Blackhawks: What to expect in Game 1 against the Oilers

Patrick Kane #88, Chicago Blackhawks (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Patrick Kane #88, Chicago Blackhawks (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Blackhawks return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs starts today, as they will begin a best-of-5 qualifying series against the Oilers for a playoff spot.

Regular Season Records:

Chicago: 32-30-8, 72 points (12th in West)
Edmonton: 37-25-9, 83 points (5th in West)

Blackhawks’ Team Leaders:

Patrick Kane – 84 points (33G, 51A)
Jonathan Toews – 60 points (18G, 42A)
Dominik Kubalik – 46 points (30G, 16A)

The Chicago Blackhawks kick off their Stanley Cup Qualifying round against the Edmonton Oilers, a team they beat two out of three times this season. The thing is, it’s been 142 games since the Blackhawks played a meaningful game of hockey, so, it’s hard to take their regular-season series to compare the two teams, as I believe Chicago has gotten better.

How has Chicago gotten better? Their rookies.

The 142-day layoff was basically a jump from year one to year two for Kirby Dach, Adam Boqvist, and Dominik Kubalik. We saw all three of those players stand out in Wednesday’s exhibition game against the Blues, where Kubalik scored twice.

Dach was all over the ice, making plays, and almost scoring multiple times. He looked amazing out there and truly will be a star for years to come. Hopefully, he can start his time as an elite forward in this series, and will improve going forward.

For Boqvist, he played well and has earned a spot on the top line next to Duncan Keith. He’s improved all year and is worth all the hype. The young players for Chicago will be a driving factor in their success, this playoff season, and going forward.

Even if they don’t do well this year, experience helps. The better they do, the more successful they’ll be next season, as I believe a good run could setup more playoff experiences going forward.

Something to look out for today is who is playing in goal. Jeremy Colliton has kept this one close to the vest, as this is the only surprise he could have, as Corey Crawford’s readiness is unknown. That could be an advantage for the Oilers, if Chicago doesn’t have Crawford as their starter.

More from Stanley Cup Playoffs

Besides the goalie situation, a lot of questions have been semi-answered after Wednesday’s game. We know the Blackhawks can score goals, we know they can create chances, and we know their defense has improved.

The next question is, was that just a lucky game, or are they truly improved? That question will be answered during this series, as they’ll need to be improved to win. If they win this series, they will have a real good shot of doing something special in the playoffs.

Game 1 is very important. Falling down 1-0 in a best of 5 series is tough, as they’ll have little-to-no breathing room to drop another game. Chicago needs to come out with a Game 7 mentality this whole series, as they have nothing to lose and all the experience in the world to gain, as they are the youngest team in the playoffs.

Oilers’ Team Leaders:

Leon Draisatil – 110 points (43G, 67A)
Connor McDavid – 97 points (34G, 63A)
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – 61 points (22G, 39A)

The Oilers have two of the best hockey players in today’s era, Leon Draisatil and Connor McDavid. They’ll need to be on point this series to keep the Blackhawks out of it early. McDavid played well in the Oilers exhibition game last Tuesday, so if he can keep that momentum going, the Oilers will be in good shape.

McDavid is the best hockey player in the world right now, but he’s struggled in the playoffs during his career. At 23, he’s won just one playoff series. When Kane and Toews were 23, they already had one Stanley Cup and would get their second at age 24 during the 2012-13 NHL season.

Who has the edge?

The Blackhawks have the regular-season series lead over the Oilers, winning 2 of the 3 games, but the regular season means nothing once the playoff start. The Oilers are playing in their home building, they have a better team on paper, and they shouldn’t have a problem beating the Blackhawks.

Good thing they play the games and they don’t go by the team who looks better on paper.

The Oilers (-150)  are favored by 1 1/2 goals. The over/under is 6 goals.

Puck Drop is at 3 PM ET. Make sure to follow along on our Twitter page during the game, and come back here after the game for post-game reactions! Let’s Go Hawks! #AllForOne.