Blackhawks

Dominik Kubalik and Jonathan Toews lift Blackhawks over Oilers in Game 1

Dominik Kubalik and Jonathan Toews lift Blackhawks over Oilers in Game 1

The Blackhawks won Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers against the Oilers 6-4 in Edmonton on Saturday. 

Here are four takeaways: 

Hot first period

The Blackhawks appeared to be off to a slow start for Game 1 when they took a too many men penalty just 1:27 into the game and Oilers captain Connor McDavid scored 1:07 into Edmonton's man advantage, but that wasn't the case.

Instead, the Hawks scored four goals on their next 11 shots in a span of 7:06 to lead 4-1 at 12:57 of the opening frame. Chicago captain Jonathan Toews scored twice, Dylan Strome scored the tying goal to make it 1-1 off a bank shot on Oilers goalie Mike Smith and Brandon Saad's goal made it 3-1. Blackhawks rookie Dominik Kubalik, who played on Toews' left wing, had three assists in the first period.

Stay out of the box

We knew going into the series that the Oilers had the best power play in the league at the time of the NHL pause, converting on 29.5% of their man advantages. The Hawks had a pretty good penalty kill at the time of the pause, tied for eighth in the league and killing 82.1% of their infractions.

No matter how good the Hawks' PK is going to be, the Oilers will find a way to score on the Power Play. It's best for the Blackhawks to just avoid the box.

After McDavid's first-period power-play goal, Hawks defenseman Olli Maatta took a holding penalty early in the second period, leading to a Leon Draisaitl power-play goal at 4:13 of the second off a pass from McDavid, and James Neal added a man-advantage marker late in the third period, cutting the Blackhawks' lead to 6-3.

The Hawks aren't going to be able to score a ton of goals each game against the Oilers (or are they?), so they have to stay out of the box because Draisaitl and McDavid, the NHL's top two leaders in points during the regular season, will find a way to score every time.

Chicago was only able to kill one of Edmonton's four power plays in Game 1.

Kubalik

Following his three assists in the first period, Kubalik added two power-play goals in the second period, setting a new Blackhawks rookie record for points in a playoff game. The 24-year-old forward also became the first player in NHL history to record five points in his postseason debut.

Related: Why Dominik Kubalik is the ace up the Blackhawks' postseason sleeve

Crawford

Two-time Stanley Cup champion goalie with the Hawks Corey Crawford started Game 1 after recovering from COVID-19. He missed the first 12 days of the Blackhawks' Phase 3 training camp while quarantining at his home in Chicago.

Crawford saved 25 of 29 Oilers shots for the win. 

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: SportsTalk Live says farewell

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: SportsTalk Live says farewell

David Haugh, Jesse Rogers and Mark Potash join David Kaplan on the final episode of SportsTalk Live.

They talk the Blackhawks-Oilers series and what comes next, Luis Robert's chances at MVP, and Cubs chances at the championship.

Plus, David Kaplan says farewell to SportsTalk Live after the show was on the air for over 16 years.

Listen here or below.

Sports Talk Live Podcast

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Blackhawks’ Kirby Dach emerging as star and living up to 'playoff performer' hype

Blackhawks’ Kirby Dach emerging as star and living up to 'playoff performer' hype

Ask anyone in Chicago who the standout of training camp 2.0 was and you'll hear one name: Kirby Dach.

“He has all the potential in the world,” Patrick Kane said. “He can be a top player in the league.”

“He’s got the potential to be a great player in this league and a great player for the Blackhawks for a long time," echoed Brent Seabrook.

Upon hearing this enormous praise from a pair of three-time Stanley Cup champions and joining the hype train myself, I couldn’t help but think: Are we putting unfair expectations on a kid who’s still only 19?

The answer: Nope. Because he can handle it.

Dach looks like a completely different player after finally having an “offseason” to recharge, both mentally and physically. And it’s showing in the postseason.

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest Blackhawks news and analysis.

Through three games in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, Dach has four points — all assists — and a team-best plus-4 rating; in total, he’s been on the ice for eight of the Blackhawks’ 13 goals so far. He became the first Blackhawks rookie to register at least one point in his first three postseason games since Eddie Olczyk in 1985. 

All those numbers are great, but here’s the eye-opener: Dach is averaging 20:21 of ice time in the postseason, which trails only Patrick Kane (22:21) among team forwards. He led all Blackhawks forwards with 23:21 of ice time in Wednesday’s Game 3 comeback win over the Edmonton Oilers, which was, by far, a career high for Dach, who averaged 14:16 of ice time during the regular season.

The Blackhawks are giving him an enormous amount of responsibility, whether it's top-six minutes at even strength, power-play time on the first unit and penalty kill reps. And Dach is handling it about as well as you could ask for.

"He loves responsibility and he thrives on it," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "We knew, based on how he looked in training camp, that he was ready to take a bigger role here. He's been great. He's been as advertised."

Dach isn't just making an impact on the scoresheet, either. He's doing the little things right, too.

Olli Maatta scored the first goal in Game 3 after his shot from the point got past Oilers goaltender Mikko Koskinen, but that puck doesn't go in without the 6-foot-4, 197-pound Dach wreaking havoc in front of the net. Those plays don't go unnoticed inside the locker room.

"It shows that the coach trusts in your abilities to get a job done," Dach said of the added responsibility. "And as a player, it's a welcoming challenge. You want to be put in those situations and succeed in them."

One of the main reasons why the Blackhawks selected Dach third overall in 2019 was because of the way he elevated his game in the Western Hockey League playoffs. He was the engine for the Saskatoon Blades and the focal point for opponents yet thrived off the attention.

“He does all the things that can wow you, but then he does the other stuff, too," GM Stan Bowman said the day the Blackhawks drafted Dach. "He was great at stripping pucks, he was great at backchecking, he was great at the physical play when the series got pretty intense in the playoffs and it was clear they were targeting him. He not only took it, he gave it back. It was impressive to see him raise his game at a time of year when it matters most, which is playoff hockey.

"You watch the NHL playoffs and you see how intense it can be and then you look at the way he plays, and you can see that that game translates."

It sure does.

Whether he can be a big-time point producer in the NHL remains to be seen, but it's clear Dach is the kind of player whose game is better suited for the playoffs than the regular season. And we're seeing why.