Before the Chicago Blackhawks go on their “bye week,” they have a little more business to take care of tonight in Alberta, Canada
Chicago Blackhawks fans who have been around for a spell might recall the Blackhawks have had some trouble winning in Edmonton. More specifically, they’ve had trouble not getting blown out in Edmonton at times, Sam Gagner‘s eight-point night being the easiest moment to remember.
Tonight, the Blackhawks will be coming off a win against the Winnipeg Jets and facing off against the Edmonton Oilers. Which means the Blackhawks are going to need to make sure malaise doesn’t set in early, otherwise we could see another one of those old-time beatdowns.
The Oilers are not coming off a game last night. In fact, they haven’t play since last Sunday. Edmonton just had its bye week right out of the All-Star break, so this time should be really well-rested.
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Therefore, it’ll be a battle of opposites tonight as far as freshness. That doesn’t always mean the fresher team will prevail though, as we’ve seen the Blackhawks struggle when having many days off between games.
Still, these Oilers have some guys who are extremely dangerous whether they have no down time or a whole year to prepare for you. We’ll get into that group in a moment, but first let’s see what the Blackhawks are likely to ice tonight.
Well, we don’t have a project Blackhawks lineup because there’s no way coach Joel Quenneville would make them take part in a morning skate with no rest day between games — even if the Blackhawks had lost by a million goals to Winnipeg last night.
So, let’s assume they roll most of the same roster tonight, which would look like this:
I have to imagine Darling will get the call tonight in net on the second half of a back-to-back. There is also a chance Gustav Forsling could draw in for someone on defense, probably Kempny even though anyone with eyes would tell you it should be TVR.
Let’s move on to the Oilers:
While there are names in this lineup you may not recognize, you have to respect a lot of what is in Edmonton’s top six. While the first- and second-line left wings are both guys even the Blackhawks wouldn’t trade for (I’d hope), the rest of those top two lines offers scary-good ability.
McDavid’s talents are well known, and he carries 60 points in 55 contests into this game. Draisaitl has obliterated slower Blackhawks defenders down low in past meetings, and he boasts 47 points.
Things drop off for Edmonton from there, but Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle are both entirely capable and entirely threatening. Maroon and Lucic are slow and not great at decision-making, but if you let them run at your goaltender or get a ton of space, it’s going to be a long night.
The defense is pretty sketchy here despite the success this team has had. Oesterle would be playing in just his second NHL game tonight, for example, and both Darnell Nurse and Kris Russell out due to injury. They’re about on par with the Blackhawks giving up goals this season, with the Oilers having allowed 141 in 55 games (Chicago has allowed 146 in 56).
But Cam Talbot has had a nice bounceback year after getting reamed repeatedly last season. Talbot he carries a .921 save percentage with five shutouts into this game. He has seen more shot attempts than any goaltender in the league at 1,439.
Da Windy City
TV listings and prediction
Game time: 9 p.m.
Radio: WGN 720-AM
Radio streaming: WGN Radio App
Prediction: It’s not easy to predict what’s going to happen in a game between one team that played last night and another than hasn’t played in almost a week.
What makes it even less easy is noting these teams have essentially the same possession stats this season, with Chicago ranking 14th in the league with a 50.53 Corsi-for rate and Edmonton going 15th at 50.52.
You’d have to think the Oilers will have more of a pep in their step coming off a break and playing against what should be a tired team at home. However, the Blackhawks have an overall stronger lineup.
Their second line (which tallied seven points last night) is essentially unmatched in the league, and the Blackhawks’ younger guys have more meaningful experience and have produced better results than Edmonton’s young guys — and both teams have a fair number of those.
The Blackhawks have the better defense as well, even if TVR is off sniffing whatever he stuck his finger in while opposing forwards attack his goaltender. And while the Blackhawks haven’t had great success against Talbot in his career (3-3, .947/1.68), he’s far from unbeatable.
All that said, I’m going to lift the Blackhawks to a 3-2 win. However, it’s going to matter in a big way how the team comes out of the gate tonight. If Edmonton piles up a huge shot advantage in the opening 20 minutes, regardless of how many of those shots hit the net, fearing the worst wouldn’t be unreasonable.
But I’ll say the second line continues rolling tonight with goals from Panarin and Kane, and let’s add one for Kero as well. Darling makes an even 30 saves in the triumph.