With the proposed 24-team playoff plan in place, it has afforded several teams a chance to be an ultimate underdog as they wouldn’t have otherwise made it into a traditional playoff format. The Chicago Blackhawks are one such team.
The Chicago Blackhawks will have their hands full to start the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, where they’ll meet the Edmonton Oilers in the play-in round. The Oilers have arguably two of the most talented offensive forces in the game today, with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl leading their lineup.
Draisaitl and McDavid were first and second in league point totals, respectively. These are two players that the Blackhawks will need to shut down if they want to punch their ticket into the second round of these playoffs. But how does the rest of the Oilers roster compare?
Chicago experienced a lot of turnover throughout the 2010s. Mostly due to salary cap restrictions, as the success the team saw throughout the decade also came with hefty price tags attached to new contracts.
This meant that many of those that helped the franchise hoist three Stanley Cups within six years were then in a different sweater in the following seasons. But the Blackhawks have done a good job of drafting and developing talent, while still having a leadership core that can produce.
Comparing the Western Conference standings, Edmonton finished in fifth and Chicago in 12th. With the Blackhawks not otherwise making it through to a traditional post-season, if it weren’t for this hybrid format, it’s easy to assume who will win this match-up.
Instead, let’s break down the top-level offensive talents from each locker room to see which should have the scoring edge throughout this one.
With overall production considered, based on points per game of projected playoff roster players, here are each team’s leaders from this past season.
Important to note that playoff success requires a full team effort, especially with the parity that has become the norm in this league in recent years. But, there is something to be said about a side’s superstars and their ability to carve a path for the rest of the roster to follow through.
Edmonton’s top talent not only scored more overall, but it’s clear that they produced at a more regular rate throughout the season as well. They were much more effective on the powerplay, too.
Many of the other stat categories seem to even out when comparing averages. Looking at penalty minutes, shot totals, scoring percentage, blocks, and hits, the elite level players on these teams share some common ground of expectation.
Goaltending will also obviously be a factor, as it’s essential for playoffs success. But this illustration is less to showcase either team’s steadiness between their pipes and more so to highlight what they’ll have thrown their way game in and game out.
It’s hard to not hand the favourable odds to Edmonton for this one is based solely on scoring potential. But the beauty of this game is that there is more to it than just that.
The five players showcased for each team are all versatile throughout their respective lineups. This means the Blackhawks could have to manage McDavid and Draistl on the ice together, but also that the Oilers could be faced with a Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane duo at any given time as well.
A healthy and rested Chicago Blackhawks team is something they aren’t used to having in recent seasons, given the amount of hockey they’ve played over the past decade.
Will Corey Crawford be back to prime playoff form? Can Patrick Kane continue the storyline of his milestone season? How can Jonathan Toews motivate this underperforming roster to do more when it matters most?
The veteran presence within the Blackhawks could very well prove to be their advantage, while there is no denying the superstar skill set waiting to jump off the Oilers bench at any given time.
But it is hard to ignore the success that one franchise has been known for in recent years, as opposed to the lack thereof with the other in this series.
Sure, it could be McDavid’s year to break through and bring a winning culture back to Edmonton. Or, it might be Kane’s encore to showcase who still reigns supreme as this league’s Stanley Cup Playoffs superstar. Either way, it is sure to be a fast-paced, goal-filled, fan-friendly series to follow.