Blackhawks

Why Blackhawks won't be at a disadvantage facing Oilers in Edmonton

Why Blackhawks won't be at a disadvantage facing Oilers in Edmonton

The NHL and NHL Players' Association took a significant step forward on Monday, announcing that the two sides have reached a tentative agreement on the Return to Play plan and Collective Bargaining Agreement extension that also includes transition rules. It's not official until the owners and players ratify the entire package, but there's little reason to believe it won't get approved.

If all goes as planned, the qualifying round will begin on Aug. 1 in the two hub cities of Edmonton and Toronto. Each conference will stay in their respective regions, which means the Blackhawks will be anchored down in Edmonton.

The NHL was originally planning to send the Western Conference teams to the Eastern Conference hub and the Eastern Conference teams to the Western Conference hub to avoid giving a Return to Play club any sort of competitive advantage, but the league and players decided against that due to the geographical complications.

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So will the Blackhawks be at a disadvantage in their five-game play-in series against the Oilers on the Oilers' home surface? The simple answer is, no.

For one, there will be no fans in attendance and that's half the battle in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Blackhawks may be considered the road team as the No. 12 seed taking on the No. 5 seed, but the only thing that's going to be different throughout the series is their jersey color.

Where the home-ice advantage would really come into play is off the ice, but the Oilers won't exactly be in the comfort of their own environment.

All 12 teams are required to stay inside the bubble — which the NHL is calling its "Phase 4 Secure Zone" — and any individual that leaves without permission may be subject to consequences up to and including removal. The team could also be punished in the form of hefty fines and/or loss of draft picks. That should be enough for players to take things seriously, in case there's any temptation.

But the overall point is, Leon Draisaitl, Connor McDavid and the rest of the Oilers won't have the luxury of sleeping in their own bed or being in the comfort of their own home during off-days. They have to pack multiple suitcases and stay inside the designated boundaries that includes hotels, dining destinations, the arena, practice facilities and demarcated areas (indoor and outdoor), just like everyone else. That's how life would have been for the Blackhawks had Chicago been chosen as a hub city.

In some ways, this could actually play in the Blackhawks' favor. There aren't any expectations when you're the road team going into a game, let alone a series in this unique situation. The Blackhawks had nothing to lose to begin with, considering their playoff chances were all but over prior to the NHL suspending its season on March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even though they had a better win percentage at home, the Blackhawks played some of their best hockey this season when they were on the road, so it wouldn't be surprising if they upset the Oilers by sticking to their road mentality.

“On the road, you’re kind of naturally an underdog," Connor Murphy said in February. "Going into those games, you just seem to rally with each other even more and have some more of that desperation, knowing they could gain momentum with a goal and or a big chance. When you have a little bit of that underdog mentality, I think that can be good, and it gives a little more fight and bite in your game.”

Former Blackhawks General Manager Dale Tallon parts ways with Florida Panthers

Former Blackhawks General Manager Dale Tallon parts ways with Florida Panthers

On Monday, the Florida Panthers announced that Dale Tallon will no longer be with the team after serving as its general manager for 10 seasons and that the search for a new GM is on.

Tallon's contract was set to expire after this season. The agreement for him to leave the organization was a mutual decision according to the Panthers.

Florida, who hasn't won a playoff series since 1996, was eliminated by the New York Islanders in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers on Friday, dropping the best-of-5 series 3-1.

Under Tallon, the Panthers won their first two division titles since entering the NHL in 1993. In 2016, the club recorded a team-record 103-point season and finished first place in the Atlantic Division.

After missing the playoffs the previous three years ahead of 2020's 24-team postseason tournament, Tallon hired Joel Quenneville, who he won a Stanley Cup with when both were members of the Blackhawks organization in 2010, to replace Bob Boughner as head coach of the Panthers on April 8, 2019. Tallon later signed two-time Vezina Trophy-winning goalie Sergei Bobrovsky to a seven-year, $70 million contract on July 1, 2019. 

Dale was with the Blackhawks organization for 33 years as a player, broadcaster and executive. He was an assistant GM with the Hawks from 2003-05, GM from 2005-09, and senior adviser of hockey operations in 2009-10. 

Tallon hired Quenneville as head coach of the Blackhawks on October 16, 2008. Impact Hawks players Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were drafted during Tallon's Chicago GM tenure.

Dale was the first player ever drafted by the Vancouver Canucks. The defenseman was selected at No. 2 overall in the 1970 NHL Draft. 

He had 336 points (98 goals, 238 assists) in 642 games across 10 seasons with Vancouver, Chicago and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Tallon played in two NHL All-Star games (1971 and 1972).

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How Blackhawks can beat Golden Knights in first round of Stanley Cup Playoffs

How Blackhawks can beat Golden Knights in first round of Stanley Cup Playoffs

The key to beating the Edmonton Oilers was simple: stay out of the penalty box and contain Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid at even strength. The execution part of it was challenging, but the Blackhawks were up to the task and eliminated the Oilers in four games to advance to the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The key to beating the Vegas Golden Knights isn’t so simple. And neither is executing a plan to do so.

The Golden Knights have always been a dominant possession team, ever since they entered the league in 2017-18. But this might be their most well-rounded group yet, which is saying something considering they reached the Stanley Cup Final in their first year of existence.

The Golden Knights ranked No. 1 this season in a variety of offensive categories at even strength, according to Sportlogiq and Natural Stat Trick:

  • Shot attempts from the slot (25.4)
  • Shots on goal from the slot (15.1)
  • Expected goals for per 60 minutes (2.81)
  • Scoring chances for per 60 minutes (31.1)
  • High-danger chances for per 60 minutes (12.7)

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The Golden Knights are as good as it gets when it comes to generating chances. That's a problem for the Blackhawks, who ranked 31st in the five defensive categories at even strength listed above:

  • Shot attempts from the slot against (25.7)
  • Shots on goal from the slot against (15.2)
  • Expected goals against per 60 minutes (2.84)
  • Scoring chances against per 60 minutes (30.1)
  • High-danger chances against per 60 minutes (13.0)


Unlike the Edmonton series, it will be extremely difficult for the Blackhawks to win the 5-on-5 battle. Which means the only way to beat the Golden Knights in a best-of-seven series is to capitalize on the few mistakes they make — all four lines must be clicking — and win the special teams battle.

The Golden Knights finished the regular season ranked No. 9 in power play percentage (22.0) and, most notably, No. 27 in penalty kill percentage (76.6). The Blackhawks were tied for No. 8 in penalty kill percentage (82.1) and 28th in power play percentage (15.2) but showed progress in the latter department by going 4-for-18 (22.2 percent) in four qualifying-round games.

When the Blackhawks get their power-play opportunities, they must take advantage of them. If they don't, it could be a quick series. If they do, and Corey Crawford is at his best, the Blackhawks have a fighter's chance against a Golden Knights team that's 8-1-0 and has a plus-15 goal differential all-time against Chicago.

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