While the New York Islanders wait to find out whether they'll be traveling to Boston or Buffalo to begin Tuesday's semifinal series in the Stanley Cup playoffs, Chicago and Edmonton will begin their best-of-seven series tonight.
Edmonton has had little difficulty so far in the playoffs, coasting past Winnipeg and Calgary.
Calgary salvaged one game, edging the Oilers, 6-5, in the fifth game, but Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and defenseman Paul Coffey were too strong for the Flames.
Gretzky has 22 points in the Oilers' first eight playoff games. At this pace, he would break the record for most points in a playoff (35), set by Mike Bossy of the Islanders two years ago. Seven of Gretzky's points came in the Oilers' 10-2 defeat of the Flames in the third game when he had four goals, including a short-handed one, and three assists.
Messier has 10 goals so far, and has equaled a Stanley Cup record for hat tricks with two in one postseason.
Edmonton outscored the Flames, 35-13, breaking the NHL record for most goals in a Stanley Cup playoff series.
If the Oilers do have a weak spot, it is goaltending. Andy Moog's play can be inconsistent, in spite of his 39 saves in a 9-1 victory over the Flames.
The Oilers own the home ice advantage in their series with Chicago, which may or may not be much of an advantage for Gretzky. During the first two games of the series, spectators at the Northlands Coliseum booed him.
"For the first time in my career, people in Edmonton started to get on me," he said, "but, well, that's pro sports."
A legitimate run toward the Stanley Cup finals should silence the Edmonton fans.
No player on the Chicago roster has faced the Oilers in a playoff before. Not that it should bother the Black Hawks too much. They gave up one game of their series to the Minnesota North Stars, but finished their fifth game with a 5-2 victory that included short-handed goals by Doug Wilson and Rick Paterson.
Wilson leads the Black Hawks with 13 points during the playoffs. Tom Lysiak has five goals, two of them game winners.
The Chicago power play has struggled through the playoffs, with a 15.9 percent effectiveness (seven goals in 44 chances). Short-handed, the Black Hawks have allowed 12 power play goals during 44 times down a player.
The Black Hawks have the goaltending edge over the Oilers. If Moog is up and down, Chicago has a money goalie. The durable Tony Esposito, at age 39, has been in 97 playoff games, and is likely to reach 100 this spring. His 2.20 goals-against average is the best among the playoff goalies, and he has won all three of his starts.