In the first three games of their first-round series against the Chicago Blackhawks, the Vegas Golden Knights won the statistical battle and the battle on the scoreboard. Game 4 was a statistical demolition, an embarrassment of riches in all categories that was not reflected in the final score.
After a lackluster opening six minutes, the Golden Knights fell behind (for the first time in the series) 2-0 and never recovered. One defensive miscue and one unfortunate header by goaltender Robin Lehner proved to be enough to end the Golden Knights’ chances of sweeping the Blackhawks out of the playoffs.
Before we get to the three important takeaways from the Hawks’ 3-1 victory on Sunday night, here is a look at the unfortunately attempted header by Lehner that put Chicago up 2-0.
Now we can move on.
Crawford Steals Game 4
In Sunday’s article, I wrote noted that most pundits agreed that in order for the Blackhawks to have a chance, goaltender Corey Crawford would have to steal a game, if not the series. In the first three games, that did not come close to happening. Last night, it was the story of the game.
Though he did get a ton of help from his teammates who blocked more shots (32) than they had shots on goal (25), Crawford turned away 48 of 49 shots, proverbially standing on his head to keep his team in the series.
On this night, he had an answer for everything the Golden Knights had to offer, save for Shea Theodore’s 4th goal of the playoffs that cut Chicago’s lead to 2-1, 17 seconds after the Lehner miscue.
Despite all the positives the Golden Knights can take from three games and 54 minutes, they will have to address one glaring issue if they want to get by the Blackhawks. Their poor power play.
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After last night, when they were 0/3, the Golden Knights are 0/9 on the power play in this series. (from ‘Golden Knights seeking first power-play goal vs. Blackhawks,’ Las Vegas Review-Journal, 08/16/2020) They had nine shots, including a few grade-A chances, but nothing found the back of the net. With all of their offensive firepower, there is no good reason the man advantage hasn’t broken through in the first four games of the series.
For Game 5 on Tuesday, expect some tweaks to the units or the structure to try to jumpstart the power play.
If I told you before Game 4 that the Golden Knights would have 96 shot attempts and land 49 shots on goal, would you have gone to the betting window? I would have, and my betting slip would have become confetti on the floor of the Sportsbook.
Other statistics in which the Golden Knights dominated include scoring chances (38-10), high-danger area scoring chances (16-3), and hits (40-26). The Blackhawks dominated one statistic, blocking 32 shots to only 12 by the Golden Knights.
Looking Ahead to Game 5 & Beyond
The Golden Knights played their best game since entering the bubble last night in a 3-1 loss to the Blackhawks. While there are still things that they have to work on and do better, another effort like that in Tuesday’s Game 5, and they will have a couple of days rest before Round 2. However, another performance like that by Crawford and Vegas might start to grip their sticks a little tighter ahead of Game 6.
I’m sticking with my original betting slip: Golden Knights in 5.