3. Blackhawks Special Teams
Chicago’s powerplay has been absolutely dreadful this season, as they ranked 28th in the league with a conversion rate of only 15.2 percent on the man-advantage. This needs to be better, especially during the Stanley Cup playoffs.
When the Hawks won their three cups, their conversion percentage on the PP was at least 16.6% or better each season. As I alluded to earlier, the playoffs are a different type of atmosphere than the regular season, and the Hawks have to cash in on the powerplay against a physical team like Edmonton in order to advance.
While the Blackhawks did have a pretty good penalty kill (9th in the NHL) during the regular season, it will be that much more important vs. Edmonton. The Oilers had the top powerplay unit in the entire NHL this season and with guys like McDavid and Draisaitl ready to pounce at any moment, it will be something that the Blackhawks need to monitor closely if they want to be competitive in the series.
Edmonton scored on a whopping 29.5% of their opportunities this season with the man advantage, so it’s an area that they are lethal in. The addition of Calvin De Haan back into the lineup will help out a bit, but at the same time, the announcement of Brent Seabrook not participating in the postseason is a blow to the Hawks. Seabrook has a boatload of playoff experience on the PK, and his leadership abilities will be missed on a relatively young Chicago blueline.
Both Chicago and Edmonton have features that give them an advantage over their opponent, so I expect the series to be a tightly-contested shootout. Ultimately, I believe this is why the special teams play is going to be so important. Whichever team plays better in these opportunities is going to win the series, and we can only hope that the Windy City emerges as victorious.