NHL.com is looking ahead to the Stanley Cup Qualifiers by examining five of the biggest questions facing each of the 24 remaining teams. Today, we look at the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Chicago Blackhawks were 32-30-8 (.514 points percentage) and will enter the Stanley Cup Qualifiers as the No. 12 seed in the Western Conference. They will play the No. 5 seed, the Edmonton Oilers (37-25-9, .585 points percentage), in one of eight best-of-5 series. The West qualifiers will start Aug. 1 at Rogers Place in Edmonton.
Here are 5 key questions facing the Blackhawks:
1. Are they healthy?
Not completely. Defenseman Calvin de Haan, who was expected to miss four to five months after having surgery on his right shoulder on Dec. 27, is expected to be ready for training camp, general manager Stan Bowman said on June 11. The status of forward Andrew Shaw (concussion protocol), who hasn't played since Nov. 30, is unknown. Defenseman Brent Seabrook, who had right shoulder surgery Dec. 27, surgery on his left hip in January and surgery on his right hip Feb. 6, isn't expected to return until September. Forward Zack Smith had back surgery March 6 and was also projected to be out the rest of the season.
Video: CHI@VGK: de Haan picks the corner on Fleury
2. Will Alex DeBrincat return to form?
The forward scored 45 points (18 goals, 27 assists) in 70 games, down from 76 points (41 goals, 35 assists) in 2018-19. DeBrincat, who agreed to a three-year, $19.2 million contract extension Oct. 3, had some great scoring opportunities in the regular season but did not finish as often. Perhaps playing against the Oilers and former junior hockey teammate Connor McDavid -- the two played on a line together with Erie of the Ontario Hockey League in 2014-15 -- will provide a spark. DeBrincat has scored five points (four goals, one assist) in nine games against Edmonton. Speaking of McDavid….
3. Can they contain Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl?
Chicago allowed 3.06 goals per game, tied with the Calgary Flames for 16th in the NHL, and will face a big test against McDavid and Draisaitl, who were the two leading scorers in the League. Draisaitl scored 110 points (43 goals, 67 assists) in 71 games, winning the Art Ross Trophy as the top scorer in the NHL. McDavid was second, scoring 97 points (34 goals, 63 points) in 64 games. Draisaitl scored seven points (one goal, six assists) in three games against the Blackhawks this season. McDavid was held without a point in two games.
4. Can Corey Crawford be the difference?
If Crawford plays against Edmonton as well as he has in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, where he's 48-37 with a 2.29 goals-against average, .919 save percentage and five shutouts in 87 games (85 starts), the 35-year-old goalie could steal a series. Crawford was 16-20-3 with a 2.77 GAA, .917 save percentage and one shutout in the regular season. The onus again fell on him after the Blackhawks traded goalie Robin Lehner to the Vegas Golden Knights on Feb. 24.
Video: CHI@DAL: Crawford denies Janmark on penalty shot
5. Will experience help them?
Oilers coach Dave Tippett said June 3 that Edmonton must respect the championship pedigree of the Blackhawks, who won the Stanley Cup in 2010, 2013 and 2015. Forwards Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, and defensemen Duncan Keith and Seabrook, were on all three Cup-winning teams. Crawford and Shaw were part of the 2013 and 2015 runs, as was forward Brandon Saad. But the Blackhawks haven't been in the playoffs since 2017 and haven't won a playoff round since defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final. Still, experience never hurts.