The Vancouver Canucks (36-27-6) will close out their round two series against the Vegas Golden Knights (39-24-8) on Friday night. The series is tied 3-3. During the regular season, the Canucks were third in the Pacific Division with 78 points. In the bubble, they’ve played sixteen games and only lost six. Vegas finished the regular season first in the Pacific with 86 points, and they’ve dropped four of their fourteen games this postseason. In their game six matchup, the Canucks fought off elimination for the second game in a row with a 4-0 shutout win.
High Shot Volume Fails Vegas AgainThe Vegas Golden Knights are now in a position where they could be eliminated for the first time in the playoffs. They were in no danger during the opening games of the playoffs, as their position in the standings gave them a bye into the playoffs and they played a seeding rather than qualification round. Then, they easily beat the Blackhawks, only dropping a single game in round one. And, for a while, it looked as if they might do the same to Vancouver. But the Canucks battled back, and completely shut Vegas down in game six. The Knights got more than their normal amount of shots on goal, which is saying something. Vegas is known for their high shot volume. In the bubble, they’ve had 36.4 shots per game, and lead the remaining playoff teams in that category. On Thursday night, they had 48 shots on goal, but once again it seems that the Vancouver versus Vegas series continues to be a story of quality over quantity, and Vegas had yet to realize that.
Vegas had a fairly good defensive performance in the middle of the contest. They kept the Canucks from scoring at all in the second period (though, the Canucks also kept them from scoring), and kept the Canucks from getting a single shot on goal for a nearly twenty-minute span. They certainly won the award for the most physical team on Thursday, as they had 43 hits, as well as 20 penalty minutes. Minding the net for Vegas was Robin Lehner. Lehner has been solid in the playoffs so far, getting ten starts and having a 7-3 record in those starts. 19% of the total goals he’s allowed in the bubble came in game six. Lehner faced 22 shots, and only stopped 19 of them. His save percentage for the night was .864.
Vancouver Forces Game SevenIn his second career playoff start, Thatcher Demko has come up big again. Before game five of the series, he only played eight minutes in relief to Jacob Markstrom earlier in the 2020 playoffs. While he got a decent amount of work in the regular season, starting in 25 games and playing in 27 and having a .905 save percentage, the playoffs are a very different beast. He was unexpectedly put into the starting position after Markstrom, who had played every game in the bubble up to that point, was benched with a groin injury. Demko was given a tall order to save his team from elimination at the hands of the offensively talented Knights, and he delivered. He’s faced 91 shots in the pair of games he’s started in, and only allowed a single goal across the 120 minutes of play. He’s not only proving that he has what it takes to be on the ice in these high-pressure situations but also giving the coaching staff a chance to rest Markstrom in upcoming games, provided they make it past game seven and Markstrom heals in time to take the ice.
Besides the obvious area in which Vancouver came out on top, there’s been another place in this series that they’ve consistently beaten the Knights. In the faceoff circle, the Canucks have beaten the Knights in almost, if not every, matchup. On Thursday, they took 59.6% of the draws in the game. Most of the scoring in the game took place in the back half, but there was one goal in the first forty minutes of play. It came from Jake Virtanen less than three minutes into the contest. No one would score again until 1:03 in the third period, where J.T. Miller’s sixth goal in the bubble kicked off the flurry of goals. Miller’s goal was followed by one from Quinn Hughes, who also had an assist that night. The final goal of the game was an empty netter from Bo Horvat. That’s his tenth of the postseason, the most of any player in the bubble. Demko faced just shy of fifty shots in game five. He turned away all 48 shots that the Knights threw at him, including four powerplay saves and eleven shorthanded saves.
The Canucks are 22-11-0 overall when outshot by their opponent. The Canucks are 14-6-2 overall when the game is tied after the first period.
Vegas is 13-18-6 overall when their opponent scores first.