A Connor McDavid hat-trick, a solid performance from Mikko Koskinen and (finally) some help from the team’s depth players all combined to help the Edmonton Oilers to a 6-3 win over the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Oilers came out looking much more motivated in Game 2.
So here are my five observations from this game.
1. McLeading by example
After Game 1, there was some discussion online that Connor McDavid didn’t do his part to help his team win (despite putting up 3 points and generally being left out to dry by his teammates). The Oilers captain didn’t have the best game of his life, so let’s take a look at how he rebounded in Game 2.
It didn’t even take McDavid halfway through the first period to show why he’s the best/most entertaining player in the world.
Just 19 seconds into the game, McDavid took advantage of a bouncing puck in the slot near Corey Crawford to pop it over the Chicago goalie’s shoulder. A few minutes later, well, just watch the video.
Of course, McDavid wasn’t content with just two goals. Late in the second period, McDavid fired a shot from the low circle that bounced off Ryan Carpenter and Duncan Keith to beat Crawford. His hat-trick almost single-handedly helped Edmonton stay in the game.
McDavid’s play in the first two games of this play-in series is demonstrating two things. The first is his unstoppable ability to steal games for the Oilers. The second is that when he can’t, the Oilers struggle.
Leon Draisaitl has yet to have his breakout moment so far this postseason, and for an MVP candidate, that moment needs to come soon to help push his team past the Blackhawks. The depth scoring started to get moving mid-way through the third with goals from James Neal and Alex Chiasson to help put the game away.
But that help came after McDavid already had taken over the game. The Oilers are going to need to find ways to get going without relying on McDavid to do the heavy lifting.
2. Tyler Ennis might be the Oilers’ Black Ace
In Game 1, Tyler Ennis was on the wrong end of a high hit from Drake Caggiula that resulted in the former Oiler being suspended for Game 2. Watching the replay, it’s almost shocking that he didn’t suffer a concussion. His play in the opening game was one of the few bright spots for the Oilers.
In Game 2, he brought that same energy.
A goal from the point, a crucial drawn penalty and just an overall great game might be giving the Oilers the idea that he could be their Black Ace this postseason. In games where McDavid oftentimes feels like a one-man army, Ennis is providing some much-needed help.
He can play up and down the lineup, is strong without the puck, good hockey IQ and seems to be finding his offensive touch. If Edmonton wants to win this series, they’re going to need more of their depth players to step up the way Ennis has.
3. Koskinen’s first playoff game
After a tough game from Mike Smith in Game 1, Mikko Koskinen came in a relief effort and did pretty well, stopping 18 of 19 shots.
Even though Chicago got 3 goals by the 32-year-old netminder, I can’t say that any of them were his fault. That Slater Koekkoek goal was very reminiscent of missed coverages the Oilers had in Game 1.
In his first-ever playoff start, Koskinen made 23 saves on 26 shots and looked really solid throughout the whole game. The team looked confident in front of him, gave him some help blocking shots and minimized the chances against on the penalty kill.
Expect him to start in Game 3.
4. Penalties galore
I love a good powerplay as much as the next hockey fan, but these playoffs have been a bit ridiculous.
I’m not saying that every penalty this game was unwarranted, but it comes down more to players still adjusting and getting back up to speed. There’s just too many sloppy penalties, like that Jujhar Khaira holding penalty at the end of the second period, or Matt Benning’s high sticking against Matthew Highmore.
Luckily for the Oilers, the Blackhawks went 0/4 with the man-advantage.
At this point in a five-game series, there’s little room to make these types of exhibition game style mistakes. Both teams should be looking to improve their discipline going forward.
5. Defence? Never heard of it
When I say that this play-in series hasn’t had anywhere near NHL quality defending, I say that as a positive. High-scoring playoff games filled with odd-man rushes, blown coverages and more turnovers than a nervous BBQ’ers burger? Inject that right into my veins, please.
Also, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins continues to prove himself alongside McDavid with three assists in Game 2. I can’t verify this, but I have a feeling it has something to do with the ‘stache.
Notes from the around the hubs
- This Andrei Svechnikov kid is going to be a problem for the rest of the league going forward, isn’t he?
- I know this maybe isn’t a hot take, but I don’t think Matthew Tkachuk did anything wrong on that Mark Scheifele hit. It just looked like a very unfortunate situation. Luckily, we’re hearing that the injury isn’t as serious as we all first thought. Scheifele is one of the smartest players in the league, and the sooner he’s back, the better.
- Am I the only one that feels like Andreas Athanasiou isn’t getting enough ice time?
- As much as everyone in the hockey world loves Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas starting Robin Lehner is the right move, even if I have a feeling that they’ll go back to Fleury as soon as the round-robin ends.
- This interaction between Auston Matthews and Steve Simmons was very entertaining. Also just take a look at Morgan Reilly’s face when Simmons comes on the call.