Hockey is back! Did the Oilers get the memo?
The Oilers dropped Game One of their qualifying series to the Chicago Blackhawks by a score of 6-4 on Saturday afternoon. The Oilers got goals from Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, James Neal and Oscar Klefbom. The Hawks were led by a 5pt performance by rookie Dominik Kubalik and a 2-goal effort by Jonathan Toews.
Before we get into the meat of this afternoon’s recap let me just comment on the NHL’s presentation on the Black Lives Matter movement. I thought the league did a wonderful job, from the opening montage to Matthew Dumba’s centre-ice speech. It is a movement that I wholeheartedly support and I think I can say the same for my fellow Copper & Blue writers! Evander Kane said it best when he said “Hockey Needs More Colour”.
Now, lets take a look at how the Oilers fared in their first playoff game since 2017...
You know the phrase “worst-case scenario”? Well, if you were an Oilers fan watching the first period of this game you certainly learned it. The game started off good enough, as Connor McDavid opened up the scoring on a beautiful power-play snipe just mere minutes into the game. Josh Archibald nearly extended that lead a shift later but was denied by the crossbar. 1-0 EDM early one.
Then it all fell apart. A Mike Smith giveaway behind the Oiler net lead to a Dylan Stroem tying things up and then the Hawks rattled off FOUR unanswered goals in a span of seven minutes. Jonathan Toews gave the Hawks the lead on a power-play marker that saw the Oilers caught puck watching. 2-1 CHI. Then it was Olli Maata point shot deflected by Saad that extended their lead to 3-1. THEN, it was a defensive catastrophe that left Toews wide open once again to make it a 4-1 game. All of this in the first period. After all of this, Mike Smith was still in the Oilers net.
You could blame it on rust, but it seemed like the Oilers simply underestimated their opponent and were shell-shocked. A lot of work was due in the next 40 minutes if the Oilers wanted a chance to take this one.
With their work cut out for them, the Oilers took to the ice and didn't look much better. They were able to cut the lead on the back of a power-play marker by Leon Draisaitl, making things 4-2. However, whatever ground that was made up was quickly lost a few minutes later as Dominik Kubalik restored Chicago’s three goal lead with a power-play rocket from the point. 5-2 and that was it for Mike Smith. Mikko Koskinen was in.
Then, to make matters even worse, Kubalik would pick up his second goal of the game on a late period power play redirection. The rookie had five points at this point and the Oilers had absolutely no response.
The Oilers would hit a post courtesy of Alex Chiasson but, otherwise, they were even further away from the comeback than they were after the first period. Piss poor defensive play and a defective penalty kill was the bane of Edmonton during this one.
Not much more happened in this game as Chicago transitioned into a defensive game to protect their four goal lead. The Oilers were able to cut the lead to 6-3 with a late power-play goal by James Neal. Oscar Klefbom then followed that up with a point shot that beat Crawford to cut things to 6-4....with three minutes left the possibility of a comeback became real. Nope, too little too late as the Oilers drop this one.
Koskinen had a very good period as he limited the Hawks from inflicting any further damage. Good bet that he gets the call for game two on Monday night. Chicago took this one by a final score of
- This game should spell the end of the Mike Smith experiment in Edmonton. While he didn’t have a ton of help from Edmonton’s defence, he was the sole player responsible for Strome’s opening goal. He battled but he failed at almost every opportunity thrown at him. Mikko Koskinen should be the de-facto starter for the team during the remainder of this series .
- Crawford looked good but not impossible to beat. All he had to do was play average hockey and that he did. If Edmonton can find some ways to challenge him more often it could go either way.
- Speaking of defence, somebody tell the Oilers to play it properly. The team was constantly bad in their own end over the course of this one. They left Toews open not once, but twice and both times it lead to goals against. I can understand if there is rust permeating throughout the roster but they made some pretty glaring mistakes that cost them dearly.
- Oilers have to find a way to neutralize Chicago’s transition game. It seemed like the Hawks were able to move north to south without much resistance all night long and that is a recipe for disaster for Edmonton. Chicago might have a slower D-core but their young group of forwards were able to skate circles.
- Expect some sort of suspension coming to Chicago’s Drake Caggiula. He had a high hit on Tyler Ennis midday through the second period that went without penalization. Upon replay it was a very reckless and dangerous hit..have to think its going to be at least one game.
- Face-offs were another killer of the Oilers tonight. On more than one occasion the Hawks scored directly off a face-off win in the defensive end.
- Special teams did more harm than good for the Oilers tonight. Their power-play continued to succeed as they went 3/6 , but their penalty kill faltered, allowing 3 goals. Keep doing good things with the man advantage, get better with a man down and maybe take less penalties.
- Tonight was a wake-up call for the Oilers not to take this Chicago team lightly. Luckily, it takes more than one game to win a series. Re-group and win game two on Monday.