The Edmonton Oilers are the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference of the NHL's 24-team Return to Play tournament and it's no secret how they got there:
- Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid finished first and second in scoring, respectively.
- The Oilers had the first-ranked power play (29.5 percent) and second-ranked penalty kill (84.4 percent) for a special teams sum of 113.9, which was good for second-best in NHL history.
That's it. That's their winning formula.
The hard part is the execution.
To beat the Oilers, you must contain Draisaitl and McDavid at even strength and stay out of the penalty box. No team in the tournament had a worse 5-on-5 goal differential (minus-13) than the Oilers, who had a plus-49 goal differential on the power play.
The Blackhawks knew this going into the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, and they executed their plan about as well as they could have in Saturday's 6-4 win in Game 1.
The Blackhawks held the Oilers to only 17 shots on goal and four high-quality scoring chances at 5-on-5, according to Natural Stat Trick. They also scored three power-play goals, which is something they did in a game once all season long. The Oilers also gave up three power-play goals only once this season, so it was a rarity on both fronts.
But here's the real kicker: Draisaitl and McDavid combined for just three shots on goal in a combined 35:04 of ice time at even strength. The Blackhawks' top-two lines completely shut them down.
It was the power play, of course, where Draisaitl and McDavid shined. They each registered one goal and two assists for the Oilers, who scored all four of their goals on the man advantage - three on the power play and one during a 6-on-5 opportunity. The Blackhawks certainly want to be better in that regard.
But if you hold Draisaitl and McDavid off the scoresheet entirely at even strength, odds are you're going to win the hockey game. And the Blackhawks did that in Game 1.