Blackhawks

What adjustments Blackhawks could make against Oilers for Game 3

/ by Charlie Roumeliotis
Presented By Blackhawks Insider
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The Blackhawks set the tone in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers by dominating at even strength and potting three power-play goals against the second-ranked penalty kill.

The Edmonton Oilers flipped the script and made the correct adjustments in Game 2, scoring 19 seconds into the game and never giving up control of it.

It's the Blackhawks' turn to counter in Game 3.

As the home team for Games 3 and 4, head coach Jeremy Colliton and his staff will have the luxury of last line change. That means the Blackhawks can decide which trio goes up against Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid, who netted a hat trick on Monday.

But before getting into lineup adjustments, the first emphasis for the Blackhawks should be scoring the first goal. Well, it always should be.

"I'm pretty sure it's important to score the first goal no matter what, who you're playing," Duncan Keith said after practice on Tuesday. "That would help to try and win the game." 

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In Game 1, the Blackhawks fell behind 1-0 just 2:34 into the opening frame. In Game 2, they trailed 2-0 in the first 4:05. 

Only two teams had more wins during the regular season when scoring first than the Oilers (29). On the contrary, the Oilers had the sixth-worst points percentage (.250) when giving up the first goal. 

Scoring first is always crucial, but it feels even more significant against a high-powered offense like the Oilers.

"It’s two games in a row where we have to come from behind," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "It’s not a position we want to be in. I think we had a good start in Game 1, they score on the power play. Big difference from our start in Game 2.

 

"From our perspective we want to do the right things right from the puck drop. Sometimes a bounce goes for or against you but more so it’s how we perform shift to shift that gives us a chance to win the game. Hopefully results in the first goal, but if it doesn’t, we have a high level of play we’ve got to believe we’ll come back."

The Blackhawks were without Drake Caggiula in Game 2 after an illegal check to the head on Oilers forward Tyler Ennis in Game 1 resulted in a one-game suspension. John Quenneville took his spot in the lineup, but the Blackhawks were ultimately forced to double-shift Patrick Kane throughout the course of the game after falling behind quickly, which disrupted the line flow.

The Blackhawks will likely go back to their Game 1 rotation, and they should, even though things clicked immediately when Kane was put on a line with Kirby Dach and Alex DeBrincat. But it will be interesting to see how Colliton matches his group against the Oilers.

In Game 1, Dave Tippett and his staff tried exploiting the Blackhawks' fourth line of Ryan Carpenter, David Kampf and Matthew Highmore by making them defend McDavid, who was a non-factor at even strength. Leon Draisaitl's line, mainly, went up against the Blackhawks' third line of Caggiula, Dach and DeBrincat.

Will the Blackhawks try freeing up Kane and Jonathan Toews offensively by using the same tactic or does it make more sense to match the first two lines against Edmonton’s top guns as much as possible? There's a case to be made for both sides.

Exactly one week before the NHL put its season on pause, the Blackhawks played the Oilers at the United Center and beat them 4-3. Toews' line drew the McDavid matchup and Kane's line went up against Draisaitl, so perhaps we could see that again, at least to start.

It’s a game of chess, and the Blackhawks must use having the last move to their advantage.