Well that was rough. After opening the season 6-3, the Vegas Golden Knights allowed six goals to the Philadelphia Flyers, coming into the game off a four-game losing streak. Part of this was Vegas’s horrendous ability to possess the puck, and while they had worse stats against Pittsburgh, the game against Philadelphia was their worst high-danger share on the season.
Vegas will now need a bounce back to feel like they got a good road trip, and they’ll be facing an up and down Chicago team who aren’t the possession monsters that Philadelphia is, but much like the Flyers, they’re looking for more consistency from their offense and have a better defense this season.
Chicago’s strength to this point this season has been their goaltending, and no matter who Vegas will face in net, Corey Crawford or Robin Lehner, they’ll run into a test. Crawford appears to finally be healthy again, and Lehner is coming off a season wherein he was a Vezina finalist and appears to have a similar form this season.
But the top of Chicago’s forward lineup is troubling, and Jonathan Toews has had his traditional slow start to the season. Patrick Kane leads the team in all counting stats, but even his season hasn’t looked as dominant as in years past.
Vegas will look to get a rebound win after that tough game against the Flyers, and here’s what to watch for as they do so.
The third line will be under duress
The Blackhawks’ third line may be their best. Brandon Saad, David Kampf and Dominik Kubalik proved to be more than a match for Connor McDavid and Saad is 17th in the league so far this season in individual expected goals for. In 50 5-on-5 minutes, the line has a 60.75 percent Corsi, 70.15 percent shot share and 71.16 percent expected goal share, with a 43.24 percent offensive zone faceoff percentage.
That’s a bad matchup for Vegas’ third line, whatever iteration the Golden Knights might ice. Brandon Pirri and Cody Eakin have a 40 percent Corsi, 33.33 percent shot share and 36.86 percent expected goal share together. They’ve also been on ice for two 5-on-5 goals against and zero for. That duo hasn’t been changed recently and likely won’t ahead of the game against the Blackhawks, whether the third is Cody Glass or Mark Stone.
If the third line does get shelled, that could mean trouble for Vegas, as (hopefully) rested as Marc-Andre Fleury may be. There’s only so much the goaltender can do if the puck is constantly in their zone.
Get the special teams going again
Against the Flyers, the Golden Knights allowed two power-play goals for the first time this season. Philadelphia entered the game with the 10th best power play, clicking at a 25 percent mark. The Blackhawks aren’t much of a let up, as their 16.7 percent mark is probably a bit low for how their man-advantage unit plays.
The Golden Knights also scored just one power-play goal against the Philadelphia Flyers, and 20 percent is well below the 30 percent mark they entered the Flyers game with. Luckily, the Blackhawks have the 29th ranked penalty kill so far this season, and the Golden Knights should know how to counter one of the Blackhawks’ most important penalty killers in Ryan Carpenter.
If Vegas can get their penalty kill back to where they should be (they entered the Philadelphia game killing 94.3 percent) and their power play works again, the Golden Knights will have some fun in Chicago.
At even strength, Vegas allowed more chances to the Flyers than they themselves received. Philadelphia had 50 Corsi events to Vegas’s 36, 29 shots to Vegas’ 25, and eight high-danger events to Vegas’s six. That’s been a familiar theme for the Golden Knights.
If Vegas is able to generate more opportunities in those three important categories, they’re far more successful. If Vegas has a larger Corsi percentage than the other team, their record is 3-1. The same record applies if Vegas has the larger shot share. Finally, if Vegas wins the high-danger battle, they’re 4-1. Their record is even (3-3, 3-3, 2-2) if they lose or tie the possession battle.
It turns out a team is going to be better if they win the possession battle (shocker). While that was a struggle against the Flyers, who came into the game as one of the best possession teams in the league, the same can’t be said about Chicago, who ranks 18th in even strength Corsi percentage, shot share and high-danger share. Vegas should possess the puck more throughout this game, and if they do, they’ll have an increased chance of rebounding.
How to watch
Time: 5:30 p.m. PT
TV: AT&T SportsNet
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM