Gross effort all around. Final Score: 6-4 Blackhawks
It’s been 143 days since the Oilers last played a meaningful hockey game and to have the first one back be at the start of an unlikely playoff run under the strangest circumstances imaginable was absolutely mindblowing. Not only is it a beautiful August day here in Edmonton — a weird scene for playoff hockey to begin with — but we just spent the last four+ months in a period of stress and uncertainty that would have been unimaginable if you told us what was coming when the season began back in October. From the time the league shut down on March 12th until the return-to-play plan was approved by the NHL and players association, I think we were all hopeful that this day would come but by no means was it anywhere close to certain, and I’m incredibly grateful that we got the opportunity to watch our boys pursue the Stanley Cup. Well… before the game started, anyway.
Off the top of the game, the Oilers got the exact start they wanted after the Blackhawks took an early penalty that allowed the league’s best powerplay to get to work and open the scoring. Unfortunately, that lead evaporated quickly when Mike Smith got caught out of the net while trying to make a play, allowing the puck to be banked in off him and into the empty net. Moments later, the Hawks gave themselves the lead on a Jonathan Toews powerplay goal after the Oilers got caught for slashing and looked extremely sloppy in their PK coverage. To make matters indescribably worse, Chicago went on to add two more goals before the opening frame was over, leaving the Oilers down by a field goal and looking about as fragile as a team could possibly be. Thankfully, Leon Draisaitl’s goal at the beginning of the second period stopped the bleeding and gave his team some much-needed life as they looked to climb out of the sizeable hole they had dug for themselves early on. But did the momentum last? No, not it did not.
At the end of the day, the Oilers were simply outmatched in basically every facet of this hockey game and it was completely disheartening to watch. Sure, the Blackhawks have a few guys that have won it all before, but that’s no excuse for being so completely unprepared to play this hockey game. Outside of the opening moments, Edmonton looked completely unable or unwilling to compete with a team that shouldn’t have been playing playoff hockey in the first place, and I don’t think I have to tell anyone here how disappointing that was to watch. Despite being heavily favoured, the Oilers were about as flat as they could have been and they got the result they deserved based on the effort they put out. It goes without saying that the Oilers have to play infinitely better on Monday night or else we’ll be looking at a very short series with the only thing to cheer for being a draft lottery win for Alexis Lafreniere.
THE BRIGHT SIDE
- Connor McDavid opened the scoring at 2:34 of the first period by roofing the puck over Crawford after the Chicago Blackhawks took a too many men penalty, giving the Oilers the change to punish them for it. Despite the disappointing finish, McDavid finished the game with four points.
- Leon Draisaitl pulled the Oilers back to within two goals when he scored the team’s second powerplay goal in the opening minutes of the second period. Leon found himself alone in the slot, took the pass, and fired it into the open cage in a matter of seconds and it gave the Oilers some life when they desperately needed it.
- James Neal added a third powerplay goal of the afternoon after he found a loose puck in the crease and banged it past a sprawling Crawford. Unfortunately, it was too little too late by that point.
- Only moments after Neal scored to make it 6-3, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored the first playoff goal of his career (weird/sad, right?) to pull the Oilers back to within two goals. Unfortunately, there were only three minutes left in the game, which wasn’t enough time to complete the comeback, but I did appreciate seeing my boy get on the board. RNH finished the day with three points.
- I’m going to give Mikko Koskinen some props for having to come into this game in relief in what can only be described as a horrible position. Koskinen allowed only one goal on the 19 shots he faced and finished the day with 18 saves and a .947 save%.
- Two-point day for Oscar Klefbom.
- At least the powerplay went 3/4 on the day?
- Oilers won 53% of the faceoffs they took.
- I loved Matt Dumba’s speech at the opening of the game. I thought he spoke from the heart and did a wonderful job of expressing the message of moving the game forward. Big props to him.
- At least Drake Caggiula didn’t score?
- Oh man, I’ve been laughing at the 50/50 for today’s game all morning because that thing is shooting the moon right now, meaning someone is going to have an insanely great Saturday. We truly are a 50/50 family, aren’t we?
THE FACE PALMERS
- Shortly after McDavid’s opener, Dylan Strome tied the game up at one apiece after he banked the puck off of Mike Smith who left the net to try and make a play. As far as mistakes go, that was an ugly one for Smith and was completely avoidable.
- Only moments after the Blackhawks tied the game at one, they got a powerplay as a result of a Matt Benning slash and they made no mistake of burying it to give themselves the lead. Jonathan Toews was left wide open in the slot and he made no mistake of roofing the puck over Smith’s glove and into the back of the net. Toews added a second goal later on in the first period after he found some space at the side of the net and fired a wrister past a falling Mike Smith.
- Brendan Saad extended Chicago’s lead to two goals after he parked himself in front of the net, deflecting the puck past Smith.
- Only moments after Leon Draisaitl pulled the Oilers to within two goals, Dominik Kubalik blasted a clapper past Mike Smith to restore Chicago’s three-goal lead and end the starting goaltender’s day between the pipes. Kubalik added the Hawks sixth goal of the day near the end of the second period, and by that point, my rage was at an all-time high. Kubalik finished the day with five points in his first-ever NHL playoff game and that’s a stat that is going to annoy me until Monday.
- As far as first periods go, that was about as ugly as it gets. Just gross. Actually, you know what, things didn’t get much better as the game went on.
- The penalty kill was about as gross as it gets today, allowing three goals on six chances against, which ended up being the difference.
- Getting outshot 42-29 is not a good look.
- Mike Smith is going to want to forget about this game. That’s not to say that all of the goals were his fault — they really weren’t — but this is not the kind of start to the playoffs that either he or his teammates wanted as they found themselves down by a field goal before the first period was even over. Smith ended up getting the hook early in the second period after allowing a fifth goal on 23 shots, finishing his outing with 18 stops and a .753 save%.
- I wonder what Tippett’s beef is with Athanasiou. The speedy forward played a team-low 8:37 today.
Rogers Place looks a lot different then I remember… pic.twitter.com/mrxSGLQCMG
— Liam Horrobin (@LiamHorrobin) August 1, 2020
I was hoping we would at least get through the first period of game 1 before that feeling came back.
— Lucky (@LuckyInRoseCity) August 1, 2020
Man oh man the Oilers fans are streaming out of the building already it looks completely empty with 2 mins left in the second
— Wanye (@WanyeGretz) August 1, 2020
— Strombone (@strombone1) August 1, 2020
— Cameron Johnson (@CamYEG) August 1, 2020
I’m so angry
— SignYam4Ever (@RPW_1832) August 1, 2020
They're passing to Lafreniere. Next year all of those passes will make sense.
— Ninja Bear™ (@sportsjunkie007) August 1, 2020
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