The Chicago Blackhawks will look to prove that Saturday’s 6-4 victory over the Edmonton Oilers was no fluke later on tonight. For much of the game, the Blackhawks looked like the 2010 or 2013 teams where they just dominated puck possession during 5-on-5 play. They will have to play Game 2 without one of their key role players, so it will be the next man up.
Caggiula Suspended for Game 2
Midway through the second period of Game 1, with the Blackhawks leading 5-2, Drake Caggiula went to make a big hit on Oilers’ forward Tyler Ennis. His shoulder ended up making direct contact with the head of Ennis. Although there was no injury sustained or penalty called on the play, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety ruled on Sunday that the hit was egregious enough to warrant a one-game suspension.
“It’s established a standard for how they’re going to deal with those types of hits,” head coach Jeremy Colliton said of the league’s ruling. “As the series goes on, I’m sure it’s going to get a little more physical, so now we know.
“We wish we had him in the lineup, but we won’t. Someone has to go in and make a difference. I don’t know who it’s going to be yet.”
The Blackhawks have five extra forwards at their disposal; MacKenzie Entwistle, Brandon Hagel, Philipp Kurashev, John Quenneville and Dylan Sikura. Hagel’s game is probably the most suited for playoff hockey out of that bunch, but he has played in just one NHL game. Based on how Colliton played things in training camp, Sikura is the likely choice to draw in. The Blackhawks will lose quite a bit of physicality if this is the move.
Colliton & Kubalik Have an Historic Day
If you watched any of the national broadcast of Saturday’s Blackhawks victory, you certainly heard that Dominik Kubalik was the first player in NHL history to score five points in his Stanley Cup playoffs debut. Blackhawks’ Media Relations Senior Director John H. Steinmiller broke down his huge day a bit further.
Kubalik was the first Blackhawks player to have more than one point in his postseason debut since Cam Barker had two points versus the Calgary Flames on April 26, 2009. He also tied the franchise record for the most points in a playoff game, joining Mush March (1936), Max Bentley (1944), Stan Mikita (1973), Steve Larmer (1990) and his linemate, Jonathan Toews (2010).
While he was the first player to ever have five points in playoff debut, he joins an impressive list of rookies to have at least five points in their first postseason. The four others who have accomplished this feat are Jean Beliveau (1954), Mikko Leinonen (1982), Barry Pederson (1982) and Joe Mullen (1982).
Colliton also got his name with some rare company. Per Steinmiller, at 35 years and 201 days, Colliton is the youngest NHL head coach to win his postseason debut since Marc Crawford, one of his assistant coaches. Crawford won his playoff debut, on May 6, 1995, with the Quebec Nordiques at 34 years and 82 days.
Only three head coaches in team history were 35-years-old or younger when they won their first playoff game; Paul Thompson in 1941 (34 years, 138 days), Sid Abel in 1953 (35 years, 35 days) and Darryl Sutter in 1994 (35 years, 247 days).
De Haan & Murphy Gelling Together
Veteran defenseman Calvin de Haan and Connor Murphy did not get much time together during 2019-20 season. A shoulder surgery sidelined de Haan in December and the delay and expanded format of the playoffs allowed him to comeback for Game 1.
Colliton paired the two together for most of their 5-on-5 time because he felt the were a “natural fit.” Murphy told the media, via Zoom, on Sunday that he enjoyed playing with de Haan.
“Overall, it’s always nice playing with a veteran guy who’s so smart and predictable out there and communicates a lot, and I feel like me and Haaner have a good relationship even off the ice that leads us to playing smoothly together when we’re out there. I don’t think it takes long to develop any sort of chemistry, especially since the team’s been together all year, whether there’s injuries or not. It’s definitely nice to be paired with him.”
It makes sense to put these two together versus the speed of the Oilers. While neither is the most fleet of foot, they have both now how to use their positioning on the ice to make up for the disadvantage they are facing in the speed department.
Murphy and de Haan played a total of 15:03 of 5-on-5 time together in Game 1. The had a combined 55.56 Corsi For percentage (CF%), meaning the Blackhawks took over 55% of the total shot attempts while the duo was the ice. They also combined for eight hits and two blocked shots.
The Blackhawks will look to take a 2-0 stranglehold on this series later on tonight with puck drop scheduled for 9:30 pm CDT. It should be another wide-open contest and if the Blackhawks can stay out of the penalty box, they could find themselves in the driver’s seat.