Playoff hockey has officially arrived for the Vegas Golden Knights as the team takes the ice for Game One against the Chicago Blackhawks at 7:30 p.m. PT on Tuesday at Rogers Place in Edmonton.
Max Pacioretty is expected to make his return to the Golden Knights' lineup after missing the round robin portion of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers.
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The Vegas Golden Knights have qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs in all three seasons of their existence since joining the NHL in 2017-18. Vegas reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2018 after skating through the Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks and Winnipeg Jets to become Western Conference Champions. In 2019, the Golden Knights suffered a defeat in overtime of Game 7 of their First Round series against San Jose.
The 2020 playoffs mark the first time that Vegas enters the First Round as the No. 1 seed in the west. In 2018, the Golden Knights finished first in the Pacific Division and third overall in the conference. Vegas ranked third in the Pacific and seventh in the Western Conference entering the 2019 postseason.
With 30 points (6G, 24A) in 30 playoff games, Reilly Smith is the leading playoff scorer in Golden Knights history. Jonathan Marchessault has scored a franchise-best 14 playoff goals and ranks one point behind Smith on the all-time team scoring list (29 points). Marc-Andre Fleury has won franchise-best 17 playoff games since arriving in Vegas with a .919 save percentage and a 2.42 goals-against average.
Vegas emerged as the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference after posting a 3-0-0 record through their three round robin games. The Colorado Avalanche used a 2-0-1 record to snag the second seed while Dallas (1-2-0) and St. Louis (0-2-1) round out the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds, respectively. In the Eastern Conference, the Philadelphia Flyers won all three of their games to take the top seed. The Tampa Bay Lightning took the No. 2 seed, the Washington Capitals landed No. 3 and the Boston Bruins finished fourth.
ABOUT THE BLACKHAWKS
Chicago found itself in 12th place in the Western Conference in points percentage (.514) when the season was suspended on March 12. The Blackhawks were the last team in the west to be given a berth into the Stanley Cup Qualifiers and made the most of the opportunity with a 3-1 series victory against the No. 5 Edmonton Oilers. In the highest-scoring play-in round series, Chicago outscored Edmonton 16-15 through four games.
Jonathan Toews put up a team-high seven points (4G, 3A) in the qualifying round. Dominik Kubalik, who potted 30 goals during the regular season, became the first rookie in NHL history to notch five points in a postseason debut as he put up two goals and three assists in Game 1 against Edmonton. Patrick Kane paced the Blackhawks in scoring during the regular season with 84 points (33G, 51A) and is the fourth-highest playoff scorer in team history with 127 points (51G, 76A) in 131 playoff games.
Vegas and Chicago completed their three-game season series prior to the pause with the Golden Knights topping the Blackhawks with a 2-1-0 mark. The Golden Knights used a late goal from Nick Holden and a shootout winner from Shea Theodore to beat the Blackhawks on Oct. 22. Dylan Strome (1G, 2A) and Patrick Kane (1G, 2A) each posted three points on Nov. 13 in a 5-3 Chicago win at T-Mobile Arena. Vegas answered on Dec. 10 with a 5-1 win as Marc-Andre Fleury made 28 saves for the victory.
VALLEY HEALTH SYSTEM SCRATCHES
Robin Lehner will be the starting goalie Tuesday night. Tomas Nosek comes out of the lineup with Pacioretty's return.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Use Your Momentum: Both teams have momentum coming into Game 1. Vegas won all three of its round robin games while Chicago completed a dramatic upset in the play-in round. The Golden Knights and Blackhawks will both hit the ice with confidence Tuesday.
Offensive Efficiency: Both teams proved that they can score goals during the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. Vegas put up 15 goals in its three preliminary games and Chicago scored 16 times against the Oilers. As the playoffs progress, stingy defense will become more important so both teams will look to their top offensive weapons for offense at key times.