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NHL Playoffs: Vegas Golden Knights vs. Montreal Canadiens Series Breakdown
One semifinal is already underway, and the Vegas Golden Knights and Montreal Canadiens will drop the puck Monday night to begin the second round. Vegas took down the Stanley Cup favorite Colorado Avalanche to get to the semifinal round while the Canadiens swept the Winnipeg Jets.
Monday’s puck drop is at 9:00 P.M. Eastern. The Golden Knights are series favorites at -455 while the Canadiens are +350 to advance to the Cup Final.
Vegas Golden Knights Preview
Vegas finished the regular season tied with the Avalanche for the most points but lost out on the President’s Trophy and home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs on a tiebreaker. However, taking the second seed worked out in the Golden Knights’ favor.
Being on the road for Game One allowed Vegas to give Marc-André Fleury the night off to get some rest and prepare for the rest of the series. While considered incredibly risky at the time, the gambit paid off, as Fleury led Vegas to wins in four of the next five games to advance to the semifinals.
The Golden Knights have excellent depth, with 19 players on their roster scoring at least two points so far in the playoffs. Max Pacioretty missed the first five games of the opening round but has been on a better than point per game pace since returning to the ice. William Karlsson is on a tear as well, leading the team in points with four goals and seven assists.
Perhaps the biggest factor for Vegas is the overall team health. Peyton Krebs is back to practicing with the team after suffering a fractured jaw. His return would provide extra scoring punch on the fourth forward line. Tomas Nosek should be returning from an undisclosed injury by Game Two as well, though he may not play in Game One.
Montreal Canadiens Preview
Montreal’s fairy tale run through the playoffs continues to amaze. Despite being statistically the worst team to make the playoffs, the Canadiens rallied from a 3-1 series deficit against the heavily-favored Toronto Maple Leafs, then blasted by an unfocused Winnipeg Jets team.
The Canadiens should be well-rested entering the series, as they last played on June 7. With a week of between games, Montreal was able to get somewhat healthy, but will still be down several key players for Game One. Jeff Petry, Jon Merrill, and Jake Evans are all out for Game One; Merrill and Evans could be out even longer, though Petry is expected back for Game Two.
The best overall unit for Montreal has been the penalty kill, shutting opponents down more than 90 percent of the time in the playoffs. With four shorthanded goals to boot, the Canadiens’ offense doesn’t take any shifts off. Montreal takes advantage of every opportunity, so the slightest Vegas slip-up could be costly.
Carey Price will once again need to be Montreal’s best player. The 33-year-old netminder has been one of the league’s best goaltenders for the last decade. He currently leads all playoff goalies in save percentage (.935), and ranks third in GAA (1.97).
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