The NHL is back with the 2020 Stanley Cup. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the NHL Playoffs will be slightly different this term. The action starts Saturday, August 1, with the Stanley Cup Qualifiers including Game 1 of the best-of-five series between the Chicago Blackhawks and Edmonton Oilers.
The Western Conference qualifiers will be played at Rogers Place in Edmonton, but the stands will be empty. Still, the Oilers are playing on the home ice, so let’s take a closer look at their opener against the Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks are without winger Zack Smith ( back) and defensemen Brent Seabrook (opted out) and Dennis Gilbert (wrist). The Oilers miss defenseman Mike Green due to personal reasons, while center Riley Sheahan and defenseman Caleb Jones are listed as questionable.
The Oilers are listed as -160 money line favorites at BetAmerica, while the Blackhawks are +140 underdogs on the same platform. William Hill offers the line on the totals at 6.0 goals.
What’s at Stake?
This is the opening game of the best-of-five series, so both teams will try to put some pressure on their opponents ahead of Game 2. Whoever grabs a win in the opener will be in a strong position.
Both Blackhawks and Oilers return to action after a long break. They haven’t played competitive hockey since early March, so it is impossible to say who plays in a better form. Each team is a mystery in the first week in the bubble.
The Blackhawks and Oilers met each other three times during the 2019-20 regular season. Chicago won the series 2-1 thanks to a couple of home wins. The Blackhawks defeated Edmonton 3-1 and 4-3 as slight -115 favorites on both occasions, while the Oilers outlasted Chicago 5-3 as -120 home favorites.
Chicago is 13-7 in its last 20 meetings with Edmonton, but the Oilers are 9-4 in their previous 13 games against the Blackhawks when listed as favorites. Three of the last four encounters between the Blackhawks and Oilers went in the over.
The Oilers averaged 3.14 goals per game this past regular season (tied-14th in the NHL) despite having the best attacking duo in the league. Leon Draisaitl led the NHL with 110 points, while Connor McDavid was right behind him with 97 points.
Mike Smith should patrol the crease in Game 1, and he went 19-12-6 with a 2.95 GAA and a .902 save percentage in the regular season. The Oilers were 15th in the league in goals against (3.03).
The Blackhawks averaged 2.97 goals per contest in the regular season (18th in the NHL), allowing 3.06 in a return (16th). Corey Crawford should guard the cage Saturday afternoon, and he was 16-20-3 with a 2.77 GAA and a .917 save percentage in the regular season.
Keep your eyes on winger Patrick Kane who’s the Blackhawks best player. Kane tallied 33 goals and 51 assists, including eight power-play goals and 15 power-play dishes.
Despite the empty stands, the Oilers should have an advantage in this one because they are playing in their home arena. While neither of these two conference foes is a good defensive team, I would lean on the Oilers offense, hoping for some goals from Draisaitl and McDavid. Hereof, my top betting here is Edmonton to win straight up at -160 odds on BetAmerica.
When it comes to the totals, I expect to see a high-scoring affair. As I’ve said, both Edmonton and Chicago are much better offensively, so I would take the over. However, I don’t prefer the line at exactly six goals, and wagering on the over 5.5 goals at slightly lower odds should be a smart move.