Doubt Connor McDavid again — I dare you. Final Score: 6-3
After Saturday afternoon’s disastrous start to the series, the Oilers had little option but to ensure that they were far better prepared in every aspect of their game than what we saw in Game 1. Outside of the powerplay which was excellent, Edmonton played about as sloppy as we’ve seen in ages and that’s not going to fly in a short series like this, and to state the obvious, they need a much better effort from the crease on out and they needed to play with some passion. The first thing I was looking for was the Oilers to start the night with some energy and set the tone for the night, leaving no doubt that the first game was an outlier and not what’s to be expected from them. Not only that, but I was also looking for a much better effort at even-strength, an area where the boys got absolutely dummied in the opener and was likely one of the top items to fix on Tippett’s to-do list.
In the opening minutes, the Oilers looked about as pissed off and motivated as I had hoped they would be, cashing in two quick goals to give themselves a running head start. Led by their captain, the good guys started the night like they had something to prove and I cannot overstate how much I appreciated the effort. To be honest, they looked like a completely different team than the one we watched a couple of days ago. But as the period went on, the Blackhawks were able to settle things down and started producing some offensive opportunities of their own, eventually clawing back to within one goal heading into the second. Even so, Edmonton put themselves in a spot for success and that what’s what mattered most as they were clearly working for a much more complete effort from start to finish. After trading a pair of goals over the course of the middle frame, both teams had their share of chances to either extend the lead or tie things up as the play moved up and down the ice like a pendulum.
Up by a goal with twenty minutes to play, the Oilers had an excellent chance to even the series up but they were going to have to make sure they kept pushing forward rather than try and sit on the lead. And as the Hockey Gords would have wanted, our boys continued to push forward and work for chances until the Blackhawks game them the space they needed to build upon their lead. Quick goals by James Neal and Alex Chiasson bought the Oilers some breathing room as they strolled into the back half of the final third period as they flooded the Blackhawks zone with pressure. Poised to pick up the win that they desperately needed, Edmonton closed out the night by playing a much simpler game that limited their exposure to risk and suffocated Chicago’s attack. All-in-all, this was a much better effort from a team that needed to have one, and I don’t there’s anybody that can say that they didn’t get the result they deserved.
THE BRIGHT SIDE
- Less than a minute into the opening period, Connor McDavid found himself alone near the front of the net where he found a way to sand wedge a bouncing puck over Crawford and right under the bar to give his team the lead (1-0). Only a few minutes later, McDavid added a second highlight-reel goal (2-1) after he blew past the defender and roofed a backhander, increasing the Oilers’ lead to two goals. McDavid completed the hat trick (4-3) late in the second period after his centring pass banked in off the Blackhawks defender and through Crawford’s legs. After a disappointing start to the series for his team, I was expecting Connor McDavid to go supernova in Game 2, leaving terror in his wake any time he touched the ice. As hoped, the captain did not disappoint as he cranked his game up to another level and played with the kind of jump you’d expect from him when he was needed the most.
- Tyler Ennis restored the Oilers’ lead to two goals (3-1) after he picked up a loose puck need the blue line and fired a quick wrister that made its way through traffic and underneath a falling Crawford.
- Midway through the third period, James Neal stole the puck from Corey Crawford behind the net and tucked it into the empty cage (5-3), giving the Oilers a taste of insurance that they hadn’t had since the first period.
- Only moments after Neal scored to extend the lead, Alex Chiasson picked up a loose puck outside of the crease and tucked it into the net (6-3) from a bad angle and, all of a sudden, the Oilers found themselves up by three goals.
- Mikko Koskinen got the start tonight after he came into Saturday’s game in relief of Mike Smith, and I have to admit that I was very happy with this decision. In Mikko’s two appearances since the lockdown (exhibition game and in relief), he has looked very solid between the pipes and I was hopeful that we’d see him carry that composure into his first NHL playoff start. Despite this being his first-ever NHL playoff start, Koskinen looked very sharp and composed, offering his team the kind of goaltending that they needed to compete for the win. While I wouldn’t say it was a perfect night from Koskinen, he made enough saves to get his team the win and finished his night with 23 saves and a .885 save%.
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had himself another multi-point night, registering a trio of assists while also looking a lot more confident defensively. So far, through two games, Nugent-Hopkins finds himself with six points while being stapled to McDavid and playing in all situations.
- I liked Darnell Nurse’s game tonight. He rushed the puck well, used his body to separate guys from the puck, and was very effective in the team-high 24:10 he played.
- After having a tough outing on Saturday compared to what we’ve become accustomed to, Ethan Bear looked a lot more like the calming force that we’re used to watching on the Oilers’ second pairing.
- I know he takes heat around here a lot, but I thought Andreas Athanasiou looked much better for the Oilers tonight than he did in Game 1. By my eye, he was far more noticeable and he was actually creating plays rather than floating around as he had been doing on Saturday.
- Once again, the powerplay came through with a clutch goal, finishing the night at 1/5. The Oilers were nowhere close to perfect on PP tonight — far from it — but they got the job done more than their opponent did and won the special teams battle handily.
- After a tough day in Game 1, the PK refused to be outdone and bounced back with a perfect 0/4 night when they needed it most.
- You know I love seeing our guys go 60% in the faceoff circle.
- You also know how much I love seeing the Oilers outshoot the Blackhawks by a 36-26 margin.
- How bananas was tonight’s 50/50? I mean, the thing had cleared $2 million about forty-five minutes before the game had even started and finished at over $3 million on the evening — it was incredible to watch.
THE FACE PALMERS
- Midway through the first period, Patrick Kane pulled the Blackhawks back to within a goal after he slid into the slot and took a perfect pass right to his take, snapping the puck under Koskinen and into the net.
- The Blackhawks’ got their second goal of the night on a tough play that saw the Oilers scrambling a little bit in their own zone, allowing Slater Koekkoek to find some open ice in the slot where he picked up a pass and buried a wrister past Koskinen.
- Olli Matta temporarily tied the game up at three apiece after his point shot found its way through traffic and bounced around in front of Koskinen, eventually squeaking through the goaltender.
- There were too many times that the Oilers were unable to clear their own zone because they could find each other with the first pass from down low. Their passes were either slightly short or a little too long, and it resulted in far too many unearned opportunities for the Blackhawks than you’d like to see.
- Complaining about the refs isn’t something I’m going to do here, but I will suggest that the Blackhawks were having an easier time of heading to the man advantage than the Oilers did. Just my opinion, of course.
- Gregor hit too many of his GDB predictions to make me think he’s not a witch.
- I’m still laughing about Adrian Dater’s hot take that McDavid’s “blandness rubs off too much on teammates.” Can’t imagine why he deleted it?
— BergBeer (@berg_beer) August 4, 2020
— Cam in a Pizzeria (@TheOldBoysClub) August 4, 2020
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) August 4, 2020
If we don’t get out of these playoffs in a Back To The Future 2 like dystopia with you as our leader I don’t want it..
— Preston Hodgkinson (@NHLHodgkinson) August 4, 2020
That's not a real name.
— dangersuede esq. (@dangersuede) August 4, 2020
Treliving still receiving them thank you cards.
— Jon Kerychuk (@Mother_Seducer) August 4, 2020
— TJ (@tjbahra) August 4, 2020
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