Last night, the Colorado Avalanche best the Edmnton Oilers by a score of 4-2 to win Game 3 of the NHL’s Western Conference Finals. In this post, I’ll look at three takeaways from the game.
Takeaway One: It Wasn’t Mike Smith’s Fault
Say what you want about the Oilers 4-2 loss, but one thing you can’t do is hang the loss on Mike Smith. Smith gave up three goals on 41 shots in last night’s 4-2 Game 3 loss to the Avalanche in Edmonton, but he wasn’t the cause of the Oilers’ loss.
In fact, Game 3 might have been Smith’s best game of the series. Still, in the end, it wasn’t enough. The Avalanche offense scored enough and the Avalanche defense held the Oilers off the score sheet enough. Really, once the score was 2-1 Colorado, it seemed as if the game was done.
Ryan McLeod’s game-tying goal in the third period gave the Oilers some jump. However, that didn’t last. When Avalanche goalie Pavel Francouz made a great stop on Connor McDavid and defenseman Evan Bouchard rang one off the goal post on a power play, J.T. Compher jumped out of the penalty box and scored the 3-2 go-ahead goal. The game was all but over.
Smith was as good in goal in Game 3 as he’s been in the entire series. Still, there’s only one more loss between the Oilers and the offseason. It’s either win or wait until next season for the Oilers in Monday’s Game 4.
For Stanley Cup history buffs, only four NHL teams have come back from a 3-0 playoff series deficit to win a seven-game series. The Los Angeles Kings were the last to do so, and that was during the first round of the 2014 playoffs against the San Jose Sharks.
Takeaway Two: The Avalanche Are Not Only Good Offensively, But Defensively, Too
Nathan MacKinnon said it well in the media interviews after Game 3. Their job was to play boring hockey on the road, which is just what the Avalanche did. During the second period, the Avalanche shut down the Oilers’ offense. The Oilers couldn’t complete passes, get any sustained pressure on the Avalanche net, or even mount any kind of offense – not much at all.
Even Connor McDavid couldn’t get free. On several occasions, it looked like he had an angle but wasn’t able to do his usual cutback into the middle to set up a shot. For Oilers’ fans, it was frustrating shut down hockey at its worst. Boring to watch; effective to play.
Takeaway Three: Nazem Kadri Ruled Out for the Series
Nazem Kadri, who suffered an undisclosed injury, has been ruled out for the rest of the Western Conference Finals. Kadri was injured when the Oilers’ Evander Kane pushed him into the boards from behind early in the contest.
Although the play didn’t look as dangerous as it ended up, obviously something happened that I didn’t see. Kadri didn’t return from the locker room or to on-ice action. In fact, as noted, it looks as if Kadri will be lost for the rest of the series or longer.
Hockey hits can be deceiving. Interestingly, given Kadri’s behavior in the postseason playoffs thus far, not all hockey fans are feeling that sorry for the Avalanche forward. Certainly many St. Louis Blues’ fans must see it as the hockey gods evening things out. That’s because their own goalie Jordan Binnington suffered a similar series-ending injury when he was run over by Kadri.
All that said, it’s sad when any player is injured. It’s also best when playoff hockey series are contested with both teams having their full complements of players. Sadly, that seldom happens in the postseason.
We hope that, if the Avalanche do advance past this playoff round, we’ll see Kadri play again. He’s an exciting player to watch.
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