Winning for Connor! Final Score: 5-3 Oilers
I don’t know about you guys but I feel like basically every game is a playoff game at this point. Whether they’re playing within the Pacific Division or pulling off a slick little comeback against the Nashville Predators, the Oilers need points in the bank regardless of who they have to beat to get them. Today’s to-do list item happened to be taking care of a Chicago Blackhawks team that, despite their last place position in the Central Division, have a 6-2-2 record over their last 10 games and sit only five points out of the second Wildcard spot in the Western Conference. And even though they’re in a different division, I still wanted to the Oilers to put some space between themselves and a Blackhawks team that’s chasing them in the final race. It goes without saying, winning tonight’s game got significantly more difficult after news broke that Connor McDavid will be out of the lineup for the next two or three weeks as a result of a quad injury sustained against the Nashville Predators on Saturday night.
With the captain on the shelf for the foreseeable future, the rest of the lineup is facing a major test of depth to try and fill the void left by the two-time league MVP. And as if it was scripted, the Oilers hit the ice like a runaway train and found the back of the net in the opening moments, grabbing an early lead that they so desperately needed. The bad news was that it didn’t last long as the Blackhawks were able to erase the deficit and grab a lead of their own after scoring a pair of quick goals in the middle chunk of the opening period. Not to be outdone, the Oilers continued pushing the puck up ice until they were afforded a power play that allowed them to wrestle the game back into a tie. With the second period underway and the score knotted up, the Oilers continued to manufacture chances on goal at both even strength and with the man advantage, resulting in two more goals that gave them back the lead and a good chance at a win if they could close. It was the kind of period that was not only fun to watch but ultimately impressive in the way they were able to execute.
Up by a goal with 20 minutes to play, the Oilers needed to keep moving the puck was as much offensive chutzpah as we saw in the second period but while also doing a better job of tightening things up in their own end. At times, they made some questionable choices with their coverage and it resulted in the Blackhawks getting at least a goal or two that could have been avoided. Thankfully, no such setbacks occurred in the third period and the Oilers were able to bend without breaking even as the Blackhawks cranked up the pressure to an 11. At the end of the day, this was a huge win for an Oilers team that’s set to take off on a difficult road trip against some very good hockey teams.
THE BRIGHT SIDE
- Riley Sheahan opened the scoring (1-0) for the Oilers only 1:13 into the first period and gave his team the early lead they so desperately needed. Josh Archibald got the play going with a well-timed chip off the boards at the blue line that sent him into Chicago’s zone where he completed a nice little passing play with his linemates that set Sheahan up for the finish.
- Kailer Yamamoto tied the game back up (2-2) as a result of some relentless puck pursuit on the powerplay that paid off with him finding the loose change right in front of Robin Lehner. On the play, Yamamoto looked like a dog on a bone as he refused to give up on the play and it was pretty awesome to see him get rewarded with a goal for his efforts. Yamamoto wasn’t done with one goal, though, as he tied the game up at threes (3-3) with another dose of hard work in front of the net that paid off for the kid. Make it the first two-goal performance of Yamamoto’s young career.
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins gave the Oilers back the lead (4-3) after he crashed the front of the net on the powerplay, found a rebound, and shovelled the loose back over Lehner and into the back of the net.
- What can you say about the night Leon Draisaitl had when the Oilers needed him the most? Empty netter aside, Draisaitl added three huge assists and probably could have had more based on how well he played and how well he was dishing. For my money, this McDavidless run is going to be the chance Leon has to show the rest of the league exactly how dominant he can be and tonight’s performance was a hell of a statement in that quest.
- Mike Smith was back between the pipes for his 28th start of the season and I was looking for him to continue being as steady as he has been since the calendar flipped to 2020. And while I don’t think this was a perfect outing from Smith (I’m not at all suggesting he was bad either btw), it was certainly nice to have the team in front of him be able to outscore any mistakes that wound up in the back of the net. I thought the best part of Smith’s game came in the third period where he made a plethora of big saves that kept the Hawks from tying things up when they were really pushing for the equalizer. Smith finished the night with 38 saves and a .927 save%.
- I know I say this a lot but I’m going to go ahead and say it again — I love Ethan Bear and I hope the Oilers ‘Klefbom’ him with a new contract this summer. The kid just seems to get better and better as the season moves forward and he’s been a shining light on the back end so far and it’s been a lot of fun to watch.
- The Oilers powerplay came up huge tonight as it produced two goals on three chances. Yeah, we can complain about the shortie they gave up on the first chance, but after that, the boys were lights out when up a man and they desperately needed to be.
- Not to be outdone, the Oilers PK needs some love too as they killed off all three chances they faced.
- Gotta love the Oilers winning 53% of the draws against a veteran team like the Blackhawks. Huge night on the dot.
- I want to close out the Bright Side by giving a massive shout out to the Nuge-Draisaitl-Yamamoto line as they were lethal again. How about eight points between the three of them? *whistles*
THE FACE PALMERS
- Brandon Saad tied the game up at one apiece (1-1) after he took a perfectly placed cross-ice pass from Patrick Kane that let him with a tap-in at the side of the net. Ethan Bear did his best to defend Kane on the play, turning him towards the boards away from the net, but you have to give the guy credit for pulling off the spin move and combining it with a laser beam pass that hit Saad right on the tape.
- Jonathan Toews gave the Blackhawks the lead (2-1) after the Oilers made a complete debacle of their first powerplay chance and gave Chicago a ridiculous odd-man rush that they made no mistake of converting.
- Adam Boqvist restored Chicago’s lead (3-2) after being the beneficiary of another wonderful pass by Patrick Kane that set the rookie up with the puck on a tee and a wide open net to shoot at. Leading up to the goal, RNH was backchecking hard on Kane but Benning stayed with him too, leaving Boqvist wide open for the shot and eventual goal.
- Seeing Drake Caggiula playing with Jonathan Toews makes me angry about Brandon Manning all over again.
- I’d rather not see the Oilers get outshot 41-31 but you have to give Mike Smith a lot of credit for outduelling his counterpart at the other end of the ice.
- I would be remiss if I didn’t include Connor McDavid’s absence in this Wrap Up. Obviously, it was a kick to the shin to have him go from potentially missing a game or two to missing two or three weeks with this quad injury. Adding to the intrigue is the fact that the Oilers lied to us about the severity of his PCL injury from this past summer, and that’s making us all feel a little bit tinfoil hat-ish about this latest issue.
|01:13||Edmonton||Riley Sheahan (7) ASST: Zack Kassian (16), Josh Archibald (7)||0-1|
|05:56||Chicago||Brandon Saad (17) ASST: Patrick Kane (43), Connor Murphy (12)||1-1|
|14:19||Chicago||SHG – Jonathan Toews (15) ASST: Ryan Carpenter (12), Olli Maatta (11)||2-1|
|17:18||Edmonton||PPG – Kailer Yamamoto (6) ASST: Alex Chiasson (12), Leon Draisaitl (55)||2-2|
|01:45||Chicago||Adam Boqvist (4) ASST: Patrick Kane (44)||3-2|
|03:38||Edmonton||Kailer Yamamoto (7) ASST: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (26), Leon Draisaitl (56)||3-3|
|04:50||Edmonton||PPG – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (15) ASST: Leon Draisaitl (57), Mike Smith (2)||3-4|
|19:57||Edmonton||EN – Leon Draisaitl (32)||3-5|
First goal in the non-Connor era.
— TheTowelBoy (@TheTowelBoy) February 12, 2020
Someone blow in the cartridge!
— Tyler Collin (@JimTheMonk) February 12, 2020
Have you ever BEEN to Bakersfield? Best thing about it was Korn and even THEY left
— Rory (@beardsbrown) February 12, 2020
@OilersnationHQ Yamamoto is the answer
— Sandy Schneider (@yukonschneid91) February 12, 2020
“DrAiSaiTL iS nOtHing wiTHoUt mCdAviD”
— 3moreyearsof4️⃣4️⃣ (@yzambo_) February 12, 2020
— Eric Friesen 🏒 (@EricJFriesen) February 12, 2020
WIN A TRIP TO THAILAND
Our friends at Oodle Noodle and AMA Travel want you to win a trip to Thailand! To enter the contest, all you have to do is follow @oodle_noodle and AMATravel on Twitter, share the post, and tag your travel buddy — it’s just that easy! The contest runs from February 1st to March 15th so get your entries in today.