I’m gonna keep this one short because it’s late here on the East coast and there was only one goal to talk about tonight, and it cost the Oilers a chance to even the series before hitting the road to Winnipeg.
Game 2 was just as physical, if not more, than game 1. Logan Stanley continues to be a monstrous presence on the ice for Winnipeg, and Adam Lowry was a wrecking ball of hate all night long, dead set on crushing the will of the Oilers players. McDavid and Draisaitl continue to get kept to the outside, and on the off chance they get the puck in the middle, they’re quickly smothered in defenders and Connor Hellebuyck never gives up a dangerous rebound.
Hellebuyck is without a doubt the story of the series so far. He’s returned to his Vezina form and has given the Oilers no hope of solving him through the first two games. He’s dialed in, playing how a goalie needs to play to take his team on a deep playoff run. The way the jets have played so far has shades of how they looked in 2017 en route to a conference finals appearance. Does that mean you should bet the house on them making a conference finals appearance this year? Absolutely not. These games haven’t had anywhere near the same pace as the playoff games elsewhere around the league, and I wouldn’t be to confident in the Jets against any team besides the Oilers at this point in time.
The Oilers are just flat, plain and simple. They failed to convert on their power plays once again, including a 5 on 3 opportunity in the third period. They haven’t been making the kill shot cross ice passes that are necessary to beat a team that’s keyed in defensively like the Jets currently are. They haven’t been shooting for rebounds enough either. They aren’t adapting to the playoff style game that Winnipeg is bringing fast enough. If they can’t do that in game 3, they might as well start loading their golf bags in their trunks and get ready to hit the links.
I am pretty impressed with their ability to limit Winnipeg’s offense, especially with Dubois returning to the lineup tonight, but that doesn’t mean anything if you’re not generating any offense of your own. Mike Smith is playing well, but he’s getting outlasted and out dueled by Hellebuyck. He was able to survive regulation but you could see he was starting to wear down by the beginning of Overtime.
When the extra frame began, McDavid’s line had a good chance that was gobbled up by Hellebuyck, and the NBC commentators even mentioned how it was the best chance they had gotten pretty much all game long. Then play came back towards Mike Smith in the Oilers end, and a net front scramble left him swimming in the white ice, totally out of position by the time the play was whistled down. The blood was in the water, and the Jets could smell it from a mile away. Shortly afterwards Paul Stastny would shoot short side through a mild screen, and it caught Smith off guard and he couldn’t get the glove up fast enough. Just like that, it’s a 1-0 OT win for the Jets, and a 2-0 series lead heading back home. It was a a shot that Smith had to have, and at the end of the day, Hellebuyck made all the right saves and Smith didn’t make the one that counted. I don’t like to place the blame on the goalies, but he could have made that save and he didn’t, and it’s gonna cost his team.
I’ll end this how I ended my last recap, McDavid and Draisaitl need to find their way into the goal column. The Game 1 Puljujarvi goal stands alone after over 120 minutes of play. That’s unacceptable for two players that had a combined 189 points in the regular season. McDavid alone had 22 points in 9 games against Winnipeg. Now he has a goose egg in two playoff games. It’s simply embarrassing. They’re more than capable of figuring this out. If they’re gonna pull out a series win, it’s gonna require at least six games now, and a massively monumental turnaround in their play. Here’s to hoping, Oilers fans. Try to remember your liver when you’re drinking this one away.