In a very hard-fought game, the Blackhawks kept in step with Edmonton Oilers, but Connor McDavid proved to be too much for Chicago by posting his first career postseason hat trick. By scoring half of the Edmonton goals, he provided the pivotal difference the Oilers needed. Aside from McDavid, the rest of the Oilers weren’t really flashy, but it’s clear everyone stepped up their game to remind everyone who the higher-seeded team really is.
On offense, the Oilers led in shots on goal with 35 against the Blackhawks’ 26, they won 60% of the faceoffs, and they converted a power play goal. Meanwhile the Blackhawks could not take advantage of eight minutes of powerplay time, including six minutes of powerplay that all happened within about a nine minute span. Both teams had an equal quality chances and lucky bounces, but Connor McDavid was really the difference maker.
It was evident the Oilers worked hard to bolster their defense to compliment their lethal offensive attack. They blocked 22 Blackhawks’ shots, forced 14 giveaways, and checked the Hawks 27 times. The Blackhawks were not atrocious on defense, but had a few glaring mistakes that people will remember from the game instead of the hard defensive play. A few of the giveaways happened while trying to clear the puck on defense and youngster Adam Boqvist was responsible for two of those. He has been asked to do a lot by essentially taking over the second defenseman spot next to Duncan Keith, and he has risen to the challenge, but his play seemed shakier tonight.
The goalies were also mostly stellar tonight — an odd thing to suggest in a 6-3 game. The Oilers’ Mikko Koskinen was a clear upgrade from Mike Smith, the game before. Koskinen really didn’t have a lapse all game. Two goals were well placed by Patrick Kane and Slater Koekkoek, and the third was a combination of a carim off a defensemen and a rolling puck. As for Corey Crawford, there were a few lucky bounces and a goal for the Oilers off a Blackhawks’ skate. But when facing McDavid, Crawford only had prayers. Crawford operated under a “High risk, high reward” strategy by leaving the goal crease regularly throughout the game to retain control of the puck. Several times he would leave the net entirely and go behind it, with Oilers attackers closing in on him, to pass it out to a teammate. On one of these occasions, Crawford whiffed at the puck and an Oilers’ James Neal grabbed it and dumped it in an wide open net. The high risk, high reward approach worked most of the game, but in that scenario, it definitely did not.
Thus far, we have seen two flawless games. Game 1 from the Blackhawks and Game 2 from the Oilers. Maybe Game 3 will see two flawless approaches matchup. It will require a tougher defensive performance from the Blackhawks for that to happen. With the series now even, truly anything can happen and we will see as they continue with Game 3 on Wednesday evening at 9:30 CT in Edmonton (even though the Blackhawks are the “home team”).
For more Chicago Blackhawks news and updates, follow the podcast, Frustration Nation, which can be found on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.