Adrian Dater might have a future as a motivational speaker. It wasn’t all the curmudgeonly columnist’s doing, but Connor McDavid woke up and went off in Game 2 to help the Edmonton Oilers even up their Qualifying Round playoff series against the Chicago Blackhawks. Edmonton is -140 at BetDSI Sportsbook to take a series lead, while the Blackhawks at +120 to put themselves on the brink of an upset.
The Blackhawks scored three goals in Game 2 on Monday night. McDavid scored three of his own, two in the first 4:05 of the game. It took 19 seconds for McDavid to give the Oilers a lead, something they had in Game 1, but gave away quite quickly by allowing four first-period goals.
Now the Blackhawks are left to regroup. Most notably, goaltender Corey Crawford needs to do some soul searching. Crawford did not play well. He only stopped 29 of 35 shots. He, like the guys in front of him, had an off night. After all, the Oilers had more shots on Chicago’s power plays than they did.
Crawford was in a timeshare much of the season with Robin Lehner, who was traded to the Vegas Golden Knights and actually started their first Round Robin game on Tuesday. Crawford played pretty well, given that the Blackhawks were disastrous in their own zone for most of the season. He had a .917 SV%, a 2.77 GAA, and a 9.01 GSAA (goals saved above average) mark. Crawford is a few injuries and a few years removed from being a two-time Jennings Trophy winner in 2012-13 and 2014-15, but he still turned in a pretty solid season when he was between the pipes.
He did not, however, turn in a good Game 2 performance. So he’ll look to bounce back and so will the players in front of him. It was a rough night at even strength for several Blackhawks, including Duncan Keith, who was -3 and Dylan Strome, who was -4.
The Oilers won’t have the luxury of the last line change for Game 3 because they will technically be the visiting team in their own rink. The playoff series are going 2-2-1 as far as home teams go and that means that the Blackhawks will be able to match up how they see fit against McDavid. It is harder to do that when the opposition gets the last line change.
Edmonton was able to set the tone early because of the McDavid goal, but that wasn’t all that happened. They were physical. They were aggressive. They removed time and space. They were able to cycle their lines better because the early part of the game was not bogged down with penalties and special teams play. All of that seemed to really help.
Mikko Koskinen wasn’t terribly sharp in his first meaningful action in a long time, but he certainly looked better than Mike Smith, who was pulled after allowing five goals in Game 1. The Oilers seemed a little bit more settled and confident with Koskinen in the crease and that may have fueled some of their aggressiveness early on. He also shut the door after the Blackhawks scored to tie the game at 3-3 with just under five minutes left.
Heading into Game 3, the Blackhawks should do a better job of bottling up McDavid by virtue of line matching the way that they want, so that could be the difference in the game. It would also help if Crawford could play a bit better, since it appears that the Oilers have settled on Koskinen and he represents an upgrade in goal.
Edmonton has more than McDavid, though. Leon Draisaitl had a goal and two assists in Game 1 and had 110 points in 71 games in the regular season. Tyler Ennis scored in Game 2. James Neal also got a goal. The Blackhawks got that huge Game 1 from Dominik Kubalik, but got very little from him and some of the others in Game 2. Patrick Kane played well, but Jonathan Toews didn’t do much in any of the three zones and the Blackhawks got two of their three goals from defensemen.
It looks like the Oilers got their wake-up call in Game 1. They got their legs going. They realized that they are the faster team and they pushed the issue at the start and end of the game. The mid-game relapse is concerning and the sign of a young team, but another teaching point for Todd McLellan and it shouldn’t happen again.
Pick: Edmonton Oilers -140