The NHL returns to action on August 1 with an exciting five games from the Qualifying rounds. One of these matchups will be between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Edmonton Oilers. These two teams had some serious distance in the standings, but will look to earn a big Game 1 win on Saturday. The puck will drop for these two teams at around 3 PM Eastern time.
Chicago earned a record of 32-30-8 throughout this season, which had them squeak into the qualifiers as the twelfth seed. The Blackhawks had a shaky season, but were able to win five of their last seven before the season came to a pause. Now Chicago will look on their stars to help them steal a spot in the round of 16 from the Edmonton Oilers.
The Oilers put up a strong record of 37-25-9 throughout this season, which had them in second place of the Pacific Division and fifth place of the Western Conference. Edmonton had a bit of a shaky patch leading to the break, losing three of their last four games. The Oilers looked strong in their exhibition game and will look to keep that going in Game 1 of this series.
While these two teams were in much different spots of the standings when the season came to a halt, they are both on equal grounds now in Edmonton. These two teams met up three times throughout the season, which will give them a good feel for each other going into Game 1. I expect a solid series as they help welcome hockey back for the playoffs.
Edmonton and Chicago met up for the first time back on October 14 in Chicago. Patrick Kane opened up the scoring for the Blackhawks, while Alexander Nylander helped extend the lead. James Neal pulled it within one late in the third, but it was not enough. Corey Crawford stopped 27 of the 28 shots he faced to help give Chicago a 3-1 win.
The second game of the season series shifted to Edmonton on February 11. Brandon Saad had a goal and an assist, while Patrick Kane had two assists, but it was not enough. Leon Draisaitl had a goal and three assists for the Oilers, while Kailer Yamamoto potted two goals. Mike Smith stopped 38 of the 41 shots he faced as the Oilers won 5-3.
The most recent game of the season series was hosted by Chicago on March 5. Leon Draisaitl and Darnell Nurse both had two assists in this one, but it would not be enough for Edmonton. Alex DeBrincat finished with two goals, while Adam Boqvist had two assists in the winning effort. Corey Crawford had 21 saves as the Blackhawks won 4-3.
The Blackhawks were able to keep Connor McDavid quiet in the season series, but do not expect that to continue in this series. McDavid and Draisaitl will be two dangerous players for Chicago to watch. The Blackhawks will look for some of their younger players to step up with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews if they want to sneak away with a win in this series.
Chicago’s power play struggled throughout that season and could cause some concerns in this series. The Blackhawks capitalized on 33 of their 217 power play chance this season, which is a 15.2 percent power play. Chicago’s penalty kill was solid though, holding opposing teams to 37 power play goals on 207 opportunities, which was an 82.1 percent kill rate.
The Oilers power play was phenomenal this season. Edmonton capitalized on 59 of their 200 power play opportunities, which was an outstanding 29.5 percent success rate. The Oilers penalty kill was not something to be taken lightly either. Edmonton held their opponents to 31 goals on 199 power play chances, which was an 84.4 percent penalty kill.
Edmonton holds a really strong edge in this matchup on special teams. The Blackhawks penalty kill will need to step up to the plate if they want to contain the Oilers in this series. If Edmonton can get it going on the power play though, it could prove to be too much for Chicago, which could be their downfall in the series.
Chicago finally had Corey Crawford report to the team on Saturday, which allowed him to get some time in net during the exhibition games. I expect Crawford to get the nod in Game 1. He has earned a save percentage of .918 and a 3.01 GAA throughout 33 appearances this season. Malcolm Subban will likely back him up after not suiting up for the Blackhawks this season.
The Oilers will have to decide between Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen in net. Smith earned a .902 save percentage and a GAA of 2.95 in 39 appearances. Koskinen played in 38 appearances and posted a save percentage of .917 and a 2.75 GAA. I believe that Smith will get the start in net being the veteran, but it could go either way.
The starting goalies for Game 1 will be interesting. Both Smith and Koskinen are great options for Edmonton, while Crawford seems like the obvious choice for Chicago. Crawford missed most of camp, but came out looking sharp in the exhibition game. I think that the Oilers have the edge in net though no matter which goalie gets the nod.
The Oilers have a clear edge in this series, but it is not time to count the Blackhawks out. Chicago still has some veteran players that can help make a run. The Oilers will look to stay strong with their game though, making every power play chance count. The dangerous duo of McDavid and Draisaitl will also be extremely tough to slow down.
BetOnline has Edmonton listed as a -150 against the money line in this one. This implies that the Oilers will win 60 percent of the time. This line is right, but does not have a lot of value. I think that Edmonton will come out really strong, making the line of -1 ½ at +165 really valuable. I like the Oilers a lot in Game 1 to set the pace and prove their status as contenders.