The Blackhawks won Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers on Friday 3-2 to go up in the series 3-1 and eliminate the Oilers in Edmonton. The Hawks will face either the Colorado Avalanche or the Vegas Golden Knights in Round One of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Here are five takeaways:
The Blackhawks won their first postseason series since 2015's Stanley Cup Final with Game 4's victory over the Oilers in the best-of-five qualifying round.
Hawks captain Jonathan Toews collected his sixth point (four goals, two assists) in the play-in round when he passed Chicago rookie Dominik Kubalik the puck in front of the Oilers' net from below the goal line for Kubalik to make it 3-2 at 8:30 of the third period.
Kubalik finished the qualifying round with six points (three goals, three assists), five of which he bagged in Game 1.
Matty Highmore, big tipper
Blackhawks forward Matthew Highmore put the Hawks ahead 2-1 at 7:56 of the first period after tipping in a Duncan Keith shot from in front of the net. It was the second straight game Highmore scored off a deflection. In Game 3, he tied the game 3-3 at 14:13 of the third period, deflecting a shot from defenseman Slater Koekkoek past Oilers goalie Mikko Koskinen and setting the table for Toews to complete the 4-3 comeback victory with 1:16 remaining in regulation.
Brandon Saad tied it 1-1 off a backhand on a wraparound at 5:16 in the first period of Game 4 before Highmore's marker.
Letting McDavid check in early
One key to Game 4 was not letting Connor McDavid score early in the game like he did earlier in the series. The Hawks accomplished that... kind of. McDavid was able to get in on the offense 45 seconds into Game 4 not by scoring, but by setting up Josh Archibald for the first goal of the game.
McDavid scored 2:34 into Game 1 and 19 seconds into Game 2 but didn't find the back of the net until late in Game 3's second period. McDavid was held to just two shots on goal in Game 4.
The Blackhawks have known all series that they needed to stay out of the box vs. the Oilers, who had the NHL's best power play in the regular season. The Hawks took five penalties to the Oilers' two, but were able to kill all of them off.
In Game 3, Edmonton couldn't stay out of the box, but the Hawks went just 1-for-6 on the man advantage.
In Game 4, Highmore took a penalty right before the first period buzzer after high-sticking Alex Chiasson. Chicago killed the penalty in the second period, but Ryan-Nugent Hopkins scored two seconds later to tie it 2-2.
Just 30 seconds after RNH's goal, Alex DeBrincat got tagged with a five-minute major penalty for boarding Ethan Bear at 2:32 of the second. While the Hawks were killing the major, Edmonton defenseman Darnell Nurse took a minor for interfering with Blackhawks forward Drake Caggiula. After Nurse's penalty expired, Chicago only had to kill 41 seconds of the major, which they did.
The Hawks were also forced to kill a penalty at the beginning of the third after Dominik Kubalik slashed Archibald as the clock was winding down in the second.
Caggiula later received a cross-checking penalty at 4:26 of the third against Andreas Athanasiou for the Blackhawks' fifth infraction of the game.
Even without having to face McDavid and the Oilers' power play, moving forward against more complete teams, the Hawks will want to stay out of the box. Even if the PK is on like in Game 4, they could lose some much-needed momentum in any given game or series.
The remaining teams in the 2020 postseason tournament have been put on notice. Corey Crawford is back to his clutch self. The two-time Stanley Cup champ stopped 43 of 45 Edmonton shots in Game 4's win after allowing 13 goals in the first three games of the series. The two-time Stanley Cup champion goalie missed the first 12 days of the Hawks' Phase 3 training camp while quarantining after being previously diagnosed with COVID-19.
Crawford became the 20th goalie in NHL history to record 50 postseason wins after Wednesday's Game 3.