NHL Playoff preview: Edmonton Oilers vs Chicago Blackhawks


(NHL.com)

By: Corrado Distefano

The 2020 Stanley Cup qualifiers begin today and one of the most anticipated series is the one between the Edmonton Oilers and Chicago Blackhawks. Many people are pinning the Oilers as the clear cut favourites, but it might not be that easy. 


Offense


(Jason Franson/CP)

The Oilers have one of the best one-two punches in the NHL, with the best player in the league Connor McDavid, and Hart Trophy candidate Leon Draisaitl. But they also have secondary scoring from players like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and rookie Kailer Yamamoto. Yamamoto was brought in mid way through the season, he brought a boost of energy with him. Scoring 26 points in 27 games as a rookie is quite impressive. Also the league leading 110 point season from Draisaitl, and runner-up 97 point season from McDavid, its clear the Oilers can score.


The Blackhawks is a different story. This might be the last chance for guys Johnathan Toews and Patrick Kane. They have proven that they can get it done in the Post-season in the past, they also have Dominik Kubalik, Alex DeBrincat, and Dylan Strome part of their top-six forward group. Kubalik is a Calder Trophy Finalist scoring 46 points in 68 games. Kane led the team with 84 points in 70 games, followed up by Toews with 60 points in 70 games. 


The Oilers may not be as deep as the Blackhawks, but the two-headed monster of McDavid and Draisaitl have shown that they can carry this team. The offensive advantage goes to the Oilers. 


Defence


(Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

The Oilers defence isn't as strong as their offense, but with player like Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse, and rookie Ethan Bear, it is still fairly decent. Both Klefbom and Nurse are solid in their end, but that's about where it ends. The third paring of Matt Benning and Kris Russell has been a liability for the Oilers this season, and Adam Larsson, has also shown many flaws in his end.  


The Blackhawks defensive group is led by Duncan Keith, who like other veterans on the team has won three Stanley Cups with the Club. Keith had some-what of a resurgence this year, scoring 27 points in 61 games. Keith is the number one defensemen on this team, Adam Boqvist, Calvin de Haan, and Olli Maata make up the rest of the group, rounding off as a solid d-core.


The edge on defence is very slim, but it goes to the Blackhawks. The Blackhawks have a deeper group, but not by much. Keith has the ability to carry Chicago's defence, as he has done in past Stanley Cup runs. The Oilers have two solid defensemen, but then it drops off.


Goaltending


(NHL.com)

Edmonton has two different goalies they can start on any given night, Mike Smith or Mikko Koskinen. They split the season with Smith getting 39 games and Koskinen getting 38. Statistically Koskinen had the better season with a .917 save percentage as opposed to Smith's .902, but Smith has an extra gear he gives in the Postseason. Personally, I think Koskinen gets Game one, but it would only take one bad game for Smith to get the look. 


The Blackhawks will go as far as Corey Crawford can take them, putting up a .917 save percentage in 40 games this year, he is going to have to be the best player for them. Robin Lehner was the other goalie in Chicago but was dealt to Vegas in a three-way deal at the deadline. So Malcolm Subban who put up an .890 save percentage in 21 games, is the number two for Chicago. 


If you ask anyone who knows anything about playoff hockey, what the most important aspect is, you will always hear goaltending come up in the conversation. If Crawford can play at the highest level we’ve seen him play, he will give the Blackhawks the advantage in goaltending. 


Final Verdict


(Jason Franson/CP)

This series is going to be a lot closer than people think, you have a team that has been here many times before, going up against a much younger team. Crawford will have the hardest job in the league; trying to stop McDavid and Draisaitl. Kane and Toews are going to have to play like past runs to give the Blackhawks a chance. I see the Oilers just edging out the Blackhawks in five games.