The Vegas Golden Knights need something to break in their favor in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final.
The expansion side had their postseason momentum halted by the Washington Capitals in Game 2, and Gerard Gallant’s team hasn’t been able to beat the Eastern Conference champion since.
Vegas faces its toughest test of its inaugural season Thursday, as it has to win to earn a trip back to Washington for Game 6.
Washington enters in an ideal position, as a win would clinch the first Stanley Cup in franchise history, while a loss would put it back in front of its home fans with a clinching scenario in play for Game 6.
Game 5 Information
Date: Thursday, June 7
Start Time: 8 p.m. ET
Odds (via OddsShark): Vegas (-132; bet $132 to win $100); Washington (+102; bet $100 to win $102)
Should Vegas Shake Up Its Lines in Search of an Offensive Spark?
The Golden Knights might need an offensive shakeup in order to create better scoring chances in Game 5.
Although they possess the shots-on-goal advantage in the series, the Golden Knights are in need of a spark, and it could come from new alignments on the ice.
The top combination of Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson and Reilly Smith has been quiet through four contests, as they have eight points between them.Smith’s two goals and two assists represent the best production of the trio, and with Game 5 being must-win, change could help.
One possible adjustment could involve putting James Neal on the top line and dropping either Marchessault or Karlsson down to the second line, which experienced change for Game 4, as Alex Tuch moved up a line to join Neal and Erik Haula.
Although he missed a golden scoring opportunity in the first period, Neal produced a solid showing, as he scored in the third period and sent three shots on net in Game 4.
If Gallant opts to keep his top line together, the trio must find a way to make an impact on the game in the first period.
If Marchessault, Karlsson or Smith score, it would electrify T-Mobile Arena and give the Golden Knights a confidence boost in attack they’ve been waiting for since Game 1.
Can Holtby Deliver Washington a Championship With Another Strong Game?
Washington doesn’t have a ton of pressure on it entering Game 5 because of the buffer it’s created.
If things don’t go the Capitals’ way in Game 5, they have the chance to close out the series at Capital One Arena in Sunday’s Game 6.
One of the reasons why the series might not return to Washington is the play of Capitals goalie Braden Holtby, who has conceded on three occasions in his past 120 minutes of hockey.
Holtby has turned away 114 of the 124 shots he’s faced, and he enters Game 5 with much more confidence than Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who looks nothing like the star he was in the first three rounds of the postseason.If Holtby continues his impressive play between the pipes, it will diminish the amount of confidence on the Vegas bench, and it could take the boisterous crowd at T-Mobile Arena out of the game.
Although he won’t win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the postseason’s Most Valuable Player, an award that should go to either Evgeny Kuznetsov or Alexander Ovechkin, Holtby deserves a wealth of praise for the position he’s put the Capitals in.
If he handles the early bout of pressure Vegas will present, just like he did in Game 4, Holtby should put the Capitals in position to take the lead and deflate the morale of their opponent in the first period.