that they can start duplicating those winning ways in the remaining games in this series. The success pattern thus far for the Wild was to give the puck to likely rookie of the year Kirill Kaprizov and watch him work his magic. Thus far, that magic has magically disappeared. The Vegas squad has held him in check with just one assist, which was in Game 3. The Wild will be without Marcus Johansson who broke his arm crashing into the net post in Game 3. More than likely, Zach Parise who was a healthy scratch for all the playoff games thus far, will be inserted into the lineup to replace Johansson.
Something needs to change for the Wild’s offence. Including the last two games of the regular season, the Wild have only scored seven goals. That’s a 1.40 goals per game average. Not good enough. If Kaprizov can’t step up, someone else needs to start attacking the Vegas net and rattle Fleury… if that’s even possible. He’s one cool customer and fails to get rattled much at all.
Vegas May Have Regained Their Confidence Due to Marc-Andre Fleury
Sometimes a forward or a defenceman can rally their team, but in the playoffs, the games are usually decided by goaltending. While Cam Talbot put in an excellent performance with a shutout in Game 1, his teammates in front of him have abandoned him since then. Keep in mind that the Vegas team is an outstanding rushing team, with excellent speed and players who can shoot. Due to Fleury’s play, the Vegas club may have taken advantage, but this series is far from over.
Look for the Wild to make adjustments in Game 4 to figure out how to score against Fleury. It won’t be easy, since Fleury seems to be in a zone and the puck looks like a beach ball to him.
If the Wild don’t get with it, they may be using a beach ball on the sand since their season can end quickly.
Game 4 should be some must-see TV. I don’t know about you, but I’ll be watching.