Vegas Golden Knights vs Chicago Blackhawks: Round 1, Free Picks, Odds & Predictions

Vegas Golden Knights vs Chicago Blackhawks NHL Playoffs Round 1
Vegas Golden Knights vs Chicago Blackhawks

Goals late in the period often have ways of having a massive effect on a hockey game. It came back to bite the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night as the Vegas Golden Knight scored with 31 seconds left in the first period to end a dominant period by Chicago. In the first minute of the second, the Golden Knights tied the game and the momentum swung fully back with the better team. Vegas ended Chicago’s season with a 4-3 victory Tuesday, sealing the quarterfinals series 4-1.

Vegas Golden Knights win 4-1

The Vegas Golden Knights was clearly the better team in this series, and it continued to prove it even when the Blackhawks seemed to have the upper hand. It took a heroic effort from Corey Crawford for Chicago to even force a Game 5, and the Blackhawks could never muster the same mojo it had against Edmonton. That’s a credit to how well Vegas is playing right now, having won seven of its eight games since the NHL restarted its season earlier this month. No matter what type of game Vegas has found itself in the NHL playoffs, it has risen to the situation and found a way to get the job done. That is what will make the Golden Knights such a tough team to play against as the postseason continues next week.

Game 1

August 12th, 10:30 p.m., Rogers Place

Alex Tuch’s goal with 16 seconds left in overtime was the difference in lifting the Vegas Golden Knights to the top seed in the Western Conference for the NHL playoffs. The Golden Knights will face the Chicago Blackhawks, the No. 12 seed who didn’t need as much heroics to move past Edmonton in the qualifying round. What they both needed, though, was plenty of offense as Vegas scored 15 goals in three games in the round robin and Chicago lit the lamp 16 times in four games.

Chicago’s best players were exactly that against the Oilers to helping to spark the upset, which will need to continue if the Blackhawks want to advance again. Jonathan Toews scored four goals and added three assists with a plus-2 rating against Edmonton, while Dominik Kubalík scored three times and had three helpers against the Oilers. Vegas’ production was distributed a bit more evenly with Tuch leading the team with three goals and Mark Stone pacing the Golden Knights with five points.

The challenge for these two teams will be defensive and goaltending, areas where these two teams struggled in the last round. Corey Crawford allowed 15 goals and stopped just 89.1 percent of the shots he faced against Edmonton, but he also came up with several big saves to keep his team in it. Robin Lehner, who Vegas acquired from Chicago in February, was only slightly better with a .903 save percentage in two games in the round robin, but the Golden Knights still allowed 10 goals in three games.

There is some discrepancy on the NHL betting sites in New Jersey with how big of a favorite Vegas should be in the series. The Golden Knights are as low as -250 to win the series with Chicago, but the best price right now is -228 for them to get the job done. Although I trust Crawford more than I do Lehner, I still think Vegas is the better team and more suited to win the type of high-scoring games that will likely occur in this series. As a result, I’d bet on this series going the distance with Vegas surviving Chicago, which current has odds of +450 at the sportsbooks.

The opening game will be interesting to watch because there will be plenty of goals between these two sides. The easiest bet to make on this first game is to bet on over 6.5 goals being scored, which is listed at +105, but the challenge is figuring out which team will win. Ultimately, the Golden Knights are the deeper team and they should win the first game of this series at -189 odds.

BET ON VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS TO WIN

 

Game 2 (Golden Knights leads 1-0)

August 13th, 5:30 p.m., Rogers Place

The Vegas Golden Knights put on a clinic in the first game of its NHL playoffs series with the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday. Vegas limited Chicago to just 20 shots and scored four times on its 34 shots on net to soundly win Game 1. It was the type of performance you’d expect from a top-seeded team against one that was on the outside of the playoff picture when the pandemic struck.

What was most impressive about the Golden Knights’ performance was how well they neutralized Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. The Blackhawks’ signature duo had three combined shots and were a combined minus-3 in the game, forcing the players around them to step up. Brandon Saad had a nice drop pass for Chicago’s goal – which happened to be shorthanded – and Dominik Kubalik had five shots, but otherwise not much happened for the Blackhawks.

Equally as important, Vegas scored all four of its goals with Duncan Keith on the ice, so the Golden Knights busted Chicago’s top defenseman. It would be one thing if Vegas exploited the weaker second and third defensive pairings, but to score with Keith on the ice means there aren’t many ways Chicago can slow down Vegas without Corey Crawford playing well.

The NHL betting sites in New Jersey and I fully believe the Vegas train will keep rolling Thursday in Game 2. The Golden Knights are -210 favorites to win, but the better bet is to take the Golden Knights in regulation at -124 odds. As an added bonus, you can wager on Vegas forward Jonathan Marchessault to score a goal at +180 odds. The 29-year-old scored twice over the weekend against Colorado and added two assists Tuesday, so he’s been on the puck for scoring opportunities lately for Vegas.

BET ON VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS TO WIN

Game 3 (Vegas Golden Knights lead 2-0)

August 15th, 8:00 p.m., Rogers Place

Through 20 minutes on Thursday, it looked like the Vegas Golden Knights were going to roll through the Chicago Blackhawks for the second consecutive game. Yet Chicago showed off its young talent to tie the game twice in the second period after trailing 2-0 and 3-2, but it was not enough to survive the Golden Knights’ onslaught in overtime.

Once again, the Golden Knights did an excellent job limiting Chicago’s offensive chances by holding them to 25 shots. However, Vegas did a poor job at times at moving the Blackhawks out of key scoring areas and Chicago made the most of those opportunities to score easy rebound goals off Robin Lehner. Those little details are the difference between easy and difficult wins in the NHL playoffs.

Chicago’s resiliency should be noted and commended, and hopefully gives its younger players a boost in confidence. But the Blackhawks really need to do a better job in front of Corey Crawford and not force him to make so many timely saves. He was a big reason Thursday’s game went into overtime in the first place, but he cannot win this series by himself. Chicago needs to commit more in the defensive end in order to survive against the Golden Knights.

Vegas probably has too much firepower for Chicago, but I expect the Blackhawks will come out strong. I’d even lean toward betting on Chicago to score the first goal of the game at +120 odds, even though I don’t think the Blackhawks will win. The Golden Knights are too heavy favorites at -180 for my liking, but I expect another action-packed affair, so maybe bet on the over 6.5 goals at +100 odds as well.

BET ON VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS TO WIN

Game 4 (Vegas Golden Knights lead 3-0)

August 16th, 6:30 p.m., Rogers Place

The Vegas Golden Knights decided to switch goalies for Game 3 on Saturday, and it paid off as Marc-Andre Fleury made 26 saves to backstop Vegas to a 3-0 series lead. Fleury probably could have had a shutout, but Olli Maatta’s drive six minutes into the third period squeaked under his left arm for Chicago’s only goal of the game.

William Karlsson opened the scoring for Vegas with a shorthanded backhand just more than four minutes into the game, but the opportunities were few for the Golden Knights. Vegas had just 26 shots in the game, but managed to score twice against Corey Crawford, who again made several timely saves to keep the Blackhawks in striking distance. Chicago had just 27 shots on Fleury, six of which came on one of its four power plays in the game.

It’s a quick turnaround to Sunday’s Game 4, and I’m sure the Blackhawks will be underdogs at the NHL sports betting sites in New Jersey. But Chicago didn’t claw all this way out of the qualifiers to get swept out of the first round of the NHL playoffs. These games have been so tight thus far that some type of puck luck is surely going to bounce Chicago’s way and the Blackhawks will find a way to extend their season another game.

BET ON CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS TO WIN

Game 5 (Vegas Golden Knights lead 3-1)

August 18th, 10:30 p.m., Rogers Place

For 60 minutes Sunday night, it was the Corey Crawford show in Edmonton. The Chicago Blackhawks goalie did everything except score the goals to keep the Blackhawks fighting for one more day in the NHL playoffs. He stopped 48 shots, including all nine he saw on the power play, to protect the Blackhawks’ one-goal lead for 45 minutes and 51 seconds before Alex DeBrincat scored an empty-net goal to seal the game. It was the type of performance the Vegas Golden Knights had no choice but to tip their cap to and regroup for Tuesday’s Game 5.

Chicago came out and played like a team with its backs against the wall in the first 13 minutes and 40 seconds with two quick goals on Robin Lehner. But after taking the 2-0 lead, the Blackhawks didn’t threaten much again as the ice tilted in Vegas’ favor in a hurry. The Blackhawks had just 25 shots in the game, which simply isn’t good enough when you’re facing elimination. They played desperate enough hockey to block 32 shots in the win, but Chicago’s lack of offensive pressure is a major issue in this series.

Sunday’s result wasn’t the end of the world for Vegas, which still looked the more dominant team despite the loss. Once again all of the Golden Knights’ best scorers were highly active in the game and they dominated the game physically as well with 40 hits credited. It was just unfortunate that they ran into a goalie playing lights out for his team with the season on the line. If the Golden Knights play like they did Sunday on Tuesday, they should be able to finish off Chicago for good.

As fun as it’s been to watch the Blackhawks play this postseason, their magical ride is likely to end Tuesday. Crawford can only do so much for Chicago and that magic is going to run out against the high-powered Golden Knights attack. The massive shot discrepancy is beyond problematic at this point as is the physicality that Vegas is bringing that Chicago cannot match. The Golden Knights are heavy favorites for the NHL betting sites in New Jersey  and there’s no reason to believe they cannot finish the deal at -220 on the moneyline or -127 odds in regulation.

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Josh Walfish is an award-winning journalist who has been covering college and professional sports in the United States. He holds a journalism degree from Northwestern University and his work has appeared in the Miami Herald, Chicago Sun-Times and Providence Journal. He most recently chronicled the UMass hockey teams rise to prominence over the last two years for the local newspaper

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