In a battle between the one-seed and eight-seed, the Vegas Golden Knights and Chicago Blackhawks are set to drop the puck this afternoon for Game 2. Will the Golden Knights soldier on and take a commanding 2-0 series lead, or will the Blackhawks recover and tie the series up at one?
Here is a summary of Game 1, a preview for today’s matchup in Edmonton, as well as a couple of free bets. As far as odds go, Vegas is once again favored to win at -205, with the goal total set at O/U6.
Game 1 Recap
The first game of this series was dominated by one team from start to finish. Led by RW Reilly Smith’s two goals, the Golden Knights handled the Blackhawks by a score of 4-1.
After a scoreless first period, D Shea Theodore got the scoring started with a wrist shot that blew past goaltender Corey Crawford. Then just two minutes and 17 seconds later, LW William Carrier jammed home a loose puck in from the net to put Vegas up 2-0.
Chicago did respond with their first and only goal a little over a minute later when C David Kampf scored a shorty following a Knights turnover, his first career postseason goal. But Vegas pulled away in the third period with the two goals from a Smith, each of them assisted by LW Jonathan Marchessault.
The Knights handled the Hawks all game, especially during the final 40 minutes. Vegas out-shot their opponent 34-20, while also out-hitting them by 15.
The defense held the star trio RW Patrick Kane, C Jonathan Toews, D Duncan Keith to no points and just five total shots. Goaltender Robin Lehner also made 19 saves against his former team.
Keys to Victory
Chicago will win if they maintain possession far more often. It’s a simple concept that’s much tougher in execution, but essential if the Blackhawks have any chance to win this series.
Throughout the season, no team averaged more shots on goal than the Golden Knights, while no team allowed more shots on goal than the Blackhawks. Chicago will need to flip the script by exiting their zone more efficiently and trying to keep Vegas on the defense.
Vegas will win if they continue to do the little things well. There is nothing very complicated about why the Golden Knights were among the best teams in hockey once again.
They put a lot of shots on goal, forecheck well, and play strong, physical defense. It’s those types of things that keep them in games even when star scorers like RW Mark Stone and LW Max Pacioretty are held off of the scoresheet. If they win the shot battle again while being the more physical team, the Knights should handle business.
The Blackhawks have been riding Corey Crawford in net throughout the postseason and will continue to do so tonight in Game 2. Crawford made 30 saves on Tuesday while allowing four goals, moving to 3-2-0 in the bubble.
Meanwhile, the Golden Knights are going with the hot hand in Robin Lehner. Lehner, acquired from Chicago in February, is likely to draw another start tonight ahead of Marc-Andre Fleury after stopping 19-of-20 shots in Game 1. The veteran is a perfect 3-0-0 this postseason.
Even before Game 1, this had all the makings of a lopsided series. Vegas has beaten Chicago in all but one of their nine regular-season meetings over the last three seasons. Based on what we’ve seen, the Knights are a superior team in all facets of the game and should be able to handle the Hawks once again tonight.
Pick: Golden Knights -205
O/U6: Over +110