EDMONTON – The amount of optimism surrounding the Blackhawks was quite high the past few days as it should have been.
The 12th-seeded group had just knocked off the fifth-seeded Oilers in their hometown in four games, winning their first postseason game in five years in a high-profile preliminary round upset. The resurgence of a few veterans like Jonathan Toews and, in Game 4 especially, Corey Crawford, had fans dreaming of successes of the past.
But one had to remember that the team waiting for them in the first round of the traditional Stanley Cup Playoffs had built themselves into a contender from October of 2019 till now. They had the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference after three-straight round-robin wins, and they showed their power in the series opener.
The Golden Knights built a two-goal lead then netted two more scores in the third to win it 4-1 in Game 1 at Rogers Place late Tuesday night. Vegas took advantage of a Blackhawks’ offense that wasn’t able to produce a number of quality chances on goal to take a 1-0 series lead.
Shea Theodore and Wiliam Carrier scored within 1:17 of each other in the middle of the second period to give the Golden Knights all the offense they would need. David Kampf got his first career playoff goal later in the second to get the Blackhawks within one, but that’s as close as they would get.
Vegas kept up their attack early in the third period with Reilly Smith putting the lead back to two 3:32 into the third period. He’d score on a breakaway a little under five minutes later to essentially put the game away.
Meanwhile the Blackhawks’ offense, which scored at least three goals in every game in the Edmonton series, was limited to just 20 shots on goal. While a few tries hit the post, former Chicago goaltender Robin Lehner stopped all but one them, despite a few skate blade problems.
It was a strong effort from the top seed that shows the eighth-seeded Blackhawks have plenty of work to do if they hope to pull a second-straight upset in this postseason.