The first two games of the Oilers’ three-game road trip were both impressive: an 8-3 win over the Predators and a 2-1 overtime win over the Stars.
But on the third leg, they ran into the suddenly surging . . . Blackhawks?
Written off last week for the thousandth time this season, the Hawks have yet again shown their resilience by ripping off a four-game winning streak to re-enter the outskirts of the playoff race.
Thursday’s 4-3 win over the Oilers was particularly impressive, both for the quality of opponent— the NHL’s two leading scorers, Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid, were held to two points and five shot attempts combined — and the quality of their own play.
“The work ethic from our forwards was excellent,” coach Jeremy Colliton said. “We were getting above the puck consistently. Our gap was good. [McDavid’s] a great player and Draisaitl’s a great player, but when you’ve got to come through five guys, it makes it easier to defend.”
“I also thought our puck plays were pretty clean, and that’s the thing: If you don’t turn it over, then it’s easier to defend. If you turn it over, then it’s tough to defend.”
Nearly every Hawks pass found its target; nearly every Oilers turnover led to a transition attack the other way. Puck battles were won, smart clears were executed and tight gaps were maintained.
The Hawks played with urgency, determination and creativity — all of which were inexplicably missing for most of the year.
A decisive 4-1 lead after the second period — at which point the Hawks had allowed only 12 shots on goal — got dicey in the third period, but Corey Crawford held the fort in the final minutes. He has allowed three or fewer goals in 16 of his last 17 starts.
“It’s everyone together,” he said. “It’s impossible to do it alone. Our ‘D’ have been great. We’ve been taking away a lot of the middle chances and back-end plays. That’s what you need to do that.”
The Hawks are riding their first three-game home winning streak since mid-November. Defenseman Adam Boqvist has multiple points (all assists) in consecutive games for the first time, and Patrick Kane scored his 30th goal of the season.
Rookie defenseman Lucas Carlsson, playing just his fifth NHL game, was struck on the ear by a deflected puck in the second period and didn’t return. Colliton said after the game that Carlsson will travel with the team for Friday night’s game in Detroit but is still being evaluated.
Carlsson had played well since his call-up in late February and recorded his first NHL point with an assist Tuesday against the Ducks.
Plan for Subban undecided
Goalie Malcolm Subban technically made his Hawks debut Tuesday, playing 70 seconds without facing a shot on goal while trainers briefly checked Crawford for concussion symptoms.
But the plan remains unclear for when Subban will make his first start and interrupt Crawford’s streak of seven straight.
It might be Friday against the Red Wings — a logical slot for him given the horrendous opponent and it being the second half of a back-to-back.
Or it might not be. Colliton gave no indication Thursday.
“We got a good look at him, and he’s been practicing, and that’s his job to stay ready, stay prepared,” Colliton said. “We’ll go from there.”