The Day After: Oilers masterclass, Kane hat trick gives Edmonton series lead
Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
By Zach Laing6 months ago
Should we start with the Edmonton Oilers jumping out of the gate and pushing the pace of play all night long on route to their 4-1, game three win?
Or should we talk about Zach Hyman, who ripped a laser over the shoulder of Jacob Markstrom 52 seconds into the second frame to open the scoring?
Or should we talk about Evander Kane’s natural hat trick in the second, the seventh-fastest in playoff history?
Or how about Leon Draisaitl, who on one leg, set a playoff record for assists in a period with four in the second?
Or could it be Mike Smith? Who shut the door for the Oilers posting a .970 save percentage?
Or what about Connor McDavid, who has the Calgary Flames so dishevelled they think he’s the only one doing anything?
No matter what route you take, there’s more than enough to talk about. The Oilers game out with jump early on in that first period putting the pressure on Calgary early and they stuck with it right to the final whistle. Calgary’s only big push, or pushes, for that matter, came in the third frame when the game was already well out of reach. It wasn’t just the Oilers top line, either. They comfortably rolled four which held their own quite admirably — especially late in the game.
Hyman’s work ethic — and his newfound linemates in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jesse Puljujarvi — have been tremendous in a support role behind the Oilers big three. His snipe gave him his fourth goal in the series along.
Kane, meanwhile, scored three goals in three ways: one by waiting out Jacob Markstrom, another by driving to the far side and banging in a McDavid pass, or his third where he made a quick move to score his backhand top-shelf. He became the fourth Oilers player to score multiple hat tricks in a postseason joining Jari Kurri (four in 1985), Mark Messier (three in 1983) and Wayne Gretzky (two in 1981, 1983 and 1985).
But Leon Draisaitl, oh, Leon Draisaitl. He’s now up to 19 points in 10 games in these playoffs, second to only McDavid. He’s four points up on Nikita Kucherov, who has 15 points, and six up on Mika Zibanejad and Johnny Gaudreau, both with 13. Quietly, he’s dominating the game behind McDavid, a tale we’ve all heard well before.
Smith, meanwhile, got bulldozed over in a brain-dead move by Milan Lucic with 11 minutes left in the game, only to come back to help secure the Oilers a potentially series-changing win. Up and down like a yo-yo, Smith has been on his game after allowing a shaky two early in game two. Thankfully, he appears no worse for wear after the collision.
And Connor? Well, he’s an absolute monster. What more can you say? He had another three-point night, one that while still filled with highlight plays, felt quieter than his game two performance. Still, his presence on the ice has the Flames in shambles. Now up to a staggering 23 points in 10 playoff games this year, he’s showing no signs of slowing down.
That top line of Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Evander Kane has hit another level and is now up to a combined 55 points in 10 games, the first trio to score that many in that few games since the 1988 Oilers, where there were eight combinations to do so led by Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and Jari Kurri, who notched 62 points.
All in all, these are the big things that have helped the Oilers turn this series around. But lots of other things are helping, too. Winning the puck battles, being hard on the forecheck, breaking up the cycle in the defensive zone — all the little things that all of a sudden create havoc going the other way.
Right now, things are all going the right way for the Oilers, but they can’t let up now. After going up 2-1 on the LA Kings in the first round, Edmonton, then on the road, took the SoCal kids way too soft. The Oilers learned their lesson the first time, so they say.
- Derek Ryan played just three shifts totalling a minute and a half in the third period, as did linemate Zack Kassian. Lots of penalties broke that frame up, but I had to back and make sure Ryan didn’t get hurt. He didn’t, but it’s clear the coaching staff gave some of that special team’s trust to other players.
- One of whom was Ryan McLeod, who played a post-season high of 16:37. He played 3:15 on the PK last night, with 2:02 coming in the third. He was also out on the ice for the final minute of the game for the second night in a row.
- McLeod and his linemates of Warren Foegele and Kailer Yamamoto have become an effective bunch. Adjusting for score and venue at 5×5 last night in their 5:34 TOI, they controlled 68.19 percent of the shot attempts, 66.99 percent of the scoring chances, but just 43.51 percent of the expected goal share. Even with a low xGF%, those are tremendous numbers from a line gaining trust.
- Speaking of trust, the Oilers are going to need to continue to trust the process as laid out by Jay Woodcroft. There will be a long piece of prose about just how effective he’s been, but it’s almost hard to imagine what this team looked like five months ago in early January, compared to how they look now. A completely different club.
- One of the biggest changes has been in their mindset: how they take care of themselves, how they prepare themselves, and how they approach games in the NHL. I have the upmost confidence in Woodcroft, and for what might be the first time in decades, the Oilers truly feel like they can play any type of game against any team.
What they’re saying…
Why the Flames lostThe Flames were the second-best team on the ice.
- They had trouble with Edmonton’s speed, which really hurt their transition game and their ability to defend rush chances going the other way.
- They didn’t generate very much speed of their own in the neutral zone, which really hurt their transition game.
- They couldn’t get anything going on the power play.
- They couldn’t get to the middle of the ice in the Oilers zone.
- They got caught too far up ice and their turnovers killed them, too.If you want to point your finger at one particular thing, it’s this: when they got down 1-0, they seemed to over-commit to their offensive zone pressure – Mark Giordano used to phrase this tendency as if the team was trying to score several goals at once rather than remain patient when they got down in games – and it made them really vulnerable to those odd-man rushes the other way. The fact that it happened three times in one period is pretty inexcusable, though. – Flamesnation, Ryan Pike
Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at email@example.com.
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