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Defending Was Main Issue

The main reason the Oilers lost was they allowed too many goals. Subpar defending, below average goaltending and not enough intensity cost them the series. They averaged 3.75 goals/game — that should be enough to win three of five games. There are some things they can improve on offensively — we will look at that tomorrow — but today let’s look at every goal the Oilers allowed in their series loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

GAME ONE…

First goal:

Not good. Oscar Klefbom turned the puck over earlier, and then Smith passed it to no one. Dylan Strome did make a nice bank shot, I’ll give him credit, but this goal was symbolic of how they’d play all night. Sloppy.

 

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Second goal:

Four penalty killers were below the circle. It wasn’t a lack of trying on this play, as they pressured the puck in the corner, but all four killers can’t converge and leave Toews wide open. He had all day to pick the corner.

 

Third goal:

Lost the faceoff, Kubalik pushed it back to the point and Olli Maatta just put the puck on net. Nice deflection by Saad. No egregious error here, but shows how some faceoffs are much more important than others.

 

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Fourth goal:

Kassian and Nurse won the battle along the boards and got the puck to McDavid. He had time and complete possession of the puck, but his pass got knocked down. He needed to make that pass with authority. Once it was intercepted, everyone was scrambling and within two seconds the puck was in the net.

 

Fifth goal:

Another goal directly off a faceoff. Toews got enough of it to draw it back, Dach came in and pushed it back to Keith. He stickhandles and gave Kubalik time to set up at the top of the circle and rip at one-timer home. I find it odd that some claimed Smith should’ve stopped that. It was a one-timer from the top of the circle and right over the shoulder. Great shot.

 

Sixth goal:

Another PP goal and another deflection. No real error led to the goal. Nurse went back to net, but he didn’t disrupt Kubalik. Could’ve maybe got a stick on him, but that’s being too picky. Sometimes a goal will happen where there is no clear error.

 

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The Oilers were sloppy from the opening faceoff. They allowed two odd-man rushes in the first 60 seconds, and scoring first did nothing to change momentum. The entire team wasn’t ready and it showed. Outside of scoring first, they were never in the game. They lacked emotion, intensity and tenacity all night. They deserved to lose. Sorry, but Mike Smith’s passing error didn’t cost them the game.

GAME TWO…

First goal:

Nice play by Bear to break up the rush and push the puck to the boards, but then Nugent-Hopkins had a soft stick check and McDavid didn’t shoulder check early enough to see Kane come in late.

 

Second goal:

After the initial Kane shot, which Koskinen didn’t see, it came to Yamamoto and he had time and possession, but Kirby Dach knocked it away, it went to Debrincat and he found a wide open Slater Koekkoek. When Yamamoto had possession, Ennis slid over for a passing option, but when it was turned over he didn’t have time to get back to cover Koekkoek. But Ennis was not at fault on that play. In the playoffs, Yamamoto has to make a better play with the puck. Tough lesson, but he will learn from it.

 

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Third goal:

A 50/50 battle in the corner and Dach came away with it. Draisaitl was on right side of the puck on that play. Maatta just put it on net and it went off Kris Russell. Russell blocks a lot of shots, so he will react to many, but when you are that far to the left, just let it go. Easy to say after the fact, when you aren’t in the moment, and I assume it was just a reaction to block it, but ideally best to just leave it when not squared up. But I’d say more unlucky than a bad play.

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Oilers were much more engaged that game. Their PK rebounded with a strong performance. McDavid scored a hat trick and the fourth line scored twice in 30 seconds in the third period to secure the win.

GAME THREE…

First goal:

A battle behind the net. Neal came in and chopped at it, but it ricocheted off the boards though his feet to Kane, who controlled the puck and made a nice pass to Maatta, who took a shot. Khaira got in the shooting lane and Maatta’s shot was going wide, but it hit Russell’s leg and went in. It was going wide until it hit Russell. It is amazing how many pucks have hit off of defenders in this year’s playoffs and gone in. It illustrates the importance of getting pucks to the net from the point. Lucky bounce for Hawks.

 

Second goal:

Hawks were on a five-on-three after a very soft call on Russell. Hawks PP doesn’t do anything special here. When it went to Dach down low, the Oilers converged and Nurse went down to stop the pass, because Dach was not a threat to shoot. That is what Oilers D are coached to do on the PK, and it worked most of the time. And if you look, Nurse still tied up Kubalik’s stick and then stopped him from receiving the pass. The puck bounces through — might have even hit the shaft of Draisaitl’s stick (he made good play to collapse down low) — and then it bounced off of Toews’ skate and past a diving Koskinen. I didn’t love Koskinen’s initial decision to slide across on his knees when Dach was in an un-shootable position. But this is a lucky bounce on a 5-on-3 after a weak call. I guess Toews’ leadership is what caused this goal (sarcasm).

 

Tying goal:

Hawks dumped it in, Nurse pushed it to Bear who wrapped it hard around the boards. Sheahan, who isn’t a winger, couldn’t handle it off the boards, and it bounced off his skate right to Carpenter. He pushed it back to Maatta, who sswung it to Koekkoek and he ripped a shot that Highmore deflects. Sheahan has to make a better play on the boards. He has to control it. But the other error was Kassian not getting in the shooting lane. He has to get there. The Hawks had two forwards going to the net. Nurse has to take Kampf and Highmore is left alone, but he made a good tip. I still wonder why Tippett played Sheahan and Kassian that late in the game. Kassian only had one shift in the previous 20 minutes of playing time, while Sheahan had two shifts of 13 and 11 seconds in the previous 10 minutes. Why not just stick with the three lines he had used most of the first 15 minutes of the third?

 

Game winning goal:

Toews won the draw, and the Hawks made two quick passes to get it to Murphy and his shot went off Ethan Bear’s stick and in. I’ve watched the replay 20 times and I still don’t see it hit Toews on the way in. If it grazed him it didn’t change directions, so it was clearly the tip off of Bear’s stick that caused it to go short side.

Draisaitl can’t just let Toews go free like that. He has to stick with him. Nurse was supposed to step up on Kubalik so he couldn’t shoot — that is the correct play, and, yes, he could have come back down sooner — but Draisaitl has to stick with Toews. Yes, it is unlucky going off of Bear’s stick, but if Draisaitl was there then it is two-on-two and maybe Bear was in a different spot.

The Oilers played well for much of this game. It was close, but they still lacked playoff emotion and intensity early in the game and that played into the Hawks’ game plan. Chicago wanted to play a non-confrontational game and the Oilers agreed. Giving up a lead in the final five minutes is never ideal, and I think a coaching decision, combined with Kassian not selling out to get in lane, and Draisaitl making the wrong read added up to to the collapse.

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Draisaitl did score twice and add an assist, so overall he did way more good than bad, but late in the game he has to stick with Toews.

GAME FOUR…

First goal:

Draisaitl won the draw cleanly over Toews, but Klefbom, while not pressured, just threw it up the boards. That is not the play to make. Watch Russell — he slid behind the net to give Klefbom an option, but Klefbom elected to just toss it up the wall. No reason to make that play. Murphy fired it on net, Koskinen made the save, Saad grabbed the rebound and his wrap around went in off of Russell’s stick. Unlucky end, but that play should never have happened. Draisaitl won the draw cleanly and Klefbom, with lots of time, just fired it up the boards. Ugh.

 

Second goal:

Nurse’s one hand stab at the puck took a strange ricochet off a stick behind the net, and went back in front, then pinballed around before Carpenter pushed it back to Keith. Then Bear just left Highmore wide open in front of the net. He wasn’t within a stick length of him. Bear floated out to the faceoff dot, despite two forwards being in front of him. That can’t happen. Maybe Nurse could have taken a stride behind the net rather than push with one hand, but it took a strange bounce. Edmonton never had complete possession, prior to the puck bouncing to Carpenter. The major error on this play was the read by Bear. He got lost defensively and left his man wide open.

 

Series clinching goal:

It started with a good stick by Athanasiou in the slot to stop a good chance from Kubalik. The puck was pushed to the wall. Kubalick pushed it down low. Bear and Toews battled for it, Bear fell down and Draisaitl reached in, while Toews slid it to Kubalik who ripped it home. Tough lost battle for Bear, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. He just lost sight of the puck. Draisaitl should have shoulder checked to see where Kubalik was. He wasn’t decisive enough. He either had to go quickly at Toews or stick with Kubalik. Split second decisions are often what creates a scoring chance or thwarts one. Even elite defensive forwards like Toews will make the wrong one now and again, but he only makes a few, while the Oilers made too many of the wrong ones at crucial times in the series.

 

Edmonton showed desperation in this game, but it was too little too late. After Nugent-Hopkins tied the game 2-2 early in the second period, the Oilers outshot the Blackhawks 34-16 over the final 38 minutes of the game. But they were outscored 1-0. They didn’t bury the chances they had, and Corey Crawford made some key stops. Had they played with the same desperation for the entire series, I strongly believe they would have won. Edmonton lost this series, more than the Blackhawks beat them, and that is why they should be frustrated.

WRAP UP…

Here is how the goals breakdown.

  1. Four of the Hawks goals went in off of an Oilers player.
  2. Hawks had three deflection goals of off sticks and two off of a Hawks player’s body. Three of them came directly after losing a faceoff.
  3. Three giveaways when Oilers had possession below goal line led to goals.
  4. Two other PP goals — one a one-timer and another where four guys converged low.
  5. One misread on a back check.
  6. Lost assignment off a faceoff.

So nine of their goals came from deflections or putting pucks on net that deflected off an Oilers player. Defending around the net is crucial in playoff hockey. Look at how many goals have been scored from point shots what hit the defending team and go in.

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