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Photo Credit: Andy Devlin/NHLI via USA TODAY Sports

Offence, Offence and more Offence

The @Edmonton Oilers and @Chicago Blackhawks have combined for 19 goals in their two qualifying round games. The other three qualifying series in the Western Conference have a total of 20 goals combined in their four games. Winnipeg/Calgary have 10 goals in two games, while Vancouver/Minnesota had three in their first game and Arizona/Nashville scored seven.

In the East, Carolina/NYR has 10 goals in two games, Pittsburgh/Montreal has nine in two games, Florida/NYI has three and Toronto/Columbus has two.

Admittedly I prefer offence, so I’m loving all the offence in the Oilers-Hawks series.

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And no one should be surprised by it. The Oilers were the second-highest scoring team in the NHL in 2020, averaging 3.45 goals/game. The Blackhawks allowed the most high quality scoring chances/game in the league.

The series has been delightful if you like offence.

We have seen some weak goals, some sloppy play, but also some outstanding goals.

And I hope the offence continues.

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Watching the Vancouver/Minnesota game was painful. The Canucks had maybe two quality scoring chances the entire game.

Columbus and Toronto were brutal, unless you like watching offence-free hockey. Kudos to the Blue Jackets — they played how they wanted, but it was not exciting. No goals in the first two periods, only one penalty as neither team made any plays to put the opposition in a bad spot. And one of the goals was into an empty net.

The Hawks-Oilers series hasn’t been an example of sound defensive hockey, but I find mistakes much more entertaining.

I’d much rather watch a sloppy 6-4 game than a boring 2-0 game with limited scoring chances.

Both teams would like more consistent goaltending, and better defensive awareness, but the Hawks haven’t played that way all season, so we shouldn’t expect them to now. Edmonton has a more potent offence, and if they improve a bit more defensively in game three like they did from game one to game two, they should be okay with playing an open style against the Hawks.

QUICK HITS…

Some stats from last night caught my attention.

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1. Connor McDavid scored a hat trick on three shots. He was very efficient. He literally dominated from the opening faceoff. He won it and then 19 seconds later opened the scoring. His second goal is one of the most ridiculous displays of skill at high speed I’ve ever seen. Ridiculous.

He only played 11:50 in the first two periods due to the Oilers taking four minor penalties in the second frame. He finished the game with 18:23 and with the potential of back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday, having the luxury of lowering his minutes in game two could help later in the series.

2. The fourth line was very good again. Jujhar Khaira had four shots, three from the slot, while James Neal and Alex Chiasson each had three. Khaira outshot the opposition 8-2 when he was on the ice, Neal was 7-3 and Chiasson was 6-4. They scored two goals 40 seconds apart in the third to secure the victory. I’m still shocked at those who, prior to the playoffs when they were making line combinations, didn’t even have Neal on a line. He is healthy and his experience as well as ability to play a heavy, skilled game is very effective in the playoffs. The St. Louis Blues won the Cup last year with many players who aren’t super fast. The game doesn’t always have to be played at super high speed to win. Neal, Chiasson and Khaira grind teams down, and they have been solid and productive through two games.

3. Andreas Athanasiou had his best game as an Oiler. He only played 9:54, but he was noticeable almost every shift. His speed was apparent all over the ice, especially below the tops of the circles. “We just had the same conversation in the coaches room five minutes ago,” said Tippett when I asked him about Athanasiou. “That was the best game we’ve seen him play. He has dynamic speed, and just his acceleration was there all night. He really brought something to the table and hopefully that is something for him to build on.”

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Courtesy of SportsLogic: Athanasiou led the Oilers in controlled entries with eight. Leon Draisaitl had six and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had five. It shows how often Athanasiou had the puck on his stick despite his limited play.

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4. Darnell Nurse and Ethan Bear were excellent. Both were great at completing stretch passes with Bear having six and Nurse three. The rest of the defence had two.

5. Mikko Koskinen was solid. He made a few timely saves, especially in the first period on Toews and Kane. What matters more: wins or stats? He won the game with a .885Sv%. He wasn’t lights out and had a .833Sv% at 5×5, but he was perfect on the PK stopping all six shots.

6. But the penalty killing skaters were the strength of the PK last night. They blocked nine shots and all of the Hawks six PP shots that made it to the net were from 28 feet out or more. The Hawks never had one rebound chance on the PP, which illustrates how good the killers were at keeping them to the outside and not allowing them in the really dangerous scoring areas.

7. The winning 50/50 ticket for last night’s game was $1,629,722.50. Which means the Oilers community foundation also has that same amount. If this keeps up the Oilers Community Foundation would make as much in the first four playoff games as they did in a regular 41 game season. It would be great to have some transparency on where the money goes. How much goes to charities and how much goes to administration costs? This report illustrates Canadian pro teams are not very good at reporting costs, spending and where the money goes.

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