Suspense. Suspense will be killing all Avalanche and Golden Knights fans until there is some clarity. With a season series split nearly down the middle and multiple COVID interruptions, it’s truly impossible to pick a favorite between the two clubs.
These teams are on a Western Conference Semifinal collision course, depending on their first round matchups. It’s no secret that the Golden Knights have a tough time with the Wild. That issue could be moot, with Vegas having one more game played, but six more points than the second place Avalanche.
Current Honda West Standings:
Vegas Golden Knights, 72 points
Colorado Avalanche, 66 points
Minnesota Wild, 65 points
St. Louis Blues, 50 points
Vegas Golden Knights vs St. Louis Blues
Colorado Avalanche vs Minnesota Wild
Winners meet in Conference Semifinal
You may find yourself saying, “Vegas is the best team. They’re in first place. They’ve won more head-to-head this season. Golden Knights beat them last night!” You would be correct, but what did we really learn from last night’s game?
You Can’t Beat Vegas on Fumes
One look at Colorado’s injury report for Wednesday’s game tells a grim tale. The team up north is hurting, badly.
This injury breakdown is loaded with players who are extremely important to the Avalanche’s success. The biggest name on the list is easily Mikko Rantanen, who is arguably one of the 50 best players in the NHL.
Colorado put forth a valiant effort down a top-6 winger, their starting goalie, and a myriad of other players. They outshot the Golden Knights 37-26 and gave Marc-Andre Fleury a run for his money.
Ultimately, the Avalanche were missing too much firepower and fell short. Vegas won this game in transition and below the goal line. Mark Stone was vey creative with the puck, even scoring from behind the Colorado goal.
Fleury Continues Career Resurgence
Nobody has been more successful during these COVID impacted times than Fleury. The 36-year-old goaltender continues to impress while staying fresh, splitting time in net with Robin Lehner. Without Lehner, Fleury was remarkable and he’s kept that production to this day.
After losing his starting gig in Pittsburgh to Matt Murray, Fleury arrived in Vegas with a franchise to carry and a point to prove. Could he still play at a high level?
He has certainly proven that point. He ranks near the top in all goalie stat categories this season. He and Lehner are both in the top-10 for GAA which is a credit to both the goaltenders and the primary defense group that includes three first/second year players.
Stone-Pacioretty Stay Hot
With a pair of goals and an assist, Max Pacioretty extended his current point streak to eight games. He and Stone played a part in three of the five Golden Knights goals on Wednesday evening. Their presence was significantly felt by the visitors.
Their third connection of the game was the biggest dagger to the Avalanche, just 0:55 into the third period. They made the score 4-2, providing necessary insurance on a 2-on-1 counter rush.
Nazem Kadri took way too long to unload a high-slot wrist shot. Stone blocked the attempt and jumped on the loose puck, streaking down the right wing. He perfectly delayed the one-time pass through Devon Toews, serving Pacioretty his second goal on a silver platter. Backup netminder Devan Dubnyk had no chance on the play.
Those two have an uncanny ability to create 2-on-1 opportunities in transition, largely on the back of Stone’s hustle and determination in his own end. A worthy Selke consideration, Stone likely won’t win one as a winger, but is a damn good 200-foot player. With eight games remaining, he will likely secure his seventh straight 20 goal season.
The last home game of the Golden Knights’ season will come against these Avalanche and by then, they’ll likely have a number of players back. They’ll likely be at full strength for that home closer and a strong playoff run.
May 10 will go a long way in showing how a potential playoff series between the two teams will go. Between now and then, all either club can hope for us luck, good health, and points. It’s clear to see they’re the cream of the Honda West crop and one SHOULD
reign supreme come playoff time.
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