Line By Line Breakdown for the Oilers and Blackhawks
Coming out of training camp I was curious about why Kubalik wasn’t on the first line. Then in the exhibition game, he got moved up and boy did it work.
The first line matchup is a fun one. It will test the argument of Toews being one of the best two-way centers in the league as he faces the best player in the league, Connor McDavid. Chicago will be rolling out Kubalik, Toews, Saad as their first line.
They will have the advantage of playoff experience with Toews and Saad while the youth and skill of Kubalik. Kubalik is a Calder, rookie of the year, finalist scoring 30 goals this season and looking like he hasn’t lost a beat since the shutdown, scoring two goals in the exhibition game. The combination of experienced two-way players and young skill makes them a great line to compete with the Oilers’ top line of Nugent-Hopkins, McDavid, Kassian.
The plan for the Blackhawks against this line no matter who match ups up is to control the puck and keep off of McDavid’s stick as much as they can. If this line controls the puck like they were in the Blues game expect great things, not just this series but these playoffs.
That’s where his complements can cause issues. Kassian is a powerful skilled player who will take control of the defensive zone. If I had to bet Kassian will soon be hated as much as Bieksa was in those old Vancouver series. He is someone who will hit hard and try to get under the skin of a young player like Kubalik. If this is the matchup we see, expect Toews to fight him at least once in this series. Those two will be going at it all series and will be the definition of playoff hockey.
The one issue is they won’t get to pick the matchups for the first two games and the experience of coach Dave Tippet will make sure the McDavid line will be out there against inferior defensive lines if Toews becomes an issue. An inferior defensive line that you should not expect him to face is the one involving Patrick Kane.