The Edmonton Oilers were back at it after a four day break, in Winnipeg to take on the languishing Jets on Monday night. Mike Smith, whose status was briefly in question over the weekend after he appeared to twinge something and leave practice early, was in goal for Edmonton, going up against the reigning Vezina winner, Connor Hellebuyck, for Winnipeg. Recently recalled Ryan McLeod made his NHL debut tonight, while recently acquired Dmitry Kulikov spelled Kris Russell to make his Oilers debut as well.
The first few minutes were dicey if you’re an Oilers fan. Mike “Schmidddyyyyy” Smith had to be razor-sharp in the first five to keep the surging Jets at bay. Connor McDavid did manufacture a good look from in close in the first few seconds but the next few shifts were almost entirely Winnipeg.
The hosts rode that pressure to the game’s first power play — a Darnell Nurse cross-check on Trevor Lewis for getting a bit too familiar with Smith — but the Oilers’ PP merely bent, and 3 SOGs and no goals later they were back at evens with a bit of momentum.
The visitors managed their own power play after stringing a few productive shifts together, but they couldn’t find the first goal either. They did, however, manage to keep momentum from their man advantage in a way the Jets couldn’t, and before long they rode that all the way to the opening goal.
At the end of a great shift from the recently reunited Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Kailer Yamamoto line, Draisaitl found himself out with James Neal and Alex Chiasson. He chased the puck to the end wall and trapped it, drawing some eyes, before finding a lovely backhand pass to Adam Larsson in space. He made a similarly lovely play to set Alex Chiasson up for a slightly better shot and Chiasson made no mistake, pounding the one-timer past Hellebuyck. 1-0.
Congratulations to Chiasson on 100 goals in the show. Nobody can take that from him, that’s pretty cool.
The Jets found a bit of push back on the next shift but it didn’t matter as the Oilers found a second goal a shade over two minutes later. Some good identification from Tyson Barrie just inside the DZ blue sent McDavid and Jesse Puljujarvi the other way. He joined and traded the puck with McDavid before firing one at net. It hit Puljujarvi (perhaps) and fell kindly to McDavid to lift over a helpless Hellebuyck. 2-0.
The rest of the period played out scoreless, but the damage was done. Schmidddyyyyy held them together early and the MVPs made plays on both their goals. 2-0 after twenty and in control.
More of the same from our heroes as Dave Tippett started the middle frame with McDavid’s line and they went to work immediately. The Oilers threw about eight pucks toward the Jets net in the first couple of minutes and got an insurance goal at the 3:35 mark.
Dominik Kahun, recently added to McDavid’s left wing, made two beautiful passes to spring McDavid on breakaways in the span of about 30 seconds. The second of those passes led to McDavid faking the slap shot to get Hellebuyck open before sliding one through and/or underneath him. Hellebuyck has a family but McDavid spares no cares for that kind of sentiment. 3-0.
Winnipeg managed to stop the bleeding a little bit before finding some genuine pushback toward the midway point of the period. That’s all well and good, but they couldn’t solve Mike Smith and, for all their trouble, they couldn’t stop Edmonton from scoring more either.
A turnover at the top of the left circle in the Oilers zone sprung Nugent-Hopkins and Draisaitl on a two-on-one, with the former carrying. He waited exactly the right amount of time before putting one on a chafing dish for Draisaitl and bringing it to the front porch of his wheelhouse. You’ll never guess what happened next. 4-0.
The Jets kept trying, bless their little hearts, but the Oilers kept scoring. This time, Darnell Nurse. A nice play by Puljujarvi to gather and send McDavid that culminated with his being the trailer McDavid left it for at the other end. Puljujarvi, in turn, sent a smooth pass to an activated Nurse to one-time past Hellebuyck. 5-0. Bad boys, bad boys.
The Jets drew a penalty on the very next shift, and managed to get themselves a consolation goal via Mark Scheifele. 5-1. Whoop dee doo, Basil.
Less than a minute later, Connor McDavid was at it again, because he also doesn’t give a shit about Mark Scheifele or his feelings. This time, a solo effort in which he turned the puck over himself, sprung himself on a breakaway, and then deked the absolute Jacques Trapp off of Hellebuyck. Such was Puljujarvi’s empathy in that moment that he could barely manage a celebration, stoically skating by the crease in the aftermath like he’d just helped someone put down their favorite horse and he couldn’t bear to look them in the eye. 6-1. Half dozen of the other.
The rest of the period played out scoreless, and the Oilers took their 6-1 lead to the break.
I’ll be frank here, folks. Somewhere after the opening faceoff of the third period I transitioned from watching to listening as I returned to the office to finish the recap. The game was over. I’d hit the highlights were there any. At this point, the primary goal is to get out of Winnipeg (‘s MTS Centre, at least, as they play here again on Wednesday) injury-free, given the chances of a Jets comeback were about equal tonight to the chances of a Jets Super Bowl. A Winnipeg Jets Super Bowl. So at that point, my primary goal is to get this recap done ASAP. We all make choices.
The Jets started the third period trying their darnedest, but Edmonton settled after the first handful and started to put in just enough care and attention into the motions they were going through to saw off the rest of the game. On the scoreboard at least. Smith had to make a couple of nice stops near the end to keep the score the same.
A 6-1 final in a game that was over after about 24 minutes.
At this point it is hard to say anything other than congratulations to Mike Smith for a pretty fantastic age 39 season in which he has so far successfully kept the undefeated tendrils of Father Time at bay. Another stout performance in which he provided the team a platform to get out and take the game over early, and then finished with 30-plus saves and a very tidy SV% for his trouble by the end. He had to make a few beauties down the stretch, too. Good for him.
Also, Connor McDavid is the greatest hockey player of all time. Ever.
That’s how many points McDavid needs to get 100. In a 56-game season. Nobody is on the level below the level he’s on. McDavid is streets ahead.