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NHL Network predicts a Blackhawks upset over the Oilers

A couple of NHL Network analysts believe that the Blackhawks will upset the Oilers in their five-game play-in series this summer.

Mike Johnson and Mike Rupp, two former NHLers, are picking the No. 12 seeded Chicago to take down the No. 5 ranked Oilers. They backed up their stance by noting that the Oilers are too reliant on special teams and that the veteran Blackhawks are battled-tested with a wealth of playoff experience.

“The Edmonton Oilers were so reliant on their power play and penalty kill,” said Johnson. “If that goes cold, 5-on-5 hockey, which playoff hockey involves more of, doesn’t favour them to the same degree.”

This take I don’t necessarily disagree with. There’s no doubt that an elite power play was a key part of the Oilers’ success this season and that it’s more difficult to rely on the man advantage in the playoffs as the referees tend to put their whistles away.

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That said, even when you just isolate the two teams to their even-strength play, Edmonton still comes up better than Chicago. The Blackhawks ranked 27th in the league this season based on expected goals for percentage, which is calculated based on shot quality and shot volume. The Oilers are still better than the Blackhawks without special teams involved.

“Just look at the circumstances that we’re under right now,” Rupp said. “This is very foreign, it’s a unique situation. I want guys who have gone through some unique situations… That’s no knock to the Edmonton Oilers, they just haven’t been through a grind of any sort like this in the playoffs in general.”

This take I don’t agree with at all. The Blackhawks have won three Stanley Cups and the core of those teams — Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Corey Crawford, and Duncan Keith — is still around.

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But nobody has dealt with the circumstances that we’re dealing with right now. Chicago winning the Cup in 2010, 2013, and 2015 has nothing to do with coming out of a four-month pause, picking things up, and immediately getting up to game speed to excel in a quick, five-game playoff series. If anything, I would lean towards Edmonton in this situation, since they’re a younger group and they can likely get up to speed quicker.

It’s a five-game series, so anything can happen, but I still like Edmonton’s chances. I wrote an in-depth look at why I feel that way a few weeks ago that you can read here.

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You can watch the full clip here…