The Blackhawks will look to build upon a stellar Game 1 performance when they face the Oilers in Game 2 of their Stanley Cup Qualifiers series Monday at Rogers Place in Edmonton.
Despite being the Western Conference’s No. 12 seed in the NHL’s return to play format, Chicago was all over the fifth-seeded Oilers on Saturday, scoring four straight goals en route to a 6-4 victory and a 1-0 series advantage.
That torrent of goals chased Edmonton starter Mike Smith from the net in Game 1 and coach Dave Tippett is going with Mikko Koskinen to start Game 2.
#Oilers coach Dave Tippett said Mikko Koskinen will start in net in Game 2 tonight against the #Blackhawks.— Brandon Cain (@brandonmcain) August 3, 2020
Koskinen made 18 saves on 19 shots in 30:46 after Mike Smith allowed five goals on 23 shots in Game 1 on Saturday.
While Smith did bear the brunt of Chicago’s offensive explosion, they did score on Koskinen as well — Kubalik’s third goal of the game, which came on the power play. As we mentioned during last week’s preview, Koskinen had better regular season numbers than Smith, save for Smith’s League-best save percentage on the penalty kill (.918). Koskinen was no slouch on the PK, checking into the top 10 at .901. But the question marks involving Koskinen deal with his lack of experience in postseason games: Saturday’s game was Koskinen’s NHL playoff debut.
Chicago’s lineup will look slightly different, as well, with forward Drake Caggiula unavailable while serving a one-game suspension for his hit to the head on Edmonton’s Tyler Ennis during Game 1. The expectation here is Dylan Sikura will slot in on the third line with Alex DeBrincat and Kirby Dach.
A win in Game 2 would put Chicago firmly in the driver seat of this best-of-five series. Here are the keys to open that car door:
Keys to the game
- Stay out of the box
Any doubts regarding Edmonton’s power play were answered during Game 1, when the Oilers scored three times with the man advantage. There’s no reason to test its prowess again. Consistent penalties will remain the quickest road to defeat for Chicago in this series.
- Weather the early storm
After a disastrous start to the series for Edmonton, conventional wisdom suggests they’ll fly out of the gate for Game 2. Surrendering the first goal wouldn’t necessarily be a death knell for the Blackhawks — that’s what happened in Game 1, after all. But one early goal against can quickly turn into two or three by the Oilers, who displayed their ability to tally goals in bunches during the final minutes of the third period Saturday.
- Goaltending play
The best remedy for a flurry of Oilers’ scoring chances would be a string of saves from Corey Crawford. Game 1 wasn’t Crawford’s finest performance, as the goalie was caught swimming in his crease in a few moments, especially when Edmonton racked up second and third-chance opportunities on the power play. It likely won’t take long Crawford to return to the impressive form he displayed during the regular season. But Game 1 showed he isn’t quite there yet.
- Power play production
Considering how bad Chicago’s power play was in the regular season, expecting another three-goal performance on Monday night seems unrealistic. But continued generation of shots and scoring chances could be enough to prevent those power plays from becoming the deflating moments they so often were in the regular season.
Tale of the tape
Blackhawks — Stat — Oilers
48.79% (21st) — Corsi for — 47.56% (27th)
46.63% (28th) — Expected goals for — 48.75% (22nd)
2.97 (18th) — Goals per game — 3.14 (14th)
3.06 (17th) — Goals against per game — 3.03 (15th)
15.2% (28th) — Power play — 29.5% (1st)
82.1% (9th) — Penalty kill — 84.4% (2nd)
49.9% (17th) — Faceoffs — 49.0% (23rd)
Kubalik — Toews — Saad
Nylander — Strome — Kane
DeBrincat — Dach — Sikura
Carpenter — Kampf — Highmore
Keith — Boqvist
de Haan — Murphy
Maatta — Koekkoek
Nugent-Hopkins — McDavid — Kassian
Ennis — Draisaitl — Yamamoto
Athanasiou — Haas — Archibald
Neal — Khaira — Chiasson
Klefbom — Larsson
Nurse — Bear
Russell — Benning
How to watch
When: 9:30 p.m.
Where: Rogers Place, Edmonton, AB, Canada
TV: NBC Sports Network, NBC Sports Chicago
Live stream: NBC Sports app, NHL.TV