Blackhawks

How Blackhawks embracing underdog status could work against Oilers

How Blackhawks embracing underdog status could work against Oilers

Ahead of the NHL pause on March 12 — due to the COVID-19 pandemic — the Blackhawks had almost zero chance to be in the playoffs.

They sat at No. 12 in the Western Conference, six points out of a wild card spot with four teams to jump in 12 remaining regular season games.

Now that they'll be facing the Edmonton Oilers in a little over two weeks for a chance to make a run at the Stanley Cup again, they're going to embrace the challenge.

"It’s going to be a tough series against Edmonton," Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith said following the Hawks' first day of training camp leading up to the postseason on Monday. "They have two of the best players in the world - if not THE two best to players in the world in (Connor) McDavid and (Leon) Draisaitl. But it’s not just those two guys. There (are) other players on their team that are dangerous. They were ahead of us in the standings, so we know we’ve got our work cut out for us. But we’re excited to have this opportunity and show that we belong and we could make some noise as an underdog."

As an underdog, most of the pressure is off Chicago and on Edmonton. The West's No. 5 team at the time of the pause is not only the favorite to beat a team that wouldn't have normally been in the postseason in the Blackhawks, but they have the added expectation of winning as the home ice club with the series being played in Edmonton. 

In March, the Hawks realistically may have either been dwelling on why they came up short again or which golf courses they should hit up. Now, they're thinking about how they have nothing to lose in a postseason they're not supposed to be in, taking on a team they're not supposed to beat. 

"I think we match up pretty well," Hawks forward Brandon Saad said after Day 2 of camp on Tuesday. "It’s something we haven’t touched upon too much here at camp. It’s more about getting ready and focusing on what we can bring to the table. But I think everyone’s looked pretty good in camp for the most part with staying in shape and trying to take advantage of getting the touches and reps in. But they have a good team and I know it’s going to be a challenge for us. But I think for us, we’re confident as a group regardless of who we’re playing. Just focus on what we can do to have success."

After Day 2's practice, Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton said the team will begin strategizing for the matchup shortly.

The Hawks finish up their Phase 3 training camp on Sunday, July 26 before traveling to Edmonton to take on the Oilers.

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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.