Blackhawks vs. Oilers: 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifier Preview


The NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers kick off the Return to Play plan on August 1. This week, PHT will be previewing each series with a look at storylines and end with our predictions for the eight matchups.

(5) Edmonton Oilers vs. (12) Chicago Blackhawks – TV schedule, start times, channels

Saturday, Aug. 1: Blackhawks vs. Oilers, 3 p.m. ET – NBC
Monday, Aug. 3: Blackhawks vs. Oilers, 10:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Oilers vs. Blackhawks, 10:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Friday, Aug. 7: Oilers vs. Blackhawks*, TBD
Saturday, Aug. 8: Blackhawks vs. Oilers*, TBD

Oilers – Blackhawks preview: Top storylines for Stanley Cup Qualifiers series

Will Corey Crawford be ready?

Crawford looked sharp during Wednesday’s exhibition win over the Blues. He stopped all 11 shots he faced in 30 minutes of action after only three practices following his recovery from COVID-19. If he can’t go in Game 1, Malcolm Subban and Collin Delia are Jeremy Colliton’s options.

Hampered by injuries over the last few seasons, Crawford had a solid 2019-20 with a .926 even strength save percentage during the regular season — good enough for sixth in the NHL among goalies with 30 appearances.  It’s an important week for him to get up to speed and be ready for Saturday. There’s little room for error in the best-of-five series.

What kind of help will Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl receive?

The productive duo have been incredibly important to the Oilers’ standing in the Western Conference. Their 77 combined goals this season was 35% of the team’s total output. It doesn’t begin with this season, of course. McDavid and Draisaitl have scored an NHL-best 197 goals since 2016-17 — 21.3% of the team’s entire goal total.

We know what they’re capable of doing. Beyond Connor and Leon is where the issue could halt the Oilers’ progress. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was next on the team with 22 goals, followed by James Neal‘s 19. But you need some context around Neal’s total. Remember when he scored eight times in their first six games? He’s goalless now since his New Year’s Eve hat trick, a span of 13 games before the pause.

An X-factor up front for Edmonton might Andreas Athanasiou, who was acquired at the February trade deadline. He was a 30-goal scorer last season, but struggled earlier this year in Detroit. The speedy winger played only nine games with the Oilers after the deal, but an extended summer camp could serve the pending restricted free agent well.

Who’s out? Who might return?

Blackhawks: Brent Seabrook will not play this summer after shoulder and hip surgeries. Connor Murphy dealt with a groin injury but returned for Tuesday’s skate. Calvin de Haan missed time during Phase 3 due to a family emergency but did travel with the team to Edmonton.

Oilers: Mike Green was one of the handful of NHL players to opt out of the Return to Play. Riley Sheahan didn’t finish the team’s scrimmage over the weekend and sat out Tuesday’s game against the Flames. He’s expected to be ready for Game 1. After dealing with a COVID-19 diagnosis, Caleb Jones returned but missed the exhibition game after being “nicked up,” according to head coach Dave Tippett.

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Slowing Edmonton’s power play

A 29.5% success rate with the extra man from the Oilers’ power play was the best the NHL has seen since the 1978-79 Islanders went over 30%. It wasn’t so much volume that led to all those man advantage goals as it was the quality of their chances.

According to Natural Stat Trick, the Oilers were 21st in Corsi attempts for (530) and 22nd in total power play shots for (291). Other than scoring, what the unit did successfully was creating scoring chances per 60 minutes (58.77, first overall) and getting high-danger chances (23.8 per 60 minutes, fifth overall).

Chicago’s penalty was solid, ranking ninth in the NHL at 82.1%. They’ll be put to the test when down a man.

Mike Smith vs. Mikko Koskinen

The Oilers’ goalies split their exhibition game against Calgary. Both played well with Smith allowing the lone goal after 20 shots faced. So who gets the Game 1 start? They shared the workload during the regular season and there was no hot hand to turn to with Smith being the only one to get three straight starts in the final month.

Koskinen has the edge of even strength save percentage .917 to .902 and had the fourth-best shorthanded save percentage at .901 (Smith was tied for first with .918). Tippett is familiar with Smith’s experience having coached him in two previous stops with the Stars and Coyotes.

Smith has the edge in rebound control and puck handling abilities. If you want to win the possession battle, having a goaltender who can perform well in those two category is a good start.

2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers schedule

A look at the Western Conference matchups
Previewing the Eastern Conference


Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Blue Jackets acquire D Damon Severson from Devils after he signs 8-year deal

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The Columbus Blue Jackets acquired Damon Severson from the New Jersey Devils on Friday after the veteran defenseman and soon-to-be free agent signed an eight-year $50 million contract.

Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen sent a third-round pick, 80th overall, in this month’s draft to the Devils for Severson, who will be under contract through the 2030-31 NHL season.

Severson had 58 goals and 205 assists in 647 career appearances with the Devils since making his NHL debut in 2014-15. He scored seven game-winning goals and averaged more than 21 minutes of playing time during his nine seasons. The 28-year-old had seven goals and 26 assists this season, including two game-winning goals, in 81 games.

“Damon is a versatile defenseman who has great vision, moves the puck extremely well, has good size and can play heavy minutes at both ends of the ice,” Kekalainen said.

The Canadian was selected in the second round in the 2012 draft. He has collected 30 or more points five times in his career and twice notched 11 or more goals. He played in every game in three straight seasons from 2018-21 and has played 80 or more contests four times in his career.

With the addition of the third-round pick, New Jersey now has six selections in the draft, including its own picks in rounds two, four, five, six and seven.

Matthew Tkachuk returns from big hit in Stanley Cup Final, adds more playoff heroics

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Matthew Tkachuk was down, out briefly and then back with plenty of time to make a difference.

The Florida Panthers star left early in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final after a big hit from Vegas Golden Knights forward Keegan Kolesar, and he missed most of the first period and didn’t return immediately following intermission while being evaluated for a concussion. After looking as if he might be lost for the night, Tkachuk returned in the second and then came through with more of his now trademark playoff heroics.

Tkachuk scored the tying goal with 2:13 left in regulation, forcing overtime and giving the Panthers new life. He then provided the screen on Carter Verhaeghe‘s OT goal for a 3-2 victory that cut Florida’s series deficit to 2-1.

The 25-year-old said he knew he was coming back when he left the game, pulled by concussion spotters. That absence felt like a long time ago in the aftermath of another big win he was largely responsible for.

“I felt great – I feel great,” Tkachuk said. “I’m ready to go. Everybody’s excited that we’re in this position right now.”

Florida is in this position rather than facing elimination in Game 4 on Saturday thanks in large part to Tkachuk, who also set up Brandon Montour‘s goal that opened the scoring less than five minutes in.

Not long after, Tkachuk stumbled getting up after the hit from Kolesar and skated to the bench. He took a shift on Florida’s power play before going down the tunnel at the demand of concussion spotters mandated by NHL protocol.

At that point, there was zero clarity, even on the Florida bench.

“You’re not informed at all: It’s a complete shutdown,” coach Paul Maurice said. “You are completely in the dark on those. You don’t know when the player’s coming back. There’s not an update.”

Players insist they were not worried. Montour called it a no-brainer.

“He’s going to come back no matter what,” captain Aleksander Barkov said. “He’s really tough guy, and he’s going to battle through everything.”

Tkachuk rejoined his teammates on the bench a few minutes into the second. When he stepped back onto the ice for his first shift since leaving, fans cheered and chanted, “Chucky! Chucky!”

The crowd was even louder and threw rats when Tkachuk scored his biggest goal of many during this run to tie it. He didn’t get an assist on Verhaeghe’s goal but made it happen with a tape-to-tape pass in the neutral zone and was in front of Adin Hill when it happened.

Asked if he was happy Tkachuk returned, Maurice joked that it was after midnight.

“It was fine,” he quipped.

Panthers rally, top Golden Knights 3-2 in OT of Game 3 of Stanley Cup final

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SUNRISE, Fla. — Carter Verhaeghe scored 4:27 into overtime and the Florida Panthers pulled off some more postseason dramatics to beat the Vegas Golden Knights 3-2 in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final on Thursday night.

Matthew Tkachuk tied it with 2:13 left in the third period for the Panthers, who got the franchise’s first title-series game win in seven tries. Florida had to fend off a power play to start overtime, and Verhaeghe got the winner from the slot to get the Panthers within 2-1 in the series.

Game 4 is Saturday night.

Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 25 shots for Florida. Adin Hill made 20 saves for Vegas, but got beat on the only shot that came his way in overtime.

Brandon Montour also scored for Florida, which pulled Bobrovsky down 2-1 late in the third for the extra attacker and Tkachuk — who left for parts of the first and second periods after taking a big hit — made that move pay off when he tied the game.

His goal breathed life into a very nervous building. But the Panthers were furious — and replays showed they had a case — when Gustav Forsling was sent to the box with 11.2 seconds remaining for tripping. Florida survived that scare, and a few minutes later, had life in the series again.

The odds are still long, but the Panthers at least have a bit more statistical hope now. Of the previous 55 teams to trail 2-1 at this point of the Stanley Cup Final, 11 have actually rallied to hoist the trophy.

It’s improbable, sure. So are the Panthers, who were the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, were down 3-1 to Boston in Round 1, were 133 seconds away from trailing this series 3-0 — and now have tons of reasons for optimism.

Jonathan Marchessault and Mark Stone each had power-play goals for Vegas.

Marchessault’s goal was his 13th in his last 13 playoff games, his fourth of this series and his third with the man advantage.

As if all that wasn’t enough, there was a little history in there as well. Vegas joined the 1980 New York Islanders as the only team with at least two power-play goals in three consecutive games in the Cup final. And Marchessault became the third player in the last 35 years to score in each of the first three games of a title series — joining Steve Yzerman in 1997 with Detroit and Jake Guentzel with Pittsburgh in 2017.

But it wasn’t enough to give Vegas a 3-0 lead in the series.


Before Thursday, Florida’s last home game in the title series was June 10, 1996, when Uwe Krupp scored in the third overtime for a 1-0 win as Colorado finished off a four-game sweep of the Panthers for the Cup. … Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was in the crowd, as was NBA great Charles Barkley, and former Dolphins star Dan Marino was the celebrity drummer to welcome the Panthers onto the ice.

Blackhawks, Athanasiou agree to 2-year, $8.5 million contract

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CHICAGO — The rebuilding Chicago Blackhawks locked in one of their top scorers, agreeing to a two-year, $8.5 million contract with forward Andreas Athanasiou on Thursday.

The 28-year-old Athanasiou tied for the team lead with 20 goals and ranked third with 40 points in his first season with Chicago. He matched career highs with four game-winning goals and three power-play goals.

The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Athanasiou has 125 goals and 111 assists in 459 games with the Detroit Red Wings (2015-20), Edmonton Oilers (2020), Los Angeles Kings (2020-22) and Blackhawks.

Chicago went 26-49-7 and finished last in the Central Division. The Blackhawks dealt Patrick Kane to the New York Rangers prior to the trade deadline and announced in April they would not re-sign Jonathan Toews, parting with two players who led them to Stanley Cups in 2010, 2013 and 2015.