How Blackhawks can beat Oilers with 'wealth of success' in qualifying round

How Blackhawks can beat Oilers with 'wealth of success' in qualifying round

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. 

Related: Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook practices for first time since surgeries

"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. 

Related: How will long layoff affect goalies in NHL's 24-team postseason?

"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."

Blackhawks turn back the clock, channel late-game heroics in Game 3 win over Oilers

Blackhawks turn back the clock, channel late-game heroics in Game 3 win over Oilers

When the Blackhawks were winning Stanley Cups during the dynasty era, one of their best attributes was their ability to come through in clutch situations even when they weren’t at their best.

The Blackhawks desperately needed a moment like that in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers against the Edmonton Oilers. And they delivered.

After trailing 3-2 going into the third period, the Blackhawks scored two goals in a span of 4:31 in the final six minutes of regulation thanks to a pair of redirections by Matthew Highmore and Jonathan Toews, who scored his second goal of the game and recorded his 11th game-winning postseason goal to tie Bobby Hull, Patrick Kane and Stan Mikita for most in franchise history.

It felt like old times again.

"We stuck with it," Toews said following a 4-3 win on Wednesday night. "It was a great team effort, some great contributions from all over our lineup."

As the “home” team in Game 3, the Blackhawks took over the Oilers’ dressing room and made themselves feel, well, at home. They hit the ice in their red sweaters, which was strange to see outside the United Center and brought back memories of the old days.

But nothing made the Blackhawks feel more at home than when a recorded rendition of the National Anthem and O Canada sung by Jim Cornelison blared over the speakers prior to puck drop. And while there were no fans in attendance to blow the roof off Rogers Place, the Blackhawks certainly felt comfort knowing a part of Chicago was with them in Edmonton.

"We noticed those little details," Toews said. 

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There were lots of ups and downs in Game 3, and it would’ve been easy for the Blackhawks to let their frustrations get the best of them. 

They hit five posts. They went 1-for-6 on the power play, with their only goal coming during a 5-on-3 advantage. They gave up 10 high-danger chances at 5-on-5 through the first two periods and generated just one of their own. Leon Draisaitl (twice) and Connor McDavid made them pay three times, scoring their goals from an average distance of eight feet.

But the Blackhawks dug in, turned back the clock, channeled some late-game heroics against an Oilers team that lost just once in regulation (29-1-2) during the regular season when leading after two periods and have a chance to close out a postseason series on Friday for the first time since the 2015 Stanley Cup Final.

"Hard-fought game from us," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "We showed a lot of character to stick with it. We were pretty solid defensively, did a good job eliminating their transition, and we found a way to score some dirty goals. Proud of how the guys worked. We'll enjoy it for tonight, then on to the next one."

Blackhawks overcome special teams woes to complete comeback in Game 3 vs. Oilers

Blackhawks overcome special teams woes to complete comeback in Game 3 vs. Oilers

The Blackhawks won 4-3 in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers against the Edmonton Oilers in the best-of-five series late Thursday night.

Here are four takeaways:

Late come-from-behind W

Trailing 2-3 in the third period, the Blackhawks scored two goals in 4:31 to complete the comeback.

Matthew Highmore got his first career postseason goal when he deflected a Slater Koekkoek one-timer past Oilers goalie Mikko Koskinen at 14:13.

With just 1:16 remaining in regulation, defenseman Connor Murphy fired a wrister toward the net that Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews deflected in. On the goal, Toews tied Stan Mikita, Bobby Hull and Patrick Kane for most game-winning playoff goals in Blackhawks history (11). 

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UNspecial teams

There were A LOT of penalties in Wednesday's game, nine to be exact, with five in the first period alone. The Oilers had six infractions and the Hawks three.

Chicago went just 1-for-6 on the man advantage.

The Hawks had a 5-on-3 power play late in the first period and Toews scored with 4.2 seconds remaining in the opening frame to give Chicago a 2-1 lead.

Outside of Toews' first goal of the game, the power play was a bit of a disaster. After converting on three of six power plays in Game 1, the Hawks went 0-for-4 in Game 2. With some elite scorers on the Oilers looking to avoid elimination on home ice in Game 4, it's an area the Blackhawks need to improve in quickly. It'll also be needed down the road if they advance.

The Blackhawks went 1-for-3 on the penalty kill, but allowed an Oilers' power-play goal that was costly at the time.

The Hawks failed to kill an Alex DeBrincat penalty late in the second period when Connor McDavid scored with 7.8 seconds remaining in the frame to put Edmonton up 3-2. It was McDavid's fifth goal of the series. He's scored a power-play goal in each qualifying-round game.

What's a Maatta you?

Blackhawks defenseman Olli Maatta scored at 9:14 of the first period to give the Hawks a 1-0 lead. The play has Maatta riding a two-game goal streak and it was the first time in the series the Blackhawks scored the first goal of the game.

Maatta got beat, committing to cover Leon Draisaitl for the Oilers' late second-period power-play goal, allowing McDavid to convert. Maatta closed the game with one goal, one assist and a +/- rating of 0.

Leon, the Professional

Draisaitl haunted the Hawks prior to their comeback with two goals and assist in Game 3 after he was held shotless in Game 2.

The NHL's leader in points (110) during the regular season tied the game 1-1 28 seconds after Maatta scored in the first period and made it 2-2 at 4:07 of the second period. 

Draisaitl had a power-play goal and two assists in Game 1.