Game 7. Those two words alone are what playoff hockey is all about in the NHL. Friday night’s game seven matchup between the Vegas Golden Knights and Minnesota Wild is very intriguing. The elimination game will feature one team with all of the momentum in the series and the other team who was considered the favorite heading into the matchup.
Underdogs with the Momentum
After winning three of the first four games in the series, the Golden Knights find themselves in a must-win situation if they want to avoid elimination. Fortunately for them, game seven will be on home ice in Las Vegas. Unfortunately for Vegas, the momentum will not be on their side.
The Wild have clawed their way back in this series thanks to strong performances in games five and six. In game six on Wednesday night, Wild goalie, Cam Talbot, secured his second shutout of the series by stopping all 23 of the shots he faced. The Minnesota offense has complimented the defense nicely by outscoring the Golden Knights 7-2 in those last two games.
Because of the great play as of late, the Minnesota Wild come into game seven riding all of the momentum from the last two games. The Knights will get the home-ice advantage for game seven but the Wild come into the game with the momentum after winning games five and six.
On one end, Cam Talbot will take his spot in the crease for the Wild. On the other end, Marc-Andre Fleury, the three-time Stanley Cup champ will take his spot in between the pipes for the Golden Knights. In the first six games of this series, both goalies have put on a show.
Talbot and Fleury have each won three of their six starts. Talbot has posted two shutouts along with a 2.01 goals-against-average and a .937 save percentage. Fleury has tallied one shutout along with a higher goals-against-average (1.66) and a lower save percentage (.935).
Both Fleury and Talbot have been on top of their game for the first six games of the season. In a winner-take-all game seven, it all comes down to the goaltending. Considering both players have put up impressive numbers thus far, every goal will be that much more important.
Balanced Effort for the Wild, Two-Man Show for Vegas
The Minnesota Wild have relied on a very balanced effort through the first six games of the series. 11 of the Minnesota goals have been scored by nine different players. Matt Dumba, Jordan Greenway and Jonas Brodin are in a three-way tie for points for the Wild with three points each. As a team, no player for the Wild has scored more than two goals in the series and no player has more than three points.
For Vegas, most of their scoring effort has come from two players. Mark Stone and Alex Tuch have combined to score seven of the Golden Knights’ 13 goals. No other player has scored more than two goals on the series for Vegas.
History has not been so kind for Vegas in winner-take-all games. The Golden Knights’ loss to the San Jose Sharks in 2019 has left a very sour taste in the mouths of Vegas fans and players alike. Vegas will rely on home-ice advantage and win the game to avoid embarrassment of blowing a 3-1 series lead.
The difference in game seven could come down to the goaltending. Whichever goalie decides to break first and concede that first goal could make a huge difference in the outcome.
Cover Image Courtesy of theathletic.com