By this point we have all heard it 1,000 times; the Vegas Golden Knights are not supposed to be here. They aren't supposed to be in the Stanley Cups Playoffs and they defiantly aren't supposed to have won any games, and they most certainly are not supposed to be up 3-0 on the Los Angeles Kings.
But; here we are.
Heavy start by LA
LA did everything they were supposed to coming out of the gate. Their fans were loud, Drew Doughty and Jake Muzzin were back in the lineup. To put it plainly; the boys were buzzing.
They got to Vegas; they really really bugged Vegas. The Kings at their best are strong, heavy and right on the edge. They were all of those things tonight. They hit Vegas 45-40 in the game, but that stat does no justice on the number of extracurriculars that occurred in this one.
In all honesty, last night may have been the hardest, chipiest, and in some cases, the dirtiest game the playoffs have seen in a year or two.
An early goal by Alex Iafallo was the difference maker for nearly the whole game. With goaltenders Marc-Andre Fleury channeling his inner 2009 playoffs and Jonathan Quick cloning 2012; there would no surprises if that only goal would have stood up to be the winner.
It didn't; but it very well could have.
Hard hockey or just dirty?
This series is walking a line... a very fine line.
Erik Haula appeared to butt-end Anze Kopitar in the face, Brayden McNabb could have easily broken a few of former teammates Doughty's ribs on a play in the slot area.
Dustin Brown tripped Fleury as he was moving laterally, then Brown steadied himself by bringing down the tomahawk on Nate Schmidt's leg. At one point Vegas defenseman Jonathon Merrill got thrown to the ice and Muzzin absolute rocked someone in the first five minutes.
None of these plays were called.
This is playoff hockey and there will be things that are not going to be called simply for the act that it is playoff hockey and if refs called everything they should or could in the playoffs it would simply be a 60- minute power play and penalty kill between the two teams.
One must beg the question though; with Vegas up 3-0, if LA finds themselves down a goal or two in the third on Tuesday night, does this series cross the line?
The Real Deal and a blooming flower
Vegas was reeling at the end of the second period. Jonathan Marchessault took a... for lack of a better term, dumb penalty, they had just failed to score on the power play, and were going into the dressing room frustrated and agitated.
Somewhere between the last two seconds of the second period and the start of the third Vegas did a lot of growing up. No, that’s not a knock on them, it’s a huge compliment.
We have seen young teams, for years, let a punch to the head get the best of them and the whole game is lost due to retaliation. Vegas channeled that energy and took control.
Credit Fleury and James Neal.
Your best players need to be your best players when it counts and one can almost be certain that the veteran of over 80 playoff games said something in-between periods and the calm, cool, and collected presence of Fleury put everyone at ease.
Not to mention after the intermission Fleury and Neal took over. Fleury faced 17 shots in the third, he stopped all but one. Vegas needed someone to suck the air out of a rocking Vegas crowd, James Neal did with a beauty.
Yes, Cody Eakin and William Karlsson scored as well, finding a crack in the armor that is Quick, but without Fleury or Neal steering the ship, this game could have very easily gotten out of hand very quickly.
Marc-Andre Fleury has now stopped 96 of the 99 shots he has faced. With goaltending like that, it is very hard to lose hockey games.
Not over yet
If any team can come back from a 0-3 hole, it's LA simply for the fact that they have done it before. It will be an all-out war and quite frankly this series deserves more than a sweep. This series feels like a Conference Final. This series feels like there is much more on the line than a birth in the Western Conference semi-final.
Even if there is only 60 more minutes left to be played in this series, it is all but guaranteed that they are 60 minutes you don’t want to miss.
Full highlights courtesy of the NHL here:
What has surprised you the most about this series? Comment down below.