The Montreal Canadiens lost 4-1 to the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Semifinals on June 14. The scoreboard was uneven, but the Canadiens did play well and showed off their skill. However, there are still areas of Montreal’s play that need improvement. So, how can the Montreal Canadiens Game 2 go better?
The Canadiens took four penalties for a total of eight penalty minutes in game one. While Vegas was unable to convert on any of their powerplay oppurtunities, killing penalties took up minutes that could have been spent overcoming their goal deficit. Penalty kill units were effective in preventing Vegas goals, but they could do little about the growing inequality on the scoreboard. If Montreal continues to give the Golden Knights powerplay oppurtunities they will eventually give up a goal. In game two the Canadiens will need to work on taking less penalties, especially if they are behind in scoring.
Montreal was pretty successful when they were the ones reciving powerplays. Out of the three powerplay oppurtunities they has, the Canadiens converted on one of them, with Cole Caufield scoring his first career playoff goal. Zone control and passing were strong for Montreal on the powerplay. If the Golden Knights continue to take penalties the Canadiens will need to continue scoring powerplay goals. In a physical series like this one there are sure to be penalties on both sides, so Montreal will need to take advantage of their powerplay chances to put pucks past Marc-Andre Fleury.
The Montreal Canadiens had some excellent moments in game one. They recorded 29 shots, just one less than Vegas, and had multiple promising scoring chances. They were able to establish offensive zone control in five-on-five play and made solid passing plays. However, the Canadiens also had weak moments where they allowed chances for Vegas and got trapped in their defensive zone. The first twenty minutes of the game were dominated by Montreal, but they were unable to maintain their momentum.
Developing consistent play for the full 60 minutes in game two will be essential for the Canadiens’ success. If Montreal can turn the bursts of impressive physical and smart plays from game one into a full-game style of play they will be able to find success. Wearing down on the Vegas defense and Marc-Andre Fleury for the entire 60 minutes will help the Canadiens to score goals.
The Vegas Golden Knights scored some beautiful goals in game one. Shea Theodore‘s fake shot-to-pass and the subsequent goal by Alec Martinez was one of them. This play was possible because of communication breakdown among the Montreal defense. One of the themes of the pretty goals that the Golden Knights scored was the lack of defense by the Canadiens. Communicaion issues over coverage, an inability to clear the puck and a general lack of help for Carey Price were all problems in game one. Against a team like the Golden Knights who have a number of forwards and defensemen with scoring abilities, the Canadiens will need to up their defensive game. If Montreal can get on top of covering Vegas players and takinging away oppurtunities they have a chance at winning game two.
What to Carry Over From Game One
The Montreal Canadiens played a physical game in game one, laying 52 hits on their opponents. The Canadiens were also agressive in crashing the net and forcing turnovers. Physicality allowed the Canadiens to give themselves some space on the ice against a skilled Vegas defense. It is important that the Canadiens continue to be physical and agressive for the rest of the series.
Montreal also did well in setting up plays. Passing in the neutral zone allowed for clean zone entries. Passing around the edge of the ice in their offensive zone allowed five-on-five play to look like a powerplay. On the one goal that the Canadiens did score, they used solid powerplay positioning to take good shots and force a rebound, which Cole Caufield put in the net.
Faceoffs, except for the one they lost which led to a Vegas goal, were another strong point. The Canadiens won 56% of the faceoffs in game one. This contributed to the playmaking aspect of their game, especially when the faceoffs were won cleanly. Continuing to win faceoffs will help the Canadiens to give themselves the oppurtunity to set up plays.
Overall, the Canadiens had a strong game one. If they can take their strong points from the first game and establish more consistent, disciplined play, as well as improved defense, the Montreal Canadiens have a good chance at winning game two.
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