Kubalik, Blackhawks dominate in disastrous Game 1 for Oilers

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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.

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 phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

Ilya Mikheyev
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports
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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.