4 reasons why the Blackhawks beat the Oilers
When the NHL decided to resume its season and give 24 teams the chance to play for the Stanley Cup, the Blackhawks had one thought on their minds: Let's not waste this opportunity.
This opportunity to grow. To come together. To fight for each other. To stay disciplined, on and off the ice. And, ultimately, to prove they belong.
They accomplished all of that and more by eliminating the Edmonton Oilers with a 3-2 Game 4 victory in Edmonton on Friday. Now, coach Jeremy Colliton's squad will take on the Vegas Golden Knights in a best-of-seven series
"Right from the time we got to camp, they've been totally committed and the work ethic has been excellent," said coach Jeremy Colliton "It's given us a chance to win. We have an extremely young team, a lot of players who were given their first chance to play in these types of games. ...
"There was a transformation from training camp (in September) to March and then all those guys got a chance to take a little break and ... reflect on the season they've gone through. And they've taken another step."
It may be the only step they take this postseason, but have no doubt -- it's a big one for many reasons. But before we flip the page, let's take a look at four of the biggest reasons the Hawks are moving on:
1. Corey Crawford:
Look, Crawford wasn't perfect. Far from it. But do the Hawks advance if they're forced to play Malcolm Subban and/or Colin Delia?
Crawford, who allowed 10 goals in the first two games, stole the show with a magnificent 43-save performance in Game 4.
To be sure, there aren't many other goaltenders teams would want between the pipes right now.
2. D is for depth:
When your fourth-line winger scores goals in back-to-back games, your third-pairing defensemen end up with a combined 7 points, and a 19-year-old rookie notches 4 assists you know your team has come together.
Matthew Highmore, Olli Maatta, Slater Koekkoek and Kirby Dach were huge reasons the Hawks prevailed in Game 3, then ultimately put the series away in Game 4.
3. Sloppy Oilers:
Coach Dave Tippett's team just couldn't get out of its own way.
• There was the first-period collapse in Game 1 when the Oilers found themselves down 4-1 just 10.5 minutes after taking an early lead.
• Then there were the 6 power-play opportunities they handed the Hawks in Game 3.
• Then a bevy of turnovers, two of which led directly to the Hawks' first 2 goals in Game 4.
• Oh, and let's not forget about the worst infractions of the series, both of which came in Game 4. The first was Darnell Nurse's interference penalty midway through what should have been a five-minute power play; the second, a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty with 2:03 remaining as the Oilers were trying to get Mikko Koskinen to the bench.
"Just too many mistakes that just can't happen this time of year," said Leon Draisaitl. "We never really got our 'A' game going; without that, this league's too good to beat anyone. It's obviously very frustrating."
4. Resiliency/veteran presence:
Not only did the Hawks allow the first goal in three of the four games, but those tallies all came in the first three minutes. Some teams might start feeling sorry for themselves, then never recover after allowing a second and third goal.
But not this group.
It starts with Jonathan Toews' leadership, but even Toews draws inspiration from others in the leadership core. His postgame comments about 37-year-old Duncan Keith, who averaged a series-high 25 minutes, 36 seconds of ice time, were particularly telling.
"I look at a guy like Duncs and the experience that he has at his age and just how he holds down the fort -- power play, penalty kill, 5-on-5 -- you feel his presence on the bench and he's competing every single second," Toews said. "You learn a lot from a guy like that -- even for a guy like myself or Kaner or other guys in our room that have some experience.
"That just trickles through our lineup when we have a defenseman that has done what he's done and (is) going out there and carrying a ton of weight every single shift."