The Buffalo Bills and the Jacksonville Jaguars faced off in the NFL playoffs this morning. That is something that I didn’t think would ever happen. The last time the Bills made the playoffs, they started their season on the 20th century. The last time time the Jaguars made the playoffs, I was still in highschool, the iPhone had just come out, the great financial crisis was just getting ready to pop, and Sidney Crosby was getting ready to claim his first Hart trophy and sniff the playoffs for the first time. All this is to say it’s been a long time. These are the things these fans appreciate most, when they think it’s over. Sure, the Bills lost today, but do you really think the fans of that team are mad right now? No, ending a drought is one of the best feelings in the world, no one is mad when it ends. Disappointed, for sure, not mad. There’s too much to look forward to. That is... as long as we don’t show them how it ends. As Oiler fans, we’re well aware of the conclusion.
Leon Draisaitl, Connor McDavid and Patrick Maroon are reunited on the top line. Maroon’s first shift since being back from his two game suspension sees him take a hooking penalty. Thankfully, the Oilers kill it off for a change.
Nick Schmaltz opens the scoring for the Blackhawks. He gets the puck near the side of the Oilers net, pokes it to himself and beats Cam Talbot. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Kris Russell are covering the same guy (badly) and Schmaltz was able to get there without anyone looking. 1-0 Hawks.
Just over a minute later, Alex DeBrincat shoots a puck off of Mark Letestu and it’s 2-0.
The rest of the period consisted of McDavid’s line getting a few chances, and mostly, the Blackhawks controlling the period. It was an exceptionally bad one.
Five minutes into the frame, Darnell Nurse rushes the ice up the puck and into the zone. On this rush, he drops to Mike Cammalleri and then deflects Cammalleri’s shot past Anton Forsberg. 2-1 Oilers and it’s a one goal game. One goal games are a lot better than recent history.
The Oilers look much better in this period. They’re driving some play, cutting down chances against and look like they might actually have a game on their hands.
Naturally, with less than 20 seconds left in the period, the Blackhawks score again. Darnell Nurse tried to pinch to keep the puck in the offensive zone, fails and then the pass from Jonathan Toews to Brandon Saad goes uncontested for an easy goal.
Typically I don’t use video or gifs unless we win, but I think it’s important here. Darnell Nurse is catching flak for this play. From what I see, the people blaming him, are wrong.
As you can see, Darnell Nurse does indeed go for a pinch when it is inadvisable for most defensemen to do so. The thing is, Darnell Nurse isn’t most defensemen. Even when the pinch goes wrong — as it does here — he easily gets his feet moving backwards and is on his man all the way down the boards and into the defensive end. A pinch going wrong always gets the commentators going. The reason pinching is risky is because for most defensemen, when they miss, their man goes flying by them and has a clear drive to the net. Did that happen here? No. Had Darnell not gone for the pinch and started skating backwards without the poke-check attempt, would that play have developed any differently? Again, no. Realistically, this play is just good gap control and defensive play with a swipe prior. It made no difference on the play, yet people are pitching a fit at our best defeseman for showing why he’s our best defenseman. Ryan Strome is your culprit here, he didn’t cover Toews at all. Nurse did nothing wrong.
The Blackhawks scored again and won 4-1.
- Connor McDavid is still the best player in the game. He’s doing everything to try and will this team to wins with rush after rush, just isn’t working.
- Jesse Puljujarvi is really mediocre. I like that he takes shots, but outside of his own end he’s next to useless. The only way to get production out of him is by putting him next to McDavid to drive the play the proper way. He really needs to work on his tight turns. Something that simple could make a world of difference.
- Another game where Todd McLellan didn’t get near enough out of his roster. I’m going to write about why he hasn’t yet been fired tomorrow. So stay tuned for that.
- It’s early January and we’re looking forward to the draft lottery.