The Chicago Blackhawks (32-38-8) are scheduled to play the opening game of their qualifying series against the Edmonton Oilers (37-34-9). Their game will take place on Saturday afternoon in Edmonton, with puck drop at 3:00 pm. Before the season break, the Blackhawks were ranked last in the Central Division with 72 points, while the Oilers were ranked second in the highly competitive Pacific Division with 83 points. Saturday will be the first of at least three games between these teams in the qualifying round, though the series could stretch to as many as five games. Their last face-off was shortly before the regular season break. The match took place on March 5th of this year in Chicago. In that game, the Blackhawks came away with a 4-3 win, despite a late-game offensive push by the Oilers.
Blackhawks Hope To Carry Shutout Momentum Into PlayoffsGiven the Blackhawks’ disappointing season before the break, it was surprising to see the result of their first postseason showing. The team finished last in the Central Division but was still able to make the cut to get into the qualifying round of the playoffs. Their issues started with a rocky beginning to their season that they were never able to fully recover from. In their first ten games, they were only able to win three. From there, they would have brief winning streaks that would be quickly followed by even larger losing streaks. Things had been looking up for the team before the break, though, as in their last ten games they won six. Their last game before the break resulted in victory as well, and the team seemed ready to charge into the final stretch of the season on a good note.
As mentioned, Chicago’s exhibition game was a strong showing. They faced a formidable opponent in the St Louis Blues, who ended the regular season at the top of the Central Division and second in the league overall. It was expected for the Blues to have an easy win, as easy as a win ever can be in the NHL, to start off their postseason run. However, the Blackhawks were able to subvert those expectations and come away with a 5-0 shutout win. As is routine in games like this, the netminding duties were split. The first half of the game was taken by Corey Crawford, who returned to play after missing all of the team’s voluntary workouts and all but the final day of training camp following a positive Covid-19 test. Crawford stopped eleven shots before switching off with Malcolm Subban in the second period. Subban turned away all ten shots he faced. Leading the offensive effort for the Blackhawks was young Dominik Kubalik, who scored twice on the powerplay during the third period to extend his team’s lead further and help cement their win.
Oilers Hope For Home Ice AdvantageThe Edmonton Oilers have two distinct advantages going into the postseason. For one, they’re the only team in the playoffs that are going to have the luxury of home-ice advantage. Due to the hub city format of the playoffs, there won’t be any traveling back and forth between cities and countries, but rather a short walk from the hotel to the arena on game day. That means that for the rest of their time in the playoffs, the Oilers will be playing from home, even if they can’t return to their personal homes until everything is said and done. Their other advantage, arguably the bigger of the two, is that they are in possession of the season’s leading point scorers. Leading the entire league is Leon Draisaitl with a whopping 110 points before the break, and following behind him is his captain Connor McDavid, who ended the regular season with 97 points.
The Oilers’ exhibition game was against an old foe. They’re all too familiar with their Albertian neighbors- the Calgary Flames. While the teams won’t see each other in the qualifying rounds, it’s certain that if they meet in the playoffs proper, we’ll be in for a physical, emotional series. In their tune-up game, however, both teams were as focused as they could be given the extraordinary circumstances. The final score worked out in the Oilers' favor, with them beating the Flames 4-1. Connor McDavid made up fifty percent of the team’s scoring, striking once on the powerplay in the first period to give his team a two-goal lead, and then again in the third to put the final nail in Calgary’s coffin. In a similar fashion to many other teams, the Oilers had their goalie tandem switch off midgame. Starting off was Mikko Koskinen, who played just shy of thirty minutes and stopped all 17 shots faced. Following him was Mike Smith, who stopped 19 of the 20 pucks put on net during the remainder of the game.
- The Edmonton Oilers 7-0 in one-goal games when playing at home.
- The Edmonton Oilers were 29-7-3 overall when scoring first.
- The Chicago Blackhawks were 19-4-3 when leading after the first period.
- The Chicago Blackhawks were 0-6 in one-goal games when playing on the road.