Game 6 is an elimination game in the series between the Vegas Golden Knights and the Montreal Canadiens. That, in and of itself, was going to happen no matter what if the series went that long. It’s just that the team we expected to be on the brink of elimination is not.
The Montreal Canadiens can go to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1993 and be the first Canadian team since 2010 to be playing for Lord Stanley’s Cup with a win at the Bell Centre on Thursday night. The Golden Knights need a two-game winning streak to return to the Stanley Cup Finals for the second time in their long franchise history of three years.
Vegas is the -150 favorite at MyBookie Sportsbook with a total of 5 to extend the series and send it back to Sin City, where the house generally wins. Of course, that wasn’t the case in Game 5 and that’s how we got here.
Vegas Golden Knights
Yet another slow start plagued the Golden Knights in Game 5. The best way to give a team hope is to let them dictate their style and tempo in the first period. Vegas has done that a lot in this series. Sure, after the first period, Vegas was the better team again. But another poor first period hurt the Golden Knights and Montreal took a 1-0 lead into the room after 20 minutes.
This has been an ongoing theme in the series. Montreal held Vegas to zero high-danger scoring chances in regulation in Game 4 and could very well have won the series in Game 5 had Robin Lehner not played as well as he did. The Habs have been easily the better team in the first period in four of the five games of this series and they’ve made it count.
The only good first period for Vegas came in Game 3 at the Bell Centre. They really need another one of those here in Game 6. Ironically, they lost that game in overtime, but it would certainly help to get off to a good start, play from in front, and dictate the game.
In the series, Vegas has a scoring chance advantage of 111-96 at 5-v-5, but Montreal has the high-danger chances advantage at 58-42. The Canadiens have had the better scoring chances. Too many top-six forward for Vegas have had poor series. Mark Stone is at the top of that list. Stone has generated four scoring chances at 5-v-5 in this series. That’s it.
The Knights also haven’t gotten a whole lot of contributions from the blue line. Shea Theodore had a big Game 1, but has been quiet since. Alec Martinez has done nothing at 5-v-5. Alex Pietrangelo was good early in the series, but his play has trailed off. The Knights need to figure something out to get better.
Most of the 5-v-5 goals in the series for the Canadiens have been right in front of the net. They’ve gotten to the high-traffic areas and have paid the physical price it takes in the playoffs to score. They’ve played an unselfish, gritty game. The Golden Knights are trying to make Sportscentre’s Top 10 plays with every tally.
The fact that the Habs are doing this without head coach Dominique Ducharme, who tested positive for COVID when Montreal returned home from Las Vegas, has been even more impressive. Maybe Ducharme’s absence has been something of a rallying cry for the team. Who knows, but they’ve outplayed and largely outcoached Vegas to a degree in this series.
Maybe the series is really easy to figure out. The Canadiens have scored six goals on their high-danger chances and Vegas has scored three. Montreal’s Carey Price has stood tall on Vegas’s top chances and that hasn’t quite been the case for Vegas, specifically, for Marc-Andre Fleury, who was not overly sharp in Game 5, despite getting a blow for Game 4.
Price had a really mediocre regular season, but he has shined in the playoffs with a .933 SV% and a 2.02 GAA. In this series alone, Price has stopped 143 of 154 shots for a .929 SV%.
The Canadiens seem immune to the noise and the pressure. They weren’t supposed to be here after trailing the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-1 in the first round. All they’ve done since is go 10-2 and be on the brink of making the Stanley Cup Finals.
Golden Knights vs. Canadiens Free Pick
At this point, laying these prices with Vegas seems harder and harder to do. Montreal is being priced like a team that has no business playing in a series with Vegas, yet it is the Canadiens that can finish it off in Game 6. At this point, how could we argue any differently? Maybe Montreal for the first period is a safer play, but the Habs are playing a simplified game and it has been stronger than what we’ve seen from Vegas.
Pick: Montreal Canadiens