The Day After: Mike Smith, curling champion

Photo credit:John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
2 years ago
Much like a skip at The Brier, Mike Smith had the perfect weight on his draw Tuesday night.
Right off the hack, Smith timed it all perfectly. Right to centre ice the stone went, and Connor McDavid took it from there sweeping it into the house for a massive, 2-1 overtime victory.
“I saw him make that save and I was just thankful he stopped it. I kind of sensed out the corner of my eye I saw him move pretty quick so I just tried to get there as quick as I could. He must be a curling fan or something, he had perfect weight on it,” chuckled McDavid after the game. “Schmiddy’s been here for a few years now and he’s always asked me when we’re going to connect for a breakaway. Couldn’t of picked a better time there.
“For that to happen, it was pretty special to be a part of that play. It was one of the more special ones I’ve been a part of.”
And for the, oh, 60 minutes beforehand, you were lulled to sleep by the stagnant pace of play. It featured the San Jose Sharks playing a 1-3-1 trap through the neutral zone clogging up anything the Oilers wanted to do and it forced them to be uncomfortable. Edmonton was unable to attack with speed, and couldn’t get behind the Sharks’ line.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins helped break things open in the third frame down one, when he, alongside Zach Hyman and Darnell Nurse scored a short-handed goal to get the Oilers on the board. It gave them some juice, and helped lead them right into overtime.
“I thought our team showed a little bit of resiliency,” said head coach Jay Woodcroft. “I didn’t think it was our smoothest game, or cleanest game.
“Down by one heading into the third period, finding a way to win in overtime, dramatic fashion. It’s a credit to our stick-to-it’ve-ness and the hard work of all those players in the dressing room.”
This, all the while, leading goal scorer Leon Draisaitl sat idle on the sidelines. Banged up in the first period of the Anaheim game Sunday night, Draisaitl took a skate Tuesday morning, but the staff chose to keep him out.
And honestly, I don’t mind Jay Woodcroft giving him the night off one bit. Sure, these games are wildly important and the Oilers need their best players at the top of their game.
But they also need to be healthy. When you look at other pro leagues, namely the NBA, they give their star players rest games all of the time. It’s something I think could be brought forth into the NHL too.
On top of it all, it was a night where Woodcroft himself might admit he struggled. While being a road team, the Oilers weren’t able to get much in the way of favourable matchups.
Connor McDavid, Evander Kane and Jesse Puljujarvi had what was their worst game together as a trio matched up against San Jose’s second line of Logan Couture, Noah Gregor and Sasha Chmelevski and boy did they struggle. 40.63 percent share of the shot attempts, and just 13 percent of the expected goals.
Edmonton’s second line of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Zach Hyman and Kailer Yamamoto managed to keep their heads above water in terms of shot attempt share, but like the top line, got caved in expected goal share with just 20 percent going their way. They saw a mashup of players and no real hard matchups.
The bottom-six, however, was strong for the Oilers.
The makeshift third line of Devin Shore, Derick Brassard and Zack Kassian found themselves often matched up against the Sharks’ top line, but credit where it’s due, they controlled the expected goal share when on the ice, but struggled to do so when it came to scoring chances. A tall task against guys like Timo Meier and Tomas Hertl.
The fourth line, meanwhile, was the Oilers best, at least analytically, all night. They saw no hard matchups in the bottom six and dominated. 80 percent control of the shot attempt share, 80 percent control of scoring chances, and a dominant 92.6 percent of the expected goal share.
All in all, the Oilers looked tired but still managed to pull out a big win giving them second place in the pacific.

Noah Philp and others

Last night before the game, the Oilers signed Noah Philp to a one-year deal bringing him out of the University of Alberta Golden Bears and into the pros.
He stands at a commanding 6’3, 193 lbs. and already plays a pro-style game. Predominantly a centre, he’s a player who can turn heads.
Speaking of turning heads, Carter Savoie has done just that this year for the University of Denver Pioneers. They take on Michigan Thursday night, and he’s a guy who could sign an entry-level pact with the Oilers soon, as 630 CHED’s Bob Stauffer noted during the second intermission last night.
Savoie has scored at a great pace in his two NCAA seasons. This year alone, he’s scored 22 goals and 44 points in 37 games. His freshman year saw him score 13 goals and 20 points in 24 games. The Oilers’ left side is thin, and Savoie could fill an organizational role there quickly.

What they’re saying…

Connor McDavid’s OT goal hands San Jose Sharks a frustrating loss
SAN JOSE – Connor McDavid scored on a breakaway at the 31-second mark of overtime, taking an outlet pass from goalie Mike Smith and beating James Reimer with a backhand shot to give the Edmonton Oilers a 2-1 win over the Sharks at SAP Center.
The goal was McDavid’s 41st of the year, as the Sharks fell to 0-2-1 against the Oilers this season.
The Sharks were nearly perfect on the defensive end for the first 50 minutes of the game as they owned a 1-0 lead on Tomas Hertl’s first-period power-play goal. The only issue was their inability to add to the lead despite several Grade-A chances, especially early in the second period.
The Sharks finished with 32 shots, including 22 after the first period.
“We did everything we needed to do 5-on-5. That’s one of our best games in a long time,” Sharks coach Bob Boughner said. “Little bit of a story of our year. We had so many chances, Smith plays great. You can’t get the second goal you need and it changed the whole phase of the game and that’s a team that takes advantage of things.”
Read more from the Mercury News’ Curtis Pashelka here.

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 zach@oilersnation.com.

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