One of the things a 5-game series does is make every game vital. So, down 4-1 you’re still pushing. I’m a believer in Dave Tippett, but keeping Smith in net after the third goal, and certainly after the fourth one, is a major story in this series. No matter what happens.
One more item before we review the game together: Credit to Chicago. They are a team in transition but they have enough impact players to be a major concern, a bigger concern than most observers (myself included) thought before Saturday.
Great perspective from a ridiculous group of writers and analysts. I am proud to be part of The Athletic. Here are the most recent Oilers stories.
- New Daniel Nugent-Bowman: ‘Just not good enough’: The Oilers have a lot to fix after disastrous Game 1
- New Lowetide: Homegrown Oilers players will again take a featured playoff role
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Bang for your buck: Ranking the Oilers based on contract expectations
- Lowetide: Could Oilers’ lack of centre depth mean postseason roster shuffle?
- Daniel Nugent Bowman: What the Oilers should be thinking after watching Chicago in exhibition
- Lowetide: Splitting the Draisaitl line may create hot August nights in Edmonton
- Jonathan Willis: Is Philip Broberg on track to be a top-pairing defenceman?
- Lowetide: Oilers’ productive prospect pipeline a welcome change for playoffs
- New Mark Lazerus and Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Breaking down storylines, scouting reports and X-factors for Blackhawks-Oilers
- New Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Oilers scrimmage: Colby Cave gets Maurice Richard treatment in fitting tribute
- Lowetide: Imagining the city of Edmonton with the Oilers in a deep playoff run
- Lowetide: Ken Holland’s roster construction options over the next five months
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Inside the bubble: Details on where and how NHL players will live in Edmonton
- Lowetide: What should Oilers fans expect from Connor McDavid in the playoffs?
- Lowetide: Dave Tippett’s postseason strategy against the Blackhawks
NUMBER ONE LINE
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins-Connor McDavid-Zack Kassian played 11:48 (all numbers five on five), losing the Corsi battle 18-7, getting outshot 10-4 and outscored 3-0. McDavid faced DeHaan-Murphy for 8:15, getting outshot 4-3 and outscored 1-0. David Kampf was the most prominent center to face 97 in five on five minutes (6-3 shots for Chicago, no goals), but the real damage for the big line came in about two minutes against Saad-Toews-Kubalik. Edmonton outshot 5-1 and outscored 2-0 in about 115 seconds. The five on five issues were a concern, that’s why Nuge was moved there. Need to tighten bigly for Game 2.
The goals for: McDavid scored the first goal of the game (PP), a terrific shot and further evidence he is more comfortable as the shooter. McDavid and Nuge assisted on another power-play goal by Leon Draisaitl, Chiasson had a great chance, then Nuge throws it behind the net to 97, slot to Leon and cash. McDavid and Nuge assisted on James Neal’s power-play goal, nice pass by 97 to Neal who jams it but it hits the post. McDavid throws it in the crease, Nuge gets a piece, Neal hammers it home. Nuge scored the final goal of the game with the Edmonton net empty, Draisaitl faceoff, Klefbom shot and Nuge tip. Nice goal.
The goals against at five on five: The Strome goal is on goalie Mike Smith, there can be no doubt. Oscar Klefbom gave the puck away for a point-blank save by Smith (a dandy), but had won the puck before Smith gave it away. The Saad goal was a nice tip in front, you could fault Kassian for not getting out to the point but there was a pick, or you could fault McDavid for not winning the faceoff but that’s not his strength. I generally hammer Kassian when he’s not where he should be, but in this case the big winger was delayed by a ‘Hawk. No penalty. Smith had no chance on that goal, great tip. The Toews goal started on a McDavid turnover behind the net, he made a quick pass that usually gets through but Saad slowed it, Kubalik corralled and passed it and Toews scored, Klefbom in no man’s land. Point blank shot, I don’t fault the goalie on that one your mileage may vary. Three goals against and I think you can fault one member of the line on one of the goals and he’s the best player on the planet. Sometimes hockey bites you in the ass.
Bottom line on the first line: Four points for McDavid, three points for Nuge but the five on five numbers are an issue and coach Tippett needs to find an answer. Nuge made a gorgeous defensive play early, deflecting the puck, but there were too many sorties to defend because Edmonton wasn’t taking care of the puck. If Nuge isn’t the answer to this line’s problems, there isn’t one on the roster.
McDavid’s Corsi against Chicago’s centers: Kampf (6-10 in 8:04), Strome (3-6 in 3:46), Toews (0-5 in 2:13), Dach (2-4 in 2:48). With respect to those four men, this cannot stand, man. Even understanding many of McDavid’s sorties are one and done with the possibility of the puck heading the other way, the Oilers have to figure this out.
Line 2 five on five: Tyler Ennis-Leon Draisaitl-Kailer Yamamoto: 10:37, 10-11 Corsi for, 5-7 shots, no goals. The line had a couple of great looks, Yamamoto had an easy chance on a Draisaitl bullet pass but couldn’t catch up to it. Ennis took a nasty looking hit from Drake Cagguila and took a couple of penalties. I like the line, the fact they didn’t score in this game shouldn’t discourage Tippett from rolling them out again. Need more good looks at five on five but they’re in the game.
Line 3 five on five: James Neal-Jujhar Khaira-Alex Chiasson. Played 7:04, 7-3 Corsi, 3-2 shots and no goals. They’re challenged in foot speed but they were moving as a line. Chiasson had a great chance, Neal scored a goal, both on the power play. Khaira made some good passes and played a physical game.
Line 4 five on five: Andreas Athanasiou-Riley Sheahan-Josh Archibald played 5:22, going 4-4 Corsi, 3-3 shots and 0-1 goals. Athanasiou had a goal post and another nice look, for me he had a good game. Archibald had a great chance to score after McDavid’s opener, if wishes were horses beggars would ride.
Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson played 12:00 five on five, 5-14 Corsi, 1-11 shots and 0-2 goals. Absolutely hammered by Chicago and were equally lost on the penalty kill. I expect much better, this was a baffling performance by the duo. If Tippett does change something up, a shuffle of the top two pairs might be it. Even giving Chicago credit, Klefbom and Larsson have to be more decisive with the puck and defend better.
Darnell Nurse and Ethan Bear played 16:40 five on five 12-17 Corsi, 7-9 shots and 0-1 goals. Normally a strong pairing for the McDavid trio, these two struggled. I wonder if we see a shuffle. Like the top pair, need to be quicker.
Kris Russell and Matt Benning played 9:34 five on five, going 12-9 Corsi, 6-5 shots and 0-0 goals. I thought the duo played well, Russell even had a good look via a Leon touch pass. Benning is skating very well.
Mike Smith had a bad game. He stopped 18 of 23 (.783) and according to NST allowed two High Danger, two Middle Danger and one Low Danger goal. That’s about right, meaning the goalie would like three of those goal back (I counted two but am notoriously easy on goaltenders). I don’t blame Smith. He was the second best option available.
Mikko Koskinen stopped 17 of 18 (.944) with the one goal against judged a High Danger chance. He may not win Game 2, the Oilers are not playing well, but Koskinen gives Edmonton its best chance to win on Monday.
Caggiula will have a hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety on Sunday for an illegal check to the head of Oilers forward Tyler Ennis that occurred in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. I thought it was over the line at the time and it could have had an impact on the game (Ennis was penalized). That said, I’ve learned long ago not to make predictions about fines or suspensions from the NHL. I’ll hope Ennis doesn’t get five games and brace myself for the actual decision.
We don’t know about injuries, so the only obvious change from Game 1 will be Mikko Koskinen as starter. I doubt Jones will draw in over Russell, and it feels early for Haas or Nygard although I’m onboard for either getting a shot. I expect these Oilers to be far better on Monday.