Series Preview: Blackhawks vs. Golden Knights

  

Chicago Blackhawks (8) vs. Vegas Golden Knights (1)
NHL Western Conference Quarterfinals
Game 1: Tuesday, April 11, 9:30 p.m. CDT

Records

Vegas 39–24–8
Chicago 32–30–8

Season head-to-head

Vegas 2–1–0
Chicago 1–2–0

Special teams (Power play, penalty kill)

Vegas 22.0% (Ninth), Chicago 82.1% (Ninth)
Chicago 15.2% (28th), Vegas 76.6% (27th)

Shots for, Shots against

Vegas 32.3 (Seventh), 26.3 (Third)
Chicago 30.5 (13th), 34.3 (21st)

Goals for, Goals against

Vegas 224 (10th), 209 (14th)
Chicago 208 (19th), 214 (16th)

Faceoffs

Vegas 50.0% (16th)
Chicago 49.9% (17th)

Average height, weight, age

Vegas 6-foot-2, 203.5 pounds, 27.5
Chicago 6-foot-1, 191.5 pounds, 25.4

Projected lineups

Vegas Golden Knights
Max Pacioretty — William Karlsson — Mark Stone
Jonathan Marchessault — Paul Stastny — Reilly Smith
Nick Cousins — Alex Tuch — Nicolas Roy
William Carrier — Tomas Nosek — Ryan Reaves

Brayden McNabb — Nate Schmidt
Alec Martinez — Shea Theodore
Nick Holden — Zach Whitecloud

Robin Lehner
Marc-Andre Fleury

Chicago Blackhawks 
Brandon Saad — Jonathan Toews — Dominik Kubalik
Alex DeBrincat — Kirby Dach — Patrick Kane
Alexander Nylander — Dylan Strome — Drake Caggiula
Matthew Highmore — Ryan Carpenter — David Kampf

Duncan Keith — Adam Boqvist
Calvin de Haan — Connor Murphy
Olli Maatta — Slater Koekkoek

Corey Crawford
Malcolm Subban

Analysis

As it goes with a No. 8 seed, the Blackhawks would appear to have their work cut out for them in their first round playoff matchup against the No. 1 seed Golden Knights.

Fresh off a “play-in” upset of Edmonton—where the only people who picked the Hawks would pick them against the ‘83 Oilers (or really “anyone”)—the Blackhawks can certainly make the ol’ “anything can happen” argument.

And, they could be right.

However, the Knights are not the Oilers. Not just in the composition of their team, but also in that they just performed strongly in the round robins against the best competition in the West. But, let’s look at why some hope might be justified for the Hawks.

Above all, their first line is as hot and as potent as any in hockey. Jonathan Toews is playing again like THE Jonathan Toews, same for Brandon Saad, and Dominik Kubalik is a quick-strike lethal weapon. I doubt the Knights will stop this line, and as the saying goes, their best hope is to contain them.

The Hawk defense is also playing pretty well. Not perfectly, but well enough to get past Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Fortunately for the Hawks, no one else on Edmonton posed much of a threat.

Compounding that relative positive is…another relative positive. For the first three games of the Edmonton series, Corey Crawford appeared to be, at best, finding his game. In the decisive Game 4, he was once again “Corey Crawford.” A lot of Hawk fans are counting on, or assuming, they will see “Game 4 Crawford” throughout the Vegas series, and not “first three games Crawford.” We shall see.

Because, again, the Knights are not the Oilers.

As we all know, Vegas went to the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season two years ago. They do not really have what you would call a lot of (or any) household names. But, they are built to win in the playoffs, and, in that regard, more so than the Hawks.

Vegas has a lot of players who can both put the puck in the net and defend. They are big, but they can play however you want. Add to that, their goaltending is, if not better than the Hawks’, certainly deeper with Robin Lehner and Marc-Andre Fleury. The Hawks likely will not get a “bye” in Game 1 due to a Mike Smith meltdown—and the likes of Mikko Koskinen to decode the rest of the way.

Vegas head coach Pete DeBoer has a true luxury in picking between the hotter hand of two top NHL goaltenders. Another luxury is adding top scorer Max Pacioretty into a lineup that did not have much difficulty scoring in the round robin.

The Hawks’ play-in round featured two teams with plenty of flaws. You can argue the Hawks won because they outworked the Oilers and thereby overcame their flaws, where Edmonton seemed to never quite show up, exaggerating their own.

Chicago probably will not be so lucky with Vegas, who both showed up and prevailed in the round robins—and have shown in the recent past they know how to win in the playoffs.

In this matchup, the special teams look stunningly even, but the numbers suggest the Knights are a better five-on-five team than Chicago, which they are, and that matters significantly in the playoffs, where penalties generally get called less and overtime is five-on-five, with no three-on-three or shootout.

Sure, there is a compelling Crawford vs. Lehner subtext. I am going to assume (if Lehner and not Fleury starts for Vegas) both players will give it all they have. And with that in mind, the series will be won or lost between the goal lines. But, here is another very compelling stat: Vegas is 8–1 since 2017 against Chicago.

Keys to victory

Vegas

Keep rolling. Vegas looked very strong in the round robins. They have the scoring, depth, goaltending and physicality to go deep in the playoffs.

Chicago

Stop Vegas from continuing its roll. Winning Game 1 would not only be a minor upset for the Hawks, but it might also start to get inside the Golden Knights’ heads. Vegas has to have a fairly high confidence level coming in against a Chicago team they have dominated recently. The Hawks’ best hope may be to damage that confidence early in the series.

Prediction

When you look at all the variables, both teams’ depth (or lack thereof), size and recent playoff success, it is really hard to objectively pick the Hawks in this series. So, we are not going to.

Vegas in six games.

Comment below.

Center Ice Forums Series Preview: Blackhawks versus Golden Knights

Viewing 6 posts - 1 through 6 (of 6 total)
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  • #17664
    John Jaeckel
    Keymaster

    Chicago Blackhawks (8) vs. Vegas Golden Knights (1) NHL Western Conference quarterfinal Game 1: Tuesday, April 11, 9:30 PM Central Records: Vegas  39-
    [To continue reading full article, click here: Series Preview: Blackhawks versus Golden Knights]

    Apparently, all goalies are Vikings

    #17667
    Mister Ricochet
    Participant

    It is interesting to see special teams so even but I think the Vegas kill will be much much better if DeBoer goes with Lehner. Simply said MAF was one of the worst NHL starters this yr and replacing him with Lehner will make the LVG kill a lot better.

    And to that point the Hawks’ very best chance in the series is MAF gets plenty of starts.

    I think few teams benefited from the break more than the Hawks.  The crusty vets got 4 months off, Dach went home and hit the weight room and time to reflect and came back a legit top 6 NHL centerman, DeHaan healed/rehabbed from surgery and Colliton came back seemingly making all the right changes to make the best club his roster allows.

    This is not the same Hawks team we saw in the regular season.  Any fan will tell you what a clown show the team was in their own zone and that infected everything else not allowing any flow thru the neutral zone and into the attack zone.  In a word, and even though they were still out fancied by the Oil, the team is playing with structure.  ………… And they’ll need it just to keep from being blown out by the deep and talented Knights.

    Can’t watch a LVG game and not come away thinking damn this team just keeps coming. Seems like a full 60 minutes of hungry hockey by skilled players who will hit you, win battles and create tons of chances. They are a possession beast so the Hawks’ Dzone will be tested relentlessly.

    Getting DeHaan back pairing with Murphy gives the Hawks as close to a shut down pairing as they’ve had in yrs.

    Colliton has pulled all the right levers……….. Moving Dach up to 2C with Kane and the #1 PP was the right move. The PP looks like a legit NHL unit with Dach in the slot. Bringing Dcat up with them and dropping Nylander makes that line legit even though Kane still hasn’t gotten going.  Putting together a 4th line of Carpenter-Kampf-Highmore that took 8 minutes of ice time vs McDavid in a win shows the unit is excellent and that’s not counting Highmore with 2 goals vs the Oil.

    Moving Kubalik up with Toews and Saad gives them a legit 1st line that has to be accounted for. He’s been masterful at sheltering Boqvist. He hit 14:00 just once vs the Oil while the kid got valuable playoff minutes without wrecking the whole thing.

    And for who knows what reason the Hawks are finally bought in and executing the Colliton systems allowing structure that provides legitimacy and eliminates the daily clown shows we saw in the regular season.  Said this after Game 1 vs the Oil, is Colliton going to prove he can coach in the NHL?  Just looking at the results of his numerous moves that hit gold vs the Oil he’s passing the test.  That 3rd line is horrid with Strome and Nylander but what would you do if you could construct the lineup?  IMO Colliton is icing the very best team that roster allows.

    Agree with you JJ about Crow and would add IMO come playoff time Crow is in Price’s league as a top goaltender in the world.  These kinds of goalies can pull off epic upsets and make no mistake it would be epic as the bookies have the Knights a -275 favorite.

    I think these “new” Hawks have a punchers chance at 2 wins and decent chance at 1 win.  The hope is they don’t get embarrassed causing a Boqvist or DeBrincat to regress and sucking the positives out of what has been a solid return to play that as an organIzation can take into next yr.

    Nothing left but to play. As my hero Al Bundy says, “Lets Rock”.

    #17670
    Mister Ricochet
    Participant

    Oh my, the Knights were a -275 for the series just last night. Today?  A  -350!!!!!…… The public is pounding the favorites, COL went from a series -250 to a -300 today.

    Lehner the confirmed starter for Game 1.

    #17671
    Mister Ricochet
    Participant

    Oh, when the Hawks sent Panarin to CLB the goalie I wanted was Korpisalo.  He ain’t quite there yet but man he looked big, quiet, efficient, effortless and square vs TOR.  Always thought he was an elite skater but watching him in the last series he’s improved on his elite skating.

    Hawks really missed the boat taking Forseberg. I’m hoping they didn’t have a choice but the way they evaluate goalies maybe they wanted Forsberg over Korpi.  Remember Bob was still there so my guess is they could have pried an inconsistent backup Korpi away insisting he be in the deal if they wanted Panarin.

    #17673
    Jeff Osborn
    Keymaster

    Oh, when the Hawks sent Panarin to CLB the goalie I wanted was Korpisalo. He ain’t quite there yet but man he looked big, quiet, efficient, effortless and square vs TOR. Always thought he was an elite skater but watching him in the last series he’s improved on his elite skating. Hawks really missed the boat taking Forseberg. I’m hoping they didn’t have a choice but the way they evaluate goalies maybe they wanted Forsberg over Korpi. Remember Bob was still there so my guess is they could have pried an inconsistent backup Korpi away insisting he be in the deal if they wanted Panarin.

    Elvis isn’t that bad either.  I never had a good feeling about Forsberg either.  I thought maybe he’d become a decent backup but boy did he fall off the map and fold like world map

    @PuckinHostile on Twitter

    #17675
    Mister Ricochet
    Participant

    Oh yea, Elvis has some game. We saw him show really well in the World Championships for SWI, IIRC. Was said he was the best goalie outside the NHL. Grabbed him late in my 14 team league and stashed him and grabbed him off the wire in my 16 team league when Korpi went down.

    But he wasn’t a Jacket when the Hawks made that trade.  Going off of memory Bob was their goalie and McLhinney was the backup a few yrs back with Korpi 3rd on the depth chart.  McL left as a FA  and Korpi and Forseberg battled for the #2, that’s when I got a good look at Forseberg and thought at that time Korpi was the better goalie with a better foundation.

    Korpi beat him out but Forseberg got some NHL games. Forseberg went down won an AHL cup and Korpi backed up Bob.  Then the trade was made in the offseason, Forseberg fresh off an AHL cup……… As mentioned I don’t know if the Hawks had a choice between the two goalies but if they had insisted on Korpi they’d have some legit depth on the NHL roster and would have never have spent the 5 mil on Lehner. But of course they got a 2nd rd pick for Lehner so who knows what that’ll turn in to.

    Helluva game tied at 2 in the 3rd, Korpi vs The Cossack. CLB at a +150!!  Go Jackets.

     

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