Goaltenders in spotlight for Blackhawks-Oilers series

Goaltenders in spotlight for Blackhawks-Oilers series

Goaltenders in spotlight for Blackhawks-Oilers series

For all the offensive stars between the Chicago Blackhawks and Edmonton Oilers, big megawatt scorers like Patrick Kane and Connor McDavid, it is the goaltending that bears watching heading into their qualifying series.

Corey Crawford missed the start of training camp with the Blackhawks after he tested positive for COVID-19, leaving the veteran goaltender very little time to prepare for high-scoring Edmonton. Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen are in the mix for the starting job for the Oilers, but both goalies could play in the post-season.

Game 1 of the best-of-five series is Saturday in Edmonton.

“There’s been a lot of lead-up going to this point. … I think guys are excited about this opportunity, this chance to beat a very good hockey team,” Smith said.

While Edmonton hasn’t named a Game 1 starter just yet, the 38-year-old Smith has a long history with coach Dave Tippett and 24 career playoff appearances, compared to none for Koskinen. Smith had a 2.95 goals-against average and .902 save percentage in 39 games this season; Koskinen finished with a 2.75 GAA and .917 save percentage in 38 appearances.

Smith also was in net for Tippett when the Coyotes eliminated the Blackhawks in the 2012 playoffs, making 39 saves in a 4-0 victory in the clinching Game 6.

Smith said that series “seems like 100 years ago now.”

“Obviously, a team that has had a lot of experience in the playoffs,” he said of the Blackhawks. “Won Stanley Cups, so it’ll be a good test for our group.”

Crawford was in net when Chicago won the Stanley Cup in 2013 and 2015. He is 48-37 with a .919 save percentage and 2.28 goals-against average in 87 career playoff appearances.

But he just returned to practice on Saturday after missing the start of training camp while he was in quarantine.

“Obviously it’s a priority for us to get him ready as soon as we can,” coach Jeremy Colliton said. “The sooner we can integrate him into the group and get back to his normal routine that he would normally be under I think the better for everyone.”

The 35-year-old Crawford had been playing well when the NHL was shut down because of the pandemic, recording a .930 save percentage in his last 17 games. The Blackhawks are carrying four goaltenders on their 31-man post-season roster, but Crawford is expected to start Game 1 against the Oilers.

How he performs against McDavid and company with such a short preparation window remains to be seen.

“There’s not much time, but I’ve never really been someone that skates a ton in the summer anyway,” Crawford said. “But I feel like it takes a few practices just to get your legs under you. I mean it doesn’t really matter what you do in the gym.

“I think a little bit more the cardio part, the endurance in the legs, after I get a few practices that will be a lot better.”

WHAT’S UP DACH?

Kirby Dach was one of the Blackhawks’ best players during their training camp, centring a line with fellow rookie Dominik Kubalik and former Oilers winger Drake Caggiula.

The 19-year-old Dach, who was selected by Chicago with the No. 3 overall pick in last year’s draft, had eight goals and 15 assists in 64 games this season. The Fort Saskatchewan native could have a big series in his return to Alberta.

HOME SWEET HOME?

Edmonton is playing in its own building after the NHL selected Rogers Place for one of its hubs for the league’s return from the pandemic. But the Oilers will be considered the visitors for Games 3 and 4 of the qualifying round — albeit with no fans in attendance for the entire series.

“We’re in the same boat as all the other teams,” Tippett said. “We’re in our dressing room one day, and then out of it the next day. We tried to prepare for that during training camp. We’ve had some scrimmages, players dress out of different dressing rooms around. You just try to deal with it.”

SPECIAL TEAMS

Led by McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, a finalist for the NHL MVP award, the Oilers had the top power play in the league this season, converting 29.5% of their chances. They also killed 84.4% of their opponents’ power-play opportunities, ranking second behind San Jose.

Even with the gifted Kane on its top unit, Chicago had one of the worst power plays in the league at 15.2%. But its penalty killers finished in the top 10 at 82.1%.

___

Jay Cohen can be reached at https://twitter.com/jcohenap

___

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Jay Cohen, The Associated Press

NHL

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19.  (File photo)
750 new COVID-19 cases identified in Alberta Sunday

Central zone currently has 1,182 active cases of the virus

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine deliveres to Canada are being delayed because of complications at their European distribution facility. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Delays of Pfizer vaccine delivery to impact Alberta’s vaccination plans

Alberta has administered 74,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine so far

blessing
Bentley Blessing Pantry continues to faithfully serve the community

‘We just wanted to make everyone aware that we are still here to serve you throughout this coming year.’

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

Health-care workers wait in line at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canadians who have had COVID-19 should still get the vaccine, experts say

Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were found to have a 95 per cent efficacy

An empty Peel and Sainte-Catherine street is shown in Montreal, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Poll finds strong support for COVID-19 curfews despite doubts about effectiveness

The poll suggests 59 per cent remain somewhat or very afraid of contracting COVID-19

Lacombe is looking at its options for reclaiming sewage lagoons that are no longer needed. Vesta Energy Ltd. has signed a deal to use three lagoons to store water for fracking.
Map from City of Lacombe
Energy company to use former Lacombe sewage lagoons to store water for fracking

Vesta Energy Ltd. will pay Lacombe more than $100,000 a year in 20-year deal

Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said on Monday that11 more people had died from COVID-19, bringing the province’s death toll to 1,447. (Photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Eleven more Albertans die from COVID-19

There were 739 people in hospital, 120 in ICU on Monday

World Juniors’ referee Mike Langin makes a called during the Canada vs. Slovakia at the 2021 World Junior Championship at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Dec. 27, 2020. (Photo by Matthew Murnaghan/Hockey Canada)
Former Sylvan Lake man lives his dream at World Junior Championships

Mike Langin was one the 25 Canadian officials who worked during the tournament

Indigenous people gather for a ceremony for Cindy Gladue held at the courthouse in Edmonton, Alta, on Wednesday, January 13, 2021. Bradley Barton, a 52-year-old long-haul truck driver from Ontario on trial for manslaughter, is accused of killing Gladue. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
People stand in support of mother as new trial gets underway in death of Cindy Gladue

Bradley Barton, a long-haul truck driver from Ontario, will now be tried for manslaughter in the 2011 death

(Photo submitted)
RCMP say ice climber seriously injured after reportedly falling 12 metres near Abraham Lake

Police say man’s injuries were serious but not life-threatening

U.S. military units march in front of the Capitol, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021 in Washington, as they rehearse for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony, which will be held at the Capitol on Wednesday. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Biden aims for unifying speech at daunting moment for U.S.

President Donald Trump won’t be there to hear it

Most Read