Last night, the Edmonton Oilers beat the Calgary Flames in a close game by a score of 5-3. During the game, Zach Hyman scored again on the power-play. Leon Draisaitl had a hand in assisting on three of the Oilers’ five goals. Connor McDavid registered two assists in what keeps being multiple-point games for him.
Yet, in this review of Oilers’ takeaways, I won’t mention these team leaders again. Instead, I’ll concentrate on three other Oilers’ players – RNH (or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins), goalie Mike Smith, and quality on-ice, mid-season pick-up Evander Kane.
Takeaway One: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Scores First and Last Goal of the Game
Anyone who’s been an Oilers’ fan for a while will be feeling good for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. This long-serving Oiler has been with the team through ups and downs, and he’s certainly enjoying the “up” his team is currently on. In last night’s game, he scored two goals – the first and the last of the game.
The 29-year-old Nugent-Hopkins’ first goal came before half a minute was gone. The goal was almost a gimmie when Flames goalie Jacob Markstrom simply misplayed a bouncing puck and half pushed it right onto Nugent-Hopkins’s stick. It was an open net for the goal.
The last goal came in the dirty spot of the ice – when RHN beautifully roofed and loose puck in front of Markstrom. Although he didn’t get on the scoresheet, Hyman did the dirty work – he’s one of the best puck diggers in the NHL – to keep the puck alive so that Tyson Barrie could put it on the net and set up the Nugent-Hoplins rebound.
Takeaway Two: Mike Smith Is a Battler
If you’re looking for a goalie with great technique, Mike Smith is NOT your poster child. However, if you’re looking for a battle-tested warrior, who fights tooth and nail to win, look no further. Smith is amazingly fun to watch, he throws everything he has at the pucks and usually gets something in front of it.
That is until he can’t see the puck at all. That can be the only explanation for allowing a prayer of a shot – more like a clearing attempt by a short-handed Flames penalty-killing unit – to make it through him on the fly. He simply didn’t see the puck until it whistled past him into the net for the game-tying 3-3 goal for the Flames.
Otherwise, Smith was far better than average on the night, stopping all but two others of the 32 shots the Flames put on the net. It was a far better effort for the Flames, but the Oilers withstood the pressure and even came back from the disheartening flukey goal to score the winner. It’s a persistent team.
For Smith, it was the first time he’s won three games in a row in these playoffs. The 40-year-old goalie has one more to win before the conference final. The Oilers look strong in this series, even when McDavid isn’t absolutely controlling the game by the force of his will.
Takeaway Three: Evander Kane Is a Perfect First-Line Partner
Say what you like about Evander Kane as a person, he’s turned out to be a great pickup for the Oilers in terms of on-ice value. Kane scored a hat trick in Game 3 and added two Game 4 goals last night. He’s a scoring machine, and that seems to be true with or without McDavid’s assistance.
The polarizing winger now has scored five goals in his last two games and 12 goals in 11 playoff games during the postseason. The 30-year-old also skates and bangs. He’s a physical force who seems to be the first Oiler into any scrum if a player needs some reinforcements.
In short, he’s been great value on the team’s top line with McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. In fact, he’s had three assists and an amazing 53 hits while carrying a rating of plus-9.
The Kane signing has been scrutinized heavily, but adding him to the Oilers’ journey has obviously worked out. He’s had five multiple-goal games during the 11 games the Oilers have played in the postseason.
Now, will the team be able to re-sign him next season?
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