Brooke LoFurno The Hockey Writers
Blackhawks Need Their Youth to Take Charge
When it comes to the play-in series that will be held between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Edmonton Oilers, there are different factors that the series will showcase at the forefront of fans’ minds. Special teams, defense, and goaltending have been highlighted as key intricacies, but there is one factor that I think should make more waves: the youth movement.
When looking at both squads, the influx of youth couldn’t be more prevalent. While the Blackhawks have held the “playoff experience” crown during this past decade with players like Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, and Corey Crawford, they’re now surging into new territory. The other 62% of their roster has little to no playoff experience at all.
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When looking at the Oilers’ roster, they have seven players that have extensive playoff experience. That list includes James Neal, Mike Green, Riley Sheahan, and Mike Smith. The other 64% of their roster is in the same boat as Chicago; little to no playoff experience at all.
Players To Watch
With keeping nil experience in mind, here are some Blackhawks players to keep an eye on:
The 23-year-old center will be put in the limelight because it is a contract year for him. He will become a restricted free agent (RFA) when the season ends; making this series all that more important for him. He took a dip in points this season with 38 points in 58 games.
In 58 games last season, he had 51 points. I expect him to try and make some noise during this series. The Blackhawks have a lot of financial decisions to make in the offseason. Depending on how he plays, it could impact the team’s decision on whether they choose to re-sign him or not.
The 22-year-old left winger, DeBrincat took a hit with his production before the league was put on hold with 45 points in 70 games. Nevertheless, I think he might be one of the most important players to watch in this series. His goal-scoring ability is something that has always made him stand out and I believe that will show even more when the season resumes.
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DeBrincat was recently given a three-year contract extension for his play that was put on display for the two years prior: 52 points in 82 games in 2017-18 and 76 points in 82 games in 2018-19. It ups the pressure when you get big contracts involved. With that, I don’t think anything will motivate him more than this series to get him back to form. It makes a player of his caliber even more exciting to watch.
The 19-year-old defenseman was set to impress this season. Boqvist was Chicago’s first-round pick in 2018 and was a bright spot in a defensive group that was otherwise hard to watch. He still has a lot of room to grow as he had 18 points in 41 games and was a minus-three. His potential is high and he has become an important piece of the defensive puzzle in his short time here. For that reason alone, he is worth keeping tabs on.
The 27-year-old defenseman is playing with two different chips on his shoulder. When he got traded from the Arizona Coyotes for Niklas Hjalmarsson back in 2017, he actually turned out to be a pleasant surprise. He has turned out to be one of the Blackhawks’ best defensemen.
He is someone that looks to lead the future of the defensive core. Murphy will be out to prove that trading for him was doubly worth it by his performance in this contest (from ‘First playoff berth gives Connor Murphy chance to prove he’s Blackhawks’ new Niklas Hjalmarsson’, Chicago Sun-Times, 06/06/2020). Moreover, he has been in the league for seven years and has yet to see any postseason action. From that, we can eagerly infer that his game will reflect that of a man on a mission.
Impact of the Series
There’s an element to this that I think will make for a can’t-miss series. It is that a lot of the players have something to lose. These are teams that have half of their rosters filled with players that will not only be fighting to help their team make it into the playoffs, but also be fighting for their jobs. The shortened season raised the stakes there.
With that, both Chicago and Edmonton are teams that have their backs against the wall and have everything to prove to try to sneak into the playoffs. That level of intensity should bring out the best in the teams and the players- especially the younger players.
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Overall, this series could come down to being a battle of the youth. I think the key to the Blackhawks’ success in this series will rely on the young guns showing up and showing out. Mixing that with their championship knowledge could help them seal the deal. That mixture hasn’t always worked well for them this season, but it might have to start now. They say older is wiser, but hopefully, the youngsters will have some wisdom to show.
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