Kubalik breaks Hawks rookie record for points in a playoff game

The Blackhawks know they were handed a gift when the NHL included them in the 24-team Return to Play tournament, sneaking in as the No. 12 seed in the Western Conference despite having a 2.6 percent chance of making the playoffs prior to the pause.

But they won’t apologize for it. They’re here and ready to take advantage of this opportunity after missing out on the postseason in back-to-back years.

“We’re excited to show that we belong and we could make some noise as an underdog,” Duncan Keith said during training camp.

The Blackhawks put their words into action on Saturday, routing the Edmonton Oilers 6-4 in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. Don’t let the final score fool you. It was a one-sided game from start to finish.

“It feels good,” said Jonathan Toews, who scored twice and added an assist to surpass Steve Larmer for fifth in franchise history with 113 playoff points. “We snuck in, got that last spot. Obviously it’s a qualifier, but you get one win under your belt and it’s a good feeling. It gives you that confidence there’s no telling how far you can go. It’s playoff hockey, anything can happen. It’s good to be back, kind of get that monkey off our back.”

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The Blackhawks led in just about every statistical category, including shot attempts (70-51), shots on goal (43-29), 5-on-5 scoring chances (22-16) and offensive zone possession time (7:15-6:49), according to Sportlogiq. They gave up the first goal 2:34 into the opening period but responded with four unanswered in a span of 7:06 and chased goaltender Mike Smith in the second period.

Dominik Kubalik, most notably, set a record for most points by an NHL rookie in his playoff debut with five (two goals, three assists) while the power play scored three times, which is something it did only once in a game all season long.

The Blackhawks came out with more urgency, confidence and, quite frankly, played a dominant all-around 60-minute game than the Oilers, who scored all four of their goals with the man advantage. 

“We weren’t good enough,” said Connor McDavid, who had a four-point effort. “In every facet. Simple as that.”

Teams that win Game 1 of a Stanley Cup playoff series have gone on to advance 69.6 percent of the time. But this is a five-game series, not a traditional seven, which makes Saturday’s win even more important.

And the Blackhawks know they can’t take their foot off the gas pedal.

“Edmonton is going to be very desperate on Monday,” head coach Jeremy Colliton said. “We expect them to get better and we’re going to have to match it.”

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