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Photo Credit: © Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Off the Top of My Head

Fragile teams don’t go deep into the playoffs because they are too easily derailed by bad luck or a bad game or even a bad moment. The Edmonton Oilers are not one of those teams, and we saw substantial proof of that in Friday’s 8-2 slap down of the Los Angeles Kings.

The Oilers had their bad moment in losing 4-3 to the Kings in the series opener because of a brutal giveaway by goaltender Mike Smith, who owned the loss and promised to be better. Since then, Smith has stopped 74 of 76 shots he’s faced. That includes 19 saves in the first period Friday as Smith got his team to the first intermission up 2-0 despite being outshot 19-7.

The team in front of him, meanwhile, has outscored the Kings 14-2 in 6-0 and 8-2 blowouts since that gaffe. A hat-trick last night by Evander Kane and a couple of goals each by Zach Hyman and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to go with another by Leon Draisaitl was plenty. We’ll see if this all-for-one-and-one-for-all mindset carries over to Game 4 tonight, but I suspect it will.

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NOT FRAGILE

“The most important thing is we found a way to get the win,” said coach Jay Woodcroft. “I thought there was lots to like in our game — contributions up and down the lineup, big-time goaltending. Special teams were good again. It was a good game for us . . . I’m not a big believer in carryover. I think you have to re-establish things.

“Each game is worth the same. In a playoff series, your job is to try to get to four (wins). The score of the game doesn’t matter if it’s a 2-1 triple overtime game, or if it’s a little bit more lopsided, that doesn’t matter.”

Kane, yet again, was outstanding. His combination of speed, skill and edge, of refusing to back down when things get tough or go sideways, plays into the more resilient game we’ve been seeing under Woodcroft. What in some years was nothing more than talk when a bad play or a tough break changed an outcome, like in Game 1, is now action. 

“The beginning of the year was really tough with a lot of different things going on in my life,” Kane said. “A real credit to my family helping me through everything. My uncle is actually in the hospital, and I wanted to have a big game for him. There’s a lot of trials and tribulations. It’s nice to turn the page and start to move forward in a way.”

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NO WORDS WASTED

Having been embarrassed over the course of these two straight losses to the team he coached not so long ago, it’s not surprising Todd McLellan didn’t have very much to say post-game and that he didn’t take very much time to say it.

“We can do this really quick tonight,” McLellan said. “I can summarize it all up for you, and we can all go home. We weren’t any good. We’re really disappointed. We got trapped playing their game. You can ask me about individuals . . . they weren’t any good and we have to regroup tomorrow. Grundy didn’t play because he had an injury.  Anybody have anything else? Goodnight.”

Los Angeles writer Russell Morgan clocked McLellan’s entire availability at 31 seconds, but his actual rant was shorter than that. That’s vintage John Tortorella territory.

THIS GAME MATTERS

It started with former Oiler Jason Strudwick being selected first overall at the Thursday draft and it wrapped up with more than $220,000 being raised for the Jasper Place Wellness Centre and The Mustard Seed as the Hockey Helps the Homeless tournament returned to the ice Friday after a two-year absence.

While former pros like Strudwick, Georges Laraque, Rob Brown, Luke Gazdic, Chris Joseph, Joaquin Gage and Doug Hicks skated with the 14 teams that drafted them, TSN broadcast on location at the Terwilliger Rec Centre. 

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An extra tip of the cap to the Oilers Alumni as well as Ron Low and his wife Linda, who work tirelessly behind the scenes. Having been part of the tournament committee with TMS before COVID forced a two-year break, I can tell you they are driving forces with this event. HHTH had a big day and that’s the bottom line at a time when a lot of people need help. Well done.

WHILE I’M AT IT

  • So, a little bit of gamesmanship Friday before the Oilers morning skate, as noted by Ryan Rishaug of TSN. When the Oilers took to the ice 10 minutes early to begin their skate, the rink guys wouldn’t turn the nets loose and the rink lights weren’t turned on. Sure.
  • The Kings skated in El Segundo, so the Oilers were the only team at Crypto.com Arena. Even assistant coach Dave Manson couldn’t convince the rink guys to give the nets up until the scheduled start time of 11:30. Arena president Lee Zeidman offered up a half-assed excuse about policy. Lame.
  • I’m looking forward to chatting with Dennis Beyak about retiring as the TV voice of the Winnipeg Jets on TSN after 11 seasons on our OUTSIDERS 2020 podcast Monday.
  • All told, Beyak spent 50 years on the microphone. He did play-by-play for the Saskatoon Blades, Victoria Cougars, and Seattle Thunderbirds in the WHL and a stint with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies. Beyak also did TV play-by-play for the Oilers and was the primary radio voice of the Toronto Maple Leafs 1997 to 1998 and 2010 to 2011. A great run.

Previously by Robin Brownlee