There’s one matchup the Vegas Golden Knights shouldn’t wish for in the postseason.
Per the NHL’s Return To Play Plan, the Vegas Golden Knights will be involved in the Stanley Cup Playoffs as long as hockey can return at some point this summer.
As it stands, the Golden Knights will receive a bye as the third-seed and will contest a three-game, in-conference round-robin tournament against the St. Louis Blues, the Colorado Avalanche and the Dallas Stars.
The purpose of the round-robin is to not only give teams with a bye the chance to knock off rust while the 16 other teams are battling it out in a best-of-five Play-In series, but to also decide seeding for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
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Now, there’s one major caveat to consider here. The NHL still have to decide whether to reseed the postseason, or keep it bracketed.
Should Vegas run the table and finish as the top seed, or even as the second-seed, they could run into the Chicago Blackhawks in the First Round should the Hawks defeat the Edmonton Oilers in the Play-In.
That would be bad news.
You may be wondering why given that the Golden Knights went 2-1-0 against the Blackhawks during the 2019-20 regular season, averaging 3.33 Goals For in three games, while they have only lost once in franchise history to Chicago.
Let us explain why it could be a bad matchup for Vegas.
For starters, the Golden Knights also allowed an average of 2.33 Goals Against Per Game in those three matchups, including five in their first loss to the Blackhawks on Nov. 13.
Chicago also boasts a lot of firepower and they have the elite weapons to really test Marc-Andre Fleury.
Most importantly, however, the Blackhawks are blessed with an abundance of postseason experience.
While the Hawks are in a transition period, they still have a number of cornerstone pieces from that outstanding Stanley Cup dynasty on their roster.
Corey Crawford, Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are all tried and tested during the most important time of the year, and they know what it takes to win the war and win the greatest prize in all of sports.
Granted, the likes of Crawford and Keith are in the latter stages of their careers and aren’t quite at the peak of their powers anymore.
Furthermore, the Blackhawks started trading away key pieces at the Trade Deadline including elite goalie Robin Lehner to the Golden Knights of all teams.
But, going back to that core of veterans, Toews and Kane in particular still have the ability to carry their team on their back if needed.
Just look at Kane.
Still producing at an elite level, the superstar forward put up 110 points (44 goals, 66 assists) in 81 games in 2018-19, while he had 33 goals and 51 assists for 84 points in 70 games this year.
Able to change the momentum of a game with a single stellar play, Kane really could be the difference maker in a best-of-five or best-of-seven series.
The Blackhawks have also plugged in some nice pieces around Toews and Kane, including young talent in the ilk of Dylan Strome and Alex DeBrincat, while center Kirby Dach has impressed in his rookie year with 23 points (eight goals, 15 assists) in 64 games.
That youthful exuberance combined with veteran leadership coupled with knowledge of how to grind through a gruelling postseason could prove to be a lethal combination.
Plus, Crawford, who had a 2.77 Goals Against Average and a .917 Save Percentage in the regular season, can still get hot and win a series for his team so there’s that factor to consider too.
Again, the Golden Knights have the better roster and they now have a lethal one-two punch between the pipes thanks to the Blackhawks.
But, out of all the potential opponents Vegas could face in the First Round, the Blackhawks are the team that strikes the most fear in me for all of the reasons mapped out below.
They will also have a chip on their shoulder and a point to prove given that many felt they should have been done for the year, and that could really light a fire within that locker room.
Any team can get hot in the postseason and go on a deep run, and the Blackhawks certainly have the tools to go all the way and fight for a fourth championship in the last 10 years.
With Patrick Kane as their trump card, the Chicago Blackhawks tick a lot of boxes as to why the Vegas Golden Knights would want to avoid the Hawks in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.