Edmonton Oilers vs. Chicago Blackhawks: Playoffs Opening Round Free Pick & Predictions

Oilers vs. Blackhawks
Edmonton Oilers vs. Chicago Blackhawks: Playoffs Opening Round Free Pick & Predictions

Edmonton is the home pod for the Western Conference in the NHL’s resumption of play, and the host Oilers are the No. 5 seed. After losing out on being in the round robin due to points percentage, the Oilers drew a matchup with the 12th-seeded Chicago Blackhawks. The Oilers secured 83 points in 71 games to finish second in the Pacific Division. Meanwhile, Chicago was last in the Central Division, but earned 72 points in 70 games to squeak into the Opening Round. The best-of-five series begins Saturday at 3 p.m. EST with a potential Game 5 set for Aug. 8.

Free Picks & Predictions

If nothing else, this series will provide fans an opportunity to watch some of the best players in the world compete against one another. Edmonton has its two-headed monster of Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid, who finished first and second, respectively, in both assists and points this season.

As much as Edmonton scored, it needed the goals with how poor the defense and goaltending were this year. Only four players finished with positive plus-minuses this season. The Oilers still have not made a choice between Mikko Koskinen and Mike Smith in goal for the postseason, but Koskinen had the better save percentage by 15 points and gave up .2 goals per game less than Smith. However, Smith seems to be the preferred goalie for coach Dave Tippett and has better advanced analytics.

On paper, Chicago still has enough talent to compete after Patrick Kane scored 33 goals and 84 points this season and Jonathan Toews dished out 42 assists among his 60 points. More importantly, Toews is one of the best two-way forwards in the game, which is an advantage against Draisaitl and McDavid given their lack of defensive acumen. The Blackhawks even have some high-scoring young guns in Alex DeBrincat (45 points), Dominik Kubalík (30 goals) and Dylan Strome (38 points) who can help add to the depth.

The issue is the potential loss of two key pieces to the Blackhawks’ defensive structure. Veteran defenseman Brent Seabrook has already opted out of returning this season, and Corey Crawford just returned to the ice after testing positive for COVID-19. Crawford is able to skate and might feel 100 percent by the time the games start again, but it’s unclear if he’ll be up to game speed. His health is the key to any chance Chicago has at springing the upset.

The Oilers are the second largest favorite among the eight Opening Round series at most NHL betting sites in New Jersey. Therefore it doesn’t pay to just bet on Edmonton to win the series, but to try and figure out how long it will take the Oilers to dispatch the Blackhawks. It’s unlikely the Blackhawks will be able to hang around for five games, so the odds are favorable for Edmonton to sweep Chicago at +450 or take the series in four games at +375 odds.

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Josh Walfish is an award-winning journalist who has been covering college and professional sports in the United States. He holds a journalism degree from Northwestern University and his work has appeared in the Miami Herald, Chicago Sun-Times and Providence Journal. He most recently chronicled the UMass hockey teams rise to prominence over the last two years for the local newspaper

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