Similarities abound as Wild, Golden Knights start playoffs
The symmetry that defined the matchups between the Minnesota Wild and Vegas Golden Knights during the regular season is expected to bleed into the postseason Sunday afternoon in Las Vegas.
The Wild and Golden Knights will meet in Game 1 of their best-of-seven Stanley Cup first-round playoff series, both looking to take their initial step toward their first championship in team history.
In a normal season, Minnesota and Vegas would be in separate divisions during the regular season and would meet just three times, but the NHL consolidated into four divisions for the pandemic-shortened season and matchups were confined within each division.
That slotted the Wild and Golden Knights against each other eight times this season.
“It definitely gives you a better book on your opponent than you would have in a normal playoff series in a normal year,” Vegas coach Pete DeBoer said.
Minnesota won five of the eight matchups against Vegas and took two others in overtime before the Golden Knights prevailed. The Wild finished third in the West Division, seven points behind second-place Vegas.
“Emotional games against them,” Minnesota forward Marcus Foligno said. “It’s always been fun. It’s always been back and forth and physical and heavy, so it suits us well. They’re a great team. We’re a great team, so it’s going to be a fun series.”
Each team scored 24 goals in the eight regular-season meetings.
Vegas allowed the fewest goals (2.18 per game) during the regular season and scored the third most goals in the league (3.39).
The Wild were able to solve the Golden Knights offensively on a few occasions, twice scoring four goals against Vegas and beating them 6-5 on May 3.
Minnesota tied for eighth in the NHL in scoring (3.21) and was in the middle of the pack in goals-against (2.84).
Wild goalie Cam Talbot started six of the eight games against the Golden Knights this season with mixed results: Three wins, one regulation loss, and two overtime losses, posting a 3.26 goals-against average with a .898 save percentage.
The Wild will be the fourth different NHL team he’s taken to the postseason.
“You want to be that guy for your team,” Talbot said. “That’s what drives me to go out there and give my team a chance to win every night. That’s what I try to do during the regular season and just try to carry that over into the playoffs.
“My confidence level is high right now because of the team I’m playing behind and knowing that if I do leave a rebound or something out there, I don’t have to be perfect because the guys in front of me are pretty darn good. It takes a lot of pressure off me. I just feel good about my game and where the team’s at right now.”
The Golden Knights are expected to add some physicality to their lineup with the return of Ryan Reaves, the 6-foot-2, 240-pound enforcer who missed the last month of the regular season with an undisclosed injury.
Minnesota doesn’t have a player quite as intimidating as Reaves, but Wild coach Dean Evason said not much else separates his team from the Golden Knights.
“There’s always those teams that you seem to match up well and are very similar hockey clubs,” Evason said. “I don’t know the reason, but they’ve always, every game, certainly this year, been real good games, real intense hockey games.”
–Field Level Media