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A Knight to forget

Did Vegas wake up after the first 20 minutes or adjust to the Canadiens play?

NHL: Montreal Canadiens at Vegas Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

First of all, I did mow my lawn, so last night isn’t on me. But I want to ask a question to the Eyes on the Prize brain trust: For the final two thirds of the game did Montreal fall asleep or did Vegas wake up?

It would be the understatement of the year to say that Montreal came out strong in the first period. They had seven high-danger shot attempts to Vegas’ one and controlled 83.7% of the expected goals (xGF%)

In his post-game press conference, interim head coach Dominic Ducharme said that Montreal had more difficulty controlling the puck after running into penalty trouble. And it showed in the stats. In the final two periods, and in all situations, we had a 35 xGF%. and a 42 xGF% respectively.

Was Ducharme right? Were our beloved Habs simply never able to get their feet under them after going down five-on-three and then letting a goal in right after? As bad as those “all situations” numbers were, the 5v5 numbers were worse.

In the second period, at 5v5 they controlled 7.8 xGF%. That’s not a typo. Less than 10%. That proves that the result of what Ducharme was saying is correct, the Habs didn’t get their feet back under them. But, just because he’s right about the result does that mean he’s right about the cause? To reference my question earlier, did we fall asleep?

On the Locked On Canadiens podcast, Laura Saba said that the series will be won by whatever team can adjust better. Both Montreal and Vegas are extremely versatile teams and have had to make major adjustments in each of their previous rounds. So did Vegas adjust to us or did they wake up?

Throughout the second and third periods, it seemed like Montreal couldn’t buy an entry into the Vegas zone. Having their most dynamic defensemen on the injured list also doesn’t help that at all.

But Joel Edmundson was a very big bright spot for me. He was one of only five members on the Canadiens that posted a positive Corsi at 5v5. He also led the entire team in controlled zone exits (that’s getting out of our end with the puck) and led all defensemen in total percentage of successful zone exits.

As is often the case with Edmundson there’s not one specific play that I can talk about that shows his brilliance last night, but guys like that are a culmination of small, smart, decisions.

So, whether one team fell asleep, or the other woke up, one thing I am sure of; with Edmundson playing like that, I can’t wait until he’s reunited with Jeff Petry and we can see what our team does with our top pair.