The Vegas Golden Knights last saw the Chicago Blackhawks on Jan. 5, when the Knights won 5-4 in the United Center. Since then, the Blackhawks have undergone a sort of transformation - dropping from a team hoping to compete to losing six games in a row, including Monday’s 6-1 loss to the Arizona Coyotes.
Rookie Alex DeBrincat was the lone goal scorer and is seemingly the most consistent producer (not named Patrick Kane) for the Blackhawks now.
The bottom six has been seemingly revamped, and the lines be Alex Tuch, Cody Eakin, and Oscar Lindberg on the third. The returning Tomas Nosek, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, and Ryan Carpenter will man the fourth line. This will be Nosek’s first game since Jan. 16, and the Golden Knights are looking to become the third team ever to reach 20 home wins in its inaugural season (1979-80 Whalers and 1968-69 Kings). Here’s what to watch out for.
Over the course of this six-game road trip, and in the first game back against the Philadelphia Flyers, the Golden Knights made several inopportune plays offensively. That includes this Bellemare pass to no one:
Bellemare passes the puck to nobody on the 2-0! Interesting tactic! pic.twitter.com/BNUlIvGd7T— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) February 12, 2018
But it also includes several missed empty netters and unconverted rebounds. If the Knights want to start hammering teams with goals like they have in the past, it starts with a clean offense.
Keep the crease clear
All three of Philadelphia's goals with Marc-Andre Fleury in net came in front of the net. Of Chicago's six goals against Vegas, three have come from a similar position. That's on the Knights' defense.
Vegas needs to contain the man they're assigned to, and keep them away from high-danger areas.
All in all, the Knights need to play tougher on their man. That includes hitting the puck carrier sometimes, as only Brayden McNabb has been likely to play the body (130 hits at even strength).
Be defensively responsible on the power play
Against the Blackhawks, the Knights have allowed prime chances down a man. That includes a shorthanded goal in the first matchup and two shots near the crease in the second.
That can’t happen, especially with their reinvigorated power play, which has still been much better as of late, and that includes defensively.
Another key to winning against the Blackhawks will be limiting their shorthanded offense when the Knights have the man advantage.
Knights need to play their game
Just because the Golden Knights have hit a rough patch doesn't mean that their style is bad. Pucks will find the twine at some point.
Against Philadelphia, the Knights created 39 shots to the Flyers' 18, with high-danger in favor of the Knights 6-5. The Knights have outshot the Blackhawks 33-31 and 43-32, with high danger being 17-17 and 14-11. While this may be a high-event contest, the Knights should continue to outpace their opponent and, with a little more luck, outscore them as well.
How to watch
Time: 7 p.m. PT
TV: AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain, NHL.TV
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM