On Saturday, the (#12) Chicago Blackhawks (32-38-8) and (#5) Edmonton Oilers (37-34-9) will face off in a 24-team tournament showcasing 12 teams from each conference playing in Toronto and Edmonton. Each location (Toronto for the East) and Edmonton (for the West) will not allow spectators.
The two teams will battle in a best of five series to see who moves on with game one beginning at 2 pm CST on August 1st with coverage shown on NBC. The Oilers (-150) are favorites to take the opening game of the qualifying series.
What to Know – Chicago Blackhawks
Although the Blackhawks enter the last seed in the West, their team is loaded with Stanley Cup winners. The veterans of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Corey Crawford, and Brandon Saad bring experience unmatched by the Oilers. Playoff experience edge is on the Blackhawks side in this one.
Kane, a former Hart Memorial Trophy winner for the league’s most valuable players, led Chicago with 84 points over the shortened 70 game season. Kane is also a seasoned playoff player, accumulating 123 points over 127 career playoff games.
Rookie Dominik Kubalik, a finalist for the Calder Memorial Trophy, was second on the team in goals scored (30 goals) and Toews (18 goals, 42 assists) add an additional scoring option for the Hawks.
One of the biggest questions will be the status of longtime goalkeeper Corey Crawford, who is recovering from the coronavirus. If Crawford is not fit to play, Chicago will turn to Malcolm Suddan between the posts. Suddan came over to the Blackhawks during the season in a trade with the Vegas Golden Knights.
What to Know – Edmonton Oilers
The Oilers enter the playoffs with an efficient offense built to make a potentially deep playoff run. Edmonton will be playing in their home arena, albeit without fans, that should still give them a slight advantage. Before the stoppage, the Oilers had dropped three of their final four games, including a 4-3 loss to the Blackhawks.
Edmonton rosters the two leading scorers in the league in Leon Draisaiti (110 goals in 71 games) and Connor McDavid (97 points in 64 games). Draisaiti was the Art Ross winner for most points scored in a season.
The host does not have a lot of help behind the two superstars, but Ryan Nugent-Hopkins added 22 goals in 65 games played. Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen split time at goaltender throughout the regular season, and look for the shared time between the post to continue throughout the playoffs.
The Pick is In
On paper, these two teams were very similar head-to-head this season, with the Blackhawks taking two of three. The experience for the Blackhawks will certainly make it tough for Edmonton, but the scoring the Oilers possess will be the difference in this contest. The Oilers are the better team in this contest. We like the Oilers (-150) to win this game.