Chicago Blackhawks’ Eye On The Enemy Visits Western Canada

CALGARY, AB - DECEMBER 2: Connor McDavid
CALGARY, AB - DECEMBER 2: Connor McDavid /

The Chicago Blackhawks continue their Canada trip today and Sunday against the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames, respectively.  In this edition of Eye on the Enemy, we take a look at these two foes.

At Edmonton Oilers, today

The Edmonton Oilers were picked by many to finish atop the Pacific Division this season, but currently sit in sixth place.  With a record of 17-18-2 for 36 points, they have struggled to be the dominant force they were last season.  But don’t be fooled by their record.  The Oilers have been coming on as of late.

In their last 10 games, the Oilers are 6-4-0 and had a four-game winning streakConnor McDavid, who had started the season slowly, is fourth in the league for scoring with 14 goals and 31 assists for 45 points in 37 games.  That’s an impressive 1.22 point per game average.

McDavid is followed by Leon Draisaitl and Milan Lucic in scoring, and these three leaders have quite a complement of players behind them.  David Staples of the Edmonton Journal commented on each player in his recent article.

This is a roster than can create offense, and from here are the graphics.

The Oilers are on the GOOD side of shots per 60 minutes and in the next chart.  And they are also on the GOOD side of unblocked shots per 60 minutes.

Here’s a video of what they can do with their speed and skill.  This play is scary good.

The Oilers are even better with their special teams. They are so good that they’re almost off the chart in the GOOD zone on unblocked shots per 60 minutes.

And in regard to how they run their powerplay, take a look at this perfect isolation play for Lucic in this video clip.  Both McDavid and Draisaitl draw defenders to them, eventually creating an opening in the slot for Lucic to bang home a winner.  This is how it’s done.

Three keys for the ‘Hawks will be …

  1.  Get on the scoreboard first and early to avoid chasing the puck and risk giving up odd-man rushes.
  2.  Don’t get into a footrace with McDavid and company.
  3.  Stay out of the penalty box to avoid the Oilers’ skilled power play.

At Calgary Flames, Sunday

The Calgary Flames beefed up their defense over the summer by adding goalie Mike Smith and defenseman Travis Hamonic.  They also added the ageless wonder Jaromir Jagr to round out a young, developing forward corps. However, both Hamonic and Jagr are out with lower-body injuries.  And former ‘Hawk Kris Versteeg is out with a hip injury.  But Hamonic could return to the line up in time to face the ‘Hawks.

The Flames currently sit in fourth place in the Pacific, just ahead of the Oilers with a record of 18-15-4 for 40 points. In their last 10 games, the Flames have posted a record of 4-3-3.  The Flames find themselves in a similar situation as the ‘Hawks, with their season not panning out exactly as hoped for.

One of these things is not like the other

To see just how similar these two teams are, let’s take a look at the graph on unblocked shots again.  The ‘Hawks and Flames occupy the same spot between GOOD and FUN.

Both teams are in that middle-earth zone, as they struggle to find consistency in controlling the play.  However, the Flames outperform the ‘Hawks on the powerplay, as they sit in the FUN zone for special teams play.

The Flames are led in scoring by Johnny Gaudreau, with a scoring line of 13 goals and 28 assists for 41 points in 36 games.  He is followed by Sean Monahan and Matthew Tkachuk, all aged under 24.  This young core of scorers is supported by an impressive defensive group featuring Mark Giordano, TJ Brodie, Dougie Hamilton, Michael Stone and the aforementioned Hamonic.  This is not an easy team to create offense against.

The Flames have historically given the ‘Hawks a hard time in their building, thoroughly outworking them in puck battles and with a strong forecheck.  Coach Glen Gulutzan conducted a hard, fast-paced practice to snap his team out of the Christmas break.  So the ‘Hawks will be facing a team that is dissatisfied with its record and coming off a whip-cracking practice.

The three keys to this game …

  1. Make smart plays in the defensive zone with quick exits to avoid the strong forecheck.
  2. Get to the net and attack their strong defense directly. Smith gets flustered with net-front presence.
  3. Stay out of the penalty box to avoid a strong Flames power play. Don’t let Gaudreau and Monahan get scoring opportunities.

Oh Canada, we stand on guard for thee

So the Corey Crawford-less ‘Hawks will have their hands full with two teams looking to get their seasons headed in the right direction.  The ‘Hawks will have to stand on guard for rookie goalie Anton Forsberg with some solid team defense.  And the coaching staff needs to settle on a line up to get this done.

Next: 5 Thoughts From Blackhawks' 5-2 Loss To Canucks

Finally, with a bunch of teams clustered in the standings, this could be a turning point for the ‘Hawks in determining what direction the rest of the season will take. So needless to say, LET’S GO ‘HAWKS!