A thrilling Western Conference NHL playoff series between the Vegas Golden Knights and the Chicago Blackhawks continues with Game 3 Saturday night. The Knights have a chance to take an all but series-clinching 3-0 lead in the series, while the Blackhawks look for a win to keep them in it.
Here is a preview for Saturday night’s matchup, along with a brief series recap and a free pick. Vegas is once again a big favorite to win Saturday’s game at -200.
The series opened up with an easy win for Vegas. The Knights got two goals from right wing Reilly Smith and a 19-save performance from Robin Lehner to dispatch the Blackhawks 4-1. Vegas also got a pair of assists from left wing Jonathan Marchessault and outshot Chicago 34-20.
The way Game 2 started, it had the makings of another Vegas blowout. Center Paul Stastny and left wing Tomas Nosek scored in the first to get the Golden Knights out to a quick 2-0 lead. But the Blackhawks weren’t out of it, as a trio of youngsters found the back of the net in the second period.
Center Kirby Dach, left wing Dominik Kubalik, and center Dylan Strome all scored to tie the game at 3. Star right wing Patrick Kane assisted on all three goals.
The game remained tied at three heading into overtime. But a few minutes in, Smith scored his third goal of the series to give Vegas a 4-3 win and a 2-0 series lead. The Knights outshot Chicago 23-7 in the third period and overtime and also got another 22-save performance from Lehner.
Keys to Victory
Vegas will win if: It shuts down Patrick Kane. Although Kane has yet to score, his playmaking has been evident for the Blackhawks. The All-Star assisted on all three goals for Chicago on Thursday, keeping them in the game until Vegas pulled off the win.
It is imperative for the Golden Knights to try to shut down Kane on Saturday since he is the spark plug that the Blackhawks need to win the series. Look for Vegas to task defensemen Shea Theodore, Nate Schmidt, and Alec Martinez to all play big minutes and try to shut down one of the best players in the league.
Chicago will win if: It evens up the shot battle. The Golden Knights led the league in shots on goal per game, while the Blackhawks allowed the most shots per game. That has been evident through the first two games of this series, where Vegas outshot Chicago by 14 in both Games 1 and 2.
The Knights will play a very physical style with good forechecking, making it difficult for opposing teams to enter the offensive zone. So Chicago will have to find a better way to get shots on net while also asking some of their standout defensive players like Duncan Keith and Calvin de Haan to keep shots from getting to the net.
It’s expected to be a rematch in net between former teammates Lehner and Corey Crawford. Lehner has earned both wins for Vegas, allowing four goals in two games while stopping 41 of 45 shots.
Crawford, meanwhile, has faced 73 shots and made 65 saves in the two games he has started for Chicago.
Game 2 felt like one of the best chances the Blackhawks will have to win a game this series. But the Golden Knights have dominated most of this series fairly easily and should continue to have success against a Chicago team that would’ve missed the postseason in a normal season.
I’m taking the Golden Knights to win Saturday night to move one step closer to advancing to the next round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Pick: Golden Knights -200