The Blackhawks played well against a disinterested Blues team in a primer for their Qualifying Round series against the Oilers.
Leading up to Wednesday’s exhibition game, the Blackhawks had a few questions that still needed answering.
- Will Corey Crawford be ready to play after missing the majority of training camp due to testing positive for COVID-19?
- Does the Blackhawks’ penalty kill have any chance against the high-powered Oilers’ power play?
- Can the Blackhawks limit high-danger scoring chances?
Each question was answered in the best way possible.
Crawford Perfect in Start
Even though the Blackhawks didn’t announce who would be starting in goal prior to the game, there was little doubt that it would be Corey Crawford.
Crawford turned away all five shots he faced in the first period. He looked poised and wasted very little energy, making each save look easy.
Crawford returned to the crease in the second period and faced six more shots, once again stopping them all. Halfway through the frame, Malcolm Subban entered the game and Crawford’s excellent night was finished. He gave the coaching staff all they needed to see.
He is ready to start game one against the Oilers.
Penalty Kill Goes 4-For-4
For the Blackhawks to have any chance of getting out of the Qualifying Round, they will need to slow down the Oilers’ productive power play. In Wednesday’s matchup against the Blues, they showed they are up to the task.
The Blackhawks were shorthanded four times throughout the game and held the Blues scoreless. Even more impressive, they allowed just two shots during that time and gave up zero high-danger scoring chances, according to Natural Stat Trick.
Yes, the Oilers’ power play is the best in the league and it includes two of the most dynamic players in the world, but the Blues’ power play isn’t too far behind. With the third-best power play in the league (24.3%), the Blues were a good test and the Blackhawks passed with flying colors.
Limiting Scoring Chances
A major flaw of the Blackhawks this season was their inability to limit high-danger scoring chances during 5v5 play.
The Blackhawks were at the bottom of the league, giving up 12.91 high-danger scoring chances per 60 minutes during the regular season. Most chances against were due to miscommunication leading to opposing players being left alone in prime scoring areas.
In Wednesday’s game, the Blackhawks seemed to have corrected some of their problems. Players were communicating well, switching when they had to, and kept opposing players to the outside. In 47:38 of 5v5 play, the Blues managed just six high-danger scoring chances.
Part of the Blackhawks’ success defensively was the play of Connor Murphy and Calvin de Haan. The pair played 10:31 at 5v5, giving up just two shots and two high-danger scoring chances. The Blackhawks finally have the shutdown pair they’ve been hoping for since acquiring de Haan last offseason.
This improved defensive play will need to continue for the Blackhawks to have a chance against the Oilers.
Now it Matters
The Blackhawks played as well as they possibly could have against the Blues. They generated scoring chances while limiting their opponents and capitalized on two of their four power plays. Corey Crawford looked ready to go and the team showed defensive improvements.
But none of it counts.
The real challenge starts Saturday at 2 PM CT when the Blackhawks square off against the Oilers in game one of the Qualifying Round.
Featured Photo: NBC Chicago