The Chicago Blackhawks kicked off their Stanley Cup Qualifiers with a 6-4 victory over the Edmonton Oilers. There is work to be done to continue that control.
Finishing the season in 12th place had them align with the 5th place Edmonton Oilers for this round. The discrepancy in the standings had most assume that Edmonton would walk away with it.
Once the puck dropped for Game 1, the lead-up became irrelevant. It was a new opportunity for this Chicago team to set their own stage for the type of success they’d allow themselves to achieve.
It was an electric, fastpaced, goal-filled battle to start this series, which saw the Blackhawks on the winning side by the end of it. A necessary and impressive way to begin their post-season.
Even amidst the victory, it was obvious that there were some parts of Chicago’s game that will need some addressing if they expect to continue a successful path through this play-in round.
Here are some of the areas that need a refocus for Game 2.
Sloppy Defensive Coverage
Corey Crawford faced 29 shots on goal in Game 1, saving 25 of them, including statement stops the team needed him to make. There were many he shouldn’t have had to face at all though if he had the proper type of support in front of him.
Sloppy situations in their defensive zone were impossible to ignore and that’s not on Crawford. There’s only so much a team should expect of their goalie, especially after the initial stop has been made.
The Blackhawks failed to control and move the puck out of their end too many times throughout Game 1. They need to rely less on Crawford and more on effective defensive coverage for Game 2.
Winning More Draws
With one of the best faceoff takers in the league, Jonathan Toews definitely did his job by winning 64% of those he took. Yet, the rest of his team just wasn’t up to the task.
As a group, the Blackhawks only won 47% of their draws. That just won’t cut it when you’re facing off against the best centreman in the league. If they let McDavid take control of any play, the next place it’ll head is right into their end.
The small details matter and strength in the faceoff circle is essential. Chicago’s centres need to do a better job of focusing on every puck drop through Game 2, avoiding a complete takeover the other way.
Stronger While Shorthanded
Unfortunately, as Game 1 got underway, their penalty killers seemed lost. They let in three goals through four shorthanded scenarios. A 25% penalty kill success rate just isn’t good enough and those there to shut things down need to do a better job of it.
It’s one thing to have a prolific power play, but the Blackhawks need to rely less on expecting to score six goals every game. It’s just not sustainable. They have to go into Game 2 with a much tighter plan for their penalty kill.
Overall, this was a successful start for the Chicago Blackhawks and their post-season push. They’ll now need to ensure that all areas of their game are finely tuned if they expect to celebrate after Game 2, as well.