Game Notes Oilers @ Blackhawks: Attack Mode

Dave Tippett challenged his team to play with more drive, passion and competitiveness prior to game two, and they responded.

Captain Connor McDavid won the opening faceoff and then scored 19 seconds later. That set the tone for the Oilers. They weren’t going to feel their way into game two.

They need to play with the exact same mentality tonight.

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1. The Oilers, McDavid both times, have scored on their first shot in each of the first two games of the series. Corey Crawford has not looked as sharp as many expected him to be. If I’m Dave Tippett I’d start McDavid’s line again. Try to set the tone early. The captain is so dialled in he thinks that tossing hats on the ice for his hat trick, “was unnecessary. Let’s just play.” I agree. While the thought was nice, some things are not the same when manufactured.

2. The odd stat of the game was that despite scoring six goals, only six players registered a point for the Oilers on Monday. McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had three, Alex Chiasson had two, while Tyler Ennis, James Neal and Darnell Nurse had one. The Oilers scored three unassisted goals (although I thought Neal had an assist on Chiasson’s goal).

3. The Oilers were much more physically engaged in game two. They outhit the Hawks 27-10, despite having the puck more. They simply worked much harder than they did in game one. The Hawks are not a physical team, they aren’t very big with Brandon Saad (206) and Jonathon Toews (201) their only forwards over 200 pounds, while Olli Maatta and Connor Murphy are 200+ on the backend. The Oilers are much heavier and can wear them down.

Six Oilers forwards are 208+ pounds, with Leon Draisaitl and Alex Chiasson (208), Zack Kassian (211), James Neal, Jujhar Khaira (212) and Riley Sheahan (214). Add in Matt Benning (203), Adam Larsson (208), Oscar Klefbom (212) and Darnell Nurse (221), and the Oilers have a nice combination of size, speed and skill. They need to continue to lean on the Hawks, especially on the cycle, and that’s why I feel the fourth line is having so much success down low. The Hawks simply don’t have many D-men strong or big enough to battle on the boards with that line.

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4. McDavid scored his first career playoff hat trick on Monday. That was the 28th playoff hat trick in Oilers history — the most in the league since the Oilers entered. Philadelphia is second with 18, followed by Pittsburgh and Detroit at 17. Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri have seven playoff hat tricks, Mark Messier and Esa Tikkanen have three, Glenn Anderson has two while McDavid, Draisaitl, Bill Guerin, Doug Weight, Joe Murphy and Petr Klima have one.

5. The Montreal Canadiens have the most playoff hat tricks all-time with 32, but only six of them have come since the league expanded to 21 teams in 1979/1980. The Oilers are second with 28 followed by Detroit (26), Boston and Philly (24), Chicago (20), and Pittsburgh and Toronto have 18. Oilers fans have been blessed to see so many high-end elite forwards over the years.

6. The funniest quote of playoffs thus far came from Andreas Athanasiou when he was asked about the 50/50 draws and how much it differs to being in Detroit. “It would never be like that ($1.6 million to the winner),” he said. “When we could come to Canadians cities sometimes guys would put some money together for the 50/50s (laughs).”

7. Darnell Nurse has been the Oilers best defencemen through two games. It isn’t close. He’s played 49:40 through two games, and 38:01 at 5×5 and 8:10 on the PK. He has been a workhorse logging five more minutes than Oscar Klefbom and 11 more than Adam Larsson. He hasn’t got much fanfare, but in the opening game where the team was dreadful defensively, Nurse was one of the few who wasn’t. He continued his strong play on Monday. His partner Ethan Bear, after an up and down first game, was equally solid on Monday and the two of them were the best outlet passers on the blueline by a large margin. Right now they are clearly the top pair for the Oilers, and their ice time reflects that. Bear has played 35 minutes at 5×5 and the exact same 8:10 on the PK as Nurse.

8. The Oilers third and fourth lines have not been on for a goal against through two games. The Khaira line has scored twice, while Sheahan’s line has no goals, but they have had really solid possession numbers and are outshooting the opposition. You should win a series when your bottom six is this effective.

9. Very random thought: I’m sure Oilers fans are tired of hearing it, but without question the Hawks’ goal song is a much catchier tune than the Oilers’. Might just be me, but I’d look for a better tune next year than “Hell Yeah” by Rev Theory.

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10. Yesterday, Jordan Eberle scored his fifth and sixth goals in 10 playoff games since the Oilers traded him because he had subpar playoffs in 2017. It wasn’t just Peter Chiarelli who felt that way — many at Oilernation felt he didn’t show up in big games. He has six goals and 11 points in 10 playoff games with the Islanders. He is another prime example not to rush to judgement after one playoff season for players with a proven track record of scoring. It was no different than those who didn’t want to play James Neal in the playoffs because he was supposedly “too slow,” despite reports he played with a broken toe in November and December and then had a high ankle sprain. Scoring goals is difficult, and those who do it regularly will more often than not figure it out in the playoffs.

11. Neal (6), Chiasson (5) and Khaira (4) have 15 shots in two games. That is nine more than Draisaitl’s line which has six, with four from Draisaitl. When the Oilers play a heavier team, I won’t be surprised if we see Dave Tippett split up Ennis and Yamamoto. Both can be effective on their own, but having two wingers that small on the same line will be a challenge against heavier teams like St.Louis, Dallas or Vegas.

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