NHL playoffs betting preview: Oilers, Blackhawks not thinking about defense
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The Edmonton Oilers will feel aggrieved for being forced to take part in the play-in round. They earned the fourth-most points in the Western Conference when the season was halted, but their points-per-game mark was a shade lower than the Dallas Stars, which leaves their playoff fate hanging in the balance.
Playing the entirety of the series on home ice is somewhat of a consolation prize, but a date with the offensively inclined Chicago Blackhawks makes for a tricky return to the ice for the high-powered Oilers.
The case for Edmonton
This draw couldn't be much better for the Oilers, as the Blackhawks' flaws play right into Edmonton's strengths. Chicago placed last in the NHL in expected goals against at even strength. The Hawks are a defensive mess and have to face the league's two most dangerous scorers in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
The Blackhawks' brutal defense was often bailed out by Robin Lehner, who was understandably shipped off to Vegas at the trade deadline because Chicago didn't appear close to making the playoffs. Well, here we are. Corey Crawford has enjoyed a bounce-back season, but he'll have to stand on his head to steal this series for Chicago, and the supporting cast won't do him any favors.
Edmonton converted on an absurd 29.5% of power plays - by far the league's best mark - and the team received some much-needed secondary scoring from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who really stepped up this season. These Oilers love to attack and will have their way with a Blackhawks team that bleeds goals.
The case for Chicago
Yes, Chicago struggled defensively, but the Oilers weren't much better. Edmonton finished 24th in expected goals against at even strength, and for as offensively gifted as the Oilers are, Chicago still posted a higher expected goals for mark. The Blackhawks will fight fire with fire, and they aren't lacking in artillery.
The Oilers' struggles at even strength are legitimately concerning and holds them back from being considered strong title contenders. Even Draisaitl and McDavid were pedestrian at even strength, being scored on almost as often as they scored. Edmonton's third and fourth lines were particularly bad, which could mean a big series for Chicago's Dominik Kubalik and Kirby Dach. The Oilers' run-and-gun style leaves them far too exposed far too often - hardly a recipe for playoff success.
Chicago needs to turn this into a bit of pond hockey, which feels like the natural progression of the series given the styles and weaknesses of both teams. From there, the Blackhawks can lean into the likes of Patrick Kane and his electrifying supporting cast while counting on Crawford to rise to the occasion as he's done in previous postseasons, outplaying Mikko Koskinen and setting the scene for an upset.
Edmonton Oilers (-160)
Every case that can be made for the Blackhawks can also be made for the Oilers. Chicago is essentially a lesser version of its opponents. The Oilers are flawed, but the Blackhawks are not the team to expose them. Edmonton will lean into its stars and have its way with Chicago's miserable defense, ending a two-year playoff drought.
(Odds source: theScore Bet)
Alex Moretto is a sports betting writer for theScore. A journalism graduate from Guelph-Humber University, he has worked in sports media for over a decade. He will bet on anything from the Super Bowl to amateur soccer, is too impatient for futures, and will never trust a kicker. Find him on Twitter @alexjmoretto.