The Chicago Blackhawks approach their series opener tonight against the Vegas Golden Knights who led the season series 2-1 outscoring the Blackhawks 10-5 this season.
Blackhawks’ Team Leaders:
Jonathan Toews – 7 points (4G, 3A)
Dominik Kubalik – 6 points (3G, 3A)
Olli Maatta – 4 points (2G, 2A)
Brandon Saad — Jonathan Toews — Dominik Kubalik
Alex DeBrincat — Kirby Dach — Patrick Kane
Alex Nylander — Dylan Strome — Drake Caggiula
Matthew Highmore — David Kampf — Ryan Carpenter
Duncan Keith — Adam Boqvist
Calvin de Haan — Connor Murphy
Olli Maatta — Slater Koekkoek
After a convincing round-robin showing from Vegas and an impressive 3-1 series win by Chicago, there is potential that this first-round matchup will be closer than many anticipate. After the qualifying round, both teams have plenty of things to look forward to.
For the Chicago Blackhawks, they have revitalized their stars, most notably Jonathan Toews. In the eyes of many, Toews was the Blackhawks’ best player throughout the Edmonton series. Winning faceoffs, battles, and leading the team in scoring were just a few things Toews did to get the Blackhawks into the next round.
Let’s not forget Corey Crawford who looked like his old self in game four. There is no doubt he will have an immense role in the series versus the Knights. Much like for our 12 seed counterpart in Montreal, goaltending will be the most important piece of the puzzle going up against the one seed.
Other encouraging signs from the Blackhawks was the growth of players such as Kirby Dach, Dominik Kubalik, Matthew Highmore, and even Olli Maatta. Kubalik’s five-point game was nothing shy of impressive while everyone has noticed Dach’s superb improvement while playing on what is arguably Chicago’s best line. Needless to say, the Blackhawks also received unlikely contributions from Highmore and Maatta which will be relied upon given the depth needed to win a series against this deep Vegas team.
However, the Blackhawks will need true playoff, Patrick Kane, if they want to compete with the depth scoring of Vegas. Despite still being an impact player and accumulating four points against the Oilers Kane did not look as sharp as Blackhawk fans are accumulated to seeing in the postseason. On top of that, other offensive depth pieces such as Alex Nylander and Dylan Strome have to find a way to contribute points from the bottom six.
Blackhawks’ Win Vs Golden Knights:
Golden Knights Team Leaders:
Mark Stone– 5 points (2G, 3A)
Shea Theodore – 4 points (2G, 2A)
Nicolas Roy – 3 points (1G, 2A)
Max Pacioretty — William Karlsson — Mark Stone
Jonathan Marchessault — Paul Stastny — Reilly Smith
Chandler Stephenson — Nicolas Roy — Alex Tuch
Will Carrier — Tomas Nosek — Ryan Reaves
Brayden Mcnabb — Nate Schmidt
Alec Martinez — Shea Theodore
Nick Holden — Zach Whitecloud
To start, the Vegas Golden Knights expect to see their regular-season goals and points leader Max Pacioretty back in the lineup. For a team that already looked deep to start, Vegas added another dangerous weapon that Chicago’s defense will have to worry about. Although there is no telling how rusty Pacioretty will be, you have to think he will have an immediate impact considering who he is playing alongside.
Many Blackhawk fans are well aware of the quality goaltending that the Knights received from Robin Lehner who is expected to get the nod on Tuesday night. Given Marc-Andre Fleury’s play, Lehner appears to be the easy choice for DeBoer between the pipes. That’s without saying Fleury won’t rise to the occasion when and if needed.
Another positive takeaway for Vegas is their current ability to roll four lines like they did all three play-in games. It’s no secret that depth is a common characterize in Stanley Cup contenders and Vegas has plenty of it in all three positions. That is what makes them so hard to play against.
The pressure will undoubtedly be on Vegas as it will be their series to lose coming in as the one seed. With a surge in confidence amongst both teams, game one should be an entertaining late-night battle.
Who has the edge?
In 9 games against the Vegas Golden Knights, the Blackhawks have just one win. That’s a huge disadvantage but those games are all in the past. Chicago is playing its best hockey right now, taking down the Oilers in 4 games.
The Golden Knights (-195) are favored by 1.5 goals tonight, something the Blackhawks are used to seeing, as those were the odds for all of the Oilers games. The over/under is 6.5 goals. *Odds subject to change*
Puck Drop is at 10:30 PM ET. Make sure to follow along on our Twitter page during the game, and come back here after the game for post-game reactions! Let’s Go Hawks! #AllForOne
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