It went as well as expected for the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1.
After running the table in the round-robin games to clinch the No.1 seed, the Vegas Golden Knights were rewarded with a matchup against the Chicago Blackhawks in Round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
A 12th seed, the Hawks knocked off the Edmonton Oilers in the Best-of-Five Qualifying Round and looked impressive.
However, the Golden Knights are one of the favorites to go on and lift the Stanley Cup and you can see why given how loaded they are.
As a result, it wasn’t a surprise that Vegas took Game 1 and we are going to go through the sights and sounds of that contest…
The Golden Knights were handed a huge boost prior to puck drop with Max Pacioretty back in the lineup after missing all of the round-robin games with a lower-body injury.
Pacioretty was Vegas’ leading points scorer in 2019-20 and he led the club in points (66), goals (32), power play goals (8) and power play points (19).
So it was huge for the Golden Knights that Pacioretty was available to go in Game 1.
And, although the forward was a -1 in 18:08 minutes of total ice time, Pacioretty looked solid and he’ll only improve once he shakes off the rust after not playing for over five months.
It had to happen now, didn’t it?
And it so nearly was.
However, despite stopping 19 of the 20 shots he faced, Lehner’s night will be defined by an embarrassing equipment mishap.
Yes, his left skate blade popped out.
And not once but twice it came out leaving Lehner flopping about in the goal crease and looking rather uncomfortable until he was escorted to the bench by Paul Stastny and Mark Stone in order to get some repairs done.
It could have led to a couple of goals from the Blackhawks but thankfully it didn’t, and let’s hope that Lehner has a new pair of skates should he start in Game 2 on Thursday.
Shea Theodore was lights out for the Golden Knights throughout the 2019-20 regular season, and he picked up where he left off after the restart.
And the offensive defenseman got Vegas on the board at 7:22 in the second period, ripping a shot from the top of the circle past Corey Crawford.
It was a hell of a shot and Theodore could be a potential Conn Smythe candidate should the Golden Knights go all the way this year.
Lack of special in Special Teams
This was a game that flowed well with a lack of penalties, although on the flip side that could be used as a reason for the lack of intensity in the first period.
Anyway, both teams did a good job of keeping their discipline and both teams were unable to get anything going on the power play in two attempts.
Chicago looked dangerous on the man advantage after creating nine scoring chances, but they couldn’t beat former goaltender Robin Lehner, while the Knights gave up a shorthanded goal which we’ll get on to in a minute.
We all know that Special Teams is huge in the postseason and the Golden Knights will be hoping to fire up their power play in Game 2 if given the opportunity.
We witnessed something of a rarity on Tuesday.
A Shea Theodore mistake.
The defenseman is playing at the peak of his powers right now but even the best make mistakes and that’s what happened in Game 1.
After the puck left the zone on a Vegas power play, Theodore went to retrieve it and looked to make a quick play.
With nothing there and with Brandon Saad breathing down his neck, Theodore looked to clear the puck but whiffed on it and was instead forced off the puck by Saad who showed incredible strength.
Then, to make matters worst, Saad then showed great witness to pick out David Kampf with a slick backhand pass, and Kampf did the rest to record a shorthanded goal.
It was a rare blot on the copybook for Theodore.
Don’t give Reilly Smith a clear sight on goal this year. Just don’t.
The winger recorded a career-high in goals with 27 during the 2019-20 regular season, and he carried that golden touch into The Bubble in Edmonton.
And he was at it again in Game 1.
With the Golden Knights protecting a slender one-goal lead heading into the third period, Smith sent a wrist shot off the blocker of Corey Crawford and into the net at 3:32, before beating the Blackhawks goalie on the backhand to give Vegas an insurance policy.
This was a big game for Smith and the second-line really drove the play for the Golden Knights in Game 1.
Oh, and Smith also recorded an assist on Shea Theodore’s goal in the second to finish with a three-point night.
Reilly Smith: 2G, 1A, 3+
Hell of a game from Smith who, on a second-line with Paul Stastny and Jonathan Marchessault, dominated the Chicago Blackhawks.
He finished with three points and his two goals in the third period helped to finish off the Hawks who hung on in there.
Robin Lehner’s Skate Blade: -10
That pesky left skate blade. Enough said.
We’ll be back with more sights and sounds after Game 2 between the Vegas Golden Knights and the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday!