When the Vegas Golden Knights went for the Game 4 victory against the Chicago Blackhawks, they met a brick wall. Quite literally. Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford made 48 saves on 49 shots for a .980 save percentage, the highest of his postseason.
It means that instead of the sweep, the Golden Knights now have a 3-1 series lead and can instead go for the Gentleman’s Sweep. However this series remains tight, and getting that final victory already proved to be tough to get once.
Crawford has improved over the course of the series in both the qualifying round against Edmonton as well as this series. The only way to improve off of his Game 4 performance would be a shutout, but after that game, anything is possible.
The Golden Knights have overwhelmed the Blackhawks in terms of possession all series, and that continued through Game 4. At 5-on-5, the Golden Knights now have a 60.91 percent Corsi, 62.83 percent shot share and 65.92 percent expected goal share. They’ll need to build on that to win Game 5.
Here are the three keys to Tuesday’s elimination game for the Golden Knights.
Need more from Schmidt-McNabb
Nate Schmidt and Brayden McNabb have had pretty good stats against the Blackhawks. Each is above 60 percent in Corsi, shot share and expected goal share. But they’re down in one significant category: they’ve each allowed three goals at 5-on-5, the most on the team.
And on those goals, the two have looked a little off as a pairing. The Drake Caggiula goal in Game 4 is a shining example, in that it’s one that can’t happen and shouldn’t have happened. McNabb and Schmidt need to be there and in position to stop that.
On top of that, Schmidt and McNabb have produced just one point between them, and that a secondary assist. If they’re going to be costly on defense they need to make up for it on offense. They aren’t doing that.
Therefore, the Golden Knights’ starting duo can’t be allowing bad goals against if they’re going to come away with the Game 5 victory.
Can’t allow fluke goals
And speaking of bad goals against, the Golden Knights are on a two-game streak of allowing those. In Game 3, Olli Maatta’s goal squeezed through Fleury’s blocker and his body. In Game 4, Robin Lehner banked in a goal with his head, what turned out to be the game winner.
One of the ways Crawford has turned around in this series is getting rid of those fluke goals. The Golden Knights need their netminders to do the same thing.
Especially with the defense, including Schmidt and McNabb, cutting down on most chances. In 204:25 at 5-on-5 in this series the Golden Knights have allowed just 22 high-danger chance against and 5.01 expected goals. They’ve allowed just three high-danger goals out of five goals against.
If the goaltenders make the saves they need to make, the Golden Knights will be well within position to secure the win.
Power play needs to activate
The power play hasn’t scored in this series so far. They need to capitalize on an opportunity at some point. While the Blackhawks’ penalty kill was a top-10 unit during the regular season, the Golden Knights were a top-10 power play. That unit needs to show up in Game 5.
Especially because many of the Golden Knights’ power-play mainstays haven’t shown up yet. Max Pacioretty has zero points in three games. Tomas Nosek has more goals in 9:22 than the Golden Knights’ leading scorer in 52:19. Pacioretty’s gotten more fines than goals.
Shea Theodore also hasn’t scored an assist in this series despite two goals and Alex Tuch, despite several great chances, also hasn’t found the back of the net.
Paul Stastny missing in action likely hasn’t helped, but the entire man-advantage unit missing has contributed to less goals for than the Golden Knights have needed in recent games, especially Game 4.
Max Pacioretty — Chandler Stephenson — Mark Stone
Jonathan Marchessault — William Karlsson — Reilly Smith
Alex Tuch — Nicolas Roy — Nick Cousins
William Carrier — Patrick Brown — Ryan Reaves
Brayden McNabb — Nate Schmidt
Alec Martinez — Shea Theodore
Zach Whitecloud — Nick Holden
Brandon Saad — Jonathan Toews — Dominik Kubalik
Alex DeBrincat — Dylan Strome — Patrick Kane
Drake Caggiula — Kirby Dach — Alex Nylander
Matthew Highmore — David Kampf — Ryan Carpenter
Duncan Keith — Adam Boqvist
Calvin de Haan — Connor Murphy
Olli Maatta — Slater Koekkoek
How to watch
Time: 7:30 p.m. PT
TV: NBCSN (national), AT&T SportsNet (local)
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM