Hockey fans in Western Canada can ask rhetorically, “are you not entertained?” as the Edmonton Oilers bounced back big-time during Game 2 of their qualification-round series against the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Oilers were ready for Game 2, led by an extremely serious Connor McDavid.
During McDavid’s second intermission interview, he answered the final question and hastily turned on his blades and headed back to the ice, while still being thanked for his time – he was a man on a mission.
During Game 1, the Blackhawks shadowed McDavid hard during 5-on-5 play. Chicago used their speed to their advantage and tried to stay out of the penalty box against the league’s most lethal power play. They didn’t get everything right, but when you win, Bettman doesn’t ask how, he just hands you the Cup. In Game 1, McDavid did score twice, but both goals came on the power play – something the Oilers cannot rely on all the time.
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For Game 2 the Oilers would need to do better. They would need to score during 5-on-5 play as well as play better team defense. Not to throw the goaltenders under the bus, but Mikko Koskinen or Mike Smith – whoever would get the start – would need to dust themselves off and get a little luckier. You have to be good to be lucky and lucky to be good.
The Difference Between Game 1 and Game 2
The Oilers accomplished all of the above, while McDavid earned his first Stanley Cup playoff hat trick. He scored the third-fastest playoff goal by an Oiler to start a game at 19 seconds. Two of his goals came during 5-on-5 play and overall, he scored three goals on three shots. Just what the doctor ordered.
Postgame, when asked about the Oilers turning their game around so quickly, McDavid said, “Work effort and keeping it simple. Sounds too simple, but that is what we didn’t do in Game 1. We took care of that tonight.”
“Everyone on the team played better tonight,” added Tyler Ennis, who scored his first goal of the series at 1:44 of the second period.
Asked about his goal at 19 seconds, McDavid said, “You never plan to score on the first shift, but you want to have a good start. It was good to get that one early.”
Hats Off To McDavid
After the third goal, building staff threw hats onto the ice in an effort to keep as many aspects of the game intact. McDavid wasn’t interested. He wanted to get down to business. While maintaining his seriousness he said, “I think the hats were unnecessary, I’d rather we just get playing again.”
Zack Kassian, resembling Lemmy Kilmister with his beard and aggressive demeanor, was much more of a factor playing an aggressive 200-foot game. Kailer Yamamoto, the 5-foot-8, 21-year-old speed demon skated miles. The 22nd overall pick from the 2017 NHL Entry Draft looked much like the nifty offensive playmaker that the Oilers were banking on when they drafted him, coincidentally in Chicago at the United Center.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins quietly earned three assists, picking up the slack for Draisaitl who had a quiet game, not getting onto the scoresheet, as he was shadowed as McDavid was during the opening match.
The Blackhawks were not going to go away easily and kept pace with the Oilers until two-thirds of the way into the third period, but in desperation to get even while being down 4-3, they risked defensive play and immediately paid twice within 40 seconds.
The Oilers Stole the Momentum
It helped the Oilers that Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford just didn’t have a great game, exposing the five-hole and mishandling the puck for the backbreaker at 7:25 of the third, which resulted in a goal by James Neal. Neal was all over the defense 40 seconds later to assist on Alex Chaisson’s first of the post-season. With the score 6-3 at 8:05 into the third period, it was all over but the crying.
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Late in the game, Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton got desperate, alternating Patrick Kane’s linemates to double shift the elite veteran at least twice, to no avail.
With the lopsided win, the Oilers have the momentum going into Game 3 of the five-game series.
They will need to continue to focus on the five-man defense, not chase the Blackhawks in their own end during the cycle, and continue to score at 5-on-5.
A journalist who started and continues in the sport of athletics (running, racewalking and field events). Have written extensively for Athletics Illustrated, Canadian Running Magazine, Flotrack, Black Press and others.
And like most Canadians, loves hockey.