- The NHL will proceed with a 24-team playoff when the league returns from its coronavirus hiatus
- In the West, the #5-seed Edmonton Oilers will take on the #12-seed Chicago Blackhawks in the opening round
- See the odds to win the best-of-five series, plus analysis of the matchup and best bets
If the NHL playoffs end up taking place later this summer – and it’s still a big if – the Edmonton Oilers will be chomping at the bit to get after Lord Stanley’s Cup, though they are still something of an outside bet in the 2020 Stanley Cup odds.
Wherever the games take place, and both Chicago and Edmonton are in the running to host games as a hub city, captain Connor McDavid and newly crowned NHL scoring champion Leon Draisaitl will look across the ice and be hoping to emulate the playoff success of Chicago’s own dynamic duo: Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.
Oddsmakers give the younger pair the edge in the opening odds to win the best-of-five series between the Oilers and Blackhawks.
Blackhawks vs. Oilers Series Odds
Odds as of May 27.
The Oilers have had four times as many first-overall draft picks as they’ve had playoff series wins in the last 14 years. With just one postseason appearance since the conclusion of the 2005-06 season – when they played, and lost, Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final – generational talents like McDavid and Draisaitl have had little chance to press their claim for a championship of their own.
But that one postseason run, which ended in the second round against Anaheim in 2017, may well have been enough to show the young nucleus of the Oilers what it takes to win in the spring, or in this case, summer.
Experience in Edmonton?
While McDavid put up a respectable nine points in 13 games in that run, it was Draisaitl who really shone, posting 16 points over the same span, and leading his club to within one win of reaching the Western Conference final.
Of course, Edmonton’s No. 2 centre has come on leaps and bounds as a player the last three years, this year beating out McDavid to become the NHL’s first German-born scoring champion.
Teammates to finish 1st & 2nd in the NHL in points since 1990
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) May 26, 2020
However, unlike Chicago’s championship-pedigreed roster, it’s worth pointing out that Edmonton doesn’t have a single player with a Stanley Cup ring.
Oilers’ Achilles Heel?
Though the Oilers seemingly blew teams away this season on the strength of the scoring of Draisaitl and McDavid, who finished 1-2 in the NHL scoring race, it’s worth pointing out that, when playing 5-on-5, Chicago actually had a better goal differential, finishing even to Edmonton’s -16.
It was Edmonton’s power play that did most of the damage. The dynamic duo were aided and abetted by the likes of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Zack Kassian, who helped the team operate at a 29.5% clip. But Chicago will be hoping to counteract that with its penalty-killing units, which finished tied for eighth in the NHL with an 82.1% kill rate.
Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl becomes the first German-born player to win the Art Ross Trophy after leading the NHL with 110 points during the 2019-20 season. pic.twitter.com/w2Wzmg129R
— The Puck Authority (@PuckAuthority1) May 27, 2020
However, the Oilers converted three of seven power-play opportunities in the three games against the Hawks this season, so stopping McDavid and Draisaitl will be easier said than done.
If Edmonton is looking for a role model in how to take the next step as a championship club, it need only look across the ice for a perfect example to follow. After just one postseason appearance in 11 seasons, Chicago made the playoffs in 2009, going all the way to the conference final. The following year, Toews and company took home the Cup.
?2010 Stanley Cup Champions ✅
?2013 Stanley Cup Champions ✅
?2015 Stanley Cup Champions ✅
?2020 Stanley Cup Champions ⁉️
— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) May 27, 2020
Virtually dead and buried when the NHL stopped play due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, this unique 24-team playoff format gives experience-heavy teams like Chicago a Lazarus-like opportunity to reset their season.
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) May 26, 2020
With many of the key players from the 2010, 2013, and 2015 Cup-winning teams still on the roster, Chicago will hope that fresh hope can breathe new life into old legs. Certainly the two-month break without games will have helped a team like the Blackhawks.
Key players such as Drake Caggiula, Duncan Keith, Dylan Strome and Brandon Saad all missed time with various ailments this season. If Chicago is going to have a chance against Edmonton, it will need sterling contributions from throughout the lineup.
The one caveat will be whether goaltender Corey Crawford can quickly regain the mojo he had down the stretch before the season was halted.
— Blackhawks Talk (@NBCSBlackhawks) May 27, 2020
The two-time Cup winner went 7-7-1 with a 2.46 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage in his last 15 appearances. That sort of championship-caliber goaltending is going to prove even more crucial in a shortened best-of-five series.
Pick: Chicago +130
Additional NHL Qualifying Round Coverage:
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- Canucks Open as -140 Favorites Over Wild in Best-of-Five Qualifying Round
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