I think it goes without saying that Game 1 didn’t exactly go as hoped, but what I didn’t necessarily expect was the number of people that are ready to throw in the towel already. Let’s talk about it.
Let’s just get this out of the way: Mike Smith made a horrible mistake at the end of the game that directly resulted in the game-winning goal. I don’t know why he felt like throwing the puck up the middle was the right choice at that moment — I know there was a guy calling for a pass up ice — but he obviously got burned for the choice and now we have to deal with the consequences. After watching the play over and over again, I still can’t wrap my head around why he didn’t hit Duncan Keith with an outlet pass considering he was wide open with his stick on the ice, but we can’t change how things went, and now our boys find themselves in an early series hole with an added dose of pressure to even things up on Wednesday. The biggest question will be how does Smith respond? Even though some of us wonder if Mikko Koskinen should get Game 2, I highly doubt Woodcroft will sit Smith even with that mistake lingering like a fart in an elevator. Will we get a bounce-back effort from the veteran netminder? Anything less would be a disaster.
IT WASN’T JUST SMITH
I don’t know if the boys were nervous about getting going or what was happening, but the Oilers looked like they were gripping their sticks a lot in the early going and the result was some pretty sloppy hockey. Not only did it take nearly half a period before they were even able to get a shot on goal, but the way they were coughing up pucks on what would normally be easily executable plays was concerning, to say the least. Thankfully, the boys were able to settle things down as the game wore on but I don’t think I need to explain to anyone reading this why spotting a team an early two-goal game is like taking a long walk down a short pier to unhappiness. From the crease outward, the boys need to sharpen up and play with the kind of confidence we saw from them down the stretch otherwise I can’t see many positive outcomes if we head into Game 2 with the same jitters bunging things up. The Kings have next to no pressure to do anything in this series and they’re playing loose as a result, meaning the Oilers need to calm down and get back to playing their game.
THE SPECIAL TEAMS WORKED
If we’re going to look for some positives to take away from last night’s loss, the special teams should be near the top of the list. Not only did the power play go 2-for-4 on the night and come up with a pair of timely goals that pulled the Oilers back to within striking distance, but the PK also handle its business and killed off all four shorthanded situations they faced. Assuming the boys can clean up the details at even strength, having a special teams advantage on both sides of the ice could be the difference between tying the series on Wednesday or heading to LA in a massive hole, and I don’t think I’m talking out of school when I say that the latter option simply cannot happen.
LET’S NOT QUIT ON THIS
Even though I was as pissed off about last night’s result as anyone, I will admit that I was genuinely surprised by how many folks are already throwing in the towel despite no series ever being won with only one game. Again, I’m not trying to come up with clever excuses for the team here — ultimately, they got the result they deserved based on a very inconsistent game — but there’s no way I’m giving up on this team to get back in this series. Reading through some of the comments in the Wrap Up last night, you would think that the Oilers are down by three games in this series and not just one, and while I certainly get it to an extent, there’s still plenty of hockey to play here. Even in the season series, the Kings picked up the first game of the year with a lopsided 5-1 win only to lose the following three because the boys found ways to adjust. Personally, that’s what I believe will happen here. Yeah, I’m absolutely biased here but I’m choosing to believe that the Oilers will recognize the missed opportunity here and respond with a much better effort on Wednesday night. I guess, what I’m really trying to say here is that it’s too early to give up, and I hope after some time to think about it and calm down, we’ll get some of you back on the bandwagon you appear to be leaving. Either that or I’ll enjoy the extra legroom. Oilers in five, LFG!
BONUS EPISODE OF BETTER LAIT THAN NEVER
Do you think you know who will take home hockey’s ultimate prize? Do you think you can put together the ultimate playoff bracket? Sign up for a FREE ACCOUNT for the Daily Faceoff Playoff Bracket Challenge presented by PointsBet Canada to secure your spot for a chance at prizes and glory! Sign up here.