After a thrilling Game 5—we will remember that game forever—the Edmonton Oilers have a chance to close out the series and possibly end the era of excellence in San Jose that began in the early days of this century.
The Pacific Division series between the Oilers and Sharks finally found a theme on Thursday night. The extended 5×5 play allowed both teams to establish their games and provide entertaining hockey. San Jose played a structured game, grabbing their offence from mistakes, turnovers and cashing on those opportunities. The Oilers used what has worked for them all season: Fast, aggressive offence with a healthy dose of Mcdavid-Draisaitl. An added dash of Desharnais was also extremely helpful. Question: Can that 97 line repeat their success on the road in San Jose tonight?
A short series like this one gives strange results. Things like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins leading the Oilers in shots (17) while also having no points through five games. The best way to figure out what the coach is thinking comes from time on ice (by discipline). Want to know who Todd McLellan trusts at even strength:
- Top Defenders: Adam Larsson 19:39; Oscar Klefbom 17:48; Kris Russell 17:34; Andrej Sekera 16:43; Darnell Nurse 16:05; Matt Benning 14:42; Eric Gryba 14:07.
- Top Centres: Connor McDavid 16:56; Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 13:01; Mark Letestu 11:32; David Desharnais 9:08.
- Top Wingers: Leon Draisaitl 15:25; Patrick Maroon 14:37; Drake Caggiula 14:20; Jordan Eberle 13:34; Milan Lucic 13:00; Zack Kassian 12:35; Anton Slepyshev 10:37; Benoit Pouliot 8:37; Iiro Pakarinen 6:14
A few notes about these numbers:
- Connor McDavid’s 5×5 ice time leads the Oilers but ranks No. 22 among NHL forwards during these playoffs. Some of that is no doubt due to the extended special teams minutes in this series, but I am surprised Todd McLellan isn’t using his nuclear option more often. The ice is tilted in Edmonton’s favour whenever 97 is on the ice, there’s really no use in holding him back now.
- Darnell Nurse sees his even-strength ice time approach the top 4D. This probably has multiple reasons (Klefbom missed extended time, special teams have impacted all usage), but the coach trusts the youngster at the 5×5.
- Drake Caggiula is another youngster who is getting extended play. His speed has been effective in this series.
- Adam Larsson is averaging a period per game on the 5×5.
- I wonder if David Desharnais gets more playing time after his splendid Game 5?
Caggiula – McDavid – Draisaitl
Lucic – Nugent-Hopkins – Eberle
Maroon – Letestu – Kassian
Pouliot – Desharnais – Slepyshev
Klefbom – Larsson
Sekera – Russell
Nurse – Benning
At the time of posting, there hadn’t been any lineup notes released yet. When the become available we will update the lines.
Marleau – Thornton – Pavelski
Hansen – Couture – Boedker
Karlsson – Hertl – Meier
Sorenson – Tierney – Ward
Martin – Burns
Vlasic – Braun
Dillon – Schlemko
- Lots of talk about Connor McDavid being quiet, or not having his statement game. I’m watching the same game and the only surprise for me is how many golden chances aren’t cashing. It will come for 97, possibly tonight.
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has been strong in this series, an absolute ace at centre. No points though, perhaps he cashes with a big goal this evening. His quality play in this series has to give the Oilers pause as they contemplate cutting cap dollars this summer.
- Cam Talbot made some dynamite saves early in Game 5, didn’t get a lot of credit but made some big stops when the team needed time to get back in the game. Part of the impressive story being written by this team is strong late-game performances. Talbot’s fine play is allowing it to happen.
- Spencer Foo is apparently close to announcing his team of choice to sign with as an NHL player. Edmonton is in the mix and Foo would be a great addition.
- Drake Caggiula and Anton Slepyshev aren’t scoring, but these minutes are giving them valuable experience and shows the organization is committed to them. A good sign.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
- Jake Sundstrom, Fear the Fin: San Jose fights for its postseason life at home at 7:30 p.m. PT on Saturday night at SAP Center as the Sharks find themselves down 3-2 in the first round against Edmonton. The Oilers came from behind to win 4-3 in overtime on Thursday to put the Sharks on the brink of elimination and San Jose looked gassed by the time David Desharnais’ shot hit the back of the net. Source
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Sharks push as they did in Game 4, but the Oilers play a more composed game. It’s 1-0 San Jose after one, but the flow of play is about even.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Connor McDavid scores a stunning goal early in the second period, and the Sharks begin to lose battles, races to the puck and the possession game. The second stanza ends in a tie.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers take the game and the series in the final frame, with an early goal by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins providing the margin of victory. A tense final 15 minutes sees the entirety of OilersNation chew their fingernails clean off, and all of Edmonton pours a gigantic glass of 150 proof (please mix with water) to celebrate victory at 10:53 pm local time.
Watching at home tonight?
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