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Are the Chicago Blackhawks a legitimate contender?

Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

When the agreed-upon 24-team NHL playoff format was released, people right away saw that the Chicago Blackhawks were one of the teams that made the cut. Fans right away said that the Blackhawks had no business being there since they were at the time of the pause seven points out from the playoffs. People think that the Edmonton Oilers will sweep the Blackhawks with no problem. Although, analysts from around the NHL have said that the Blackhawks have a legitimate chance to make a playoff run if they get hot at the right time. That being said, it’s not being suggested that the Blackhawks will win the cup, but there is something to say that the Blackhawks do have a chance to potentially eliminate the Oilers and move into the first round of the playoffs. This article will make the case as to why the Blackhawks have a chance to beat the Oilers. Let’s dive in.

 

2019/2020 Games Played 

The first case that can be made is that the Blackhawks did beat the Oilers in two of the three games played this year between the two teams. Connor McDavid didn’t play in one of those games but nonetheless, the Blackhawks do have a 2-1 advantage over the Oilers this season.

The last time the two teams met the Blackhawks won 4-3 back on March 5th in Chicago. The Oilers did manage a 5-3 win back in Edmonton on February 11th and the Blackhawks won the first matchup between the two 3-1 back on October 14th, 2019 in Chicago. Between all three games, it was clear that home-ice advantage did play a key in those games as each home team won those contests. Although, on neutral ground, anything is possible.

Neutral Ground Playoffs

Unlike the usual playoffs, both of these teams will be playing in a hub city just like the other 22 teams. This will certainly be a factor since both teams won their games at home and none on the road. It’ll make the series interesting in the fact that the guys won’t feed off of crowd noise and there go, there won’t be many advantages with no fans. This will have guys rely mentally on to get into each game of the series depending if it goes between three to five games. Whichever team plays the mental game correctly, it has a good chance of potentially winning the series. Although other factors do play into games being decided, the mental aspect cannot be left out.

The other potential factor for one of the teams to win is of course on the players. For the Blackhawks, there are some X-Factors that could potentially turn this series on its head.

 

Three Blackhawks X-Factors

1. Patrick Kane (84 points in 70 games)

There’s no denying that when Patrick Kane is playing, the game will be greatly impacted by him. This season Kane has 33 goals and 51 assists for 84 points in 70 games this year. The guy is a walking highlight reel and every player knows that if Patrick Kane gets hot, there’s no stopping him.

Elliott Friedman of SportsNet has come out and said that certain Oilers players did not want to face Kane in a three-game series because they knew that he could carry the Blackhawks in those games. That is one of the reasons why the play-in series is best-of-five. Patrick Kane is the ultimate X-Factor.

The last time there was a shortened season (2102/2013), Patrick Kane had 55 points (23 goals 32 assists) in 47 games that season. In the playoffs, Kane had 19 points (nine goals, ten assists) in 23 games that ended up with the Blackhawks winning their second Stanley Cup in three years. If Patrick Kane gets hot the Oilers will be in trouble especially if the team around him gets on a heater as well.

Outside of the core, there’s been one guy this year for the Blackhawks who’s been so phenomenal, that he has even been considered for the Calder Memorial Trophy this year.

2. Dominik Kubalik (46 points in 68 games)

Dominik Kubalik going into the 2020 season was a complete unknown to not only Blackhawks fans, but the entire NHL.

Going into his first year all anyone really knew about him was that he can score and that he was from the Czech Republic. Back on January 24th, 2019 the Los Angeles Kings (drafted team) traded his rights to the Chicago Blackhawks and four months later he signed his one-year deal with the team. Looking back on that deal, the Blackhawks got a steal in that trade.

So far this season Kubalik has 30 goals and 16 assists for 46 points which is phenomenal for a guy no one knew how he would do his first year in the league. He has spent most of the season moving between lines but has found a home on the top line with captain Jonathan Toews.

People around the league have said to keep an eye on this guy because if he keeps up with how his season is going so far, he has a chance to turn a series around for the Blackhawks. At one point he was considered in the Calder Trophy discussions. This guy can play and he’s one that the Oilers cannot take lightly because of the fact Kubalik has 30 goals in his rookie season. Furthermore, if there is one other player that the Oilers need to worry about getting hot and carrying this team; he is the man between the pipes who’s has to lead this team to two Stanley Cups already in his career. His name? Corey “Crow” Crawford.

3. Corey Crawford (16-20-3, 2.77 GAA, .917 Save %)

The last X-Factor for the Blackhawks in this series is none other than the man they call “Crow”, Corey Crawford. Despite the record of the year, Crawford has played like the Crawford of old. He has played on nights where he is lights out when the offense has struggled. On the season he has a 2.77 GAA which is phenomenal by goalie standards. Even his .917 save % is something to marvel on a season where the Blackhawks as a whole have struggled.

Crawford has had a tough couple years dealing with concussion issues but for the 2019/2020 season, he’s been a pillar for this team. He did struggle a bit himself this season but he has had a great year overall. While working as a tandem with now Vegas Golden Knight Robin Lehner, Crawford has shown signs of his older self this year.

When Crawford gets hot, and many Blackhawks fans can attest to this, he can be unbeatable. Crawford has to lead the Blackhawks to two Stanley Cups back in 2013, & 2015. If there is any guy on this roster to prove that he still has it, it’s Crawford. The Oilers could be in trouble if he gets on a heater because Crawford has the potential to steal not only a game or two but an entire series.

It has to be said that the X-Factors for the Blackhawks could possibly give them a chance to beat the Oilers if they, and the rest of the team, can get hot at the right time. There’s no telling what would happen if Crawford steals a couple of games, and that Kubalik and Kane could light the lamp in every game. These three could affect the whole series just them alone.

Summary

Hopefully, this has given people some thought about how the Edmonton Oilers don’t necessarily have this series in the bag over the Blackhawks. Between the Blackhawks winning two of three this season already and the fact that they have weapons on the roster, there’s no telling what will happen. All this piece was about is do not count out the Blackhawks in this series against the Oilers. If the Blackhawks can get on a run in this series, there could be a chance the Oilers could be eliminated from the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs. The Oilers are a talented team no doubt, but the Blackhawks are not a pushover by any stretch of the imagination. If the Oilers went to make the first round of the playoffs, they better not take the Blackhawks lightly, for they could possibly pull off an upset.

 

Zach Martin
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