The Chicago Blackhawks missed a big opportunity to get two points in Edmonton and their special teams are a big reason why.
The Chicago Blackhawks are in the stretch of the season. It could be a road trip that absolutely decides how this season is going to end. Well, their game against the Edmonton Oilers dropped them to 0-2-0 on the Western Canadian road trip. You can say that based on the circumstances it was a missed opportunity for Chicago to inch closer to a playoff spot.
The reason it is a missed opportunity is because of some tough news Edmonton announced in the morning. Connor McDavid, the NHL’s best player, is going to be out of the lineup for 2-3 weeks. McDavid impacts a game more than any player in the world so the Blackhawks were catching a huge break by avoiding him. It is a missed opportunity when you don’t beat an Edmonton team that doesn’t have number 97 to their disposal.
They do have another superstar player that clearly doesn’t need McDavid to be an impactful player. Leon Drasaitl happens to be the league’s leading goal scorer and he might be able to add to his lead while McDavid is out of the lineup. They don’t play on the same line anymore, so Draisaitl is now going to see those extra tough matchups that McDavid gets. He didn’t seem to mind as he had one goal and three assists against the Blackhawks.
It wasn’t just Draisaitl who the Hawks let have a good game against them. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Kailer Yamamoto, and Mike Smith all had very good games for the Oilers. Mike Smith outdueled Robin Lehner in goal. Lehner was okay, but there were a couple of goals he gave up that he would probably like to have back. Smith was exceptional, especially in the third period where he saved all 18 shots the Hawks put on him in a brilliant effort to tie it up.
Special teams let the Blackhawks down in this game. Their power play went 0-3 while the penalty kill gave up two goals on three chances. Without McDavid, you would think the Oilers power play would take a bit of a hit but they looked just fine in this one. If they Blackhawks just converted on one power play of made one extra kill, they might have won the game. At this point in the season, special teams numbers like this are going to make a big impact.
The Blackhawks are back in action tonight against the Vancouver Canucks. They are another Pacific Division leader right now. This is a must-win game for Chicago as they try to stay on the playoff bubble. Everyone around them is going to continue collecting points so they need to do the same. Vancouver has some very good players like Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, and Bo Horvat. It is pivotal that Corey Crawford keeps them in it while guys like Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Brandon Saad continue to make an impact.