Previewing the Vegas Golden Knights vs. Minnesota Wild Round One Matchup

  • May 15, 2021, 09:01 PM
  • Matt Atencio
Previewing the Vegas Golden Knights vs. Minnesota Wild Round One Matchup Courtesy: USA Today Sports Marc-Andre Fleury makes a save on Jared Spurgeon.
In the first round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Vegas Golden Knights will face off against a team they have yet to face in postseason play: the Minnesota Wild.

As with every team in the Honda West Division this season, the Golden Knights played the Wild eight times during the regular season.  In that time frame, the Wild gave them the most trouble out of any team in their division. 

The VGK only mustered up three wins, two of which were in overtime.  Meanwhile they dropped the remaining five games, with one loss happening in an overtime shootout on April 1. 

The Wild have been a consistent issue for the Golden Knights, going back to their expansion year.  This season, they went 5-1-2 against Vegas, including 3-0-1 in Minnesota. 

Mark Stone has led the way for the Golden Knights against the Wild this season.  In the eight games played, he has racked up 10 points (two goals, eight assists). 

For Minnesota, rookie sensation Kirill Kaprizov has played at a point-per-game pace against the VGK (six goals, two assists, eight points).

Both goaltenders for the Golden Knights have had their ups and downs against the Wild.  Marc-Andre Fleury has gone 3-3 against the Wild with a 2.5 goals against average and a .918 save percentage.  Fleury has played well in net, but the Wild have been one of the few teams that have been able to beat him on a consistent basis.

Robin Lehner has only appeared in two games against Minnesota, both of which had wildly different results.  Lehner is 0-1-1 with a 4.00 goals against average and a .879 save percentage.

Head coach Pete DeBoer has not confirmed which goaltender will start game one, nor has he announced the status of any of the players that are currently out with injuries.  Tomas Nosek, Alex Tuch, and Ryan Reaves all skated at practice Saturday.  Max Pacioretty and Alec Martinez, however, did not.   

In order for the Golden Knights to beat the Wild in four out of seven games, a few things will need to happen.  First, one of the biggest issues the Golden Knights have had against the Wild is limiting their chances in front of the net.  A vast majority of the goals from Minnesota have come off defensive breakdowns in front of the goal. If the Golden Knights can play strong in front of the net and not allow players to stand in front of the goaltender with no one around, they will have a good chance of eliminating easy tap-in goals.

They also must get consistency from their bottom-six.  Minnesota is a deep team with four lines that can score at any given moment.  Not only does Vegas need its -bottom-six to score goals, but they also need them to play sound defensively in their own end.  They cannot rely on guys like Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, and others in the top-six group to score night in and night out.   

The final key to victory for the Golden Knights this series is limiting Kirill Kaprizov’s chances.  Vegas Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon described Kaprizov as a “game breaker”.  In other words, he has the potential to take over games and flip the momentum in an instant.  He has done this against the Golden Knights multiple times this season.  It is virtually impossible to 100% eliminate a player with Kaprizov’s talent during a series, but they cannot allow them to walk all over them.

Game one between the two teams starts May 16 at 12 P.M. It will air on NBC (KSNV-TV channel 3 in Las Vegas).

Matt Atencio

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