Chicago Blackhawks vs. Edmonton Oilers Game 1 Updated Odds, Picks and Predictions: Back the Underdog (Saturday, Aug. 1)
Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Edmonton Oilers
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|Blackhawks Odds||+135 [BET NOW]|
|Oilers Odds||-162 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||5.5 [BET NOW]|
|Time||3 p.m. ET|
The Chicago Blackhawks are the worst defensive team in the NHL. The Edmonton Oilers have the game’s two best offensive players. It seems like a match made in hell for the Hawks, but they aren’t without a chance in this series.
In fact, I actually think Chicago will be one of the best values during the qualifying round.
The Blackhawks are a high-flying bunch that will challenge their opponents to a first-to-five-wins type of game. Unfortunately, Chicago’s defense is bad enough that it often loses those contests.
For the second season in a row, the Hawks allowed the most expected goals against per 60 minutes (xGA/60) in the NHL in 2019-20.
Expected goals (also known as xG) is a predictive statistic that gives an indication of whether results are based on sustainable factors like a steady creation of scoring chances, or whether it is down to aspects such as shooting luck or outstanding goaltending.
Simply put, an expected goals rate (xGF%) above 50% is considered good because it means a team is creating the majority of the scoring chances. Anything below 50% is usually a sign that a team is struggling to control play.
xG numbers cited from Evolving Hockey.
Easily the NHL’s biggest defensive mess, the Blackhawks were saved from obscurity by their goaltenders, one of whom has been traded to Vegas.
Luckily, the Hawks still have Corey Crawford in the fold and the veteran netminder was superb, posting a +7.44 Goals Saved Above Expectation (GSAx) in 40 games during the regular season. Crawford’s health was a concern at the beginning of summer camp, but it looks like the veteran netminder will be in the blue paint against the Oilers. Crisis averted.
Goals Saved Above Expectation (GSAx) is an advanced statistic that measures a goaltender’s performance against the quality of scoring chances he faced. It is a better catch-all metric compared to save percentage because every SV% counts every saved shot and goal the same, while GSAx weights shots by the quality of the scoring chance.
GSAx numbers cited from Evolving Hockey.
If Crawford holds up, I am confident that the Blackhawks will be able to create enough offense in this series to provide some cover for their defense, even against Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
The Oilers’ success in 2019-20 was largely driven by three factors: Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and a historically good power play thanks to McDavid and Draisaitl.
Draisaitl and McDavid combined for 77 goals and 207 points in the truncated regular season. Those kind of numbers helped keep Edmonton’s playoff hopes alive while the Oilers tried to find some depth players to fill in roles behind their dynamic duo. Those reinforcements came in the form of Kailer Yamamoto, Tyler Ennis and Andreas Athanasiou.
Yamamoto, a homegrown prospect, posted 26 points in 27 games and the Oilers were clicking with the 21-year-old in the lineup. Ennis and Athanasiou were brought in at the deadline and should provide middle-six depth for a team that was sorely lacking it for most of the season.
As a whole, this forward group grades out pretty well thanks to the presence of McDavid, Draisaitl, Yamamoto and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, but Edmonton’s defense finished in the bottom 10 in expected goals against and its goaltending situation isn’t ideal.
Edmonton’s defense is lacking in two areas — it doesn’t have a standout top pairing and there’s very little depth to speak of. Darnell Nurse, Oscar Klefbom and Ethan Bear are all good players but there’s nobody on this team that you’d feel confident could shut down Kane, Toews et al.
I’d be slightly less concerned about Edmonton’s defense if it was backed up by a better goaltending tandem. Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen each had their moments this season and the latter finished the regular season with a +5.01 GSAx, but whoever ends up getting the nod will be facing a pretty tough workload against a Blackhawks team that generates a lot of high-danger opportunities off the rush.
The Oilers may have two of the best players in the world leading the charge, but there are some serious holes on this roster and all the question marks lead me to believe that fading Edmonton will be a profitable endeavor in this series.
A lot would need to go right for the Blackhawks to have success over the Oilers in a longer format, but in one game or a best-of-5 the playing field is leveled.
When you convert the listed odds (-162/+135) to implied probability, you get:
- Edmonton: 59.2% win probability
- Chicago: 40.8% win probability
I think this number sells Chicago a bit short and would be willing to bet them at +130 or better in Game 1. I also like the Hawks to win the series at +135 or better.