Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane won the Conn Smythe Trophy as NHL MVP in 2013. Photo by BagoGames (Flickr).
- Starting Saturday, the fifth-seeded Edmonton Oilers and 12th-seeded Chicago Blackhawks will face off in a best-of-five series
- Edmonton opened as a -150 favorite in the series, but is now -190 to move on
- Check out the odds, the matchup, and a series pick, below
On Saturday, August 1, the Edmonton Oilers will start their best-of-five qualification series with the Chicago Blackhawks. The winner moves onto the traditional first round of the NHL playoffs.
Led by the dynamic duo of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, the Oilers were on the verge of returning to the playoffs when the NHL season was paused on Mar. 12, while the Blackhawks and their aging core were almost certain to miss the dance once again.
But then the pandemic happened, and both teams have had the best part of four months to prepare for this best-of-five series.
When the odds first opened, the Oilers were -150 favorites to advance. With ample time to think, bettors have moved that line all the way to -190.
Oilers vs Blackhawks Series Odds
|Team||Current Odds (FanDuel)||Opening Odds|
Odds as of July 29.
Does Experience Still Drive Chicago?
The era of Chicago stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane may be coming to an end. After three Stanley Cup titles and a number of other deep playoff runs, the fact that the Blackhawks are even in the tournament this year should be considered a blessing by their fans.
Patrick Kane (@88PKane) and @JonathanToews have created some magical memories for the @NHLBlackhawks.
Can they do it again? #StanleyCup pic.twitter.com/sDQHoyqB0t
— NHL (@NHL) July 22, 2020
But Chicago’s veteran stars will see it differently. They will view the time off as a chance to heal aging bodies.
And besides, the Blackhawks are actually the youngest team at the event, with an average age of 25.6.
Here’s the average age of the 24 NHL teams involved in the restart: pic.twitter.com/H2ywugfSxS
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) July 28, 2020
While the likes of Toews, Kane and defenseman Duncan Keith all have Conn Smythe Trophies and play important roles, youngsters such as Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome and rookie Kirby Dach are all stepping up in key moments too.
Something to Crow About?
Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford knows all about winning in the pressure-packed environment of the playoffs, having been the starter for Chicago’s last two Cups. After some up and down seasons of late, Crawford rebounded this year with a quietly efficient 2.77 GAA and .917 save percentage. While he contracted coronavirus earlier this month, the Blackhawks ‘tender insists he’s ready to go.
Goaltender Corey Crawford addresses his bout with COVID-19 that held him out of the opening two weeks of #Blackhawks training camp. pic.twitter.com/j4WTo4JIzU
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) July 25, 2020
His play allows his team to take offensive risks, but the time off has also allowed defensive stalwarts such as Calvin de Haan to regain fitness, along with Adam Boqvist and Luke Carlsson. Chicago allowed 3.06 goals per game this year to rank 17th in the NHL.
Hey look, it’s the #Blackhawks Postseason Roster❗️#AllforOne pic.twitter.com/foFNOJ0nUw
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) July 26, 2020
The one key veteran cog missing is Brent Seabrook, a mainstay on all three Cup teams but one who has not played well of late. The blueliner declared himself unfit to play after three surgeries earlier this year.
Are Oilers Ready To Roll?
While having a pair of Art Ross Trophy-winners in a lineup is something the Oilers should feel very happy about, their presence could be their Achilles heel come playoff time.
207 points // 77 goals 🚨 // 130 assists 🍎
Are Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl the BEST DUO in the league?! 🚨🏆🍎 pic.twitter.com/ymXDdTYzfV
— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) June 11, 2020
No one is doubting the one-two scoring punch that McDavid and Draisaitl can provide, but the book on the Oilers is that they do not have a very balanced lineup. Anchored by those two, the team had the No. 1 power play in the NHL this season, scoring on 29.5% of extra-man opportunities. But at 5-on-5 play, Edmonton was scoring at a 2.43 goals-per-game clip, good for just 18th in the NHL.
Patrick Kane (@88PKane) and @JonathanToews vs. Connor McDavid (@cmcdavid97) and Leon Draisaitl? It’s going to be quite the treat to watch the @EdmontonOilers and @NHLBlackhawks in the #StanleyCup Qualifiers!
Insights via @SAPSports | More #NHLStats at https://t.co/3mFksIgEOU pic.twitter.com/M1G8sAAVo3
— NHL (@NHL) July 28, 2020
The defense, anchored by the likes of Darnell Nurse and the goalie tandem of Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen, was averaging 3.03 goals against, good for 15th overall in the NHL. The fact that the team is heading into the play-in without a clear idea of who will be starting between the pipes is a situation worth watching too.
“I envision both guys getting an opportunity to play.”
Of the 37 #Oilers wins during the regular season, 19 were credited to Mike Smith & 18 came from Mikko Koskinen, so it should come as no surprise Coach Tippett is confident in both netminders heading into the playoffs. pic.twitter.com/fXoCaJgeSJ
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) July 19, 2020
While both comfortably had winning records this season, Smith had a 2.95 GAA and a .902 save percentage, compared to Koskinen’s 2.75 and .917. But Smith has had prior playoff experience, leading Arizona to the Western Conference Finals in 2012, while Koskinen has yet to play in an NHL playoff game.
Hawks Have Track Record
While the Blackhawks have the edge on the Oilers in recent Stanley Cup wins – in fact, the Oilers have had more first-overall draft picks (4) than the Hawks have Cups (3) in the last 11 seasons – Chicago has the season edge on them, too. The Hawks lead the season series 2-1, with both wins coming at home, most recently on March 5.
Still, the almost five months since then has seen Edmonton’s chances move out from -150 to -190 when the matchup was first announced.
But whichever team moves on, neither is really in the conversation to win the Stanley Cup, with the both well outside the top tier of favorites in the 2020 Stanley Cup odds.
Pick: Blackhawks (+156)
For the last 20 years, Paul Attfield has worked in sports media. Starting out in his native Britain with the likes of The Independent, he eventually switched continents, with his work appearing in the likes of the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post and Yahoo Sports since.