Tyler Toffoli (73), Montreal Canadiens
USA Today Sports
”Conference” Final Matchup:
Vegas Golden Knights (2) vs Montreal Canadiens (4)
VGK: 8-3-2 | MTL: 8-3-0
Captain: Mark Stone
Assistant: Reilly Smith
Assistant: Alex Pietrangelo
Captain: Shea Weber
Assistant: Brendan Gallagher
Assistant: Paul Byron
Vegas Golden Knights
defeat Minnesota Wild (4-3)
defeat Toronto Maple Leafs (4-3)
Vegas Golden Knights
defeat Colorado Avalanche (4-2)
sweep Winnipeg Jets (4-0)
William Karlsson (VGK):
13 GP, 4 goals, 7 assists, 11 points, plus-7 rating
Max Pacioretty (VGK):
7 GP, 4 goals, 4 assists, 8 points, plus-6 rating
Mark Stone (VGK):
13 GP, 5 goals, 3 assists, 8 points, plus-5 rating
Jonathan Marchessault (VGK):
13 GP, 6 goals, 2 assists, 8 points, plus-5 rating
Alex Tuch (VGK):
13 GP, 4 goals, 3 assists, 7 points, plus- 5 rating
Alex Pietrangelo (VGK):
13 GP: 1 goal, 7 assists, 8 points, plus-5 rating
Tyler Toffoli (MTL):
11 GP, 4 goals, 6 assists, 10 points, even rating
Nick Suzuki (MTL):
11 GP, 4 goals, 4 assists, 8 points, even rating
Eric Staal (MTL):
10 GP, 1 goal, 6 assists, 7 points, plus-2 rating
Joel Armia (MTL):
11 GP, 4 goals, 3 assists, 7 points, plus-4 rating
Corey Perry (MTL):
11 GP, 3 goals, 3 assists, 6 points, even rating
Elite Goaltending Duel:
Both Carey Price and Marc-Andre Fleury are Hall of Fame caliber goaltenders. Both men are in the twilight of long, storied careers. Both men are playing lights out hockey, hockey that rivals some of their best-ever performances. Frankly, it’s hard to believe, but a treasure to watch.
Carey Price (31)
USA Today Sports
Fleury is fresh off the heels of a Vezina Trophy Finalist matchup against Philip Grubauer and the Colorado Avalanche. Before that, he went head-to-head with a red-hot Cam Talbot (Minnesota). Both times he held up admirably and was visibly a difference-maker for the Golden Knights on numerous occasions.
Price has been locked in for the Canadiens. Similarly to Fleury, Price has rejuvenated his career, but without the change of scenery. He has returned to an elite level, once again upping his play another notch in the playoffs. Despite multiple seasons of declining regular season stats, the wily veteran is turning in his third-straight .930% playoff save percentage.
When these guys are on, they’re extremely hard to beat. Quite simply, they’re game changers. Either one of these goalies can be the deciding factor in the series, taking the spotlight off of the 34 other players. If either runs into trouble, both Robin Lehner and Jake Allen are more than capable in relief.
Tomas Tatar was great in Detroit. Tomas Tatar has been great in Montreal. Tomas Tatar was a shell of himself in Vegas.
Tatar has amassed 149 points in 198 regular season games and a plus-26 rating, since relocating to Montreal. He’s had his fair share of linemates, but has found sustained success. Much more than could be said about his time in Vegas under Gerard Gallant (20 GP: 6 points, minus-11, healthy scratches).
Tomas Tatar (90)
USA Today Sports
A natural goal-scorer, Tatar is prone to ebbs and flows in his game. He was mired in a prolonged goalless drought prior to his Game Five injury (Round One). He hasn’t scored since April 12, when he lit the lamp twice against the Maple Leafs. The impending UFA remains out of the lineup with the undisclosed injury.
Max Pacioretty has always had the scoring touch. Toward the end of his tenure in Montreal, he reportedly fell out of favor around the city and the city also seemed to fall out of favor with their captain. A move had to be made. Good thing George McPhee was already trying to work a deal to get the Connecticut boy out of the snow and into the desert.
Carey Price to NHL.com
Turns out the Habs got two good players. Nick Suzuki was a highly touted draft pick, but as in the case of Cody Glass, that doesn’t always turn into immediate results. Lucky for the Canadiens, Suzuki has been great. Between he and Cole Caufield, the fountain of youth has been integral to Montreal’s success.
Suzuki (14) and Caufield (22) Celebrate
USA Today Sports
All three players involved in the trade either play or have played integral roles for their current clubs. Suzuki, with Tyler Toffoli, has played one of the biggest roles on his team and is arguably the best draft choice the Golden Knights have made in their short, eventful history.
He is currently second on the Canadiens in playoff scoring with eight points. He’s playing a solid 200-foot game and has received rave reviews from teammates and the media alike.
At the time of the deal, Glass was the higher-profile prospect of the two. Clearly development has leaned the way of Suzuki and who knows if it would have been the same had he remained in Vegas. Point is, the trade will be a big part of this series with Pacioretty and Suzuki playing big roles in it.
Keys to the Series:
Montreal likes to mix it up. So do the Golden Knights, but in very different styles. The Canadiens can be a frustrating team in the way they slow down the pace of play and “muck” it up. Guys like Gallagher and Perry will play big parts in the physical side of the game.
Ryan Reaves, William Carrier, and Keegan Kolesar never shy away from that aspect of the game. They’re always ready to bang bodies and get in on the forecheck. How each team responds to the physicality and how their skill players are able to navigate with minimal intrusion, will tell the story of this series.
Both clubs have high-end two-way players. Montreal deploys Suzuki, Phillip Danault, and the extremely experienced Eric Staal. They’re very responsible down the middle of their lineup and that is a clear strength of the club. They went out and got veteran savvy in Perry and Staal to blend with their promising youth.
The Golden Knights counter with William Karlsson and Chandler Stephenson, two very good two-way guys in their own right. Mix in the Selke finalist Mark Stone and the ever-athletic Alex Tuch and you have the makings of a good neutral zone battle throughout the series. It may not be pretty, but these games are bound to be interesting.
It will be tough for both teams to enter the offensive zone and scoring will be at a premium when they do. Their sweep of the Jets should serve as proof that the Canadiens are not a cupcake on the Golden Knights’ path to a second Stanley Cup Final in four seasons.
Will Max Pacioretty get to his first Stanley Cup Final or will the young, productive Suzuki come back to bite his former organization?
Game One puck drop is scheduled for 6:00 PDT in scorching Las Vegas, where only the 100+ degree weather can match the hot storylines of this series.
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