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On paper the Vegas Golden Knights had an amazing team. They had star power up front with Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty along with a cast that gave them plenty of offensive depth. Alex Pietrangelo, Alec Martinez, and Shea Theodore gave them a strong defensive core. Marc-Andre Fleury was having one of the best seasons of his career in net and even if he faltered, there was always Robin Lehner, who is a star in his own right.
It didn’t matter. The Montreal Canadiens still eliminated them in six games. The Canadiens not only showed that they could play at the Golden Knights’ level, often times they were clearly the better team on the ice.
Vegas’ goaltending wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough to win under other circumstances. Ultimately, the Golden Knights’ forwards didn’t step up in the semifinals. Nicolas Roy was the only Vegas forward to score multiple goals in the six-game series and with all due respect to Roy, he wasn’t even close to being one of their top forwards in the regular season. Reilly Smith had one goal. Max Pacioretty had one goal. William Karlsson, Mark Stone, Jonathan Marchessault, and Alex Tuch didn’t score a single goal.
A lot of the credit has to go to the Montreal Canadiens and, of course, goaltender Carey Price. As highly regarded as Price is, he’s been far from consistent in his career, but as we’ve seen again in this playoff run, when he’s at his best there aren’t many who can beat him. I’m getting ahead of myself, but if the Canadiens do end up winning the Stanley Cup then Price would be an easy pick for the Conn Smythe Trophy. He’s far from the only reason the Canadiens have gotten this far, but who among the Canadiens has done more to advance his team in the playoffs then him?
Meanwhile, in Vegas there will be questions. The Golden Knights have reached at least the semifinals/Western Conference Final in three of their first four seasons. As amazing as that is, the young franchise has fallen just short of a championship each time and with a veteran-filled roster, their window to compete is now. They need to honestly ask themselves if staying the course is in their best interest or if there’s something important this team is missing. Vegas hasn’t been shy about making bold trades, so even though the team is limited by its cap situation, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them make some meaningful changes over the summer.
MONTREAL 3 VEGAS 2 (OT) (Canadiens win series 4-2)
Artturi Lehkonen scored the overtime winner. It was his third goal and fourth point in 12 playoff games.
Shea Weber netted a power-play goal for Montreal. He has a goal and four points in 17 postseason contests.
The Canadiens’ other goal was accounted for by Cole Caufield. He’s up to four goals and nine points in 15 playoff games.
William Karlsson assisted on both of Vegas’ goals. He finished the playoffs with four goals and 16 points in 19 contests.
Alec Martinez scored a goal for Vegas at 1:08 of the third period, which at the time tied the contest at 2-2. It was Martinez’s fourth goals and sixth point in 19 playoff games.
Robin Lehner turned aside 29 of 32 shots last night. He got the nod after Marc-Andre Fleury and the Golden Knights lost Game 5, but as noted above Vegas’ central problem wasn’t goaltending.
Carey Price saved 37 of 39 Golden Knights shots. He has a 12-5 record, 2.02 GAA, and .934 save percentage in 17 playoff starts.