If only starting Mike Smith was the only thing that went wrong for the Oilers as the Blackhawks dominated them in Game 1.
While the Oilers scored some late goals to make the score look more respectable, the Blackhawks still convincingly won Game 1 by a 6-4 score on Saturday. By just about any measure, Edmonton has massive, massive work to do.
Tippett must find answers for Oilers after Blackhawks control Game 1
Now, starting Smith in Game 1 certainly wasn’t the best decision. When Mikko Koskinen finally relieved Smith about midway through the second period, it felt inevitable, although people were surprised it even took that long.
But if only it were so simple as to lay every bit of trouble at Smith’s feet.
Instead, the Blackhawks handed the Oilers a steady beating in Game 1. Chicago controlled puck possession, high-danger chances, and plenty of other factors. Sometimes, shot totals don’t tell you a lot. Here, you can look at Chicago’s shots on goal advantage (42-29) and get a taste of how lopsided this one was.
Smith over Koskinen merely ranks as one of the biggest problems. People will rightly ask plenty of questions, including: were the Oilers properly prepared — physically, structurally — for Game 1 against the Blackhawks? If not, then it’s another mark against Tippett.
[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]
You’ll need to dig deep to feel too great about anything for the Oilers.
It’s not the greatest sign when the Oilers’ vaunted power play is productive, but the Oilers still get throttled. Granted, that’s not to say that Edmonton won the special teams battle, though. The Blackhawks feasted on the power play, with Jonathan Toews starting the bleeding and Dominik Kubalik taking it from there.
Kubalik doesn’t miss a beat from stellar rookie season; Mixed feelings for top Oilers
If there was concern about Kubalik failing to carry over strong work from his 2019-20 debut, such fears looked unfounded after the Blackhawks dominated Game 1 against the Oilers.
Kubalik set a rookie playoff debut record with five points (two goals and three assists) based on his work through the first two periods. Things settled down in a scoreless third period, for whatever that’s worth to what must be a shaken-up Oilers squad.
Dominik Kubalik (2-3—5) became the first player in NHL history to record five points in his playoff debut, besting Daryl Evans' mark during Game 1 of the 1982 Division Semifinals with the Kings (2-2—4). #StanleyCup #NHLStats pic.twitter.com/qCiNQjWYHy
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) August 1, 2020
On one hand, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl produced on offense for Edmonton. They helped the Oilers score three times on the PP in Game 1. McDavid ended Game 1 with a goal and three assists, while Draisaitl produced two points (1G, 1A).
On the other hand, the two Oilers superstars weren’t immune to Edmonton’s profound defensive/even-strength struggles against the Blackhawks. Both McDavid and Draisaitl likely realize they need to do more or this 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifier series could get ugly. Or at least they need a whole lot more from their teammates — yet most of us realize that this team leans on McDavid and Draisaitl as much as any NHL team relies on its biggest names.
Game 1 was deeply ugly for the Oilers, while the Blackhawks hope to make a 1-0 series lead even prettier.
(5) Edmonton Oilers vs. (12) Chicago Blackhawks (Blackhawks lead series 1-0)
Monday, Aug. 3: Blackhawks vs. Oilers, 10:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Oilers vs. Blackhawks, 10:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Friday, Aug. 7: Oilers vs. Blackhawks*, TBD
Saturday, Aug. 8: Blackhawks vs. Oilers*, TBD
* – If necessary
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.