With a 2–1 series lead in their Qualifying Round series against the Oilers, the Blackhawks are just one win away from earning a spot in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Blackhawks Back on Track in Game Three Win
In Game One, the Blackhawks were able to convert on the power play three times and kept the Oilers scoreless at 5v5. In Game Two, however, the Oilers found a way to generate more offense, scoring five times at even strength and did not allow the Blackhawks to convert on four power play opportunities.
For the Blackhawks to regain control of the series, they needed to once again slow down the Oiler’s attack at even strength while converting on the man advantage. Though it wasn’t pretty, the Blackhawks were able to beat Mikko Koskinen on a five-on-three power play and only allowed just two goals at even strength. To close out the series Friday night, they will need to once again take advantage on the power play and hold the Oilers to two or fewer even strength goals.
When the Power Play Goes, the Blackhawks Go
Just like most playoff series, special teams have played a major role in the Blackhawks’ Qualifying Round series against the Oilers. In the Blackhawks’ 6–4 Game One win, they were able to convert on the man advantage three times. A major reason for their success was the play of Dominik Kubalik. More known as a goal scorer, Kubalik showed his playmaking ability by finding Jonathan Toews behind the Oilers’ defense with a great backhand pass. Later in the game, Kubalik cashed in twice himself and things looked very good going into Game Two.
Trailing 3–2 in the second period of Game Two, the Blackhawks had three consecutive power plays, but were held scoreless on the man advantage. Not only did they fail to score, they were held to just five shots on goal during that time. It was obvious after the team’s 6–3 loss that they needed their power play to convert to give them a chance to win.
In a Game Three that saw nine minor penalties called, the Blackhawks had more than enough chances on the man advantage to put the Oilers away, but only found the back of the net once. Jeremy Colliton loaded up with five forwards on a five-on-three power play late in the first period and Jonathan Toews was able to beat Koskinen with a puck off his right skate. The Blackhawks went on to win the game 4–3 and take a stranglehold on the series.
Limiting the Oilers Chances
Everyone who watched hockey this season knows the Blackhawks were one of, if not the worst, team defensively. They had a hard time keeping opponents out of the middle of the ice, specifically in their own zone. During 60 minutes of 5v5 in the regular season, they averaged 30.22 scoring chances and 12.91 high-danger chances against, the most in the league. To have any success in the postseason, they needed to fix this, quickly.
In Game One it was obvious the Blackhawks had spent a lot of time focusing on their defensive play. They kept the Oilers scoreless at 5v5 while allowing 17 shots and a mere four high-danger chances against. Most of the Blackhawks’ success defensively was due to their ability to possess the puck while the fourth line of David Kampf, Ryan Carpenter, and Matthew Highmore kept Connor McDavid off the scoreboard at even strength. Maybe the Blackhawks had finally figured it all out, not quite.
In Game Two, the Blackhawks were back to their old ways. Connor McDavid scored twice in the first five minutes of the game, the first on a defensive breakdown by Duncan Keith and Adam Boqvist while the second saw Olli Maatta get beat wide. In 43:07 of even strength play, the Blackhawks surrendered five goals, 23 scoring chances, and a whopping 17 high-danger chances. It was obvious things would need to improve for the Blackhawks to bounce back in Game Three.
In Wednesday night’s Game Three, the Blackhawks were the home team for the first time in the series which granted them the last change. Jeremy Colliton could match up against the Oilers’ top two lines the way he wanted to. And for the most part, Colliton chose wisely.
The Blackhawks outscored the Oilers three to two at 5v5 play while allowing just nine high-danger chances. The team’s success defensively allowed the Blackhawks to keep the game close and ultimately win it with two goals late in the third period.
Keys to a Game Four Win
To win Friday night’s Game Four and move on to the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Blackhawks need to continue their strong play defensively from their Game One and Three wins. Along with limiting chances against, the Blackhawks also need to convert on at least one power play if they want to finish the series in four games.
Game Four of the Qualifying Round series between the Blackhawks and Oilers gets underway Friday, August 7 at 5:45 p.m. CDT.