Max Pacioretty and the top line of Vegas are rolling right along.
Same with William Karlsson's group on the second unit and right on down the lines.
Bottom line: The Golden Knights are operating four highly productive lines heading into their semifinal showdown with the Montreal Canadiens in a best-of-seven series that starts Monday in Vegas.
In all, the Golden Knights have seen 16 different players score so far in the postseason and 21 register at least a point.
“We’ve had so many contributions from so many guys,” said Vegas coach Pete DeBoer, whose team knocked off top-seeded Colorado in six games during the second round after holding off Minnesota in a seven-game series to open the playoffs. “We’re the sum of our parts.”
And those parts are firing on all cylinders, along with their blue-line pairings. The Golden Knights are far from top-line dependent.
“In a series it’s probably tougher to play against four lines rolling at you over and over again,” Montreal forward Corey Perry said. “You know what you’re getting each time a line comes on the ice. But then, on the other hand, big guns can take over a series."
Teams can strategize all they want to slow down Pacioretty, captain Mark Stone, Karlsson or Jonathan Marchessault. But that’s about the time a fourth-liner such as Keegan Kolesar or William Carrier will step up. Both had goals in Game 6 against Colorado.
Just doing their parts.
“Everyone’s got good four lines," Carrier said. "Anyone that goes deep in the playoffs, they roll four lines and everyone can play and chip in. Guys have been in and out of the lineup and everyone’s been producing for us.”
DeBoer constantly rotates in fresh players, too. For instance, defenseman Nick Holden sat out Game 4 against the Avalanche — his former team — only to return in Game 5 and then make a big contribution with a goal in Game 6.
It's important to stay game-ready.
“All year, the coaching staff, training staff, has done a good job of making sure that the guys that aren’t in are getting what they need so when they come in they can contribute,” Holden said. “It’s been great to see guys coming in and out, and being able to step in, and contribute. This time of year, you’re gonna need everybody to contribute some way and we did that this series.”
Vegas general manager Kelly McCrimmon knows exactly what a championship roster looks like. After all, the Golden Knights have made it to the final four in three of their four years in existence, including a Stanley Cup appearance in 2017-18.
“We’ve got some really good players, some star players,” said McCrimmon, who was an assistant GM with Vegas before being promoted in 2019. “But we’ve also got real good depth.”
Karlsson leads the way for Vegas with 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in this postseason run. Marchessault had a hat trick in Game 4 versus Colorado, while Mattias Janmark recorded a hat trick in the decisive Game 7 against Minnesota. Janmark was acquired by Vegas from Chicago in April.
“We made a real important trade with Janmark,” McCrimmon said.
Before that, a huge signing with defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who agreed to a seven-year deal last October. The longtime Blues standout — he helped St. Louis hoist the Cup in 2019 — took a little bit of time to settle in, but he’s finding his rhythm in a big way.
Pietrangelo helped keep tabs on Colorado's top forwards Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen, while contributing a goal and four assists in the series.
“Some nights your top line will get the best of the other top line,” Pietrangelo said. “Some nights they have to do a job and shut them down and you expect other people to pick up the offense. That’s what we’ve done all playoffs.”
It won’t be any easier against the Canadiens, who also are well-balanced — they have four players with four goals — and enter as underdogs. Both feature world-class goaltenders in Carey Price for Montreal and Vezina Trophy finalist Marc-Andre Fleury for Vegas.
"It’s going to be fun,” Perry said.
NOTES: Canadiens interim head coach Dominique Ducharme doesn’t expect forward Jake Evans, along with defensemen Jon Merrill and Jeff Petry, to be available for Game 1. The trio could be back soon.
AP Hockey Writer John Wawrow and AP freelance writer W.G. Ramirez contributed to this report.
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