photo credit: Yahoo! Sports
By Brad Gardner
The speed and skill of the Oilers put the Blackhawks on their heels early and the result was the worst whooping of the year for Chicago. Careless play with the puck and a parade to the penalty box in the second period sealed Chicago’s fate in their 9-2 shellacking at the hands of the young guns in Edmonton.
Ales Hemsky opened the scoring in the first minute by carrying the puck with speed into the zone and eluding a hip check by Steve Montador. The veteran winger had a clear lane to the net and beat Chicago’s starter Ray Emery over the glove.
Patrick Sharp knotted the game at one goal apiece just a couple minutes later. The first power play unit notched another goal after Sharp picked up a rebound off the post and beat Nikolai Khabibulin.
The speed of the Oilers started to wreak havoc for the Blackhawks, though, and the home team rattled off four unanswered goals through the rest of the first period. Ryan Jones scored a goal from a horrible angle against Emery and it was downhill from there for the ‘Hawks. Ryan Smyth’s team-leading 11th goal of the season came on a good set-up from Jordan Eberle, putting the Oilers up 3-1 just 7:32 into the first period.
Corey Crawford was inserted into the net to try to shake things up, but Edmonton continued to apply pressure. Taylor Hall scored on the power play and Eberle scored a goal of his own on the rush to put the Oilers up 5-1 heading into the first intermission.
With the Blackhawks facing a big deficit, Emery returned to the net for the start of the second period. The Blackhawks earned an early power play, but were unable to convert on a couple of looks on the back-door pass. Shortly after the power play ended, Patrick Kane was whistled for a double minor when he got his stick up into the face of defenseman Jeff Petry. Chicago was nearly halfway through the kill when a holding call against Dave Bolland gave Edmonton a 5-on-3 advantage.
Tom Gilbert would capitalize after he one-timed a pass from rookie Ryan Nugent-Hopkins past Emery, giving the Oilers a 6-1 lead. Edmonton would strike twice more on the power play in the second period with goals from Hall and Shawn Horcoff. Dave Bolland gave Chicago their second power play conversion of the game between those Edmonton tallies, but the game was already out of hand at that point. The second intermission saw the Blackhawks trailing 8-2.
Ray Emery made a handful of big saves in the third as Edmonton continued to threaten. He couldn’t stop them all, though, as Taylor Hall notched his hat-trick goal at the 9:21 mark on a wrist shot over Emery’s glove. The goal put the Oilers up 9-2, which held up as the final score.
– Much like Friday night’s game against Calgary, the Blackhawks did themselves in with poor decisions and turnovers. Giveaways in the middle of the ice gave the Oilers countless odd-man rushes the other way, where the defense didn’t offer much in the way of reliable coverage. Steve Montador’s game was exemplary of the ‘Hawks play: he was victimized by Hemsky on the first goal for being over-aggressive and then allowed Taylor Hall’s third goal by not applying any pressure and letting him walk into a prime scoring area.
– Duncan Keith has earned an even rating in his last two periods of hockey. He was a minus-8 in the four periods before that, though.
– The vaunted youth of the Oilers caused problems for the Blackhawks from the drop of the puck, making Chicago look every bit like a team playing their third road game in four nights. Young stars Taylor Hall (3 goals), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (5 assists), and Jordan Eberle (1 goal, 3 assists) all used their speed to effectively beat Chicago’s defenders for easy chances. Nugent-Hopkins showed up at the rink tied with Craig Smith for the lead in rookie points but went home with a commanding lead.
– Nikolai Khabibulin earned his first win in four starts, stopping 31 of the 33 shots he faced. Though he was not necessarily sharp early on, the veteran had an easy time settling in after Edmonton rushed out to a 5-1 first period lead.
– Corey Crawford had five saves on seven shots in 12:28 of ice time. Emery finished with 19 saves on 26 shots in just under 45 minutes. He won’t be blamed for all of those goals, but the second goal from a poor angle by Ryan Jones was one that should have been stopped.
– Patrick Kane celebrated his 23rd birthday with one assist, two shots, and six PIMs. Four were earned on the high-sticking penalty in the first, while the second was an unsportsmanlike for barking at the officials in the second period.
– Jonathan Toews entered the game with a 61.7% faceoff percentage, second in the league behind Toronto’s Dave Steckel at 61.8%. The Blackhawks’ captain won 14 of his 18 faceoffs against the Oilers, which should put him in the league lead after Steckel won less than half his draws against Washington.
– Three stars of the game… 1. Taylor Hall, 2. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 3. Tom Gilbert
– The Blackhawks have a few days off before taking on San Jose Wednesday night. A stop in Las Vegas was planned as the team heads to California for the second half of the circus trip.
In addition to covering the Blackhawks for TheThirdManIn.com, Brad is also the Blackhawks’ correspondent at HockeysFuture.com.