Tuesday, June 15, 2 p.m. PT:
There was a gap between the Vegas Golden Knights and Montreal Canadiens in Game 1 of their best-of-seven Stanley Cup Playoffs semifinal series. Vegas was the better team leading to its 4-1 victory. The question is whether the margin of difference between the clubs is a one-game thing or an absolute. To wit: Is Vegas simply better or were they just superior for 60 minutes?
Montreal's job is to close the gap just like Vegas did after a 7-1 pounding at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche in Game 1 of the last round. This is why a series is a mystery which sometimes takes seven games to solve.
VGK blueprint: Vegas got to its game in the second period after a tentative first period. They started to skate north, put pucks behind the Canadiens defense, and established a forecheck. Vegas got to the net and distracted Carey Price. The Golden Knights found their legs and produced a tenacious backcheck which gave Montreal very little room when they had the puck.
Scoring first: Both teams are going to want to score first in this series. Montreal can stick to its game when it has the lead. Vegas can comeback from a deficit but the pressure they put on teams to chase allows the Golden Knights to capitalize on the opposition's mistakes.
Pests: Montreal might have the best 1-2 Pest Punch in the NHL with Corey Perry and Brendan Gallagher. They're both committed to the effort and outstanding in terms of execution.
Fresh Fleury: Marc-Andre Fleury has now played in 49 games this season combining both regular season and playoff games. That's a low number for Fleury at this time of year and he's both fresh and in sync right now resulting in some of the best play of his career.
Shea's swagger: Shea Theodore now has a goal and seven assists for eight points through 14 playoff games. In Monday's Game 1, he was at his best
Shane's synopsis: Golden Knights TV analyst and former NHL defenseman Shane Hnidy on VGK blueliner Alex Pietrangelo: "He's been an absolute monster. He's had the toughest matches defensively and he's been rock solid and it doesn't compromise his ability to be involved offensively. He has the ability to be an option in all three zones. He's a great first-pass exit guy, he can be an outlet in the neutral zone or he can join the rush into the offensive zone. If he's not making the first pass or carrying the puck, he can sneak up the weakside and be an option there. He has the uncanny ability to read the game. He's all over the ice."
Suzuki style: Canadiens forward and one-time Golden Knights prospect Nick Suzuki left the Vegas organization as a boy but he's clearly a man now. Suzuki is Montreal's best forward. He plays with pace and bite and creativity. Strong skater with a great shot.