PREVIEW: Chicago Blackhawks vs. Edmonton Oilers
Dylan Callaghan-Croley (@DylanCCSports)
July 31, 2020
What They Did in the Regular Season:
Edmonton Oilers: 37-25-9 (83 points) — On paper, Edmonton should be one of the league’s premier teams but they have yet to show that. This past regular season, the Oilers got off to a strong start with a 5-0 record but since then, they’ve been up-and-down since. Following that five-game winning streak, the Oilers longest winning streak this past regular season was three games.
Chicago Blackhawks: (32-30-8 (72 points) — The Blackhawks are starting to show their age and struggled for most of the season. The Blackhawks have had some really high, highs this year but also have had some very low, lows. Before the shutdown, they started to gain some momentum including winning six of their last nine games.
Offensive Analysis: EDGE- EDMONTON OILERS
Chicago Blackhawks: 2.97 GF/GP, 15.2 PP%
Edmonton Oilers: 3.14 GF/GP, 29.5 PP%
To say that Edmonton is top-heavy offensively would be quite the understatement. The Oilers have three players above 40-points, and those are centers Leon Draisaitl (43-67-110), Connor McDavid (34-63-97), and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (22-39-61). Outside of those three, the next highest scoring Oiler is right winger Zack Kassian with 34 points. Only three other Oilers managed to score over 30-points and only eight Oilers found the back of the net 10+ times this season. The Oilers without a doubt have three tremendous offensive weapons in Draisaitl, McDavid, and Nugent-Hopkins but if an opposing team can keep them in check, then the Oilers could find themselves in trouble.
The Blackhawks this year were unsurprisingly led by Patrick Kane offensively as the 31-year old winger totaled 84 points thanks to 33 goals and 51 assists. Fellow franchise legend Jonathan Toews was second on the team with 18 goals and 42 assists for 60-points. Beyond those two, the Blackhawks did see a bit of a youth movement with the trio of Dominik Kubalik, Alex DeBrincat, and Dylan Strome finishing third, fourth, and fifth on the team in scoring. All three under-25 players showed offensive promise including 30 goals by Kubalik. Veteran Brandon Saad also had a quality goal scoring season, totaling 21 goals in 58 games.
Defensive Analysis: EDGE - EVEN
Chicago Blackhawks: 3.06 GA/GP, 82.1% PK
Edmonton Oilers: 3.03 GA/GP, 84.4% PK
Neither team this year was great defensively, as both fell in the middle of the league in goals allowed per game. It’s no secret that Edmonton relies on their offense to win most games but if they’re going to make a run in the playoffs, they’ll need their blue line and really their forwards to step it up defensively as well.
Perhaps one of the most stunning stats for Edmonton this year is the fact that despite scoring 97 and 110 points respectively both Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl have negative plus-minuses at -6 and -7. Perhaps it’s not all that shocking considering the fact the Oilers have just a +8 goal differential during the regular season. Their blue line is among the worst in the league as well, with only one defenseman recording a positive plus-minus, that being Matt Benning at +8. They’ll need the likes of Darnell Nurse, Ethan Bear, and Oscar Klefbom to all take their game to the next level.
The Blackhawks weren’t much better than the Oilers but were still better. Duncan Keith, Connor Murphy, Olli Maatta, and Calvin de Haan all had quality showings at times during the season but were also inconsistent at times as well. The production their still getting out of the likes of Keith as well as Brent Seabrook is remarkable considering they are 36 and 34 years old entering the restart. While their blue line was solid, they’ll need a little more of a 200-foot effort out of their forwards.
The goalie for the Blackhawks will be three-time Stanley Cup winner Corey Crawford who at the age of 35 put in another great season. Despite going 16-20-3, Crawford saved 91.7% of opposing shots while allowing 2.77 goals per game. His backup will be Malcolm Subban who only appeared in one game this season for a single minute. For his career, he’s 30-23-7 with a .899 save percentage and a 2.97 goals against average.
While the Blackhawks decision is easy, the Oilers have a more difficult decision. They’ll decide between Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen. Smith went 19-12-6 this season with a .902 save percentage and 2.95 goals against average. Koskinen posted a similar win-loss record at 18-13- but had the better save percentage and goals against average at .917 and a 2.75 goals against average. Smith will likely get the start for the Oilers due to his playoff experience but if he struggles, he could get the hook quickly for Koskinen.
Special Teams: EDMONTON OILERS
The Oilers are without a doubt the best team in the league this year when it comes to special teams. Both their 29.5% power play and their 84.4% penalty kill rank first among teams that are still playing playing. They own the league’s best power play by a wide margin, scoring on nearly 30% of their power play opportunities while their penalty kill finished second in the league only behind the San Jose Shark’s 85.7% kill rate. The Blackhawks penalty kill is nothing to scoff at, their 82.1% kill rate ranks ninth in the league. Their power play, however, is among the worst in the league and ranks 28th at 15.2%.
The Blackhawks penalty kill will be able to slow down Edmonton at times but they won’t be able to completely shut them down. Unless Chicago’s power play finds life against one of the league’s premier penalty killing teams, it seems unlikely they’ll win the special teams battle.
The Blackhawks were the team of the last decade, there’s no doubt about that. Ten years ago, they started a dynasty that lasted most of the decade. That being said, they won’t be extending that dynasty or starting a new one this year. The Blackhawks are a quality team and talented one but Edmonton could be on the verge of something special (we’ve been saying this forever though). I’m not sure how far Edmonton goes in the playoffs but I think they get past the Blackhawks rather easily.