Goaltending matters and special teams do too. Final Score: 4-1 Blackhawks.
Last night’s game against the Vegas Golden Knights was pretty rough, but I chose to give the boys the benefit of the doubt and call it a one-off stinker because of the all-star break and everything that went along with having that time off. I know as well as you do that the boys probably had a good time with their days off, but now it’s time to get back to business and I saw no reason why they shouldn’t beat the Blackhawks even on the second half of a back-to-back set. All you had to do was take a quick look at the standings, right? Right. I mean, that was until the Oilers allowed two goals on the first two shots of the game. As much as I was certain the Oilers should win this game — I even put my money where my mouth is and bet on it — nothing will ruin your overconfidence quite like a two-goal deficit within the first few minutes of the period, ya know?
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Down by a pair with plenty of time left to play, the Oilers needed to tighten things up defensively if they had any chance of climbing back in this thing, but if they could do that then winning the period wasn’t at all out of the question. By no means was a two-goal hole against the Blackhawks an impossible mountain to climb considering the firepower in the lineup, but getting the job done was certainly going to take a much better effort than what we got early on. Thankfully, the boys followed my instructions to a tee as if my thoughts were being beamed right to their brains inside the Oilers dressing room. Not only did they outshoot and outwork the Blackhawks in every facet, but they were also able to claw their way back to within one after the power play came through with a clutch goal. To be honest, the only unfortunate part of this 20-minute segment was the fact that the Oilers weren’t able to get more than the one goal because they certainly had the opportunities to do so. The major point here is if they could find a way to play at that level more often then the goals will surely follow.
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Moving into the third period, the Oilers really didn’t have to change much of anything apart from maybe bearing down a little bit more in the crease to try and find some garbage to clean up. Seeing as Fleury was standing on his head, it seemed like the only way they were going to beat him was to get in his kitchen and start throwing dishes around. It was doable, but the boys were going to need some help. Instead, the Oilers coughed up an early goal against that put them back by two, and all of a sudden, the comeback that looked so promising at the intermission started to seem a little bit further away. So when the Blackhawks tacked a fourth goal on the board, all I could think about was how painful the final stretch was going to be and whether or not we’d see them mail it in until the buzzer. And even though they didn’t roll over and die, the Oilers didn’t do a whole lot to make the game any more interesting and it was admittedly painful to watch another winnable game slip away.
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The wrap.

THE BRIGHT SIDE

  • @Leon Draisaitl pulled the Oilers back to within one (2-1) with a power play goal after the former MVP found a loose puck in the slot that he was able to bang home over an outstretched Fleury. Right before Draisaitl got the job done, Fleury made a huge save on Evander Kane and I honestly thought it was going to be one of those nights where no one could score, and that made Draisaitl’s PP marker so incredibly important.
  • I was pretty excited to see the power play come up with a goal — they were 1-for-4 on the night — because the boys have been struggling to get much of anything done with the man advantage lately. That said, it would have been nice to see more than one goal considering how many opportunities they got, but I’ll still take the lone marker as a small victory on a night when there weren’t all that many.
  • People that love shots on goal are thrilled with a big 41-30 win on the shot clock.
  • Wading into the fancies, the Oilers finished the night with a 60.87 CF% and a 47.83 xGF%.
  • I can’t even enjoy the fact that the Oilers won 61% of the faceoffs. Rude.
  • Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had nine shots on net. I don’t even know why I’m including that in the bright side section aside from the fact that it’s a ridiculous number.
  • At least @Caleb Jones did not score! Great success.
  • Do me a favour and check out the latest episode of Better Lait Than Never and let me know what you think! Subscribe to my podcast for FREE on SpotifyApple PodcastsGoogle Podcasts, and wherever else you get your podcasts.
  • Sign up for the new ON Newsletter! It’s a weekly thing I’m doing and I’ll have some giveaways, etc happening in there.

THE FACE PALMERS

  • Only 1:44 into the game, Alex DeBrincat opened the scoring (1-0) with a power play goal after Patrick Kane found him with a perfect cross-ice pass that he teed off on and beat Smith down low.
  • On only the second shot of the game, @Brandon Hagel extended the lead (2-0) with a wrister from the slot that beat Smith low on the blocker side as he was trying to slide to the top of his crease and get in position. A bang, bang play by the Blackhawks, and the Oilers were in a hole once again.
  • @Dylan Strome restored Chicago’s two-goal lead (3-1) on the power play after parking himself right in front of the net and perfectly deflecting DeBrincat’s shot/pass up and over Mike Smith.
  • Midway through the third, @Kirby Dach put the final nail in the coffin (4-1) with a goal from the slot after he was able to take a pass in tight and quickly chip the puck up and over Smith’s shoulder.
  • The NHL site had the giveaways listed at 15-3 for the Oilers and that honestly seems about right. Edmonton was disastrous with the puck at times.
  • The Oilers are so soft to play against that it drives me crazy when other teams are so often able to push them off the puck.
  • I thought it would be hard for the Oilers to bobble the puck as much as they did last night against Vegas, but they were fighting it again in the first period and looked like they weren’t playing with very much confidence at all.
  • @Connor McDavid was quiet again tonight and I wonder how much truth there was to the report during the all-star weekend that he’s battling some knee issues right now?
  • Despite most of us thinking that @Stuart Skinner would get the start, @Mike Smith was back between the pipes for the second half of this back-to-back set, and when the news came out, I thought Oilers Twitter was going implode on itself. While there’s no doubt that Smith is the de facto starter, I think having him play two days in a row was a risky bet and when he gave up two goals on the first two shots, it looked like the house would be collecting rather than paying out. To his credit, Smith was able to settle things down a little bit as the game wore on, but I don’t think you’d find many people that would throw their hands up and say that he had a spectacular evening. Smith finished the night with 26 saves and a .867 save%.
  • @Jesse Puljujarvi may never score again, but I want him to so badly.
  • The PK struggled again, giving up two goals on three shorthanded situations. Not nearly good enough.
  • It’s been a while since we’ve got a good Bronx cheer.
  • With only 1:02 left in the first period, Duncan Keith fell awkwardly into the boards behind his own net and it looked like he was out cold before eventually leaving the ice with the help of his teammates. Unsurprisingly, Keith did not return and I think I can speak for all of us when I say that I hope he’s okay.

SCORING SUMMARY

#GOODCONTENT

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