The Vegas Golden Knights face off against the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 1 of the first-round of the Stanley Cup playoffs tonight.
After winning all of their qualifying games, the Vegas Golden Knights are the top seed in their conference heading into the NHL playoffs.
The team has fallen into the winning groove quickly after being on hold for months following the outbreak of the pandemic earlier this year.
“[The Knights] are huge favorites – rightfully so,” said Mitch Moss, the host of Follow the Money for V-SIN, the Vegas Stats and Information Network, “On paper, the Golden Knights absolutely match up as the much better team here. The Blackhawks have the Stanley Cup-winning experience though, still have players left over from their title teams, which could be big, obviously, come playoff time.”
Moss isn't about to call the Blackhawks lucky for ending up where they did. He said they're a better team than Edmonton, who they beat for the 8-seed spot.
He notes a lot of 1-seeds have lost during the Stanley Cup finals and a lot of craziness can happen.
However, with tonight's game the hockey people he's talked to are confident in the Knights.
“They all love them tonight. They love them in Game 1. They think they score a lot of goals and they take them out in a body bag,” he said.
What could make the game even more interesting is that Robin Lehner will be in at goal. The Blackhawks traded him to the Knights earlier in the season because they didn't feel they were going to be in contention for the cup.
Like everything else, the pandemic changed all that.
Moss likes the idea and he thinks Lehner might have a little revenge on his mind when playing his old team.
“This might be – well it probably is – a very unpopular opinion here in Las Vegas, I think you have to go with Lehner ahead of Marc-Andre Fleury, but I will point out that it’s not like either guy was razor-sharp in the round-robin games,” he said.
Moss noted that Fleury didn't look great during round-robin play and Lehner also made mistakes. He's not sure how fast Head Coach Peter DeBoer will pull the trigger on pulling Lehner if he's not performing well.
A lot has been said about how Fleury hasn't been playing as well lately. Moss said it really started when the goalie's father died.
“The turning point really was the unfortunate news of obviously his dad passing away earlier during the season and since then he really hasn’t been the same guy,” he said.
He's not ready to say that Fleury's best games are behind him. He said he would like to give the all-star goalie more time before he decides that.
The star that is back for tonight's game is Max Pacioretty. The 31-year-old Pacioretty, who led Vegas with 32 goals and 66 points this season, was sidelined by a minor injury during training camp.
“If he’s healthy and he’s a full go that only makes their front lines that much better and that’s where they’re going to have another edge over Chicago, even though Chicago’s top line can obviously be very good as well,” Moss said.
Moss said Pacioretty will give the Knights the offensive punch they need.
If the Knights beat the Blackhawks, Moss said things get trickier because of how the league works. After this round, the teams are reseeded, which Moss said means every team in the playoffs could cause a problem for the Knights.
Mitch Moss, host, Vegas Stats and Information Network
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