It was Oilers colour commentator Jack Michaels who opened tonight’s telecast by saying that goaltender Mike Smith lobbied Dave Tippett for tonight’s start. Smith got the start, feeling that he had plenty to offer after Edmonton’s 4-0 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights. Why Tippett didn’t opt for a two-weeks rested Stuart Skinner to start tonight’s game, I’ll never know.
Starting Smith would be a major story early on.
Mike Smith yielded the first two Chicago shots of the game. In a moment that reminded me of the 2020 play-in series, it was 2-0 before most of the crowd could sit down. Alex DeBrincat scored on the power play at 1:44, it would be Saskatchewan native Brandon Hagel a minute later to make it 2-0. Fortunately for the Oilers, Smith settled down for the remainder of the period, but the Oilers couldn’t get much going in the Chicago end. Duncan Keith would take an awkward spill into the boards near the end of the period, he’d be sidelined for the remainder of the game with an upper body injury. Score after 1: Chicago 2, Edmonton 0. Shots after 1: Blackhawks 13, Oilers 12.
The Oilers had some more pep in their step to begin this period. They’d pick up a power play when Chicago defenceman Connor Murphy picked up a high sticking penalty against Evander Kane. Leon Draisaitl would pick up a power play goal on the ensuing power play, it would be Edmonton’s first goal in over four periods of play. Zack Kassian would take a deflection to face shortly after the goal. On the ensuing Chicago rush, Evander Kane would take a penalty for boarding when he caught Brandon Hagel in the numbers, the Oilers would kill a relatively pedestrian effort from Chicago. Former Oiler Caleb Jones would pick up a two minute penalty for holding Leon Draisaitl, the Oilers were unable to cash. Overall a very good period for the Oilers, they were able to get one. Score after 2: Chicago 2, Oilers 1. Shots after 2: Blackhawks 13, Oilers 32
Leon Draisaitl would take an interference penalty to kick things off early in the third, Dylan Strome would cash in on a shot/pass from Alex DeBrincat to make it 3-1 Chicago less than two minutes in. The Oilers keep the pressure up after going down, Sam Lafferty takes a two minute minor 5 minutes into the third. Edmonton would fail to convert. Minutes later, Kailer Yamamoto would fail to convert a tape-to-tape pass to an open Leon Draisaitl in the Blackhawks zone. Kirby Dach would make it 4-1 Blackhawks after a kerfuffle in front of Mike Smith. The Oilers spent plenty of time in Chicago’s end during the second period, but they didn’t have enough gas in the tank. Final score: Chicago 4, Oilers 1. Final shots: Chicago 30, Oilers 41.
- Mike Smith looked pretty good during the meat and potatoes of this game, but allowing two goals on the first two shots is a new one for me. There was plenty of side-eyes at Mikko Koskinen when he’d allow one early on, but two goals deep is a tough trench to dig yourself out from. The Oilers aren’t getting much goal support right now, and that’s also a huge problem when this team scores one goal in six periods of play. Smith has allowed eight goals in his last two starts, good for a .862 SV% over that time.
- Oilers allowed two goals while on the PK. Disastrous when you’re only scoring one goal a game.
- Tippett’s post game comments were more of what you’d expect. Won’t rule out playing Smith on Friday, thinks Schmitty had a really good game. There was some meat in those potatoes, but again, the first two goals of the game put the game in the driver’s seat for the Blackhawks.
- More Tippett: both Duncan Keith and Zack Kassian will get tests tomorrow to determine the length of their injuries. Keith took a nasty spill into the boards towards the end of the first period, while Zack Kassian caught a puck in the face.
- Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 40 of 41 Oiler shots to pick up the win for Chicago. Tough to argue with those kinds of numbers.
- The Oilers are back at it on Friday as they’ll be hosting the Islanders. Join us for the festivities.