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Photo Credit: NewfieMikey

GDB +2.0: Oilers Expecting To Be A Smarter Team

“It was one game. Our game didn’t go to crap because of one night. We can learn from it, but we are excited and upbeat,” Patrick Maroon said Thursday morning.

He was surprised how many people were freaking out and pushing the panic button. This is his sixth playoff series, and his teams are now 4-2 in game one, with both loses being 3-2 OT loses.

“We are in a good spot. We are at home. We’ve played well all season. We haven’t lost any confidence and I’m hoping our fans will be just as rowdy on Friday. This is the best time of year. This is fun,” he said with a smile.

The mood in the Oilers room this morning was very upbeat. They are excited about the opportunity to even up the series, but they are well aware of how potentially damaging going down 0-2 could be.

They should be excited — it’s the freaking playoffs! But make no mistake, going down 2-0 in the series tonight would be a massive hole to climb out of.

The Sharks are 8-2 all-time when they win the first two games of a series. They lost to the Oilers in 2006, and to the Kings in 2014 when they were up 3-0.

The Oilers are 1-8 in a series where they trail 2-0.

They lost in the opening round to the Flyers in 1980, and lost in the second round to the Islanders in 1981. They lost the Cup Final in 1983 to NYI. The Blackhawks beat them in the Conference Final in 1992. The Avalanche knocked them out in the second round in 1997. The Stars beat them in the opening round in 1999 and 2000. They defeated the Sharks in the second round in 2006, but then lost to the Hurricanes in the 2006 Cup Final.

Anything can happen in a seven-game series, but history tells us the odds of winning the series drop significantly if the Oilers are unable to win tonight.

The Oilers really struggled in the final 40 minutes on Wednesday, and their focus at practice yesterday and today was having better zone exits and entries, making better passes and being more disciplined. Every player talked about how the parade to the penalty box impacted the entire team. And none of the players complained about the officials. They admitted they need to play smarter.

Wednesday’s result is in the rearview mirror. They aren’t focusing on it. Their sole focus is tonight.

The great part about the playoffs is how much more important every game is. A two-game losing streak in the regular season isn’t a big deal, but lose two in a row in a playoff series, especially at home, and you could be finished.

LINEUP

*note that tables are now scrollable on mobile*

Oilers

LW C RW
Patrick Maroon
Patrick Maroon
Connor McDavid
Connor McDavid
Leon Draisaitl
Leon Draisaitl
Milan Lucic
Milan Lucic
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Jordan Eberle
Jordan Eberle
Drake Caggiula
Drake Caggiula
Mark Letestu
Mark Letestu
Zack Kassian
Zack Kassian
Benoit Pouliot
Benoit Pouliot
David Desharnais
David Desharnais
Anton Slepyshev
Anton Slepyshev
Defensive Pairings
Oscar Klefbom
Oscar Klefbom
Adam Larsson
Adam Larsson
Andrej Sekera
Andrej Sekera
Kris Russell
Kris Russell
Darnell Nurse
Darnell Nurse
Matt Benning
Matt Benning
Goalies
Cam Talbot
Cam Talbot

It looks like Matt Benning will play. And based on the morning skate, we could see Anton Slepyshev make his playoff debut. Iiro Pakarinen, Matt Hendricks and Jujhar Khaira were out on the ice after the other forwards, who did take part in the optional, had come off. Often, the players who aren’t playing will do extra skating after practice.

Sharks

LW C RW
Melker Karlsson
Melker Karlsson
Logan Couture
Logan Couture
Joe Pavelski
Joe Pavelski
Jannik Hansen
Jannik Hansen
Tomas Hertl
Tomas Hertl
Mikkel Boedker
Mikkel Boedker
Joonas Donskoi
Joonas Donskoi
Patrick Marleau
Patrick Marleau
Joel Ward
Joel Ward
Marcus Sorensen
Marcus Sorensen
Chris Tierney
Chris Tierney
Timo Meier
Timo Meier
Defensive Pairings
Paul Martin
Paul Martin
Brent Burns
Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic
Marc-Edouard Vlasic
Justin Braun
Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon
Brenden Dillon
David Schlemko
David Schlemko
Goalies
Martin Jones
Martin Jones

Joe Thornton skated again this morning and he will be a game time decision. If he plays, he won’t be close to 100%, and I’ll be curious to see how mobile he can be. He’s incredibly smart and he’s played in the playoffs with a separated shoulder, broker finger and other injuries, so he knows how to play through pain and discomfort. He took extra time in the morning skate, and that has me leaning towards him not playing.

QUICK HITS

  • Connor McDavid took part in the optional skate. He said because of such a late start he wanted to get a good skate and then a good nap. He also just wanted to get back on the ice. I sensed he just wanted to get some touches, get on the ice and while he played fine, his line wasn’t as sharp as they need to be. No doubt in my mind I expect a much better game from the Oilers top line.
  • I spoke to Eberle about his first playoff game. “The last six seasons I finished the year feeling drained and I wondered how guys could play another two months,” said Eberle. “But this year leading into the playoffs I’ve been super excited. I’m ready to play until July. Winning and playing meaningful games gives you a huge boost. It has been a lot fun. It was bittersweet on Wednesday, because it took this long to finally get into the playoffs, but now that we are here it is awesome. The crowd was great. Guys like Horcoff, Hemsky and Smyth, who I played with, talked about how great it is, and I knew Edmonton was loud, but until you are on the ice and on the bench feeling the emotion and hearing the crowd, I finally get what they meant. It was great and I’m sure tonight will be even better.”
  • “I know it sounds silly, because it was only one game, but I think tonight you will see a smarter hockey team. We had trouble coming through the neutral zone and we won’t be forcing pucks as much as we did last game. We will be tighter on the gap, better with the puck and more relaxed.” Eberle.
  • Home teams are 3-5 thus far in the playoffs, while the team scoring first is 5-3. The Oilers and Leafs both had 2-0 leads, before losing 3-2 in OT.
  • A holiday game on a Friday with an 8:30 start. Have a great day Oilers fan. Be loud, have fun, be respectful and hydrate often.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: @TomKostiuk

GAME DAY PREDICTION: This is as close as you’ll get to a must win. The Oilers have been a resilient group all season and they avoid the dreaded 0-2 hole. Oilers skate away with a 4-2 victory.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers will not be outshot 34-9 in the final 43 minutes of the game. The McDavid line will have more than two shots on goal.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: After combining to win only 38.8% of their faceoffs in game one, McDavid and RNH are much more focused and they combine to win just over 50%. McDavid hasn’t been over 50% in a game since March 16th versus Boston, but he turns it around in the dot tonight and that leads to his line having more puck time.

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