Viva Las Vegas, The Third Time In Six Years, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

After Sweeping the Winnipeg Jets, the Montreal Canadiens were coming into the Stanley Cup Semifinals against the Vegas Golden Knights rested and confident. But they were facing a team that had just dispatched the President’s Trophy-winning Colorado Avalanche with a distinct home-ice advantage over the Canadiens. In the end, the series has gotten off to a much more predictable start than in the one between the New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning, with the Golden Knights handing the Canadiens their first loss in eight games with a 4-1 win.

•   Vegas was absolutely stifling all game to the Canadiens, at one point holding them to just five shots on goal in the second period. Montreal couldn’t move the puck through the neutral zone for most of the third period as the Golden Knights put on a clinic on how to hold a lead in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It doesn’t hurt that Marc-Andre Fleury, at 36-years-old, is still playing at the top of his game.

•   In last year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, outside of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers, there was no home-ice advantage to be had. Even at that, Toronto and Edmonton didn’t have any real advantage other than being familiar with their surrounds and the physical rink itself. This time around, there is going to be a distinct advantage for the Golden Knights over the Canadiens.

•   Montreal might have all of Canada behind it, but they are not operating at full capacity in the Bell Centre. Vegas on the other hand, is fully back.

•   Only in Vegas, right?

•   Shea Theodore opened the scoring last night and has been one of most consistent performers for the Golden Knights in the postseason since their inception back in the 2017-18 season. Theodore and the Golden Knights have been to the postseason in all four seasons of their existence, making it to the third round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in three of those four years.

•   Want a reminder of how the Golden Knights got Theodore? At the Vegas Expansion Draft, Theodore was traded by the Anaheim Ducks to the Golden Knights so the Ducks could keep Josh Manson and ensure the Golden Knights selected Clayton Stoner. Just one of the many examples of the tom-foolery that the Golden Knights pulled off to build one of the best teams in the NHL, almost overnight. This is why I believe NHL teams are going to be waaaaay more cautious this time around with Seattle. Or history repeats itself and I can’t wait to watch Vegas and Seattle in the Western Conference Finals next year.

•   Speaking of history relating itself, Alec Martinez coming up big in the third round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

•   Again, Shea Theodore with a beautiful slap-pass to Martinez to setup Vegas’ 2-0 goal.

•   But Montreal had life, thanks to rookie Cole Caufield…

•   His first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal..CUE THE CRYING PARENTS!

•   His brother Brock, on the right, is wearing a “Goal Caufield” shirt and I want one, like, yesterday.

•   If you needed any reassurance if the state of Wisconsin is behind Caufield and the Canadiens, look no further than Wisconsin sports’ favorite child J.J. Watt.

•   I wasn’t sure they’d make Caufield sweaters in Watt’s size. Looks good on him.

•   Okay, I’ll put my Badger hat away now.

•   And put on my Blackhawks hat! Former Blackhawk Mattias Janmark continues to show up just when the Golden Knights need him this postseason, scoring the 3-1 goal less than a minute after Caufield cut the Vegas lead.

•   Janmark’s fourth goal of the postseason reinstated a two-goal lead for Vegas and they wouldn’t look back from there, adding one more goal from defenseman Nick Holden to close Game One 4-1 to take a 1-0 series lead.

•   Besides Janmark’s 3-1 tally, the Golden Knights had three goals come from defensemen in Game One, the first time that has happened in the third round or later in the Stanley Cup since 1991.

•   Marc-Andre Fleury made 28 of 29 saves in the game to win his 90th career postseason game, fourth all-time for goalie wins in the Stanley Cup Playoffs behind Patrick Roy, Martin Brodeur, and Grant Fuhr.

•   The Golden Knights take a 1-0 series lead over the Canadiens into Wednesday night’s contest. In the other Semifinal matchup, the New York Islanders hold a 1-0 series lead over the defending Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning. Game Two in that series happens tonight at Amalie Arena in Tampa, puck drop set for 7:00 p.m. CT.

•   In other news around the league, the New York Rangers have their new head coach. Former Golden Knights head coach and recent Team Canada World Championships Gold Medal-winning head coach Gerard Gallant.

•   Gallant last coached in the NHL in two seasons ago with Vegas, before being replaced on January 15, 2020 by current Golden Knights head coach Peter Deboer. Gallant has had three separate two and a half season stops in his NHL coaching career with the Columbus Blue Jackets (2003-04 to 2006-07), Florida Panthers (2014-15 to 2016-17), and in Vegas (2017-18 to 2019-20).

•   Gallant was the head coach for Team Canada at the IIHF World Championships and helped win Gold just a little over a week ago. He has an NHL head coaching record of 270-216-51 with four ties and has made the postseason three times with one appearance in the Stanley Cup Final in 2018.

•   In NHL awards news, the King Clancy Memorial Trophy, awarded to the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and who has made a significant humanitarian contribution to his community, was awarded to Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne.

•   In AHL Awards news, the Yanick Dupre Memorial Award, which is handed out in the same manner as the King Clancy Award in the NHL, was collectively awarded to every member of the training staffs of every AHL team for their hard work this season during the pandemic.

•   A heart-felt congratulations to IceHogs athletic trainers D.J. Jones and John Walter, along with all the trainers and staff in the AHL.

•   In Blackhawks land, we answered some of your Monday Mailbag questions yesterday regarding the offseason and specifically free agency. The biggest name being thrown around the free agent market currently and a player that should be on the Blackhawks radar is Dougie Hamilton. With a need for a true No. 1 defenseman, the Blackhawks need to get a player like Hamilton if they are going to try to supplement the young players who broke out last season and try to get back to the top of the mountain in the small window they have remaining before players like Duncan Keith, Patrick Kane, and Jonathan Toews current contracts expire.

•   Yeah, the top of the mountain…remember what that looked like?

•   Six years ago today, the Blackhawks topped the Lightning, 2-0, in Game Six of the Stanley Cup Final to win their third Cup in a six-year span and the club’s sixth Stanley Cup in franchise history.

•   I could watch the highlights from this game every day of my life and never be disappointed.

•   How has it been six years already?

•   That will do it for today. Enjoy your Tuesday!

written by

Mario Tirabassi is a writer for Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Mario_Tirabassi.

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