Golden Knights must find answers quickly as Habs continue to frustrate


There are times in the playoffs when a coach has to coach, and there are times when he has to psychoanalyze. Times when your players aren’t in the right places, which you can correct, and times when they’re perfectly positioned but not playing the games they’re used to.

The latter describes the Vegas Golden Knights, a favorite of this Stanley Cup semi-final who sees their lives being ousted by the strangling Montreal Canadiens.

Their power play – last in the NHL and scoreless in this series – looks like five guys who just met in the 40+ fundraiser game at 10 a.m. at the community center. And their execution – simple passes and plays they’ve made consistently so far – is as bad as the ice they skated on Tuesday night in Vegas.

After being routed 4-1 in Game 5 in their own building by the Habs, we wondered if head coach Peter DeBoer would use a whiteboard in Wednesday’s practice. Or a sofa and a notepad?

Do his players need a new strategy? Or do they need Bob Newhart?

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“We are looking for those answers. It’s our job here: to flip every stone, ”DeBoer said. “Are there X-and-O answers?” The times in this show where we’ve been successful, we do certain things. But we don’t do them for long enough periods and with enough participants.

“I don’t have a clear answer for you,” he decided, sort of. “We’ve been there before, we’ve been through adversity and reacted the right way every time with this group. I am convinced that we will be ready for the sixth game.

Let’s start by thanking the Canadians, who walked straight through one of the most imposing environments in the National Hockey League today and who won almost 55 of the 60 minutes of hockey game five. They scored first, last and in the meantime they built a 3-0 lead that felt as impenetrable as the four-by-six sheet of plywood that is Carey Price.

Meanwhile, in the minds of the Golden Knights, we found both confusion and stubbornness.

“Sometimes things don’t go the way you planned, but you play seven games for a reason,” said captain Alex Pietrangelo. “You (the media) can sit down and choose whatever you want, but we’re going to go to Montreal and we’ve got a job to do. Refocus tomorrow, get on the plane, and get the job done in a few days.

Pietrangelo admitted, however, that a poorly executed team playing on horrific desert ice in June can be a bad combination.

“It’s mostly execution,” he said of his team’s problems. “There are games out there that we have to do. This time of year… with the temperatures, it’s not easy to play.

“You have to understand when there is a chance to make a clean game and when there is not.”

Clean game? For Montreal, it was a clear victory, a worrying sign of a team whose opponent has managed five games in this series.

“It’s hard to explain,” DeBoer said. “We didn’t have good legs, we didn’t have great execution. Give them credit, they played a really good game on the road. And falling behind this team is not a formula for success.

Montreal appears to be that team, and Vegas looks a lot like a victim of a Cinderella run that’s now one game away from placing a Canadian club in the Stanley Cup final for the first time since the Vancouver Canucks lost to the Boston Bruins in seven games in 2011.

Price has been resurrected and is absolutely infallible in the Canadiens net, while the Vegas kid traded for Max Pacioretty – Nick Suzuki – had a three-point night and has five points in Games 3, 4 and 5 of this season. series.

It got so bad Tuesday that booed Vegas fans booed their team off the ice, down 3-0 after 40 minutes. This is a prediction that no one in their right mind would have made 10 days ago.

“We weren’t playing very well, maybe we deserved it,” said defenseman Brayden McNabb. “We were overworked because of the puck. We love our fans. I’m sure they were frustrated, as were we.

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Frustrated? Playing in Montreal has become the fastest route to premature baldness, so frustrating (and successful) is the Habs game plan.

“They blocked the middle, they blocked the neutral zone,” McNabb lamented. “Our forward failure is one of the best in the league and when we go we are very good. We need to do more.

Did you hear that?

We’re heading to Montreal for Game 6 of this series on Thursday, and the Golden Knights are still wondering how to throw a forward check. How to perform a power play. How to cross the neutral zone, then cross the imposing physical blue line of Montreal.

Meanwhile, the Canadians are confident, in sync and riding well. They have all the answers.

“We have to find answers,” DeBoer retorted.

And fast.

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