oilers hawks

In first round action in the Western Conference, the Chicago Blackhawks (57-25-0) will match-up against the Edmonton Oilers (41-34-7). While the Blackhawks were using their final games to secure the Presidents’ Trophy, the Oilers were using theirs to secure the final playoff spot. With that in mind, few fans polled would expect the Oilers to present much of a challenge to the statistically stronger Hawks.

Both teams will be relying on a young core of forwards to get the job done on a nightly basis during the playoffs, with the Blackhawks squad of forwards average 27.6 years of age and the Oilers averaging 28.5 years of age. As a squad, the Hawks forwards bring more recent playoff experience, and will lean on the offensive prowess of Sebastian Aho, Pavel Buchnevich, and Kevin Fiala. Despite the experienced youth of the Hawks, the only forward from either team to be among the top twenty active league playoff leaders in any offensive category is Max Pacioretty. Pacioretty, who missed 60 complete games and checked out of numerous other games for the Oilers, has appeared in 96 playoff games, accumulating 41 goals and 39 assists. The team believes his veteran presence in the locker room will be vital for getting Adrian Kempe and Patrik Laine going early in the series.

oilers hawks stats

On the defensive end of the ice, the Oilers will be backstopped by a veteran core of defenders averaging 31.8 years of age. This group boasts some of the best two-way defensemen in the game, including Mark Giordano, Noah Hanifin, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Travis Hamonic and Andy Greene are expected to play a vital shutdown role, while Adam Boqvist will see extended time on the power play. For the Hawks, with an average age of 26.1, the pressure will largely fall on Cale Makar and Rasmus Dahlin, who were among the league’s top ten goal scorers at the position, and Thomas Chabat, who was second on the team in total points among defensemen.

Between the pipes, veteran Russian net minder Sergei Bobrovsky will face off against his young Finnish counterpart Jusse Saros. Bobrovsky (75 games) and Saros (70 games) finished one and two in total league appearances this season. Saros finished first among regular starters with a 0.912 save percentage. For his part, Bobrovsky is among the league’s top active playoff goalies (10 or more appearances) in all categories, including 46 appearances (9th), 19 wins (9th), 0.914 save percentage (5th), and 2.48 GAA (6th). If either starter finds himself unable to take the ice, the Oilers will turn to veteran backup Scott Wedgewood, while the Blackhawks would be forced to rely on little-known Dylan Ferguson.

Over the previous four seasons, the Blackhawks have made four playoff appearances, exiting in the first round in 2021 and 2020, while advancing to the conference finals in 2022 and 2019. Over the same span, the Oilers have made two playoff appearances, exiting in the first round in 2019 and 2022. In 2022, the Oilers took the Kings, winners of that season’s Presidents’ Trophy, to game seven, defying all expectations.

While the Hawks appear to be a much stronger team than the Oilers on paper, the Oilers managed to grind their way into the playoffs relying on a mix of leadership and experience, despite the absence of Pacioretty. With Pacioretty back in frame, it could be a highly competitive series... but we wouldn’t place money on it.