Blackhawks fans everywhere experienced the exhilaration of winning a “playoff-style” series for the first time since Chicago hoisted the Stanley Cup in 2015. This Stanley Cup Playoffs Qualifier series was very up in the air for the league. How would a team, like the Blackhawks, who had the worst record of the teams in contention, stack up against a team like Edmonton who, with the dynamic duo of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, is really on the come up? People around the league and in Chicago were warning viewers to be aware of the Blackhawks’ still lethal makeup. A team that still has Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, and a dominant Corey Crawford at its core always has a shot. Then when you add new blood to the mix in the forms of defensemen, Adam Boqvist, 3rd overall pick, Kirby Dach, and Calder Trophy finalist, Dominik Kubalik, the only question that remains is, are they up to the task?
The answer was a resounding “Yes” on Friday, when the Blackhawks eliminated the Edmonton Oilers from contention with a 3-2 victory. The game did not start out on that note, however, with Edmonton’s Josh Archibald putting the puck behind Crawford only 45 seconds in, giving Edmonton an early 1-0 lead. The Blackhawks put together quite the offensive and responded four and a half minutes later with a Brandon Saad goal to tie the game. Then, only two minutes following the Saad goal, Matthew Highmore and the fourth line put a puck to the back of the net for a 2-1 lead that they would carry into the second period.
Edmonton proved resilient, erasing their deficit only two minutes into the second frame of the game. The game remained tied all the way into 11:30 mark of the third period when a turnover behind the goal line by Edmonton, led to a Toews-assisted, game winning goal by rookie Dominik Kubalik, his third of the series. Though the Oilers would put up a valiant effort for the rest of the period, no goal was to be found and the Blackhawks prevailed. By the end of the day, the story is in the stats. The Blackhawks led in the faceoff circle winning 54% of the draws and they blocked 21 shots only to Edmonton’s 10. But the most glaring stat was that Edmonton had 45 shots on goal, while the Blackhawks only had 29. What stands out most from those statistics is that with 16 more shots on goal and one fewer goal scored than the Blackhawks for the Oilers, that means the goalie play had to have been outstanding. And outstanding it was. Corey Crawford played like the Corey Crawford of old moving easily from side to side, making some saves that seemed impossible, or positioning himself like an acrobat. He was the primary reason the Blackhawks stayed in this game and the series. The 43 shots blocked really don’t do justice to Crawford’s play. This article could have just said “Crawford Played Like Crazy” and that would have been enough!
The Chicago Blackhawks now are moving on officially to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, awaiting the results of the round robin tournament to see if their opponent will be the Las Vegas Golden Knights or the Colorado Avalanche. Though those opponents are challenging in their own right, the fact the Blackhawks stood up to the Oilers and won the series, shows that they may just be up for anything. Chicago Blackhawks 2020 Stanley Cup Champions? Don’t get too excited, but now that they are in the playoffs officially, it is never out of the question.
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