Vegas Golden Knights vs Chicago Blackhawks
The Vegas Golden Knights, who finished in eighth place overall in the NHL at the pause look to make yet another deep playoff run. They earned the first seed in the Western Conference by going undefeated in three games in round-robin play. They play a fast pace game that can be incredibly difficult for teams to keep up with.
The Chicago Blackhawks, on the other hand, had a bit of a more difficult route to the First Round. They were tasked with taking on the dynamic Edmonton Oilers, the top seed in the Western Conference. After upsetting the Oilers in just four games, the 23rd place Blackhawks managed to creep into the First Round.
The Golden Knights Electric Offence
Since they came into the league, the Golden Knights have had a shockingly strong offence. Mainly revolving around high-end wingers, the Knights have a lot of weaponry upfront. Mark Stone leads the charge for them, as one of the top wingers in the NHL. He finished second on the team in scoring at the pause with 63 points in 65 games. He also currently leads the team in playoff scoring with two goals and three assists for five points in just three games. On top of all his offence, many also consider Stone to be the best, if not one of the best defensive wings and players in the game.
To go along with Stone, the Knights have Max Pacioretty, Alex Tuch, Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith, and William Karlsson to carry their offence. With all of these threats in their lineup, the Knights have plenty of guys to go to for scoring. All of the players mentioned here scored at least 45 points at the pause. They will be relied on to contribute to the Knights’ tantalizing offence.
The Blackhawks Veteran Presence and Playoff Experience
It’s no secret that the Blackhawks are a team loaded with playoff experience. After winning the Stanley Cup in 2010, 2013, and 2015, they know what it takes to win. More specifically, their captain, Jonathan Toews knows what it takes, and he has given it his all so far. He currently leads the Blackhawks in playoff scoring with four goals and three assists for seven points in four games. This is also good for fourth in the entire NHL in playoff scoring (second if you don’t count players who were eliminated in the play-ins).
Along with Toews’ great play, defenseman Duncan Keith has looked very steady since the return to play. He’s been a minute-muncher for the Blackhawks averaging 25:35 a night and playing at a point-per-game pace. The former Norris Trophy winner has seen his game slip away from what it used to be, but if he continues to play the way he has during the play-ins, the Blackhawks will have a very reliable defenseman on their hands.
Also, we can’t forget about the magical powers of Patrick Kane. He can take over a game at any point and give the Blackhawks an advantage. The Knights will have to find a way to shut him down if they want to win the series.
While veterans might play an important role for both teams, they also each have some young players who can provide some serious value for their teams. For the Knights, they have defenseman Shea Theodore. The 25-year old seems to be coming into his own and taking on some big responsibilities for Vegas. He currently sits at four points in three games averaging 24:02 of ice time for the Knights in the playoffs.
For the Blackhawks, they have their own young gun by the name of Dominik Kubalik. Kubalik, a 24-year old Calder Trophy finalist this season, scored 30 goals before the pause. He has been absolutely dominant for the Blackhawks so far. He stole Game 1 of the play-in series for them after setting an NHL record by being the first player to ever score five points in his playoff debut.
Goaltending and Revenge
For the Blackhawks, they’ll be icing a goalie tandem of Corey Crawford and Malcolm Subban. Crawford, who had a rough Game 1, ended up being a reliable backstop for the Hawks for the rest of the series. If he can stay on his game, the Blackhawks should feel comfortable with Crawford in net and be able to rely on him to keep them in games.
For Vegas, they get to ice one of the top goaltending tandems in the NHL with Robin Lehner and Marc-Andre Fleury. Lehner, a Vezina Trophy finalist in 2019, was given most of the starts in the round-robin, so expect him to be the Game 1 starter for the Knights in the First Round.
While Lehner always has steady play, he should be extra motivated in this series. At the trade deadline, the Blackhawks ended up dealing Lehner to the Golden Knights, so he should have some extra incentive to win games. This is a revenge series for Lehner and he should want to make the Blackhawks sorry for trading him.
The Blackhawks are the underdog in this series for sure, as they face the number one seed in the Western Conference in the Golden Knights. While the Blackhawks have more playoff experience, the Knights will look to their high powered offence and steady goaltending to propel them to the win.
If all goes right for Vegas, expect them to make relatively quick work of the Hawks as they look to make another deep playoff run and continue to succeed as a new franchise.