After becoming the first seed in the Western Conference in round-robin play, the Vegas Golden Knights are still yet to lose a post-season game. They went 3-0 in the round-robin and currently lead the Chicago Blackhawks 3-0 in the series.
After the Blackhawks earned a first-round birth, they are in trouble and need to clean up their play if they want to avoid getting swept. With the Vegas Golden Knights are playing a deep playoff run is in their future.
Vegas Golden Knights Seem Poised for a Deep Playoff Run
Since going up on the Blackhawks 3-0 in the series, the Knights have outscored them ten to five. The Blackhawks are having trouble keeping up with the Knights fast pace game, high-powered offence, and strong goaltending.
Vegas Dominating Possession
Throughout the first three games of this series, Vegas has seemed dominant at times. There have been stretches in games where the ice seems tilted and the puck is constantly in Chicago’s defensive zone. The stats back this up too. Vegas has a Corsi strength of 54.65% while Chicago is at just 45.35%. At even strength, Vegas has a Corsi of 56.95% and Chicago has a mere 43.05%. These numbers just show how dominant Vegas has been. They’ve possessed the puck well over half the time. It makes sense that the Hawks haven’t won a game yet this series as it’s pretty hard to win without possessing the puck frequently.
Marchessault Line Buzzing
For the Golden Knights, their second line of Jonathan Marchessault, Paul Stastny, and Reilly Smith has been one of their most consistent contributors. There have been four occasions where at least two of them score points on a goal. However, in Game 3 the line was altered because Stastny was deemed unfit to play. William Karlsson was called upon to fill in on the second line.
Crawford’s Inconsistent Play
Entering the series, Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford had a great play-in round. A big factor in whether or not the Blackhawks would succeed in Round-One was up to Crawford’s play. Over the first three games, he has not looked like play-in Crawford. Instead, he has been fairly inconsistent in his play. While he’s come up with a few big saves, the Golden Knights have scored some goals on him that are definitely keeping him up at night. There have been several occasions where a shot is savable and hits Crawford, but winds up in the back of the net.
On top of some bad goals, Crawford’s rebound control has been so-so. He’s allowed several big rebounds into high danger areas with opposing players nearby. Luckily for him, his defencemen have been able to get to most of the pucks.
In the playoffs, no team can make a run without steady goaltending, and Chicago has not proven they have this.
Patrick Kane Playing Pass First
So far through three games of the series, Patrick Kane has made his presence felt. He’s racked up four assists in the three games contributing to all but one of Chicago’s goals. He’s up to sixth in the NHL in playoff scoring with one goal and seven assists for eight points in seven games.
While Kane has racked up big point totals so far, he’s yet to find his goal-scoring touch. After scoring 33 goals in 70 games in the regular season Kane paced for 39 goals. He still stands with just one post-season goal this year, which is simply not going to get it done for the Blackhawks. His playoff production is obviously helpful, but his play is a big reason Chicago is in the postseason at all. Patrick Kane is a player the Blackhawks rely on and count on to score goals. Without him doing that, they look to be in trouble.
How Vegas Can Put it Away
Not Getting Too Comfortable With The Lead
When the score is even or the Golden Knights are trailing, they play a fast game that’s really tough to keep up with and match up against. While that type of playstyle is great, it’s not always there. The Golden Knights seem to take their foot off the gas a little when they have a lead, and as a result, they seem to get scored on more. If Vegas can play the way they do when they’re tied or down during the whole game, not only could they sweep Chicago, but they could also make a deep playoff run.
Getting Star Struck
In the first three games, Chicago has scored several goals with wide-open players. This seems to be happening because the Golden Knights defenders are overcommitting to Chicago’s star players like Kane and they almost forget about the other guys on the ice. While they have to respect stars and what they can do, they can’t put all of their defensive attention on them or else Chicago will keep finding guys open in dangerous areas.
How Chicago Can Stay In
Capitalize on Scoring Chances
Despite losing the first three games, the Blackhawks have actually had a good deal of scoring chances. The issue, however, is that scoring chances are a lot different than scoring. The Blackhawks simply have been struggling to capitalize and it’s really costing them. Some of this can be attributed to the solid play of Golden Knights goalies Robin Lehner and Marc-Andre Fleury, but most of it is on Chicago. They have a plethora of chances, several of which come from high-danger areas and they just cannot finish.
The Blackhawks have hit the post at least once in each of the three games in this series so far. In fact, they hit the goal-post three times in Game One. It’s chances like these where they’re so close to scoring and if they actually finished it would make a significant difference. They lost Game One 4-1. Had they scored the three post shots it would have been a tie game.
After going up three games to none in the first round, the Vegas Golden Knights will look to sweep the Chicago Blackhawks. As long as they can stay away from defensive lapses and keep their pace up for a full 60 minutes, they should be able to get it done. If the Vegas Golden Knights can close the series out in Game 4 a deep playoff run is in their future.
For the Blackhawks, it’s do or die. They need to start finishing on their scoring chances or they’ll stand no chance. Corey Crawford is also going to really need to step up if the Hawks want to stay in the Edmonton bubble.
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