Mike Kelly’s prediction was bang on.
The assistant coach of the Vegas Golden Knights told the Journal Pioneer in a phone interview before Wednesday’s Game 1 that he is anticipating a very close series against the Los Angeles Kings in the National Hockey League playoffs.
“It’s going to be tight,” said Kelly. “I can’t imagine they’re going to be high-scoring games at all, and we will have to be prepared to win the game in the last minute or overtime.”
That was exactly how Game 1 unfolded. The Golden Knights received a first-period goal from Shea Theodore, and a 30-save shutout from three-time Stanley Cup-champion Marc-Andre Fleury, in a hard-fought 1-0 win. Game 2 was scheduled for late Friday night, also in Las Vegas, before the series shifts to Los Angeles for Games 3 and 4 on Sunday and Tuesday. Both are 11:30 p.m., Atlantic Time, starts.
“It’s going to be a good, close series,” said Kelly. “We are not going to change anything. We are what we are.
“The guys have worked hard and been pretty disciplined at sticking to the identity of our team all year long. We are going to be true to that.
“We’ll work hard, we’ll be disciplined and like every team tries to do amp it up a little bit in the playoffs.”
Big, strong team
The Kings, who won the 2012 and 2014 Stanley Cup, are a big and strong team, noted Kelly.
“They like to clamp things down pretty good,” he continued. “We are a fast team, and we like to play fast.
“We are different styles of teams, both have their benefits and it will come down to execution. If you can execute and get a little bit of puck luck, you have a chance. But the league is so tight it’s hard to pick anybody in the first round. That’s almost unheard of. Any team can win at any point, and nobody would be that surprised.”
It was then commented to Kelly that these nail-biting games cannot be easy on the nerves of coaches. A laughing Kelly responded, “They never are!”
The Golden Knights were 34-5-2 in the regular season when scoring first, second in the NHL.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was in attendance for the first playoff game in Las Vegas on April 11.
Los Angeles has won 10 of the last 12 playoff series it has played, but it has lost 21 of the last 29 series in which it has lost Game 1.
The Golden Knights wore Humboldt Broncos stickers on their helmets in honour of the junior hockey players who were killed when their bus crashed on a Saskatchewan highway.