The players have been in training camps for three weeks and this afternoon they can finally play a meaningful game. The players are thrilled. The fans are pumped. I look forward.
1. If you were born after 1980, you probably don’t remember the five-game series. The last time we saw him in the NHL was in 1986, and that year all eight Game 1 winners won their series. The Oilers swept Vancouver ahead of them 17-5 in three games.
Seven times, the Oilers have played in a five-game series, winning five of them, all by sweep. The were swept away in 1980 by Philadelphia, so six of their seven series ended in three games. The other was the Miracle on Manchester series against the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings won Game 1 10-8, which set an NHL record for most playoff goals, then the Oilers lost Game 3 6-5 in OT, after leading 5-0 in the lead. at the start of the third. The Oilers lost Game 5 at home by a score of 7-4. The Oilers have collected 111 points this season while the Kings have 63. Major upset.
2. Chicago is 4-3 all-time in five game series in the modern era. They swept two and got swept twice and, like the Oilers, went to five games once.
3. I firmly believe that how a team plays the few months before the playoffs is much more important than how they played in October and November. So here’s a quick recap of how the Oilers and Hawks played in 2020 until the March 12 shutdown.
Chicago is 22nd in point with 30, compiling a 14-13-2 record. They were 11th in GF / game at 3.17 and 17th in GA / game at 2.97. Their PP was 25th at 14.9% and they were 14th on PK at 81.9%. They were +9 in GF / GA at 5 × 5, outscoring teams 69-60. Overall, the Blackhawks outscored teams 92-86.
Edmonton was 6th with 37 points and a 16-8-5 record. They were 2nd in GF / match at 3.45 and 10th in GA / match with 2.83. Their PP was 2nd at 28.2% and their PK was 3rd at 86.1%.
They were +7 in GF / GA at 5 × 5 on teams 67-60. Overall, Edmonton has led the teams 100-82 since January 1.
4. Leon Draisaitl led the Oilers with seven points (1-6-7) in three games against the Hawks this season. Kailer Yamamoto has three goals in two games. McDavid hasn’t had any points in the two games he’s played. Just another motivation for McDavid. Patrick Kane led the Hawks with four points in three games.
5. What is the role of experience? The Blackhawks have Patrick Kane, Jonathon Toews and Duncan Keith, all of whom have won three Stanley Cups. Corey Crawford and Brandon Saad won two. But they haven’t won a playoff series since they hoisted the Cup in 2015. How long does the experience last? Honestly, I’m not sure we know that. If you haven’t won in five years, do you still have an experience advantage? It is a fascinating debate.
6. Since 2015/2016, these Oilers roster players have combined to win 23 playoffs.
McDavid, Draisaitl, Oscar Klefbom, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Adam Larsson, Darnell Nurse, Kris Russell, Matt Benning and Zack Kassian won a series with the Oilers in 2017.
James Neal has won seven games between Nashville and Vegas.
Alex Chiasson won four with Washington.
Josh Archibald won two with the Penguins in 2017. He had two of their four series wins en route to the Cup.
Riley Sheahan won one with the Penguins in 2018.
7. Meanwhile, the Hawks’ roster has won 13 series since 2015/2016.
Olli Maatta won eight with the Penguins in 2015 and 2016.
Zack Smith won two with Ottawa.
Calving De Haan won two; one with the New York Islanders and one in Carolina.
Drake Caggiula won a series with the Oilers in 2017.
Does it matter? It depends on how much you value the experience.
8. As of January, Corey Crawford was 10-9-1 with a .928Sv% and 2.35 GAA.
Mikko Koskinen was 4-5-1 with a .929Sv% and a 2.51 GAA.
Mike Smith was 12-3-4 with a .911Sv% and a 2.78 GAA.
Dave Tippett didn’t announce the start, but a source told me Mike Smith was trying a new set of pads in training yesterday, and when I asked goalies they figured it was was strange if he started today. Combine that with Koskinen starting last Tuesday against the Flames and looking really good stopping all 17 shots he faced, I’m looking at Koskinen from today. Which is the opposite of what I thought when the camp opened. I felt like Smith had started 19 of the previous 29 games, Tippett would go with him. He still might, but now I think it’s Koskinen.
9. In 2020, the Oilers’ depth score has been much better than it was at the start of the season. Their first two lines of Nugent-Hopkins-McDavid-Kassian and Ennis-Draisaitl-Yamamoto combined for 60 goals. Their last six forwards have scored 24 goals. (I didn’t include Athanasiou’s five goals with Detroit before arriving in Edmonton, nor Ennis’ four with Ottawa.)
The Blackhawks’ front two rows – Debrincat-Toews-Saad and Nylander-Strome-Kane – have totaled 46 goals while their last six have scored 32 goals. Rookie Dominik Kubalik scored 19 of those goals. He has improved over the season and is a player the Oilers should be aware of in this series.
dix. The Blackhawks had the 3rd most shots on goal / game in 2020 with an average of 33.2 / game, while the Oilers were 27th at 30.2 / game. Edmonton is not a high volume shooting team, as its top two liners rarely take long range shots lost. Both teams allowed almost the same number of shots / game, Chicago allowing 33.4 / game and Edmonton 33.1.
11. The Oilers were 6-1-1 in afternoon games this season, while the Blackhawks were 0-4. Nice treat courtesy of Jack Micheals.
12. Brad Meier and François St. Laurent are the referees of today’s match.
13. This is the 5th playoff meeting between the Oilers and the Blackhawks. The previous four meetings were all in the conference finals.
Edmonton won 4-0 in 1983 and 4-2 in 1985 and 1990.
The Blackhawks won 4-0 in 1992.
14. Since 1943, the NHL has had only the best of five series for seven years (1980-1986). The teams won the first match win the series 87.5% of the time (49 of 56 series). And 27 of those series (48.2%) were scans. The first game of a short series is huge.
15. This is the ninth time Dave Tippett has coached the playoffs. This will be his 14th series, but his first playoff appearance since the Coyotes went to the third round in 2012. Hawks head coach Jeremy Colliton is making his playoff debut behind the bench in his second season in the NHL. I’m curious to see how the two coaches look for the matches.
With McDavid able to train for four months, I expect Tippett to use him and Draisaitl a lot this afternoon. He wants to win the first game, and unless it’s a blast I could see both players skate for more than 23 minutes.
How hard will Colliton work to get Toews to take on McDavid?
And will Tippett look to take out McDavid or Draisaitl against rookie Kirby Dach and rookie teammate Kubalik?
It should also be noted that only about 38% of the time are line changes made to what we consider to be a thome controlled match. Most of the line changes happen on the fly, and since McDavid can play so much, I wonder if Colliton will have no choice but to have lines other than Toews against McDavid more than he would like. .