Blackhawks’ Offense Sputters in 4-1 Loss to Golden Knights in Game 1

The Chicago Blackhawks opened the First Round of the Stanley Cup playoffs with an ugly 4-1 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 last night.

After a scoreless first period, Vegas defenseman Shea Theodore would strike first, snapping a wrist shot over the glove of goalie Corey Crawford for the 1-0 lead. Crawford seemed to have an unobstructed view of the shot, yet failed to snatch it with his glove.

Midway through the second period, Vegas would gain a 2-0 lead after William Carrier backhanded a rebound from Ryan Reaves’ shot past Crawford. Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton would unsuccessfully challenge the goal for off-sides, resulting in a Vegas power play.

While on the penalty kill, David Kampf would score a critical short-handed goal off a nice feed from Brandon Saad. Saad was able to steal the puck from Theodore and find a wide-open Kampf, cutting the Hawks’ deficit in half. Unfortunately, Kampf’s goal would be the only offense the Blackhawks would muster all game.

Early in the third period, Crawford would allow his second soft-goal of the game, failing to absorb a routine shot from Vegas’ Reilly Smith. Smith wristed a shot from the half-boards that bounced off Crawford’s blocker and into the net. Five minutes later, Vegas would begin to run away with the victory after Smith scored his second goal of the game, roofing a backhand shot past Crawford while on a partial breakaway. Jonathan Marchessault was able to spring Smith with a beautiful saucer pass that sailed just over back-checker Patrick Kane’s stick.

Although Crawford’s game was questionable, the Blackhawks’ offense also sputtered last night, failing to generate any sustained pressure against Vegas. Both Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews had scoring chances, but were unable to convert against ex-Blackhawk goalie Robin Lehner. With Vegas’ staunch defense, the Hawks were limited to just 20 total shots on goal, resulting in an easy night and a .950 save percentage for Lehner.

Defensively, the Blackhawks were decent enough in the first period, but their early defensive success may have hindered them offensively. The Hawks did not possess the puck as well or as often as they did against the Edmonton Oilers, which forced them to defend more than they are accustomed. In addition, the Blackhawks’ power play continued to struggle, going 0-for-2 in the game. The lone bright spot was Chicago’s penalty kill, which was 2-for-2.

Quite simply, the Blackhawks looked outmatched for the majority of the game; and their shortcomings were all the more magnified with an uncharacteristically subpar performance from their netminder Corey Crawford. Vegas looked dominant at times and eventually sailed to an easy victory in Game 1.

Unless the Blackhawks can find a middle ground between generating consistent offense without compromising themselves defensively, this series could be over before the Hawks know it.

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