Toews, Kubalik and Co. strike early and often in Hawks' resounding Game 1 victory
The strangest postseason game in Chicago Blackhawks history got off to an inauspicious start Saturday when coach Jeremy Colliton's squad was whistled for a penalty after just 87 seconds.
A minute later, Connor McDavid gave Edmonton a 1-0 lead. Normally, a building bursting with Oilers fans would have torn the roof off Rogers Place with a deafening roar of approval.
Momentum firmly in their grasp, the Oilers could may have charged forward with a second goal and a third and a fourth.
Instead, that goal had all the pizzazz of a scrimmage goal at Fifth Third Arena.
And so it was the 12th-seeded Hawks who issued a resounding response by stunning the Oilers with 4 goals in just over seven minutes en route to an easy 6-4 victory in Game 1 of this best-of-five play-in series in Edmonton.
Rookie-of-the-year finalist Dominik Kubalik (2G, 3A) set an NHL record by racking up 5 points in his first Stanley Cup playoff game, captain Jonathan Toews (2G, A) had a 3-point day, Dylan Strome and Brandon Saad scored, and Corey Crawford made 25 saves.
It was the Hawks' first postseason win since Game 6 of their opening-round series against St. Louis in 2016.
"It feels good," said Toews, who is now tied with Patrick Sharp for sixth in Hawks history with 42 postseason goals. "It gives you that confidence there's no telling how far you can go. It's playoff hockey -- anything can happen. It's good to be back; kind of get that monkey off our back."
Said Saad: "The camaraderie on the team is at an all-time high. Everyone's excited to be here ... and anytime you're scoring goals, you're hooting and hollering. It was just a great feeling overall today."
Strome tied it at 1-1 at 5:51 of the first period by banking a shot off goalie Mike Smith's back side. The floodgates opened at that point as Toews scored on the power play at 7:56, Saad made it 3-1 at 9:17, and Toews scored again at 12:57.
Kubalik assisted on all 3 scores, notching the primary assists on Toews' goals with perfect, pinpoint passes in front of the net.
"He's been fun to watch and fun to play with on a line for sure," Toews said.
Kubalik ended Smith's day when he scored 6:32 into the second period, which was just 2:19 after Leon Draisaitl scored to give Edmonton hope. Kubalik notched his second goal 11 minutes later to make it 6-2.
The Hawks went 3-for-6 on the power play, while Edmonton went 3-for-4.
Game 2 is Monday at 9:30 p.m.
Best-of-fives haven't been played in the NHL since 1986, but history is now firmly on the Hawks' side as Game 1 winners in those series advanced 82 percent of the time.
The Hawks dominated nearly every phase of the game, beating the lackluster Oilers to loose pucks, digging them out of corners more effectively and standing up for each other when needed.
Right from the opening minute, the Hawks also stormed the middle of the offensive zone and fired off plenty of high-danger shots.
It was an impressive display up and down the lineup by a team that suddenly looks awfully dangerous.
"We kind of have the best of both worlds," said Jeremy Colliton, who became the youngest coach to win his Stanley Cup playoff debut since assistant coach Marc Crawford won with Quebec in 1995. "We have a handful of guys that have been through it and won the Cups (and) they can share their experiences in terms of what it takes and the feeling that it's worth it. ...
"At the same time you got a young group. ... They're very happy for the opportunity to be here and maybe don't know any better.
"On the outside people may say that we don't have a chance, but (we got) better as the year went on, and now we have a chance to show it. So everyone's excited about that."