Training camp is set to begin on Monday, and before long, the Blackhawks will be heading to Edmonton to take on the Oilers in a best-of-five play-in series beginning Aug. 1 under the NHL's 24-team playoff format.
NHL Network analyst and former NHL goalie Kevin Weekes helps us break down the matchup.
"One thing that's important for the Hawks, they've got superheroes in their group," Weekes told NBC Sports Chicago over the phone. "Obviously in (Leon) Draisaitl and Connor (McDavid) those guys are superhero players. ... Let's be clear, those guys have two Hart trophy candidates on their team, the Oilers. And they've really improved as a team. They're a more complete team, their special teams are both in the Top 5: power play, penalty kill. (Head coach) Dave Tippett's done a masterful job.
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"I had a chance to speak to them when they were here at Madison Square Garden playing the Rangers, they've got a lot more experience: James Neal coming there, Mike Smith coming there, guys that know Dave Tippett (and) played for him in Dallas. You know the Great 99, Wayne Gretzky, I spoke with him numerous times about their team. He's excited about their team, literally gitty based on how much of a team they are. Let's say that, I'm just going to position their team and give them their due.
(And now the fun part.)
"With that being said, the Chicago Blackhawks have future Hall of Famers in their group and I always said, 'It's hard for me to justify betting against superheroes.' And that being (Patrick) Kane, who's going to go down as the best American-born player ever, passes 1,000 points, three-time Cup champ. I can go on and on about Kaner and then same thing for Jonathan Toews. Duncs (Duncan Keith) can still play at a high level and still play in the first pair and (Brent) Seabrook is close to returning I understand from three surgeries, which is wild, which is a huge testament to him, who he is as a person and his determination and his professionalism.
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"When you have those guys that have seen that and have experienced that and have been through that and all the international success that they have, that's a wealth of success that those guys have to their credit, same thing for Corey Crawford. So knowing how to navigate a Stanley Cup playoff and not being fazed by the big stage... As I asked Jonathan Toews, I had him on my Instagram probably a month ago, I asked Tazer, 'What is it about winning?' Honestly, he wins at walking down the street, he's won at every level, every single level.
"So there's something to be said for that swag, that belief, that experience and he's unlocked the code. They have guys in their group that have unlocked the code numerous times. So that to me, is helpful. And especially when you're playing remotely and you don't have the benefit of the great crowd at the United Center, you don't have that 22,000 and the thunderous roars in your building, which is a huge advantage.
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"But, to be fair, Edmonton won't have their crowd either. They'll have their rink, they'll be in their home city, but they won't have their crowd physically in their building. Although, it's a newer building so I think that kind of neutralizes things a bit in terms of a home ice advantage so to speak."