The Blackhawks entered Game 1 against the Oilers with several players with multiple Stanley Cup championships to their name, but also a lot of players without any experience at all. After all, Chicago hadn’t seen the postseason since 2017.
One of those players? Dominik Kubalik, who became the first player in NHL history to score five points (two power-play goals, three assists) in his NHL postseason debut.
Jonathan Toews scored twice, Brandon Saad and Dylan Strome each scored, and Corey Crawford made 25 saves for Chicago, which won its first postseason game since April 23, 2016.
Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton (35 years, 201 days) is the youngest NHL head coach to win a playoff debut since his current assistant Coach, Marc Crawford won his debut May 6, 1995, with Quebec at 34 years, 82 days.
The Blackhawks scored four goals in 7:05 within the first period, starting with an unassisted bank shot from Strome and ended with Toews’ second goal.
The Kubalik-Toews-Saad line impressed throughout the game, racking up five goals and a 90.91 percent shot share at five-on-five. The power play was also impressive, coming up with three of the Blackhawks’ six goals against the Oilers penalty kill, which was second best in the regular season.
The Blackhawks didn’t start out great, taking a too many men penalty less than 90 seconds into the game, allowing Connor McDavid to score a power-play goal for a 1-0 lead 2:34 into the game.
Alex Chiasson set up a screen and McDavid (uh, McDavid!) was left uncovered. It was a bad penalty-kill setup and Crawford was left defenseless, which allowed the first shot on the power play to become the first goal.
Fortunately, Strome capitalized on a mistake from Mike Smith when the goaltender turned the puck over. Strome banked it off Smith’s deriere to tie it 1-1. Currently facing restricted free agency, a few plays like this from Strome will certainly help his situation.
The Blackhawks got a power play of their own when Strome drew a slashing penalty from Matthew Benning at 6:57. Toews gave the Blackhawks a 2-1 lead 59 seconds later. Kirby Dach caused a pile up behind the net which allowed the puck to get loose to Kubalik, who then sent it to Toews for the goal.
Dach helped the Blackhawks score two power-play goals in their exhibition win against the Blues on Wednesday, with Kubalik also getting two points on those goals (one goal, one assist). They helped keep that momentum going throughout this game as well.
Saad then tipped Olli Maatta shot’s past Smith for Chicago’s third goal in a 3:26 span.
Toews capped the four-goal burst when he finished a beautiful pass from Kuablik, who had only 16 assists in the regular season. Saad won the puck battle then Kubalik took the puck and found Toews was out front. The Kubalik-Toews-Saad line fired on every single cylinder throughout the game.
Maatta took a holding penalty against Leon Draisaitl just three minutes into the second period, and the German made him pay with a power-play goal to cut Chicago’s lead to 4-2.
Crawford fell to the ice and was unable to recover, but Duncan Keith kept the play alive for Edmonton after several chances to clear the puck. The Blackhawks need Maatta out on the penalty kill, and he proved why during the last penalty kill in the second period, saving what would have been a goal.
Fortunately, the Oilers almost immediately took a penalty of their own, as Darnell Nurse headed to the box for roughing against Ryan Carpenter, and Kubalik scored his first goal off a rifle of a shot. It’s almost stupid how good Kubalik is, and the Blackhawks are going to have to pay him so much money (but oh boy, is he worth it).
Kubalik scored his second power-play goal off by deflecting a slapshot from Keith into the net for a 6-2 advantage at 17:35 of the second. Again, this is this guy’s first ever NHL postseason game. I don’t have the words to express how impressive Kubalik was throughout this game, so: wow.
The Blackhawks allowed two late goals within 36 seconds of each other from the Oilers in the third period, one from James Neal on their power play and one from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins with the goaltender pulled.
Connor Murphy and Keith as a pair were on the ice for three of four goals against (Keith on ice for all four), and they can’t be together for Game 2 on Monday. Maatta was the superior penalty killing defenseman in this game, and I’d trust Slater Koekkoek more shorthanded, especially with Maatta. Koekkoek also played a quietly solid game in this contest (including a 73.27 expected goal percentage at even strength).
The Blackhawks thoroughly routed the Oilers at five-on-five play, with a 56.25 percent Corsi and 62.22 percent shot share. They’ll need to continue this level of play at even strength to take the series, and it proved effective in the opening game.
- Dominik Kubalik (CHI) — 2 goals, 3 assists, 5 shots
- Jonathan Toews (CHI) — 2 goals, 1 assist, 1 drawn penalty, 64 faceoff percentage
- Dylan Strome (CHI) — 1 goal, drawn penalty leading to power-play goal, 2 high-danger chances
The Blackhawks play Game 2 against the Oilers at 9:30 p.m. on Monday.