William Hill and Stations Casinos have their lines out for the coming playoffs.
I believe it looks like an 8/1 starting date. Edmonton -160 at Wm. Hill.
Stations has it Ed. -155 .
The horses are on the track.
The Edmonton Oilers and Chicago Blackhawks will play each other in the best-of-5 Qualifying Round when the NHL season resumes. Though there is no date for the games to start, two NHL.com writers have already started the debate over which team has the edge in the series.
The Oilers became a much more dangerous team and a legitimate threat when they moved https://www.nhl.com/player/leon-draisaitl-8477934 away from center https://www.nhl.com/player/connor-mcdavid-8478402 to play center on his own line Dec. 31. It's Edmonton's version of what the Pittsburgh Penguins have lived on for years, with centers https://www.nhl.com/player/sidney-crosby-8471675 and https://www.nhl.com/player/evgeni-malkin-8471215 on separate lines but on the same power play. There is simply no way the Blackhawks are going to be able to handle the matchup problems the Oilers present with McDavid and Draisaitl apart at even strength and together on the power play.
Edmonton went 17-8-5 with 107 goals (3.57 per game), tied for the most in the League with the Philadelphia Flyers, from Dec. 31-March 11. Draisaitl had 49 points (21 goals, 28 assists) in those 30 games. Forward https://www.nhl.com/player/ryan-nugent-hopkins-8476454, who played on Draisaitl's line, had 41 points (15 goals, 26 assists) in that span and McDavid had 34 points (12 goals, 22 assists) in 23 games; the Oilers were 3-2-1 without McDavid from Feb. 11-21, when he was out because of a quad injury.
The Blackhawks, who allowed 3.06 goals per game and allowed a League-high 35.1 shots against per game this season, will not be able to handle them.
Timing really is everything, isn't it? Yes, The Blackhawks gave up a ton of shots and they weren't the sharpest defensive team in the NHL. But every team looks to make incremental gains throughout a season, and that's what Chicago was doing when the season was paused on March 12. In their final 25 games, the Blackhawks allowed 2.80 goals per game and trimmed their shots-against per game to 34.2. Around that time goalie https://www.nhl.com/player/corey-crawford-8470645 began playing more like a two-time Stanley Cup champion, posting a 2.35 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage in 17 games during that stretch.
No, it won't be easy to stop that juggernaut Edmonton attack. But Chicago isn't exactly bringing a slingshot to a gun fight. The Blackhawks had seven players score at least 10 goals, one fewer than the Oilers' eight, and six players with at least 30 points, one fewer than Edmonton's seven. And I wouldn't mind seeing what center https://www.nhl.com/player/jonathan-toews-8473604 and forward https://www.nhl.com/player/patrick-kane-8474141 can do as far as putting pressure on McDavid and Draisaitl; as good as they are at scoring, the Oilers' top two offensive players will have to defend some, too.
I agree with Adam, timing is everything. But in this case it's time for Edmonton to make a stand and prove it belongs in the discussion with the big boys in the Western Conference, including the St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars and Vegas Golden Knights. The Oilers know they have to dispatch the Blackhawks quickly to start earning that respect, and that's what I expect because of their ability to swarm Chicago's defense and take advantage that way.
Adam brings up some good points on the Blackhawks showing signs of improvement before the season was paused, but we're talking about a drop of less than one shot-against on goal per game in their final 25 games. Even 34.2 shots on goal per game would have been 29th in the League during that span; it's still too many and puts too much pressure on Crawford. He's going to have McDavid and Draisaitl coming at him at least every other shift, and they'll be together on the power play. I really wonder if Chicago will have the puck enough to be able to get its strong offense going. I don't think it will and I don't think it'll matter because Edmonton should be able to to execute effectively against the Blackhawks' defense.
On paper this looks like a mismatch. Chicago was the 12th and final team to make the Western Conference Qualifying Round. These aren't the 2010 Blackhawks, or even the 2015 Blackhawks. But here's what Kane, Toews, defenseman https://www.nhl.com/player/duncan-keith-8470281 and Crawford have -- big-game experience. Those four players have combined for 468 games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and have their name carved into the Cup a combined 11 times.
Draisaitl and McDavid each has played 13 playoff games, all in 2017.
If one bounce goes the wrong way for the Oilers, how will they handle it? Because we know how the Blackhawks handle adversity and they've got the hardware to prove it. In a five-game series, it doesn't take much to steal momentum. Will McDavid and Draisaitl be able to snatch it back? It definitely will be interesting to wat
The Toronto Maple Leafs and Columbus Blue Jackets will play each other in the best-of-5 Qualifying Round when the NHL season resumes. Though there is no date for the games to start, two NHL.com writers have already started the debate over which team has the edge in the series.
I love this matchup. It's a gifted offensive bunch in Toronto desperate to get over the hump against a Columbus group that thrives on defying the odds. But I'm in the camp that believes the Maple Leafs will find a way here, led by their captain, https://www.nhl.com/player/john-tavares-8475166, who has raised his game with high stakes in the past. https://www.nhl.com/player/mitchell-marner-8478483 has committed himself to becoming a solid two-way forward, and defenseman https://www.nhl.com/player/morgan-rielly-8476853 will eat a lot of minutes. It'll all be anchored by goalie https://www.nhl.com/player/frederik-andersen-8475883, who has shown flashes of brilliance in the postseason. I think Toronto wins this series.
Sure, the Maple Leafs are the easy pick. But the Tampa Bay Lightning were the easy pick last season when they were one of the best regular-season teams in NHL history, and the Blue Jackets swept them in the first round. And while lots of people thought the Blue Jackets would fade this season after losing goalie https://www.nhl.com/player/sergei-bobrovsky-8475683, and forwards https://www.nhl.com/player/artemi-panarin-8478550 and https://www.nhl.com/player/matt-duchene-8475168 in free agency, they were tied with the Carolina Hurricanes for the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference when the season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus -- despite having lost 419 man games to injury, the most in the NHL. The pause benefitted Columbus perhaps more than any other team, giving several players time to heal. Oh, and how many playoff series have the Maple Leafs won during the past 14 seasons? Even the Blue Jackets, whose defeat of the Lightning was their first series win ever, have won more.
The Carolina Hurricanes and New York Rangers will play each other in the best-of-5 Qualifying Round when the NHL season resumes. Though there is no date for the games to start, two NHL.com writers have already started the debate over which team has the edge in the series.
I'm all-in on the Carolina Hurricanes in this matchup. The Hurricanes are one several teams who got closer to full strength during the pause, and defensemen https://www.nhl.com/player/dougie-hamilton-8476462 and https://www.nhl.com/player/sami-vatanen-8475222 will be ready to return from injury. That's one heck of a defense, and one I think can stand up to anything the New York Rangers throw at them, even if the Hurricanes will have to integrate Vatanen on the fly. Combine those additions with the experience gained by reaching the Eastern Conference Final last season, and I think the Hurricanes take out the upstarts from New York.
The healthier Hurricanes would be a challenge for any team, but I will go with the no-longer-rebuilding Rangers in this series. Although the Rangers had the second youngest roster in the NHL with an average age of 26, they were playing like one of the best teams in the League before the pause and were 4-0-0 against the Hurricanes this season. With left wing https://www.nhl.com/player/artemi-panarin-8478550 and center https://www.nhl.com/player/mika-zibanejad-8476459 leading the way, New York went 14-7-1 from Jan. 31-March 11, including 9-1-0 from Feb 9-27, to climb from 11 points behind the Hurricanes to within two. And like the Hurricanes, the Rangers will be healthier when play resumes with left wing https://www.nhl.com/player/chris-kreider-8475184 expected back from a broken foot.
That's all true, Tom. And I know there's a sense that the younger the team, the better able they might be to bounce back from the pause, so this absolutely will be a tough matchup for the Hurricanes. I think it will be a difficult series, but experience might also be important, given the unknown in this unprecedented situation. The Hurricanes seem to be reborn a dangerous team in this new era for them, and I think they'll be able to recapture a bit of that magic, even if they have to face a dynamic offensive force in the Rangers and their impressive weapons.
Whichever team finds its game quicker coming out of the pause will have the advantage in this best-of-5 series. As Amalie mentioned, that might help the young Rangers. But I think the difference will be in goal, which remains the biggest question mark for Carolina. Although https://www.nhl.com/player/petr-mrazek-8475852 will probably get the call at the start, it wouldn't surprise me to see https://www.nhl.com/player/james-reimer-8473503 at some point because of Mrazek's inconsistency. For New York, it will likely be impressive rookie https://www.nhl.com/player/igor-shesterkin-8478048 for Game 1 with https://www.nhl.com/player/alexandar-georgiev-8480382 ready to step in, and 38-year-old https://www.nhl.com/player/henrik-lundqvist-8468685 in reserve. This will be the opportunity for Shesterkin (10-2-0, 2.52 goals-against average, .932 save percentage) to take the torch from Lundqvist and run with it.
The Nashville Predators and Arizona Coyotes will play each other in the best-of-5 Qualifying Round when the NHL season resumes. Though there is no date for the games to start, two NHL.com writers have already started the debate over which team has the edge in the series.
The Predators underachieved this season. That's not just my opinion, it's one shared by their general manager, David Poile, one of the smartest men in hockey. Poile, who has been around the NHL as a GM for the past 38 years, believes Nashville, which finished sixth in the Western Conference with a points percentage of .565, has another gear and will find it when play resumes. I can't argue with that. Centers https://www.nhl.com/player/matt-duchene-8475168 and https://www.nhl.com/player/ryan-johansen-8475793 and forwards https://www.nhl.com/player/filip-forsberg-8476887 and https://www.nhl.com/player/viktor-arvidsson-8478042 each can be markedly better. If they are, the Predators will display the offense that has been missing this season. In goal, veteran https://www.nhl.com/player/pekka-rinne-8471469 (18-14-4, 3.17 goals-against average, .895 save percentage) was nowhere near the form that won him the Vezina Trophy in 2018. If he comes back from the pause refreshed, look out, Arizona!
If Shawn's going to draw the underachieving card, I'll play along. After all, forward https://www.nhl.com/player/phil-kessel-8473548, acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins in a trade on June 29, scored 38 points (14 goals, 24 assists) in 70 games with the Coyotes after scoring 82 points (27 goals, 55 assists) in 82 games last season. It's about time the 32-year-old begins working his big-game magic -- Kessel is a two-time Stanley Cup champion, and has scored 77 points (33 goals, 44 assists) in 87 playoff games. Arizona, with a .529 points percentage this season, was considered a legitimate Cup contender after the acquisition of forward https://www.nhl.com/player/taylor-hall-8475791 on Dec. 16. But that vision blurred when goalie https://www.nhl.com/player/darcy-kuemper-8475311 sustained a lower-body injury on Dec. 19. Kuemper was a leading candidate to win the Vezina Trophy as top goalie in the NHL prior to his injury, but he's healthy now and ready to build on his impressive regular-season numbers (2.22 GAA, .929 save percentage). The Coyotes are the sleeping giant of the Western Conference.
I always knew you were a follower, Mike. So let me go in the opposite direction. The Predators have the best player in this series, and that's the tiebreaker for me. In my opinion, https://www.nhl.com/player/roman-josi-8474600 should win the Norris Trophy as the best defenseman in the NHL. The 29-year-old is in his prime and can take over a game with his jaw-dropping combination of skill and savvy. He makes Nashville go at each end of the ice, playing 25:47 per game and leading the Predators in scoring with 65 points (16 goals, 49 assists) and shot attempts during 5-on-5 play with a plus-185, which ranks 14th in the League among defensemen. He has a fair bit of help on the blue line from https://www.nhl.com/player/ryan-ellis-8475176 and the underrated https://www.nhl.com/player/mattias-ekholm-8475218. I don't know if defense will win the 2020 Stanley Cup championship, but it will be the difference in this round and that's where Nashville has a clear advantage.
Respect your elders, Shawn. And respect what the Coyotes have going for them along the blue line as well. In addition to a healthy Kuemper, it doesn't hurt having veteran defensemen such as https://www.nhl.com/player/alex-goligoski-8471274, https://www.nhl.com/player/oliver-ekman-larsson-8475171 and https://www.nhl.com/player/niklas-hjalmarsson-8471769 to offer the necessary support. Defense wins championships and Arizona is the better team in its own zone; it finished tied with the Columbus Blue Jackets for the third lowest goals-against average (2.61) in the regular season, and that was with their starting goalie out for two months. The Predators were tied for 19th in goals against (3.10). Special teams? Arizona was better on the power play (19.2 percent) than Nashville (17.3 percent) and significantly better on penalty kill (82.7 percent to 76.1 percent). Hall leads the Coyotes with 27 points (10 goals, 17 assists) in 35 games since the trade and I expect center https://www.nhl.com/player/nick-schmaltz-8477951 (45 points; 11 goals, 34 assists this season) and forwards https://www.nhl.com/player/clayton-keller-8479343 (44 points; 17 goals, 27 assists) and https://www.nhl.com/player/conor-garland-8478856 (39 points; 22 goals, 17 assists) to also produce in a big way. Coach Rick Tocchet will have his charges ready to go through a brick wall with maximum effort. Sorry Smashville; Arizona is primed for the upset.