The Blackhawks fell to the Vegas Golden Knights 4-1 in the opening game of the First Round series on Tuesday night. Vegas struck first with two goals in the second period from Shea Theodore and William Carrier and David Kampf responded with a shorthanded goal before Reilly Smith added a pair of markers in the third period to seal the win. Corey Crawford made 30 saves in the contest.
It's expected Jeremy Colliton will go back to the same combinations that he used in Game 1 after being pleased with the team's overall performance aside from a brief stretch in the third where the game got out of reach with Smith's two tallies.
The Blackhawks did a good job of absorbing Vegas' heavy forecheck in Game 1, but where they struggled was in applying the same pressure back the other way. Chicago's success against Edmonton was largely centered around possession and keeping the puck off the opposing sticks, while pinning the Oilers deep in their zone with a strong forecheck.
Against the Golden Knights, the same forecheck and offensive zone pressure wasn't there on Tuesday night, and is a focus for the whole group ahead of Game 2.
"We've got to protect the puck in the offensive zone a little bit more, establish a little bit more zone time, force them to defend for longer periods," Colliton said. "They're a big team and they're good at getting pucks back. They want to overload in D zone. If you can hold it a little bit longer, sometimes you can create something. We just want to have possession a bit more in the offensive zone and obviously get out of our end quicker against their forecheck."
"For us, we're going to need to play a little bit more in the O zone and a little bit less in the D zone," Alex DeBrincat added. "I think if we can get that O zone cycle going on, get some more pucks to the net, I think we'll have a good chance."
Part of Chicago's offensive success in the Qualifying Round started from the point. Shots from defensemen were the catalyst to four of the seven goals scored in Games 3 and 4 to close out the series, but in Game 1 against Vegas, the same opportunities weren't not available for the lower seed.
"They did a good job (in Game 1). They blocked a lot," Colliton said. "I think we were able to get to the top a few times and they were able to get in the lane. We got through a few times and there were some rebounds lying around there and ultimately we've got (have) forwards get to the net, find a way, be there and D find a way to get it through."
"Vegas is definitely one of the better defensive teams in the league. They make it really tough playing in their end," said defenseman Olli Maatta, who scored in Games 2 and 3 against Edmonton from the point. "I think they do a good job blocking shots, so I think we've got to find a way to get those pucks through. We had some opportunities (in Game 1). We got a couple shots blocked. I think those pucks, you just have to try and get them to the net … Our job is just to get it there. It doesn't have to be the hardest shot, but just to make sure it gets to the net so it can hit sticks, it can hit shinpads, whatever, and have the chance to go in."