Vgk vs blackhawks
Photo Courtesy: Second City Hockey

 

Preview: Golden Knights vs Blackhawks – 1st Round – Game 2

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The Vegas Golden Knights take on the Chicago Blackhawks in game two of the first round of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs today at 2:30 pm in Edmonton. Vegas had a dominating performance in game one, defeating Chicago by a margin of 4-1.  Vegas also outshot Chicago 34-20.

 

Golden Knights
Photo Credit: NHL

VGK’s lineup will remain a mystery until about 2:00 pm local time when the team takes the ice for warmups. If I had to guess, Coach Pete DeBoer would not break up a winning lineup. That would mean Robin Lehner would get his third consecutive start. It is worth noting that DeBoer did seem a bit aggravated when asked about Lehner’s skate malfunction that happened twice in the second period. In short, he eluded that Lehner needed to take a level of ownership, and he has had plenty of opportunities to obtain new skates.

At first, DeBoer seemed to laugh it off, but by the end of his answer in the presser, it seemed like he was a bit annoyed at his winning goaltender. Lehner did tweet a picture of his skates, mentioning, “guess I have to get new ones.” Apparently, the message has been delivered.

Chicago will have to find a spark within their lineup. Will the youngest coach in the NHL, Jeremy Colton, put Jonathon Toews and Patrick Kane on the same line? Is there anything he can do with the defensemen to slow down the VGK attack? Will there be a Malcolm Subban sighting on the ice at some point? Corey Crawford wants at least two of the goals back from Tuesday night. Subban has plenty of bulletin board material, so do not be surprised if Chicago finds themselves down 3-0 that Subban may get the start.

 

Can Connor Murphy, Calvin de Haan Helped Keep Vegas’ Top Line in Check

 

During the first period of the game, the Golden Knights’ top line was a holy terror, racking up scoring opportunities and wreaking havoc on the Blackhawks in terms of puck possession.

In the second and third periods, however, things changed, as Vegas was forced to rely on other lines for scoring punch and opportunities. That’s because head coach Jeremy Colton began to deploy Connor Murphy and Calvin de Haan against that line, limiting their number of scoring opportunities and even generating some chances for the Blackhawks in the later stages of the game.

vgk vs blackhawks
Photo Courtesy: NHL

Shutting down an opponent’s top line is critical. Even though the Golden Knights roll out other excellent lines, the usage of Murphy and de Haan against that particular grouping is at least a good sign for a Blackhawks defense that is facing some serious questions in this series.

 

The Blackhawks did an excellent job of absorbing Vegas‘ heavy forecheck in Game 1, but where they struggled was in applying the same pressure back the other way. Chicago’s success against Edmonton was primarily centered around possession and keeping the puck off the opposing sticks while pinning the Oilers deep in their zone with a strong forecheck.

Against the Golden Knights, the same forecheck and offensive zone pressure wasn’t there on Tuesday night and is a focus for the whole group ahead of Game 2.

“We’ve got to protect the puck in the offensive zone a little bit more, establish a little bit more zone time, force them to defend for longer periods,” Colliton said. “They’re a big team, and they’re good at getting pucks back. They want to overload in D-zone. If you can hold it a little bit longer, sometimes you can create something. We just want to have possession a bit more in the offensive zone and obviously get out of our end quicker against their forecheck.”

“For us, we’re going to need to play a little bit more in the O-zone and a little bit less in the D zone,” Alex DeBrincat added. “I think if we can get that O-zone, we have a good chance.”

Will Vegas take a commanding 2-0 lead, or will Chicago have an answer for us? Fleury or Lehner? We will find out soon, GO KNIGHTS GO!

 

The puck drops Thursday at 2:30 PM and can be seen on AT&T Sports Net and NBC Sports Network.

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-Chris Gawlik – Franchise Sports Media

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