Fresh off of an impressive Game 1 victory over Edmonton, the Blackhawks were back in action on Monday night looking to take a commanding 2-0 series lead over the Edmonton Oilers.
Coming into tonight’s matchup, the Chicago Blackhawks knew that they had to keep the pressure on a high-powered Oilers squad. Edmonton was still in shock following the result of Game 1, so it was evident that they would come out of the gates flying. If that wasn’t already hard enough, Chicago was also dealt an additional blow on Sunday, when it was announced that forward Drake Caggiula would be suspended one game for the hit he laid upon Edmonton forward Tyler Ennis during the second period of Saturday afternoon’s matinee.
After the surprising defeat in Game 1, the Oilers turned the starting goaltender job over to Mikko Koskinen for Monday night’s tilt. This came as no surprise since the Oilers relied heavily upon the “tandem” approach in net throughout the regular season. Other Edmonton netminder Mike Smith allowed 5 goals on only 23 shots for an abysmal SV% of .783 in the series opener.
After all of the madness that happened in the opening game of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, the Blackhawks proved to be not up for the challenge that Game 2 presented.
First Period (Rating: C+)
Things got off to a rough start for the Hawks only 19 seconds into the game. Duncan Keith failed to clear the zone, and Adam Boqvist was caught out of position resulting in Connor McDavid being wide open in front of the net. McDavid then did what McDavid does, and calmly hoisted the puck over Corey Crawford‘s right shoulder and into the top shelf.
After some neutral zone play, McDavid made the Hawks pay once again less than five minutes later. He received the puck in the neutral zone and used his speed to blow by Olli Maatta and calmly lifted a backhander to beat Crawford upstairs for a second time.
Already in a 2-0 hole, Keith’s rough night continued, as he then took a slashing penalty to put the NHL’s top power-play unit on the ice. The Oilers were able to generate a number of quality chances, but Crawford was able to make a couple of spectacular saves to keep the puck out of the net. The Hawks did get a successful penalty kill, however, it was not pretty.
Shortly after the penalty kill, Chicago started to gather momentum. Alex DeBrincat was able to retrieve a puck deep in the Oilers zone and throw it out in front of the net, which Patrick Kane was able to slip across the goal line, cutting the Hawks deficit to one. The goal was the first of the playoffs for Kane, and DeBrincat registered his first career playoff point with the assist.
The Blackhawks started to find their rhythm shortly after Kane’s tally. The line of Jonathan Toews, Dominik Kubalik, and Brandon Saad were able to create chaos inside the Oilers’ defensive zone, possessing the puck for over 30 seconds. While this opportunity did not provide many scoring chances, it was a good sign of what was to come in the second period.
In the last minute of the period, Edmonton came dangerously close to regaining the two-goal margin. A couple of impressive poke checks by Connor Murphy and Keith were able to keep the Oilers off the board, maintaining the 2-1 deficit at the end of the period.
While the Hawks were able to kill a penalty and generate some decent scoring chances, the defensive play looked questionable at times, letting Edmonton generate a number of high-danger scoring opportunities. Crawford was able to shut it down in net, as he made a number of highlight-reel saves to keep the Hawks in reach. Chicago ended up being very fortunate to only be down by one at the break.
Second Period (Rating: B)
The start of the second period seemed like deja vu for the Hawks. Edmonton again scored less than two minutes into the period. Tyler Ennis was able to slip a 50-foot wrist shot through a number of bodies that alluded Crawford and went five-hole. The goal restored the Oilers’ two-goal advantage.
Something really “Koekkoek” happened shortly after Edmonton scored. Desperate to not let the game get out of reach, Patrick Kane was almost able to bank a shot off of the back of Koskinen and into the net, however, it went just wide. DeBrincat was able to find the loose puck and again delivered another slick pass, this time to Slater Koekkoek on the backdoor. Slater calmly buried the wrister past Koskinen into the left side of the net. The goal narrowed the deficit back to one. The goal was Koekkoek’s first career playoff goal, and “The Cat” registered his second assist of the night.
After the Hawks managed to kill off yet another Edmonton powerplay, they finally were able to get their first opportunities with the man-advantage. During the six minutes of powerplay time, the trio of Keith, Toews, and Kane was able to create a number of good looks on net. Unfortunately, they were not able to find a hole through the Oilers’ #2 ranked penalty kill.
The line of DeBrincat, Kane, and Kirby Dach continued tormenting the Edmonton defense throughout the period. The relentlessness paid off with another tally to tie the game at 3. Dach was able to register his first-ever playoff assist on a goal by Maatta. After an impressive board battle win, Dach was able to recycle the puck back to the point where Maatta was able to flip a shot on goal that squeaked through Koskinen’s pads.
A few minutes later, the Hawks fell behind for the third time of the night. McDavid was credited as the goalscorer, as his cross-crease pass attempt deflected off of Ryan Carpenter‘s stick and Keith’s leg and went five-hole on Crawford once again.
As the period winded down, Zack Kassian of the Oilers went to the locker room with a cut on the nose, with blood dripping all over the ice. Originally called as a double-minor high sticking penalty to Dylan Strome, the play was reviewed and the call was reversed. It was determined that Riley Sheahan (Kassian’s teammate) was the one who hit Kassian with his stick.
The Hawks would fail to convert on the powerplay yet again as time expired in the period. This made Chicago 0-4 during the second period with the man-advantage. Even though they failed to convert key chances, the Blackhawks looked like the more dominant team in the period. The defensive shape improved, and the Windy City had the majority of the possession in the period.
Third Period (Rating: F)
Starting the third period with roughly a minute left on the powerplay, the Blackhawks again failed to convert on a golden opportunity. For the first time of the evening, the visitors were able to hold the home team scoreless in the first five minutes of a frame.
After a lull in the action, the Hawks finally met their fate. Crawford made his first mistake of the night, whiffing on a clearing attempt that led to a wide-open net for James Neal to burry the puck. Not even two minutes later, Alex Chiasson was able to gather the puck out of a net-mouth scramble and tickle twine as well. The goal gave Edmonton a 6-3 advantage, all but securing the victory.
During the rest of the period, Edmonton controlled the majority of the possession, as the Hawks seemed to fall apart. They took two more penalties down the stretch, with Murphy and Keith each going to the box over the final 10 minutes. This sealed the game for Edmonton, as they used the opportunity with the extra man to burn down the clock. The final score of tonight’s matchup ended up being 6-3 in favor of the Oilers.
Overall (Rating: D-)
While Game Two was a constant uphill battle for the Blackhawks, they failed to convert on a lot of chances. Going 0-4 on the powerplay in any game is not a good sign, let alone in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The defense looked lost during the opening period, which led to the Hawks digging themselves a big hole early. A number of blown chances and weird bounces could be seen as the reason that Chicago failed to record the victory, but Edmonton was clearly the better team tonight.
All in all, the Blackhawks will need to improve their special teams play in order to stay in the series. Besides failing to convert with the man-advantage, Chicago also gave five powerplay opportunities to Edmonton. When you’re playing against the team with the #1 ranked powerplay in the entire NHL, this is not a good sign.
Chicago will look to regain a series lead on Wednesday night. It will be another late game, as Game 3 is again scheduled for 9:30 pm Central.