Edmonton Oilers

How the Blackhawks upset the Oilers in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers

How the Blackhawks upset the Oilers in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers

There was a lot the Western Conference's No. 12 seeded Blackhawks did right to upset the West's No. 5 seeded home ice Oilers in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers.

Here's some observations:

Greasy goals

There was a common theme for a lot of the goals the Hawks scored against the Oilers, they were hard-earned and a lot of them were deflected into the Oilers' net. Five of the Blackhawks' 16 goals in the series came off deflections.

Matthew Highmore had a tip-in late in Game 3 to set the table for the 4-3 comeback victory, then scored the same way to put the Hawks ahead 2-1 in the first period of Game 4. Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews had a Connor Murphy shot deflect off his shin pad for the game-winning goal in Game 3 with 1:16 remaining in regulation.

Throughout the series, the forwards got the puck to the D-men in the offensive zone and got to the front of the net to create a screen or try for a tip-in. The formula constantly worked for the Hawks and they need to keep at it for as long as they're in the postseason.

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Keeping McDavid and Draisaitl in check

Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid had the first and second most points in the NHL before the pause, respectively.

Against the Blackhawks in the qualifying round, they had a combined 15 points (five goals, four assists for McDavid; and three goals, three assists for Draisaitl), which may not read like an accomplishment, but considering the uncanny offensive talent the two possess, the Hawks definitely succeeded in limiting their chances and keeping them from reaching their full level of production or potential in the series.

Related: More hard-earned goals and a killer PK advance Blackhawks to Round One

Coach Jeremy Colliton and his Hawks definitely got the best of McDavid and Draisaitl when they were the home team and had last change in Games 3 and 4. Colliton often put Toews' line against McDavid's — as well as the Blackhawks' fourth line with center David Kamp occasionally. 

Toews and his line were able to play solid defense against McDavid and the other Edmonton combos they faced. The Blackhawks captain was also able to help the Hawks hang onto the puck, winning 55.34% of the faceoffs he took in the series. McDavid won 43.1% of his draws in the qualifying round.

The PK

The Hawks went 12-for-17 on the penalty kill, including 5-for-5 in Game 4, in the play-in series against the Oilers. Chicago only allowing Edmonton five power-play goals in the entire series is pretty impressive as the Oilers touted the best power-play in the league during the regular season.

Maintaining a strong PK would benefit the Hawks in Round One, but so would staying out of the box to avoid an unfavorable momentum swing.

Captain seriously good

Toews had a monster series, resembling his former 2010 Conn Smythe-winning self in how he was able to take over some of the games in the qualifying round against top players like McDavid and Draisaitl.

In addition to being able to limit McDavid and win a majority of his draws, Toews had seven points (four goals, three assists) in the series. 

The three-time Stanley Cup champ had two two-goal games (Game 1 and Game 3) in the series and won a battle behind the net to get rookie Dominik Kubalik the puck in front for the series-clinching goal in Game 4.

The Crow

After missing the first 12 days of the Hawks' Phase 3 training camp after recovering from COVID-19, Crawford progressed into looking like the two-time Stanley Cup champion goalie he is and appears to have plenty of quality hockey left in the tank.

After allowing 13 total goals in the first three games of the series, Crawford played his best contest on Friday, saving 43 of 45 Oilers shots for the win. It definitely looks like he's now in postseason form.

Young guns

The Blackhawks younger players really stepped up in the qualifying round series. After Jonathan Toews, Kirby Dach was arguably the most consistently good Hawk.

Dach, 19, was only held off the scoresheet in Game 4 after logging a three-game point streak with four assists to start the series. He became the first Blackhawks rookie to score a point in his first three playoff games since Eddie Olczyk in 1985.

Kubalik, 24, set a new Blackhawks record for rookie points in a playoff game with his five-point performance in Game 1, scoring two power-play goals and picking up three assists. Steve Larmer held the previous record. Larmer had four points (one goal, three assists) in Game 2 of the 1983 Division Finals. Larmer went on to win the Calder Trophy in 1983.

Kubalik also became the first player to record five points in his postseason debut in NHL history. 

Highmore, 24, put the Hawks ahead 2-1 at 7:56 of the first period of Game 4 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.

More hard-earned goals and a killer PK advance Blackhawks to Round One

More hard-earned goals and a killer PK advance Blackhawks to Round One

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:

They're back

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.

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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.

Bad penalties

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.

Crawford

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.

What having no fans at postseason games is like for Blackhawks' Drake Caggiula

What having no fans at postseason games is like for Blackhawks' Drake Caggiula

Watching at home, the NHL's 24-team postseason hasn't disappointed at all. The games are a fast-paced, intense display of high-end talent like in any postseason and we're still just in the qualifying round.

The league putting tarps over the seats and even adding canned crowd noise helps you forget live fans have been taken out of the equation.

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For the players on the ice, sometimes the absence of the game's fans is hard to ignore.

Blackhawks forward Drake Caggiula has experienced the fanless games as both a player and spectator. He played in Game 1 and 3 of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers against the Oilers, but missed Game 2 after being suspended for an illegal check to the head of Edmonton forward Tyler Ennis.

Related: What being teammates with Connor McDavid was like for Blackhawks' Drake Caggiula

"It's definitely different watching or even playing without fans," Caggiula said earlier in the week. "You see a mad scramble in front of the net and it's pretty quiet out there and typically that's when fans are oohing and ahhing and cheering and chaos ensues and sometimes you can build off the momentum. 

"Maybe you're down a goal or two and you score a goal and the crowd gets into it and you can kind of feed off that energy and obviously that's not there, you got to create your own energy, you got to find that within your own locker room. Sometimes that can be difficult, especially if the game gets a little bit out of reach. You have to find ways to keep yourself involved and keep your energy up and find that from within and not be looking for the others (to)."

The Blackhawks lead the series against the Oilers 2-1 with Game 4 scheduled for Friday at 5:45 p.m. CT.