Blackhawks: Which team is a better fit for Chicago in Round 1
By Ryan Fedrau
The Chicago Blackhawks are back in familiar territory as a playoff team for the first time since 2017. They’ll be the 8th seed in this year’s playoffs, with one of two teams on their radar come next week.
Is it Vegas or is it Colorado? Which team will the Chicago Blackhawks play? No matter which team it is, that team will be 3-0-0 in the round-robin, coming off of a big win against the other. There are benefits to both and there are negatives to both teams. Which one is their better fit though?
Vegas Golden Knights:
The simple answer is Vegas. The Vegas Golden Knights are a well-rounded team with two solid goalies, but they have their weak points. Vegas started off the regular season slowly, trying to find their identity after blowing a 3-1 lead in a playoff series against the Sharks in 2019.
Even after finding their identity as a Top 4 team in the Western Conference, they’ve still struggled in the coaching department. During the season, the Golden Knights fired head coach Gerard Gallant seemly out of nowhere and hired former Sharks’ coach Peter DeBoer. There obviously is something brewing in Vegas that has been kept under the wraps. A loss to Chicago in the playoffs could derail their whole situation.
Their goals-for is 9th in the NHL, with there goals-against being 13th in the NHL. They may be on a hot streak right now in the playoffs, along with being in the round-robin round, but they haven’t been as solid as they were in years prior during the season. They could be close to their tipping point.
Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone are their two top players, with Pacioretty scoring 32 goals with 34 assists for 66 points in 71 games and Stone scoring 21 goals with 41 assists for 63 points in 65 games during the regular season. They don’t have that same offensive juggernaut that Chicago faced in their series against the Oilers. That helps Chicago big time.
Vegas took the season series 2-1.
The not so simple answer is the red-hot Colorado Avalanche. The Avalanche scored the 4th-most goals in the NHL and gave up the 5th least during the regular season. They are 2-0-0 giving up just one goal so far in the round-robin round.
Young Nathan MacKinnon scored 35 goals this season while assisting on another 58 for 93 points. Besides MacKinnon, the points drop down to 50 with Cale Makar, 12G, 38A. Again, they’re another team that isn’t as powerful on offense as the Edmonton Oilers but they are way better on defense than the Golden Knights are.
The Avalanche and the Blackhawks would be a competitive series, but they’d be harder to beat with how well they play defense. The benefit of the Avalanche is, Chicago only has to shutdown MacKinnon, unlike the Oilers having two leading goal-scorers.
Colorado might have had better offensive stats this season compared to the Oilers but the Oilers have more weapons, weapons that Chicago shut down. I think Chicago can beat this team, but they have to shut down MacKinnon from the beginning and have to stay out of the penalty box.
Colorado took the season series 2-1.
Who’s the better fit:
Chicago would have an easier time winning a series against Vegas than Colorado, even though the Blackhawks have only beaten the Golden Knights ONE-time in their existence.
Vegas’ offense isn’t as good as Edmonton’s, which gives Chicago more time to tune-up their defense in that series. They could fix a few issues they had during the play-in series just from a series against the Golden Knights.
A series against Colorado would be very tough. The Blackhawks would have to be perfect at all times. There isn’t much breathing room for them against a team like Colorado. They won’t be given those same lucky breaks on offense with the defense the Avalanche have like they did against the Oilers.
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This truly is something that will be interesting to see. We will find out who the Blackhawks will play next today at 3 PM ET. Good luck to both, but I’m really hoping for a Vegas win!