Hill and Hanifin’s Heroic Efforts Keep the Golden Knights Alive

The Vegas Golden Knights managed to keep their season alive after a tightly contested 2-0 victory over the Dallas Stars in Game Six of their first-round series.

Hill and Hanifin’s Heroic Efforts Keep the Golden Knights Alive

Adin Hill stopped all 23 shots he faced to secure his third career playoff shutout. All of Hill’s playoff shutouts have come against the Stars, picking up two in the Golden Knights’ 2023 Conference Final series. Jake Oettinger had a strong performance of his own in a losing effort, making 29 saves and finishing with a .966 save percentage (SV%).

Hanifin’s Heroics

The Golden Knights opened the game with the level of desperation that you’d expect from a team on the verge of elimination. They were able to generate a ton of high-danger rush chances but couldn’t get a clean finishing touch on any of their plays. Shea Theodore, in particular, did a great job of activating in the rush and provided a secondary option for the forwards ahead of him, and overwhelmed the Stars’ defense core.

Although the Stars didn’t look flustered by any of the Golden Knights’ chances, they countered with a few good offensive zone sequences of their own towards the end of the period. Oettinger was a calming presence as their last line of defense, keeping the game tied 0-0 after the opening 20 minutes of play.

The Golden Knights were the much more dominant team in the second period, getting much more offense on the cycle, leading to the Stars getting tired and taking a few penalties. Things really opened up after the Golden Knights’ second power play, with pucks squeaking behind both Oettinger and Hill, but both were swiped off the goal line.

While the first 40 minutes were filled with fast-paced, back-and-forth action, it wasn’t until halfway into the third period that Noah Hanifin broke the scoreless tie with his second career playoff goal. Hanifin broke into the offensive zone and took a sharp-angle shot that deflected off of Oettinger’s shoulder and slipped into the top corner.

The Golden Knights typically don’t excel in a run-and-gun offensive environment, but their forwards looked much more polished in all three zones of the ice. If all four lines can replicate this type of offensive performance, they’ll likely be rewarded with more than one goal on Oettinger in Game Seven.

Adin Hill Returns to Championship Form

Golden Knights Head Coach Bruce Cassidy made a bold decision to start Hill in this match after his Game Five performance, but it ended up being an incredible choice.

This was Hill’s first shutout since he had two in the span of three regular-season games in November. Hill now has a .942 SV% and a 1.88 goals against average (GAA) in eight playoff games against the Stars over the last two seasons. With this performance and Hill’s playoff resume against the Stars, he could end up being the x-factor that the Golden Knights need to eliminate the Stars in Game Seven.

Hill’s first big stop of the game came just two minutes into the second period after a failed breakout pass from Zach Whitecloud left Tyler Seguin wide open for a breakaway. With how aggressively the Golden Knights were pushing for the opening goal, it was inevitable that they were going to give up some dangerous chances. Still, they played very confidently in front of Hill, knowing that he was going to back them up.

Hill didn’t have a ton of dangerous chances against him in the third period, but he was solid when the Stars pushed for the tying goal in the final two minutes. This was the best game he’s played since returning from injury, and he’s instilled Cassidy and the rest of the Golden Knights with a ton of confidence heading into Dallas on Sunday.

Final Thoughts

Both teams have proved that they are capable of holding on to tight leads in this series. the Golden Knights did so in Game Two, the Stars returned the favor in Game Four and Five to take the series lead, and the Golden Knights took the momentum back heading into the deciding game of the series.

In the Golden Knights’ Stanley Cup championship run, Hill had some incredible moments, but he was never asked to steal a game. Considering the few chances that the Golden Knights conceded were as dangerous as they could get and the fact that they managed to get just one past Oettinger, this was as close to a stolen game as we’ve seen with Hill in the net.

The storyline for this Golden Knights roster since the trade deadline is that once everything comes together, they’re going to be a force to be reckoned with. While it took a lot longer than expected, Game Six was the perfect example of what this team is capable of, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

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