EDMONTON – On Monday night, the Blackhawks have the chance for a hat trick when it comes to scoring a half-dozen goals.
They had six in their final game before the pandemic against the Sharks, then put up the same number four-and-a-half months later against Oilers in Game 1 of the NHL Preliminary Series in Edmonton.
It gave the 12th-seeded Blackhawks a jump on their fifth-seeded opponent and caught the eye of those around the NHL in the early part of the return to play tournament. Now the question is what Jeremy Colliton’s team will do for an encore.
Ollie Maatta had a way for the team to do it: Keep the pressure on Edmonton on the offensive end for 60 minutes, just like Saturday.
“I think we did a good job of staying on the puck, especially in the offensive zone. We made them defend a lot,” said the defenseman. “It’s not easy playing that way if you’re stuck in your own zone, and I think that’s something we’ve got to deal with. We made smart decisions with the puck, we didn’t turn it over to much, and I think that’s the way we’ve got to play, and that was a big key for us.”
The Oilers will try to counter that with a goaltender switch, with Mikko Koskinen getting the start over Mike Smith. He allowed five goals before eventually being pulled in the 6-4 victory by the Blackhawks to take the series lead.
They’ll have to move forward without physical forward Drake Caggiula, who was suspended for Game 2 for his hit to the head of Tyler Ennis. That’s a blow for the team, who expect a more desperate Oilers team on Monday night as they hope not to fall behind by two games.
“Last game was very important. We understood that it was pivotal, and here comes another one, and we’d be naive to think they’re not going to throw everything they have at us,” said Colliton.
Just like the Blackhawks did on offense in Game 1 and will try to repeat for 60 minutes on Monday.