The NHL kicks off the round of sixteen on Tuesday with four games up on the board. One of these matchups will be between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Vegas Golden Knights. The Blackhawks shocked the Oilers in the qualifying round, while Vegas earned the top spot through round robin play. The puck will drop for this one at around 10:30 PM Eastern time on NBCSN.
Chicago earned a record of 32-30-8 throughout the regular season, which had them as the twelfth seed going into the Qualifying round. The Blackhawks had a huge upset over Edmonton in four games to move onto the round of sixteen. Now Chicago will look to keep this magical run going with a Game 1 win over Vegas.
The Golden Knights finished out the regular season with a record of 39-24-8. Vegas was able to win all three of their games in the Round Robin to lock up the top seed in the Western Conference. This will have the Golden Knights dress as home in this matchup, which also gives them the last change. Vegas will look to keep it going with a huge win on Tuesday night.
These two teams were far off in the standings when the season came to a halt back in March, but will meet in a great first round matchup. The Blackhawks looked unified and strong in the qualifying matchup, but will have to meet up with a well rounded Vegas squad. The Golden Knights have a nice path to the Stanley Cup and will look to kick that off with a win in Game 1.
The first matchup of the season series between these two teams was in Chicago on October 22. Kirby Dach opened up the scoring for the Blackhawks, while Nick Holden tied it up in the second period. Jonathan Marchessault and Shea Theodore scored in the shootout to give the Golden Knights a 2-1 win. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 31 of the 32 shots against him in the winning effort.
The second game between the Golden Knights and the Blackhawks was in Vegas on November 13. William Karlsson scored a goal and an assist for Vegas, but it would not be enough. Patrick Kane and Dylan Strome both had a goal and two assists, while Kirby Dach, Alex DeBrincat and Zack Smith all finished with two points. Corey Crawford stopped 39 of the 42 shots against him in route to a 5-3 win for the Blackhawks.
The most recent game of the season series was hosted by Vegas on December 10. Dominik Kubalik scored the lone goal for Chicago, which was not enough to come away with a win. Reilly Smith had a goal and an assist, while ten other players for the Golden Knights all registered a point. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 28 of the 29 shots against him in route to a 5-1 win for the Golden Knights.
Vegas was able to win two of the three games in the season series, but needed a shootout to win one of them. The Golden Knights will look to find more success this time around as they look to make quick work of the twelfth seed. Chicago will look to frustrate Vegas like they did with the Oilers. If the Blackhawks can control the pace of the game, Chicago could make this series another tough one for the Golden Knights.
The Blackhawks did not have a great power play throughout the regular season. Chicago scored on 15.2 percent of their power play chances, while killing off an impressive 82.1 percent of the penalties against them. In the Qualifying round, the Blackhawks earned a power play percentage of 22.2 percent. Chicago also had a 70.6 percent kill rate on the penalty kill.
Vegas had a solid power play in the regular season, but struggled on the penalty kill. The Golden Knights finished the regular season with a 22 percent power play, while earning a 76.6 percent kill rate. Vegas has found more success on special teams in the round robin though. The Golden Knights capitalized on 27.3 percent of their power play chances, while killing off 80 percent of the penalties against them.
The Golden Knights have an edge in this matchup on special teams. Chicago earned an impressive power play rate though, going up against Edmonton’s second ranked penalty kill. The Blackhawks also killed off 70.6 percent of Edmonton’s top ranked power play. Vegas put up strong numbers in the round robin, which was against the three top teams in the Western Conference. Both teams will look to build on their recent success.
Corey Crawford will get the nod in the crease for Game 1 of this matchup. Crawford earned a save percentage of .917 and a 2.77 GAA throughout the regular season. Crawford started all four games against Edmonton, posting a .891 save percentage and a GAA of 3.75. Crawford will look to clean up his game a bit going up against a strong Golden Knights team.
I expect Robin Lehner to get the start in net for Game 1 of this series. Lehner earned a .920 save percentage and a 2.89 GAA with the Golden Knights and Blackhawks this season. In his two round robin starts, Lehner posted a save percentage of .903 and a 2.89 GAA. Lehner will look to get the better of his former team in this series.
These two goalies have put up solid numbers in the regular season, but Crawford struggled in the best of five series with Edmonton. Crawford had a great performance in Game 4 and will look to build on that. Lehner was traded from Chicago to Vegas at the trade deadline and I expect him to be hungry for some revenge against his former team.
Both teams have some momentum coming into this series after finding success during the Qualifying round. Vegas has done a great job to earn the top spot in the Western Conference, but have to face a confident Chicago squad coming off an impressive win in their best of five series. If the Golden Knights can control this game though, which they are great at, I believe they will be too much for the Blackhawks to handle.
BetOnline has the Golden Knights listed as a -196 against the money line in this one. While there is no value in this bet for Vegas, they are at +125 at -1 ½. I believe that Chicago will give the Golden Knight some difficulty in this series, but I believe that the Golden Knights will dominate Game 1. I like Vegas to earn a big win in this one to start out the series right.