It feel great to be back making NHL picks again after a near six-month layoff plus a camping trip with the family this weekend that has me starting my postseason picks a little late.
That said, it’s better late than never as I’ll look to continue a very profitable regular season into these playoffs.
I’ll keep my season-long tally going, but moving forward I’ll also keep a separate postseason tally to boot.
With that in mind, let’s get this thing going!
Season Record: 115-95-1
Now let’s get into this free NHL pick featuring the Oilers vs. Blackhawks from Rogers Place in Edmonton!
Oilers vs. Blackhawks Betting Odds
- Oilers (-123)
- Blackhawks (+111)
- Oilers -1.5 (+180)
- Blackhawks +1.5 (-210)
- Over 6.5 (+104)
- Under 6.5 (-115)
Oilers vs. Blackhawks NHL Pick Breakdown
It wasn’t a great start for the Oilers on Saturday as their defense and goaltending weren’t up to the task en route to a 6-4 series-opening loss.
They turned the tables on Chicago in Game 2, however, scoring six goals themselves to give them 10 across the first two games, winning Game 2 by a 6-3 count.
Offense wasn’t likely to be much an issue for Oilers in this series.
Edmonton tied for 14th with 3.14 goals per game during the regular season, however they also led the league with a 29.5% clip on the power play as well.
You also might remember that they possess the top two point-getters from the regular season in Leon Draisaitl who led the league with 110 points and Connor McDavid who finished second with 97 points despite missing nearly three weeks of action with a thigh injury earlier in the year.
McDavid has been a man on a mission in these playoffs, tallying four goals and six points in two games, highlighted by a hat trick while leading the way to victory in Game 2.
The Oilers’ power play also hasn’t missed a beat as they’ve gone 4 for 9 (44.4%) in the early going this series.
It’s been the back end that’s scuffled, especially the goaltending.
It shouldn’t have come as a terribly big surprise as the Oilers were actually the NHL’s second-worst home defense in the regular season, allowing 3.38 goals per game at Rogers Place.
For whatever reason, that trend has continued into these playoffs as they’ve allowed nine goals through two games with their goaltending combining for an .877 Sv% to this point, although Mikko Koskinen has been better since taking over the crease, posting a .911 Sv% across roughly a game and a half’s worth of action.
After being outshot 42-29 in Game 1, the Oilers bounced back and made things easier on their netminder in Game 2 while outshooting the ‘Hawks 35-26 in that one.
They’ll certainly look for a similarly effective defensive effort in this one on top of the potent offense they’ve put forth through two games.
To see the Blackhawks come out and outshoot the Oilers 42-29 in Game 1 was surprising.
The Blackhawks’ offense surely has talent, however they allowed the most shots per game in the NHL this season at 35.1.
As a group, it can be argued that the Blackhawks own the worst defensive unit in these playoffs and that group was exposed in Game 2.
In the regular season, the Blackhawks defensive effort didn’t give their goaltending much help, ranking 27th with a 47.46% Scoring Chances For% and while that number sits at an even 50% in these playoffs, I would expect that number to regress.
Rather, I would anticipate that Corey Crawford needs to be brilliant for the club to survive this qualifying series.
Contrary to the previous season, the Blackhawks received standout goaltending this season as their .913 Sv% for the season put them in a four-way tie for the third-best mark in the league.
Now, some of that had to do with Robin Lehner who was traded to the Vegas Golden Knights at the trade deadline.
Still, Crawford enjoyed a nice season, turning in a 2.77 GAA and .917 Sv% with one shutout in 39 starts (40 appearances) despite seeing a ton of rubber on a regular basis.
Of course, he’ll be looking for a bounce-back effort after allowing six goals on 35 shots including a self-induced turnover to James Neal for a goal in the third period.
All that said, I wouldn’t rule out the Blackhawks’ offense from producing against what can be a suspect Oilers defensive group at times.
Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome, Dominik Kubalik and Brandon Saad are just a handful of capable offensive contributors, and the team has got its power play going after ranking 28th with a 15.2% mark in the regular season.
Through two games, the Blackhawks’ power play has gone 3 for 10 (30%), but it’s been their 55.6% penalty kill thats hurt them in a bad way so far.
Needless to say, there’s been more than enough offense to go around for each club so far.
At times it’s seemed as if defense was optional in this series and both teams are certainly discussing ways to prevent offense better moving forward, with discipline/penalty killing near or at the forefront of those discussions.
That said, I am finding it increasingly difficult to envision the Blackhawks being able to contain McDavid and Co.
His herculean effort from Game 2 put his name back atop the list as the best player on the planet, if it wasn’t there already. The Blackhawks lack the talent on the blueline to contain his speed, as do most clubs, however I fully anticipate No.97 putting his team on his back for the remainder of this series.
While I expect both penalty killing units to be better moving forward, the Oilers were the best special teams club in the league throughout the season and while that was some time ago, the structure and coaching remains the same. I believe the results will follow.
I’m not particularly thrilled with the goaltending situation the Oilers are sporting at the moment, but Koskinen has been much better than Smith was at the outset of the series.
At the end of the day, I’m going to roll with the Oilers in this one on the moneyline, but I would give serious thought to the three-way play for Edmonton in regulation at +110 or the Oilers on the puckline at +180.