How Blackhawks executed plan to upset Oilers in Game 1

by 24USATVAug. 2, 2020, 3 a.m. 29
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It would have been easy for the Blackhawks to collapse mentally when Oilers captain Connor McDavid scored a power-play goal just 2:34 into the contest, but they went another direction, scoring four goals off their next 11 shots in a span of 7:06.

Second line center Dylan Strome set the table for the Hawks' to show a profound level of resolve, scoring unassisted at 5:51, tying the game 1-1.

Then, the Hawks' top line — with captain Jonathan Toews centering — scored three goals to help the Blackhawks exit the opening frame up 4-1. Toews scored first to break the tie, followed by Brandon Saad, then Toews with another.

The talk since the postseason tournament matchup between the Western Conference's No. 12 seed Blackhawks and No. 5 seed Oilers was announced was all about Edmonton's Leon Draisaitl and Conn McDavid, the NHL's top two leaders in points, respectively, at the time of the pause on March 12.

Now, after Game 1, the Oilers will be figuring out how to contain the Kubalik-Toews-Saad line, with an emphasis on Kubalik.

"That line, Toews-Saad-Kubalik, they seem to have a really good understanding of how they want to play in the offensive zone in particular, and finding those holes in the slot, and (Kubalik's) got a great shot. Very coachable kid and he seems to be getting better and better," Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton said after Saturday's game via a Zoom call with the media from Edmonton.

Kubalik added two power-play goals when the trio was dismantled but he assisted on each of the line's first period goals. When the rookie forward reached five points in the second period with his second power-play goal of the contest, he set two impressive records: most points by a Blackhawks rookie in a playoff game and most points by a player in their postseason debut in NHL history.

Related: Dominik Kubalik and Jonathan Toews lift Blackhawks over Oilers in Game 1

"Overall as a player, he protects the puck so well, he creates chances, obviously you can see how he scores goals. That helps our power play, that helps our even-strength game, and then just being a horse out there," Saad said of Kubalik after the game. "We always talk about protecting the puck, and making good zone (time) like that. He's so good at protecting it, drawing guys to him, making plays. Just an all-around complete player so that helps Jonny and I a lot."

Toews finished Game 1 with two goals and an assist, Saad with one goal and one assist and Kubalik with two goals and three assists.

McDavid and Draisaitl were thrown together for a total of 2:34 in 5-on-5 play in Game 1. The Oilers might be forced to start them on the same line in Game 2 as a nuclear option and take it from there.

Whether it's shaking up the lines or more intensity overall, you can expect a lot more from the Oilers and their top line, whoever is on it, on Monday for Game 2 in Edmonton.

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