The Vegas Golden Knights (40-14-2) and Minnesota Wild (35-16-5) drop the puck on West Division playoff action at 3:00 P.M. Sunday. Despite being the league’s only 40 win team, the Golden Knights missed out on the President’s Trophy as the team with the best regular season point total based on a tiebreaker with the Colorado Avalanche. That also bumped Vegas down to the No. 2 seed in the division.
In this Golden Knights vs Wild series preview, I’ll break down all you need to know before Vegas and Minnesota take the ice, along with a winning pick for who will advance in the 2021 NHL Playoffs.
Golden Knights vs Wild Series Schedule
GAME ONE: Sunday, May 16, 3:00 P.M.
GAME TWO: Tuesday, May 18, 10:00 P.M.
GAME THREE: Thursday, May 20, 9:30 P.M.
GAME FOUR: Saturday, May 22, 8:00 P.M.
GAME FIVE*: Monday, May 24, TBD
GAME SIX*: Wednesday, May 26, TBD
GAME SEVEN*: Friday, May 28, TBD
* = if needed, all times Eastern
Golden Knights vs Wild Regular Season Results
March 1: Golden Knights 5, Wild 4 (OT)
March 3: Golden Knights 5, Wild 1
March 8: Wild 2, Golden Knights 0
March 10: Wild 4, Golden Knights 3
April 1: Wild 3, Golden Knights 2 (SO)
April 3: Wild 2, Golden Knights 1
May 3: Wild 6, Golden Knights 5
May 5: Golden Knights 3, Wild 2 (OT)
Marc-André Fleury: 26-10-0, 1.98 GAA, .928 save percentage, six shutouts
Robin Lehner: 13-4-2, 2.29 GAA, .913 save percentage, one shutout
Cam Talbot: 19-8-5, 2.63 GAA, .915 save percentage, two shutouts
Kaapo Kähkönen: 16-8-0, 2.88 GAA, .902 save percentage, two shutouts
Peyton Krebs – jaw, expected return: May 31
Tomas Nosek – undisclosed, expected return: May 18
Special Teams Stats
Power Play: 17.8% (31/174), 22nd in NHL, two shorthanded goals against
Penalty Kill: 86.8% (125/144), best in NHL, four shorthanded goals
Power Play: 17.6% (29/165), tied for 23rd in NHL, three shorthanded goals against
Penalty Kill: 80.8% (130/161), 12th in NHL, two shorthanded goals
Golden Knights vs Wild Storylines
In franchise history, the Golden Knights are 5-10-1 against the Wild, their worst record against any Western Conference opponent. Vegas has never beat Minnesota in regulation at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
While solid for most of the season, the Wild’s goaltending has been an issue in recent weeks. Since April 28, Talbot and Kähkönen have a combined -17.28 goals saved above expected (GSAx), which takes into account the shot quality beyond just the goals themselves. Talbot on his own is -11.37 GSAx over his past six games.
Vegas and Minnesota have never met in the playoffs before. The Golden Knights have made the playoffs in all four seasons of existence, advancing to the Western Conference Finals in 2018 and 2020, but were eliminated in the first round in 2019. The Wild has not advanced past the first round since the 2014-15 playoffs, despite four playoff appearances since then.
Minnesota’s Russian rookie Kirill Kaprizov finished eighth in the league in goals with 27 and led all rookies with 51 points in 55 games. Max Pacioretty led Vegas in goals with 24 but finished second on the team in points behind Mark Stone (21 goals, 40 assists).
Vegas is a heavy favorite to win this series, but I’m predicting things to be much closer. The Wild have matched up brilliantly against Vegas, both this year and historically, and an upset is especially within the realm of possibility, especially with how Kaprizov has changed the energy around the Wild.
However, the future Calder Trophy winner will need more help around him to upset Vegas. While Minnesota has more 20+ point players (12) than any other team, the Golden Knights have a more talented roster top-to-bottom.
While I think this series will go the full seven games, I’m expecting Vegas to come out on top and advance to the second round.
SERIES WINNER: Vegas Golden Knights in seven games.
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