Theodore, the great reason for the success of the Golden Knights in the playoffs

LAS VEGAS — shea theodore He showed what he can do in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals, scoring a spectacular goal in the Vegas Golden Knights’ 5-2 win over the Florida Panthers at T-Mobile Arena on Saturday.

The defenseman picked up the puck inside the offensive blue line, skated it back across the ice and spun. Then he stopped and cut in half again.

Poor anthony duclair. The Panthers forward had blocked a Theodore shot seconds earlier. He gave Theodore little room, pulled his staff out, waved the puck, coming within inches of knocking him over, and Theodore still escaped.

“He’s been doing that his whole career,” said Duclair, who played with Theodore when Canada won gold at the 2015 International Ice Hockey Federation Junior World Championships. “I know him pretty well, I played with him in world juniors Two years ago.

“But you know, obviously, in pain, I tried to do the best I could, put a stick on him, but again, he’s obviously a world-class talent.”

Video: FLA@VGK, Gm1: Theodore scores through traffic at 2nd

Theodore ended up finding a shooting lane and firing a wrist shot from the high slot through traffic and past the keeper. Sergei Bobrovskygiving the Golden Knights a 2-1 lead at 10:54 of the second period.

He also had one assist, three shots and six shot attempts in 20:59 of freeze time. When he was on the ice, the Golden Knights had 69.2 percent of the shot attempts in 5-on-5 and 73.5 percent of them in all situations, the best among Las Vegas skaters.

The Golden Knights host the Panthers in Game 2 of the best-of-7 series on Monday (8 p.m. ET; TNT, TBS, truTV, CBC, SN, TVAS).

It’s hard to believe that the goal was Theodore’s first in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and that he had been hard on himself about his performance.

“When they announced it was his first goal, I mean, I didn’t know, because he gives us a lot of offense with his legs,” the Golden Knights captain. mark stone saying. “He creates and moves the puck very well for us.

“But at the same time, he’s one of the best defenders in the league, so when he doesn’t score, I think he can help a guy. So, I think that’s why he’s hard on himself, right? Because he expects greatness.

“And tonight, that was a great goal.”

Theodore is one of the reasons Vegas has been so successful since joining the NHL as an expansion team in 2017-18, making the playoffs five times in six seasons, advancing to the third round four times and advancing to the finals. of the Cup twice.

The Golden Knights wrested him from the Anaheim Ducks in a trade related to the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft, despite the fact that the Ducks had selected him in the first round (No. 26) in the 2013 NHL Draft. and was considered promising. coming talent.

The 27-year-old has 264 points (66 goals, 198 assists) in 450 regular-season games. The crazy part? He has 64 points (15 goals, 49 assists) in 103 playoff games. That’s a lot of playoff experience, and that gives him an advantage in the Cup final.

“I think some of these pressure situations can’t be replicated in the regular season,” Theodore said. “These are tough games. Every second really matters. And I think (I’m) just taking the experience of going deep runs, going to the [Final] the first year, taking all of that in stride and using it in this postseason.”

[RELATED: Complete Stanley Cup Final coverage]

After scoring in a 2-1 loss at Florida on March 9, Theodore had six assists in his last 11 regular season games. He had seven assists in 16 games during the first three rounds of the playoffs.

Coach Bruce Cassidy and assistant John Stevens met with Theodore during the Western Conference final against the Dallas Stars.

“You’re starting to see his game improve,” Cassidy said. “He started in the Dallas series. His legs are under him, and he’s skating and picking up the pace.”

The goal is a good example.

“He needs to do a little bit of that,” Cassidy said. “They get involved man-to-man, so when you have a little bit of space, that’s your time to be creative, whether you’re going back up the wall or into the middle. And Shea has the ability to move laterally as well as any defenseman. that he has seen, so good for him to find the middle of the ice.

“It seemed like he was pretty good coverage at first, but again, he found his weak spot.”

After the goal, Theodore hit the glass, raised his fists and shouted: “Let’s go!” His classmates harassed him. You could see the joy and relief on his face.

“The way he carries the puck across the ice, sometimes he’ll give you a one-man escape,” Golden Knights center. jack eichel saying. “He does a lot for our team. Give him a lot of credit.

“And it’s nice to see him rewarded there. He’s had a bit of a drought, and I’m sure it feels good for him to find one. Hopefully it’ll boost his game over the next few.”

Shawn P. Roarke, Senior Director of Editorial, contributed to this report