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2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers: Blackhawks aim to eliminate hub host Oilers in Game 4

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Chicago can advance to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2017.

Edmonton Oilers v Chicago Blackhawks
Kirby Dach of the Chicago Blackhawks gets tripped against Mikko Koskinen and Caleb Jones of the Edmonton Oilers
Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

The Blackhawks have a chance to advance to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2017 with a win against the Oilers in Game 4 of Friday’s best-of-five Qualifiers series.

Chicago seized a 2-1 series lead Wednesday with a stunning 4-3 victory. The Blackhawks trailed by a goal late in the third period, but Matthew Highmore tied it with 5:47 remaining, and Jonathan Toews scored the go-ahead goal with 1:16 left.

According to the NHL, teams that win Game 3 after a series is tied 1-1 have gone on to win a best-of-five series 75 percent of the time (21-7).

Chicago will again have last change, which could lead to better, or at least different, matchups than Game 3. Although some lines had bounce back games — like the first line trio of Dominik Kubalik, Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad — others had their worst game, namely the fourth line trio of Ryan Carpenter, David Kampf and Highmore, although Highmore had two crucial points.

The Oilers will be without Tyler Ennis, who is out indefinitely after a hit in the second period by Blackhawks rookie Kirby Dach. Ennis had a goal and assist in the series, and provided noticeable presence on the second line with Leon Draisaitl and Kailer Yamamoto.

The Blackhawks had a much better five-on-five performance in Game 3, improving in every statistical category, even though there wasn’t much five-on-five played (41:30), as 24 minutes of penalties were called in the first two periods. The five-on-five minutes per game has steadily declined, which is not a great for the Blackhawks, who are still lacking consistent performances from their special teams units. Despite a five-on-three goal from Toews, the Blackhawks shot the puck just seven times in nine minutes of power-play time in Game 3.

The Blackhawks are 7-for-12 on the penalty kill in the series, including 2-for-3 in Game 3, but have allowed at least one power-play goal in every game. They have yet to fully stop the Oilers’ league-best power play.

The Blackhawks also hit five posts and had plenty of whiffs in Game 3. It has yet to be determined whether it is bad ice or bad luck, but something may change in Game 4.

Where is playoff Kane?

Patrick Kane has four points (one goal, three assists) in the series, but he’s been somewhat of an after thought compared to what you’d expect. He only has two primary points and while he has a team-high 14 shots and 1.6 expected goals, he’s also given up the puck three times.

Other Blackhawks veterans have shown up in important ways. Toews has two two-goal games in this series and Keith had two primary assists in the Game 1 victory. Kane can break open a game, especially in the playoffs, with his offensive ability, and the Blackhawks can always use it. Especially now that he’s been aligned with Alex DeBrincat and Kirby Dach, the Blackhawks will likely need a prime performance from Kane to advance.

Koekkoek-Maatta paying dividends offensively

Defensemen Slater Koekkoek and Olli Maatta have stood out among Chicago’s surprising players in the series.

While Game 3 may have been the duo’s worst defensively, with Maatta on ice for all three goals against and Koekkoek not helping much, they both scored crucial points with shots from the point. Maatta scored a goal and Koekkoek had the primary assist on Highmore’s goal.

Koekkoek and Maatta have been proficient in the offensive zone throughout the series. Maatta is tied for the third-most points on the team with Dach and Kane at four and Koekkoek has three, the same amount as Duncan Keith and DeBrincat.

Aside from Maatta, Koekkoek and Keith, no other Blackhawks defensemen has multiple points. While an improvement in their own end from Game 3 is needed, the duo is proving to be surprisingly adept at the other side of the ice.

First line wings have disappeared

Kubalik and Saad haven’t scored a point since Game 1. To be fair to Kubalik, it was unlikely he would repeat his NHL record five-game (two goals, three assists) performance in his playoff debut. But zero points in two games after that is not what the Blackhawks need.

The first line’s possession numbers have dipped to low points in Game 2 before rebounding in Game 3. The Blackhawks need more from those two wingers, who have been two of Chicago’s statistical best players all season.

Tale of the Tape

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)

Projected lineups

Blackhawks

Kubalik — Toews — Saad

DeBrincat — Dach — Kane

Nylander — Strome Caggiula

Carpenter — Kampf — Highmore

Keith — Boqvist

De Haan — Murphy

Maatta — Koekkoek

Crawford

Subban

Oilers

Nugent-HopkinsMcDavid — Archibald

Athanasiou — Draisaitl — Yamamoto

Neal — Sheahan — Kassian

Haas — Khaira — Chiasson

Klefbom — Bear

Nurse — Jones

Russell — Benning

Koskinen

Smith

How to Watch

When: 5:45 p.m.

Where: Rogers Place, Edmonton, AB, Canada

TV: NBC Sports Network, NBC Sports Chicago

Live stream: NBC Sports app, NHL.TV