Unless you're just now finding out about a sport called hockey, you know that Edmonton Oilers forwards Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid led the NHL in points during the regular season with 110 and 97, respectively. And you also know that the Blackhawks will have their work cut out for them in trying to limit the two's offensive productivity beginning Saturday at Edmonton in a best-of-five qualifying round series with the winner advancing to Round One of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"I think those are pretty elite players and I don’t think you’re ever going to full shut them down," Hawks coach Jeremy Colliton said via Zoom from Edmonton on Thursday. "You’re just trying to limit their opportunities, force them to play without the puck as much as possible, keep them off the power play, all those things. Not telling you guys anything you don’t already know. If we give them three power plays in the first period, they’re going to gain a lot of confidence in that. It's important we’re not taking stick penalties in particular and force them to defend. Control the puck, force them to play D zone. Obviously their transition game is speed, with which they can create scoring chances. These are all things we’ve talked about."
Staying out of the box should indeed be part of the plan in attempting to keep Draisaitl and McDavid off the scoresheet. The pair combined for 87 points on the man advantage before the NHL pause.
In 5-on-5 play, the two forwards played on the same line the first two months of the regular season before splitting up. They were apart in the Oilers' Phase 3 training camp and in their exhibition game on Tuesday against the Calgary Flames.
Colliton expects to see both looks with Draisaitl and McDavid from the Oilers.
"Obviously it’s a different challenge when you play them together. Definitely high powered and you have to throw everything you have at them to handle it. When they play apart, particularly with how much they can play, feels like they’ll both be on the ice most of the game. I’m sure we’ll see them together, I’m sure we’ll see them apart, and we have to be prepared for it."
The Blackhawks-Oilers series begins on Saturday at 2 p.m. CT.