Hello Chicago Blackhawks fans! After almost five long months, hockey is back. Most never thought it would happen, but the NHL is set to start their playoff tournament on Aug. 1. The Blackhawks and Edmonton Oilers will face off in a best-of-five series, and we here at The Hockey Writers can’t wait to cover live hockey again. Without further ado, Brooke LoFurno, Greg Boysen & Gail Kauchak give their predictions on this matchup.
The Blackhawks boast some dynamic offensive lines. One is led by two-way center Jonathan Toews, with Dominik Kubalik and Brandon Saad currently on each wing. Another is led by the finesse right-winger Patrick Kane, centered by Dylan Strome and complemented on the left wing by Alex Nylander. And don’t forget Alex DeBrincat and rookie Kirby Dach on the third line, with the gritty Drake Caggiula to round out this trio. That being said, who do you predict as the highest goal-scorer and/or the highest point-scorer in this series?
Blackhawks’ Highest Goal-Scorer & Point-Scorer in Oilers’ Series
I predict Dominik Kubalik will have the most goals, but Patrick Kane will have the most points overall since he scores goals and feeds others the puck a lot.
When it comes to scoring goals and points for the Blackhawks, it’s foolish to bet against Kane. He is still one of the top offensive players in the entire league, whether it’s scoring the goals himself or setting up his teammates. Kane and his line will likely draw the Oilers’ top defensive pairing, which could open the door for other players to rack up some points.
However, the Blackhawks’ overall success still depends on Kane’s production.
Let’s pencil in Kane for the most points. The Oilers will be focusing on shutting him down, which is why he will take on the role of decoy. This will leave Nylander and Strome wide open to receive his passes, as long as they can always be ready. Be ready boys!
That being said, I don’t think Kane or his linemates will be the ones to score the most goals. Instead, it could very well go to Kubalik. This Czech winger is the real deal! And now he’s on the top power play unit, so he’ll have plenty of opportunities to find the back of the net.
Defense is the weak link for the Blackhawks. Someone will need to step up if the Blackhawks are going to win this series. Who is your X-factor on defense?
X-Factor on Defense
I’m going to say Duncan Keith. This series relies on him being at his playoff defensive peak. We all know how great the Blackhawks fare when he is on his game.
Having Calvin de Haan back will help, but his performance against the St. Louis Blues in the exhibition game was discouraging. He took two holding penalties against a team not nearly as fast as the Oilers, which is not a good sign.
Overall, the defense will struggle against the speed of the Oilers. What I will be watching for the most is the progression of youngster Adam Boqvist. If he can make some strides in his development during this series, that is more important to the long-term success of the Blackhawks than the results on the scoreboard.
Connor Murphy was arguably the Blackhawks’ most consistent all-around blueliner throughout the regular season. He was the glue that held the defensive corps together. It will be the same in this series.
A lot will be asked of Murphy and de Haan as they will likely be tasked as the main shutdown pairing against a high-power Oilers’ offense. Let’s just hope Murphy can stay healthy.
Ah, the questions marks in goal! Will Corey Crawford be ready to go? If not, who is the best option instead? Let’s just cut to the chase. Can the Blackhawks win this thing without Crow?
Can Blackhawks Win Without Crawford?
Crawford will be ready. The fact that he played in the exhibition game and looked good speaks volumes. But I don’t think the Blackhawks can win without Crawford.
Based on his playoff experience and the fact that he can make up for the defensive mistakes, Crow is the only one that can be trusted with those two components. However, Malcolm Subban looked good in the exhibition game. I would choose to play him if Crawford can’t go.
The simple answer here is no, the Blackhawks cannot win without Crawford. Not a chance. I don’t really like their chances with a healthy Crawford. But at least he gives them a shot at stealing a game or two in a five-game series. That could be all they need.
We have no clue what the Blackhawks have in Subban, so it’s hard to have any confidence in the goaltending beyond No. 50.
Crawford is the best bet for sure, and I don’t think the Blackhawks have a chance in heck without him. Subban and Delia will be in over their skates if either has to play. They both have no playoff experience, plus give up way too many rebounds.
But will Crawford be on his game? It’s absolutely amazing he’s been able to bounce back to elite form with minimal preparation time over and over again. But now he’s also dealing with his body recovering from coronavirus.
It’s a tall order. But like Blackhawks’ captain Jonathan Toews says, if anyone can do it, Crow can.
The Blackhawks’ power play has struggled since…it’s been a long time. But there’s so much talent there! Can they break through? Meanwhile, the Blackhawks’ penalty kill was solid this past season. Can they keep it up against the likes of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl? Which leads to my next question. Which aspect of special teams will be better for the Blackhawks in this series; the power play or the penalty kill?
Blackhawks’ Special Teams Winner: Power Play or Penalty Kill?
The penalty kill will be better than the power play. It was the one aspect that was working in the Blackhawks’ favor all season, and it showed again in the exhibition game.
So I predict it will remain the strongest point – even against the firepower of the Oilers’ McDavid and Draisaitl.
Special teams are likely going to be the biggest difference in this series. The Oilers had the top-rated power play and the second-best penalty kill during the regular season. Meanwhile, the Blackhawks had the 28th ranked power play in the league. After a slow start, their penalty kill finished the season in the top-10.
However, you are playing with fire by giving Draisaitl and McDavid looks on the power play. The Blackhawks will need to stay out of the box. But based on the Oilers’ superior speed, that might be an issue. If the Blackhawks have any chance in this series, the penalty kill must do it’s job.
The Blackhawks obviously need both the power play and the penalty kill to be stellar if they are going to win this series. I believe the penalty kill will hold it’s own, but the Blackhawks will have their struggles against the best power play unit in the league.
My upset prediction for this series is the Blackhawks’ power play will break through. They’ve gone on streaks before, and this is a perfect time to do so again. The first unit has gained some confidence and chemistry since Kubalik and Dach have joined them. Sometimes that extra spark is all you need.
And the second unit will find the back of the net as well. Saad and DeBrincat. Book it!
Who would be your top pick on offense if an extra player is needed beyond the starting lineup, and why?
Black Ace on Offense
My top pick on offense beyond the starting lineup would be left-wing Brandon Hagel. In his first NHL game before the pause he had a great showing. I would love to see more of what he can do.
If Dylan Sikura were to ever finally make an impact at the NHL level, this would be the perfect time to do so. If not him, I’d love to see Hagel get in there. I love that kid’s game, and he is perfectly suited for playoff hockey.
I’d like to see Sikura get another shot. It seems like he’s taking longer to develop than most, but the potential is there.
Perhaps this could be Sikura’s platform to prove himself.
Who would be your top pick on defense if an extra player is needed beyond the starting lineup, and why?
Black Ace on Defense
My top pick on defense beyond the starting lineup would be Lucas Carlsson. Even though he’s had limited time with the team, he’s noticeable every time he’s on the ice. He brings that physicality element which is needed as well.
I want to see youngsters like Nicolas Beaudin and Carlsson get some minutes. Let’s be honest; this is not a Stanley Cup contending team. So use this opportunity to give some of these guys valuable ice time.
Olli Maatta and Slater Koekkoek are not going to be here when this team is hopefully back at the top of the league. Beaudin and Carlsson might be, so let’s see what they’ve got now.
Carlsson is my pick here as well. He’s calm, steady, and gets the puck out of the defensive zone and up to the forwards. Keeps it simple. Carlsson certainly isn’t a flashy player, but he has the makings of a very solid functional player.
All right, let’s get down to the nitty gritty. What is your prediction for the final outcome of this series between the Blackhawks and the Oilers?
Blackhawks/Oilers Series Prediction
Overall, the Blackhawks have the better scoring depth and the better goaltending. I believe this might seal the deal when it comes down to play.
Blackhawks in 4
I have to go with my head and not my heart on this one. I just don’t see how the Blackhawks can shut down Draisaitl and McDavid enough to win three games.
Oilers in 4
It’s a longshot. A very long shot. If Crawford can stay healthy and shake off the rust. If Murphy and de Haan can hold down the fort defensively. If the offense can score consistently. If the Blackhawks can get some lucky breaks. Then the championship pedigree and veteran playoff experience of the core will take over.
Blackhawks in 5 (and Game 5 will be a nail-biter!)
It’s really happening, my friends! Hockey it back, and the Blackhawks and Oilers are set to go head to head. What are your predictions for this matchup?
Regardless of the outcome, let’s hope for a competitive and entertaining series between these two clubs. As always, thanks for reading!