The Chicago Blackhawks are advancing to the Stanley Cup Playoffs after eliminating the Edmonton Oilers from contention with a 3-2 win in Game Four of their qualifying series.
That’s a big blow for the hub city hosts, who entered the series as the fifth seed in the Western Conference and were largely expected to take down Chicago.
The Blackhawks, conversely, were the 12th seed in the Western Conference, so the series victory is akin to Montreal’s trouncing of the Pittsburgh Penguins in their qualifying round.
Similar to the Penguins, the Oilers boasted a one-two punch up from in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
But the Blackhawks had the answers and took advantage of a lacklustre Edmonton defence, one that was short critical shutdown D-man Adam Larsson for two straight games. Chicago knew how to press at the right moments and scored two goals off point shots, using physicality and tip-ins to obtain the victory.
In the end, Edmonton was outmuscled and outhustled.
Brandon Saad, Matthew Highmore, and Dominik Kubalik scored for Chicago. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Josh Archibald had the Oilers’ goals.
Chicago had goals from nine different skaters in the series and nine of 16 came from point shots.
The Oilers got scoring from the usual suspects but struggled to get much support from their depth players. Zack Kassian was demoted to the fourth line, while others didn’t find twine at all.
McDavid impressed in the series with nine points, including five goals, while Draisaitl held it down with three goals and three helpers. Nugent-Hopkins had eight points, including two goals.
Blackhawks netminder Corey Crawford made 41 saves Friday as the Oilers did everything they could to shell him out, but mistakes and slopping defence killed their chances. A late too-many-men penalty took the air out of things entirely.
So now the Oilers move on with a 12.5 percent chance to snag the number one pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.
The Blackhawks, who finished 23rd in the NHL standings in the regular season, will face either the Vegas Golden Knights or Dallas Stars in the next round.