Hawks Top Oilers, Advance to Playoffs
There was a buzz around the Rogers Place Friday evening as the Chicago Blackhawks played “host” to the Edmonton Oilers. After late game heroics in Game 3 allowed Chicago to take a 2-1 series lead, they were one elusive win away from winning their first postseason series since 2015.
Much like the rest of the series, the Oilers got things going first with an early goal from Josh Archibald, just forty-five seconds into the game. It would be Archibald’s first goal of the series, and the second game Edmonton would claim the lead within the first minute of puck drop. About five minutes later, Connor Murphy would fire a shot towards the net only to deflect off of goalie, Mikko Koskinen to an awaiting Brandon Saad. Saad would then wrap-around the goal and beat Koskinen to the punch and score the Blackhawks first goal of the night. He later told Dan Rosen of NHL.com, “At that point there’s a lot of time (following Archibald’s goal). You can’t look back, you’ve just got to look forward. For us to get an offensive zone face-off and to be able to capitalize, it definitely evens it out for us and gives us that confidence.”
Minutes later, Matthew Highmore, who had a goal Wednesday night in Game 3, would redirect a shot fired by Duncan Keith to gain Chicago their first lead of the night. It wouldn’t be until early in the second period, in part thanks to a Blackhawks penalty at the buzzer, which would send Matthew Highmore to the penalty box for High-sticking to start the next period, when Ryan Nugent-Hopkins would tie the game up on a slap shot following goalie, Corey Crawford coming just a bit too far out of the net. The goal was not ruled a power play goal.
The Blackhawks would commit yet another late penalty in the second period which would send Dominik Kubalik to the penalty box to start the third period for Slashing. To many Hawks’ fans’ delight, no early goals from the Oilers came as a result of this penalty, and about midway through the final period of play it would be Kubalik making headlines again. After being the star of Game 1, Dominik Kubalik had gone goal-less for two straight games. He would step up to be the hero of Game 4 after a great setup pass from captain, Jonathan Toews, for a wide open slap shot chance on the net. Kubalik netted the goal, and secured the 3-2 Blackhawks lead. Neither team would score again for the remainder of the game.
The icing on the cake came in the waning moments of the game when the Oilers all but eliminated themselves after being called for Too many men on the ice with 2:03 left. The Blackhawks would be on their own power play for essentially the remainder of the game, and would go on to win by a final score of 3-2, while advancing to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Despite giving the Oilers five power play opportunities, the Blackhawks were able to go 5-for-5 on the penalty kill, and Corey Crawford made 20 of his 43 saves in the third period alone. When asked of his thoughts on his team and this series, Chicago coach Jeremy Colliton told Rosen, “Both excellent teams. “[Edmonton’s] had great seasons and they’re coming into these playoffs with the expectation that they’re going to win the Cup. It’s a great challenge for us. I’m happy that we get the opportunity.” The #12 seed Blackhawks owe their qualifying round berth to the NHL shutdown in mid-March which stopped season play for nearly five months due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Fans should be very excited for the outlook and mentality of this 2020 Blackhawks group from these words from Jonathan Toews, “I think our core group has always done a good job of not listening to [unwarranted praise and criticism]. We missed the playoffs for a couple years and you’re bound to have people come down on you a little bit, but I don’t think any of that fazed us. We were pretty eager to get this chance and show what we can do. Technically, we just made the playoffs now, so the real fun begins.”
The real fun begins indeed as the newly ranked #8 seed Blackhawks will take on the #1 seed Vegas Golden Knights, who just swept their way through their Round-Robin schedule. Game 1 is TBD as the league decides on when the Stanley Cup Playoffs will begin.