Blackhawks vs Oilers - NHL Qualifying Round Preview & Prediction
The NHL has decided to scrap the rest of the regular season and that means we will head right to the playoffs when the season restarts in late July. As we continue to inch closer to the restart of the NHL season, I will continue to preview the Qualifying Round of the playoffs.
Here are other the previews I have done so far:
The NHL playoffs will have 24 teams in it with the 16 of those teams playing in eight best-of-five Qualifying round matchups. The Top four teams in each conference will then square off against each other in a round-robin style format to determine the seeding of those four teams. The four teams from the West that win their Qualifying Matchup will face the top four teams in that conference and the same for the East. The Western Conference playoffs will take play in one hub city and the Eastern Conference will do the same. The hub cities have not yet been announced.
Today I will be taking a look at the matchup between the Chicago Blackhawks (32-38) and the Edmonton Oilers (37-34). The Oilers come in at -160 to win the series while the Blackhawks are at +140.
A Look At The Blackhawks
Regular Season Stats & Rankings: The Blackhawks are 18th in scoring at 2.97 gpg, 13th in shots per game at 31.2, and 28th in powerplay conversions at 15.2%. On the defensive end of the ice, they finished at 16th in goals allowed at 3.06 gpg, 31st in shots allowed at 35.1 spg, and 9th in penalty kill at 82.1%.
The Chicago Blackhawks played well down the stretch as they won five of their last seven games but prior to that, they were not playing well, having lost 9 of their previous 11 games. The offense for Chicago has been inconsistent all year but even more so down the stretch as they averaged 4.38 gpg in their last 13 wins, compared to putting up just 2.00 gpg in their last 13 losses. The Oilers have been a very average offensive team this year, so if the good Chicago offense shows up, then they have a chance of winning this series. Chicago would not have made the postseason this year had the NHL not expanded the playoffs to 24 teams. Chicago finished last in the Central Division and they are the 12th seed overall in the Western Conference. Leading the team in points has been Patrick Kane, who had 84 while Jonathan Toews was 2nd with 60 and Dominik Kubalik was 3rd with 46. Kane leads the team in goals with 33 while Kubalik is 2nd with 30 and Brandon Saad is 3rd with 21.
The Blackhawks finished 16th in the league in goals allowed this year and that is a huge improvement over last year, which saw them finish 30th. Corey Crawford was just 16-23 on the year but he had a decent 2.77 GAA while away from home he has gone 7-13 with a 2.85 GAA. In his career, he has gone 11-7 with a 2.47 GAA against the Oilers and he has gone 48-37 with a 2.28 GAA in 87 career postseason games. His playoff experience could be a factor in this series. Robin Lehner started the season with the Blackhawks but he is now suiting up for the Vegas Golden Knights. When he went to vegas, the Blackhawks got Malcolm Subban in return. He played one minute for Chicago this year and was 9-10 with a 3.18 GAA for the Golden Knights. In his career, he has gone 201 with a 2.69 GAA against the Oilers. He has no playoff experience.
A Look At The Oilers
Regular Season Stats & Rankings: The Blackhawks are 15th in scoring at 3.14 gpg, 29th in shots per game at 29.6, and 1st in powerplay conversions at 29.5%. On the defensive end of the ice, they finished at 15th in goals allowed at 3.03 gpg, 20th in shots allowed at 30.2 spg, and 2nd in penalty kill at 84.4%.
The Edmonton Oilers had a solid start to the season overall and they led the Pacific division at times this year but they were very mediocre down the stretch while the Golden Knights were red-hot and that allowed them to overtake the Oilers in the division. Still, Edmonton finished 2nd in the Pacific with 8th points and they could be a dangerous team in the postseason. One reason that the Oilers have had success this year has been their special teams as they rank first in power-play conversions and 2nd in penalty kill. It will be interesting to watch Edmonton’s top-ranked power play against Chicago’s 9th ranked penalty kill. The winner of that battle could be the difference in this series. Edmonton has been very average in scoring this year and leading the way has been Leon Draisaitl, who had 110 points and 43 goals. Connor McDavid was well on his way to his 4th 100-point season in a row but he fell short with just 97. He had 34 goals on the year and has now scored 116 goals in the last three years. Draisaitl and McDavid are probably the most dangerous duo in the league.
The Oilers were an average offensive team this year and they were also average at the other end of the ice. Edmonton allowed more than three goals in regulation just three times over their last 16 games and they will hope that their play in the crease can continue now that we have reached the postseason. Mike Smith played in 39 games this year and he went 19-18 with a 2.95 GAA on the year, including 11-10 with a 2.84 GAA in all games away from home. In his career, he has gone 12-12 with a 3.10 GAA against the Blackhawks and Smith is 11-12 with a 2.17 GAA in the postseason. Mikko Koskinen played in 38 games this year and he went 18-16 with a 2.75 GAA overall, including 9-7 with a 2.23 GAA on the road. In his career, he has gone 1-0 with a 1.21 GAA against Chicago. Koskinen has no playoff experience still, we should see both goalies in this series.
The Oilers are a solid favorite to win this series but I do not feel it will be that easy for them. The Blackhawks are average at both ends of the ice and so are the Oilers. Corey Crawford has plenty of playoff experience but Mike Smith has some as well. The difference in this series will come down to special teams. The Oilers have the top power-play unit in the league and they are 2nd in penalty kill. Chicago may be 9th in penalty kill but they are 28th in power-play conversions. The Blackhawks do not have a god power play and it will cost them in this series as they just will not be able to notch many cheap goals. The Oilers did not play all that well down the stretch but they are the better team in this one, especially witty the powerful duo of Draisaitl and McDavid running the show on offense. I will look for this series to go the distance with the oilers sneaking by and advancing to the next round.