Have you heard about the SaltWire News app?
Mixed feelings as COVID clip snowbirds wings
Daily fall forecasts and weather facts from Cindy Day
SaltWire's cartoonists bring heart and humour to the news.
SaltWire Selects: Stories worth sharing today
What you need to know about COVID-19: September 29, 2020
In the playoffs, sometimes you get a game where neither team looks very good.
Case in point, Game 3 on Wednesday night. This one won’t be going into any time capsule.
But somebody has to win, and the Chicago Blackhawks did to go up 2-1 in the best-of-five qualification series and the Edmonton Oilers are in the dressing room afterwards thinking. “what the heck just happened here … this should have gone to OT, right?”
This is a strange series.
Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford has given up 13 goals in 92 shots and his team is ahead. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl have seven goals and 13 points for the Oilers and they’re trailing, and if they go out Friday afternoon in Game 4 will anybody in this town care about the rest of the tournament in the dead of summer?
Anyhow here’s some observations.
1. Tyler Ennis is out indefinitely after a play in the end boards with Fort Saskatchewan’s Kirby Dach in the second period. He couldn’t put an ounce of weight on the leg as he left the ice. He had set up Draisaitl for a goal earlier.
McDavid, who usually wouldn’t say spit if his mouth was full of it, thought Dach got away with one even though it appeared on six or seven replay viewings that Ennis may have turned at the last second and Dach was coming from the side and while he shoved a forearm into Ennis, their knees appeared to smack into each other. It didn’t look like a carbon copy of the Kailer Yamamoto hit on Connor Murphy from behind earlier but is there another angle to see?
“I don’t like it,” said McDavid. “Yamo hits a guy from behind and they call a penalty. You know, I get you can’t call the result, but (Dach) hits him square in the numbers, the same type of penalty that Yamo took. You feel for a guy like (Ennis). It’s an unfortunate play where his leg gets caught up underneath him.”
2. The Oilers could have lost this one in the first 25 minutes with a steady parade to the penalty box but the Hawks kept passing on the perimeter and the Oilers PK (Riley Sheahan, Darnell Nurse, Ethan Bear, Kris Russell, Oscar Klefbom) was excellent. Russell got a suspect hold to give the Hawks a five-on-three that Jonathan Toews scored on, off his foot. “I didn’t think it was a very good call,” said Tippett.
But most of the others?. Lack of discipline, for sure.
Yamamoto’s hit on Murphy, Josh Archibald’s hit in the open ice on Dominik Kubalik.
“You are tempting fate when you take penalties, especially when your penalty killers (Archibald and Yamamoto) are taking them. You also isolate a lot of people and your penalty-killers are getting lots of work, then you have to try and get other people involved after the penalty ends,” said Tippett.
3. The Oilers are clearly losing the battle of defence scoring. Olli Maata, after four goals all regular season, has two in the three games, Murphy could have gotten credit for the winner off Ethan Bear’s stick, even if they officially gave it to Toews, who was in the vicinity. Slater Koekkoek has also scored from the back-end earlier in the series. That’s three official goals by the Chicago D in three games. The Oilers defence has none.
Koekkoek’s shot late was also expertly tipped by Matthew Highmore in the high slot for the 3-3 goal.
“Last goal, a player just shoves it at the net and it’s not going very hard and goes off Bear’ stick. You throw it into an area and it’s hard to get into a lane. On the tying goal, Kass (Zack Kassian) thinks he’s in the (shooting) lane but he’s not. First one of the game (Maatta) we’re out of lane also,” said Tippett.
4. Andreas Athanasiou, who only played 3 and-a-half minutes before Ennis got hurt, got a shot on left-wing with Draisaitl, but maybe it’s time to see James Neal in the top six for the win-or-you’re out next game, not on a big-body line with Jujhar Khaira and Alex Chiasson?. Maybe centre Gaetan Haas or Joakim Nygard comes into the bottom six for their speed. “We’ve got lots of options,” said Tippett.
5. Maybe you didn’t like Dach’s hit on Ennis, but he played more minutes than any other Hawks’ forward, including Toews and Patrick Kane. He played 23:21. On the power play, on the PK, five-on-five. The Fort Saskatchewan rookie is 19 years old. He looked like he hurt his right leg trying to bust between two defenders in the third period, hit by Archibald, but he shrugged it off.
6. Kassian isn’t getting on the ice because he’s not a penalty-killer or even on the second power play. He played 6:20 in Game 3, nine shifts. Fewest minutes all season. That’s not good, because they need his aggressiveness, against a team that isn’t that way.
7. So now what do the Oilers do with their goaltending for Game 4 Friday? It’s easy to finger Koskinen because he gave up four goals and they lost, but Toews had one go off his foot for a goal, the last went off Bear. Highmore’s was unstoppable. Games 4 and 5 (if necessary) are Friday and Saturday, so the Oilers might need both goalies (Koskinen and Mike Smith) in they have the back-to-back.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020