Montreal Canadiens gain first Stanley Cup Finals since 1993 with OT win over Vegas

Montreal Canadiens gain first Stanley Cup Finals since 1993 with OT win over Vegas

You see kids, in life, there are winners and losers ...

You see kids, in life, there are winners and losers …
Image: Getty Images

It’s no secret that Las Vegas is built on losers. They don’t construct a new hotel per week because everyone goes there and takes down the blackjack tables. It’s a town with a foundation on losing. You lose, they win.

So it’s awfully nice of the Vegas Golden Knights to give the residents a taste of the losing that likely provides them jobs, and if not jobs then the basis for whatever it is they do in Vegas other than sweat and watch their skin turn football consistency in August. .

It’s the third straight borderline-inexplicable playoff loss for the Knights. Two years ago they blew a 3-1 lead to the Sharks, including blowing a 3-0 lead in the third period of Game 7, because they were too busy wetting themselves over a major penalty call, and then gave up four goals on said power play. They even managed to tie the game again after that, but coughed up a hairball in overtime.

Last year, in the Bubble, they lost in five games to the Dallas Stars, who were missing their No. 1 goalie and also couldn’t score three goals in a game if you dangled all their loved ones over a volcano.

And now, this year, after knocking off a Colorado Avalanche team that had set metric-heads like myself on tilt, the Knights faceplanted against Montreal, a team so lacking in star power, they will almost certainly be used in communist propaganda films. And if they do have one top line talent, he was playing college hockey four months ago. That’s fine work. This was the Knights’ Cup to win, and after getting through the biggest hurdle out there this side of Tampa Bay, they forgot to count their steps and not only tripped over the next one, but also ended up digesting a portion of it.

How did the Knights end up here again? Hockey can be random and cruel. And the Canadiens are rife with defensively responsible forwards who are also very quick — like Phillip Danault, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Artturi Lehkonen to name a few. And Carey Price might be playing as well as he ever has, which doesn’t help the Knights’ cause.

But sometimes hockey can be pretty simple. Let’s go back to last year’s five-game technicolor yawn against Dallas:

  • William Karlsson: 1 goal
  • Jonathan Marchessault: 0 goals
  • Reilly Smith: 1 goal
  • Mark Stone: 1 goal
  • Max Pacioretty: 0 goals

And now we forward to this year’s screaming at their shoes:

  • William Karlsson: 0 goals
  • Jonathan Marchessault: 0 goals
  • Reilly Smith: 1 goal
  • Mark Stone: nada
  • Max Pacioretty: 1 goal

So in two conference finals, over eleven games, the Knights got five goals from their top tier. Hockey “experts” will tell you that you need your depth to come through, but no one’s depth is going to overcome their stars going transparent for a whole series. Contrast that with what Brayden Point or Mathew Barzal have been doing throughout the playoffs. Oh, and that one top line forward the Habs have, the one who was at University of Wisconsin doing keg stands just months ago? He doubled up all of them in goals this series with four.

The Knights will almost certainly be back here in the next year or two. Or they’d better, because all their important players are over 30. They’ll get to return to the Pacific Division next year, which has next to nothing as far as competition for them. Maybe once they dance out of the second round again, which there would be no excuse for not doing, one of their stalwarts could bother to show up.

But hey, it’s a whole town built on broken dreams. Should their teams really be any different?

Away with that rule

On an off day for the Euros, UEFA decided to make a major change in their club competitions by eliminating the away goal rule. That’s after 56 years, which is no small thing.

Knockout ties in the Champions League and Europa League that had been tied after 180 minutes used away goals as a tiebreaker, to avoid extra time and penalties. Without it, more two-legged affairs are probably headed for an additional half hour and the flip-cup that is penalties.

The away goals rule had been awkward of late, as it had seen home teams, especially in the first leg of knockout rounds, take things real conservatively, so as not to give up an away goal. Secondly, when games went to extra-time, it was seen as a large advantage for the away team in the second leg because they had an extra half hour to score a goal that essentially was worth double. That’s how Porto got by Juventus this past spring.

Doing away with the away goals though will just give the home team a slight advantage when things go to extra time, as they will be in front of their own crowd. Perhaps the best idea would have been to thread the needle and do away with the away goals rule in extra time.

It also could be a player welfare issue, as more games going to extra time means more work for players who already have too much on their plate. It seems yet another stab at placating the bigger teams, who have eaten it of late thanks to away goals. Like the aforementioned Juve. At least in the Round of 16, when the bigger clubs tend to be seeded and have the second leg at home.

But don’t worry, if Juventus lose a different way next spring, maybe they’ll change the rules again. 

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