Blackhawks vs. Oilers Series Preview
|Thursday, July 30, 2020, 8:10 PM- -|
First, it was MLS returning to the pitch in early July. MLB and NBA followed that, and now it is the NHL’s turn to return to play as the revamped 24 team postseason is set to begin north of the border in Canada. In a typical year with normal circumstances, the postseason would include 16 teams, including eight from each conference and would have been completed over a month ago.
With NHL having to go on hiatus like everything else, the league was forced to hit a reset button to come up with a plan that would allow them to return. That plan is about to come full circle as the NHL has adopted a 24-team playoff with the top eight seeds getting an automatic bye. This is a very fortunate turn of events for the Blackhawks as they now have a chance to extend their season after looking like they were dead in the water.
Had the season concluded, as usual, the Blackhawks would have been on the outside looking in as this team is a shell of what they once were five years ago. Instead, Chicago sneaks into the 24-team field as the 12th seed in the Western Conference and will be facing off with the No. 5 seeded Edmonton Oilers with a chance to advance.
After taking former Red Wings GM Ken Holland and brining him to Edmonton, the Oilers have ripped off their best winning percentage since 2016 and have earned the top seed in the West for the initial round. Before the pause, Edmonton had nearly a 94% chance to make the postseason while the Blackhawks were sitting at just 3.4%. Amazing how times change.
For Chicago to have any shot in this one, they will need to contain the duo of Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid, who combined to score over 200 points between them. These two have been scoring points in bunches this season and will look to get past a Blackhawks team that were sellers at the deadline. None the less, Chicago is playoff-bound, and now it is there a chance to make something happen.
While the Oilers possess two of the most potent scorers in the game, Chicago is going the need Patrick Kane and his 84 points more than ever. Joined by Alex Nylander and Dylan Strome, the trio looked good both in the regular season and now during the reset training camp as they can put constant pressure on opposing defenses.
With those three leading the way on the first line, players like Brandon Saad, Jonathan Toews, Alex DeBrincat, and rookie Dominik Kubalik will provide massive boosts on offense as the Blackhawks will have a ton of depth at their disposal. It will always come down to goaltending for what ultimately decides this series, and we will have a pair of good ones on hand.
Led by Corey Crawford, the Blackhawks hopes of advancing solely rely on his health. Crawford missed the start of training camp with COVID 19 and appears to be back at full strength. We won’t know until a game starts, but Chicago needs him to be ready to go. Standing across from him will be Mikko Koskinen, who has been impressive all season. Koskinen took over for Mike Smith earlier this season, which was the best decision the Oilers made. With guys like Oscar Klefbom and Daniel Nurse anchoring the defense, Koskinen has plenty of help when it comes to protection.
Prediction -- Edmonton in three: This first-round series is a best of five meaning first to win three games moves on. Both McDavid and Draisaitl are good enough to beat any team on their own, let alone an organization that would typically not be in the playoff field. Both should have huge series in this one. Chicago will need to match not only their offensive firepower but their physicality also, which is what this young squad lacks. Regardless of the outcome, the Blackhawks are getting some much-needed experience, which is all you can ask for.