As the Vegas Golden Knights celebrated their third trip to the bottom four of the National Hockey League in the past four years, Dunnville, Ontario, native Peter DeBoer – himself a 12th-round draft pick by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1988 – managed to find some Canadian Outlook for the anomaly that are the Golden Knights expansion.
“It’s very difficult to win,” DeBoer began. “Everybody talks about winning the Stanley Cup. I’m a guy from Ontario, I look closely at the Toronto Maple Leafs, I was drafted by the Leafs, I’ve always been a fan of the franchise … They haven’t come out of the first round in what? Seventeen years? And that’s a good franchise, well trained.
“What are these men here [in Vegas] having achieved is unreal. “
Ironically, it is the Colorado Avalanche that have settled in Done-ville. They lost Game 6 on Thursday 6-3, swept six by Vegas.
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Sure, the Avs won the first two games. Then things got tough and the Golden Knights won four games in a row.
An Avs team that won the Presidents’ Trophy, that had a goalie of Vezina’s caliber, who seemed to have figured out how to play solid defensive hockey this season, simply made more mistakes than their opponents.
What went wrong? What do you look back on that perhaps could have developed differently?
“There are so many things. I could sit here for 15 minutes,” said captain Gabriel Landeskog, whose own defensive fouls will not be overlooked. “We try not to live in the past, stay in the moment, in the present. But evaluating the series In Game 1 and 2 we found a way to win when they were the best team, in Game 3 we didn’t play well at all… In Game 5 we were in control, we committed three turnovers and they scored in all three.
“Tonight, we fight hard and we fight. It kept coming back. A couple of rebounds go the wrong way, a couple of turns when we’re not really engaged, really focused and they capitalize on it. “
If playoff hockey is a turn-by-turn experience, if a mistake can cost a hockey game, then the Avalanche will go down in history as too arrogant to beat a deep opportunistic team like Las Vegas.
“As a group, we learned a lot,” said Landeskog, whose team retires in Round 2 for the third consecutive season. “We are going to have to learn a lot in the future. Yes, we will have to learn from it and move on. “
“It’s always next year,” said superstar Nathan MacKinnon, who was excellent in Game 6. “I’m going into my ninth year next year and I haven’t won, so I’m definitely motivated. It just sucks. “
Colorado is a good team that is loaded with skill, and this was an incredibly entertaining series. But the Avs don’t play a game that leads to playoff success. They’re too loose, too risky, and as fun as it is to watch, too open at a time of year when you can’t be content to allow four goals, knowing you’ll score five or six.
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The Avs suffered a goal-scoring hemorrhage at the most crucial moments of this series, never being able to sit in an advantage or even play a game in which the opponent was forced to win their goals unaided. In the end, the Las Vegas defense was more solid and reliable, with a guy like Nick Holden entering the lineup and holding his own, while neither Patrik Nemeth nor Samuel Girard (minus-4 Thursday) distinguished themselves in this series.
A team worthy of a championship does not throw four games in a row after gaining a 2-0 lead, sorry.
“I don’t think there is a person in the hockey world who, when we were down 2-0, thought we would finish this in six tonight. That was real, ”DeBoer said accurately. “We just blocked the noise and got to work. Scraped and scratched and found a way
“We beat a team that has perhaps the best analytics of the last 10 years. People on one team were handing out the Stanley Cup in the preseason, all season long, and for sure after the first round. “
Today, MacKinnon finds himself part of this statistic: In the past four seasons, the 12 Hart Trophy finalists have won just two playoff rounds.
It tells you what this sport demands and that the formula requires much more than a great regular season team. The game changes in the postseason, and a playoff win requires far more participants than a regular season win.
“The margin of error is very small at this time of year,” Landeskog lamented.
“We were the best defensive team in the league in many categories this year,” defended MacKinnon. “They are not braver than us, either. We have a lot of warriors in our dressing room. “
However, there is something about a perennial final four team that doesn’t have a perennial playoffs. Something in the DNA of this Las Vegas team that allows them to win, and something within Avalanche’s veins that allows their blood to spill.
“We are the sum of our parts,” DeBoer said. “We don’t have the superstar power that they have.”
Did you hear that, Maple Leafs? Edmonton Oilers?
The sum of its parts.
That is the winning formula.