RTP Daily, September 14th: Vegas Can’t Finish

Is it a structural flaw or are they just really, really unlucky?

As the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs rage on, two teams have been pushed to the brink, both down three games to one. In the last round, we saw multiple teams erase 3-1 series deficits, only for those teams to all fall apart in Game 7. Can the Vegas Golden Knights and New York Islanders break the trend?

Saturday’s Game:

Game 4: Vegas Golden Knights @ Dallas Stars (DAL leads 3-1)

At times, goaltenders have looked unbeatable in these playoffs, and more often than not, it’s been to the detriment of the Vegas Golden Knights. The culprit today was the Dallas Stars’ Anton Khudobin, the best backup goaltender in the NHL, stopping 32 shots en route to a 2-1 victory and a 3-1 series lead for Dallas. Alec Martinez scored the lone goal for Vegas, while Joe Pavelski and Jamie Benn found the scoresheet for the Stars. Pavelski’s tally was especially brutal, as Vegas defender Nate Schmidt accidentally deflected the puck over the glove of Robin Lehner and into the net:

The Knights have struggled to finish on their numerous chances, and it’s happened for so long now, that some are suggesting it may have less to do with luck, and more to do with a flaw in the team’s system and/or roster. Full credit to Rick Bowness(!) for his defensive system, and his personnel for execution, as despite being outshot, the two teams were just about even in terms of expected goals (per NaturalStatTrick.com).

Sunday’s Game:

Game 4: Tampa Bay Lightning @ New York Islanders (TBL leads 3-1)

The Tampa Bay Lightning have only lost three games in these playoffs since the start of the first round. Ever since that humiliating first-round defeat to the Blue Jackets last year, they’ve bore down, quietly going about their business, knowing full well that each victory means absolutely nothing until the one that gets them the Stanley Cup. They already had the New York Islanders on their heels before Brayden Point returned to the lineup, and his goal and assist helped the Lightning go up 3-1 in the series. Brock Nelson scored the opening goal for the Islanders midway through the second period, only to find themselves down 2-1 twenty-seven seconds later thanks to Blake Coleman and Ondrej Palat. Point’s tally later on featured some excellent soccer skills from his line mates:

Patrick Maroon added an empty-netter for a final score of 4-1 Tampa. Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s going to have to bust out another hat-trick, isn’t he?

Today’s Game:

Game 5: Dallas Stars @ Vegas Golden Knights (DAL leads 3-1) - 8:00 PM EST

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