So, after 48 hours of consternation over a brain cramp by Mike Smith in the wake of a 4-3 loss to the Los Angeles Kings Monday, the Edmonton Oilers answered with a 6-0 dismantling of the Kings Wednesday. Six-zip. Six-nada. Get outta here. Is that pouring it on enough for you?
The Oilers not only evened their best-of-seven series with the Kings with the most dominant playoff performance we’ve seen from them since 2017, they checked a bunch of boxes in a game that could have gone sideways and sent them to Los Angeles down 0-2 in a series they absolutely have to win.
The Captain Obvious angle is Smith putting Monday’s big mistake on the winning goal, not to mention a personal post-season losing streak that had reached double-digits, behind him. Smith made 30 saves for the shutout, but there was much more to this crowd-pleaser than the bedlam inside and outside Rogers Place.
“To be honest, I didn’t feel too bad in Game 1. I made one mistake and it cost us the game,” Smith said. “I think I carried the same kind of mindset into tonight and wanted to put in a good showing, especially after you feel like you’re maybe the cause of a loss. A bounce back is always important and tonight, the team played more up to the capabilities of how we’re able to play and we got rewarded.”
READY TO RUMBLE
“Another one of our unsung heroes that is a true pro,” coach Jay Woodcroft said of Smith bouncing back. “I thought he made some really good saves in game number one as well. It was an unfortunate puck handle, but like I said, I keep coming back to this: when that game was played, we moved onto preparing for game number two and he led the way in his preparation. I thought he went out and executed tonight. The team had a good night but again, I’m going back to it, tonight was one game.”
How long has it been since Zack Kassian looked this engaged and edgy in a game that was very physical and nasty at times? All that was missing was the lamb chop sideburns. Kassian wasn’t the only one ready to answer the bell or to play out of their comfort zones. Hello, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Ready to rumble they were. That’s right.
“When your leader goes out and he’s banging bodies, I think it’s easy for everyone else to do it too,” Smith said. “I think it’s playoff hockey. You want to get touches on guys as much as you can when they’re going back for pucks and it pays dividends in a long series. I think we did a good job of that tonight with the physicality.”
There was Evan Bouchard playing more than 22 minutes and picking up an assist on Ryan McLeod’s 3-0 goal. Partner Duncan Keith, the actual old man, looked like money in the bank playing 21 smooth minutes. How about Jesse Puljujarvi, who was in the mix and scored the 5-0 goal? Speaking of in the mix, Evander Kane was looking for trouble and scored two more goals.
THE BOTTOM LINE
This is a different time and a different team, but there’s an energy around the city that reminds me of 2006 when the Oilers began a roller-coaster ride to the Stanley Cup final. There isn’t a single player remaining from that team, but many of you who were letting it rip last night damn sure remember. A first-round series tied 1-1 two games into the post-season isn’t that, but the growing buzz is undeniable.
“It’s amazing,” Smith said. “You feel the energy around the city. Everyone’s got Oil jerseys on and hats. You can’t help but get excited about coming to the rink and playing hockey with this loyal fan base we have here.”
Amazing? Sure, I suppose, but if you’ve been around long enough, you know fans in this town are just getting started. My sense is the same goes for this edition of the team. This group looks ready to play for each other. There’s something happening here.
Previously by Robin Brownlee
- What Was That?
- Off the Top of My Head
- On the Clock
- Off the Top of My Head
- When Everybody is Smitty
- This Woodcroft Guy