Thursday, June 10, 2021 | 3 p.m.
Coming into this season, T-Mobile Arena had never seen the Golden Knights win a playoff series at home. After tonight, the arena could see two in as many weeks.
The Golden Knights gave their fans a treat with a Game 7 victory over the Wild in the last round and have won three in a row against the Avalanche to make Game 6 at 6 p.m. today a potential clinch game. No one on the home bench wants to go back to Colorado for a potential Game 7, so the Golden Knights are treating tonight like a must-win game, even if they do have some margin of error for the first time.
“It’s a cliche that the fourth one is the hardest to win, but it really is today,” Vegas forward Mattias Janmark said. “They have it all on the line today, but we have to make sure we put it all on the line, too. We’ve got to treat it as a Game 7 for us, too.”
Vegas was in a tough spot the last time it came home for a game at T-Mobile Arena, down 2-0 in the series after two losses in Colorado. The Golden Knights put a beating on the Avalanche in the next two games, improving their all-time make to 13-6 in home playoff games.
But until Game 7 against the Wild, none of those wins clinched a series for the Golden Knights: The only handshake line Vegas fans had ever seen was after the Capitals celebrated their Stanley Cup victory in 2018. Defenseman Brayden McNabb was in the league’s COVID-19 protocol for the winners against the Wild and likes the idea of being on home ice to polish off a series.
“Our rink is insane, our fans are unbelievable,” he said. “I’m excited to get out there tonight because we want to finish it off here. We want to do it for our fans and do it for ourselves.”
The only lineup change for the Golden Knights is the expected return of forward Ryan Reaves, who was scratched for Game 5. Based on who was skating with the extras after an optional skate this morning, it appears Reaves will enter for Patrick Brown on the fourth line, sliding Keegan Kolesar to center.
And why change much? The Golden Knights’ biggest game plan is to simply the stay the course. They appear to have cracked the code to slowing down the Avalanche’s high-flying offense, allowing just five goals in the last three games. The Avalanche will have something to say about it, though, as they adjusted to Vegas’ defensive schemes in Game 5 and led 2-0 going into the third. The Golden Knights struck twice to tie the game before winning in overtime.
If Colorado plays like it did for much of Game 5, it just might get a Game 7 at home Saturday evening. The Avalanche will be desperate and more than capable of winning the next two games, erasing the bad juju of this series. The Golden Knights are more than aware of that and want to make sure the series ends in their building tonight.
“We’re going to have the fans behind us; we’re at home. Where else would you want to be?” Vegas coach Pete DeBoer said. “I don’t think anybody — and if they are, they’re lying — after Game 2 predicted we’d have an opportunity to close this team out in Game 6 at home, other than the guys in our room, the belief there. We’re here, and let’s take advantage of it.”
Stanley Cup Playoffs Round 2
Series: Golden Knights lead 3-2
TV: NBC Sports Network (DirecTV 220, Cox 38, CenturyLink 640)
Radio: Fox Sports 1340 AM and 98.9 FM
Betting line: Golden Knights minus-145, Avalanche plus-125; over/under: 5.5 (minus-105, minus-115)
Golden Knights (7-5, West Division No. 2 seed)
Coach: Pete DeBoer (second season)
Points leader: William Karlsson (10)
Goals leader: Jonathan Marchessault (6)
Assists leader: William Karlsson (7)
Expected goalie: Marc-Andre Fleury (1.81 GAA, .925 save percentage)
Avalanche (6-3, West Division No. 1 seed)
Coach: Jared Bednar (fifth season)
Points leader: Nathan MacKinnon (13)
Goals leader: Nathan MacKinnon (8)
Assists leaders: Gabriel Landeskog, Mikko Rantanen (8)
Expected goalie: Philipp Grubauer (2.33 GAA, .925 save percentage)
Golden Knights projected lineup
Max Pacioretty—Chandler Stephenson—Mark Stone
Jonathan Marchessault—William Karlsson—Reilly Smith
Mattias Janmark—Nicolas Roy—Alex Tuch
William Carrier—Keegan Kolesar—Ryan Reaves
Alec Martinez—Alex Pietrangelo
Brayden McNabb—Shea Theodore
Nick Holden—Zach Whitecloud
Marc-Andre Fleury, Robin Lehner