The template for the Edmonton Oilers, at least most of it, was on full display in their 6-3 win on Monday over the Chicago Blackhawks.
What remains to be seen with the series now tied at 1-1 is whether the Oilers can use the same blueprint the rest of the way when they meet the Blackhawks for Wednesday’s Game 3 in their Western Conference qualifying-round series at Rogers Place, the Oilers’ home arena which is serving as the host site for the West playoffs.
“We didn’t play the way we wanted to in the first game so you kind of hit the reset button,” Oilers forward James Neal said. “We threw the last game out, re-focused and came out with a whole different mindset. That just wasn’t us in the first game. We were ready (in Game 2) from the drop of the puck. There was no doubt in the dressing room what we were going to get from all our guys. We played a playoff-style game and we had good results. That’s how we’re going to have to be the rest of the way.”
In need of a quick start to even up the best-of-five series, Edmonton star captain Connor McDavid opened the scoring just 19 seconds into the clash and then added another at the 4:05 mark. The 23-year-old completed a hat trick with a power-play goal late in the second period.
“All year, there were games where we talked about setting new standards for our team,” coach Dave Tippett said. “Considering it was a must-win situation in a short series, I liked the standard we set. Now, there are still things to clean up, but it’s certainly a step … that your team builds confidence from.”
The 12th-seeded Blackhawks — the lowest-seeded Western Conference team in the qualifying round — pulled off an impressive upset in the opener but will be hard pressed to advance past the fifth-seeded and favored Oilers, even with Chicago’s blend of veteran savvy and youthful skill. Still, the Blackhawks showed moxie in regrouping after an early deficit to make it a 3-3 clash, before Edmonton eventually pulled away.
“We gave them too many chances,” Chicago forward Patrick Kane said. “They have a lot of offensive players who will capitalize. We’ll try to be better defensively. This is what’s fun about the playoffs, these highs and lows.”
“We knew they were going to come out with a lot of desperation and something to prove,” added Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton. “We just didn’t (have) enough guys going to match it. I thought we did some good things in the first couple periods to stay in the game, (to) give ourselves a chance, but ultimately, we didn’t play to the level we need to to beat this team.”
One area the Blackhawks will focus on is puck management. Edmonton’s first three goals came after turnovers.
“We weren’t able to protect the puck in the offensive zone, so we’re not able to sustain zone time and it’s tough to win (that way),” Colliton said. “I also thought our reaction when we did turn it over to defend was too slow, especially early on, and they were able to take advantage.”
Chicago forward Drake Caggiula is eligible to return after serving his one-game suspension issued after the series opener for a hit on Tyler Ennis.
–Field Level Media