Playoff hockey is not for the faint of heart. Teams can’t feel their way into a series, or they will be booking tee times at the golf course much quicker than they want. Oilers head coach Dave Tippett stated it was a “cautious” game overall on Wednesday. The Oilers didn’t give up much defensively, but didn’t create as much in transition or offensively.
It is a fine line between creating offence and giving up too much defensively, but the Oilers found that soft, successful spot often in the regular season and will need to bring that approach tonight.
It took them eight minutes to register a shot on goal in game one. Far too cautious and they need to set the tone. Winnipeg was able to play how they wanted in game one. They limited the Oilers speed on through the neutral zone and Edmonton had a season-low (in 10 games v. Winnipeg five scoring chances off the rush.
“There is a saying that sometimes as good as you want to be the game doesn’t let you. We just need to be sharper,” said Tippett.
He mentioned his squad might have had some early series jitters. There were a few cases where the Oilers were in a good position to shoot, but passed it off (Slater Koekkoek in first period), or they had an open teammate and put the pass in their skates or not in the prime spot. That can happen, and often does in the regular season, but in the playoffs it is more noticeable as the stakes are higher.
Edmonton needs to be ready from opening faceoff tonight and need to put he Jets on their heels more often. It won’t be easy, but winning in the playoffs isn’t easy. It is a battle. “Will is skill,” said a former NHL head coach a few years ago. I can’t remember who, but it is accurate.
Edmonton wasn’t outclassed or outworked in game one, but they also didn’t play as well as they can. They can generate more. They can make the game more uncomfortable for the Jets. Edmonton didn’t have stretches where Winnipeg was reeling or you felt an Edmonton goal was inevitable. We’ve all seen those sequences in playoff hockey and tonight the Oilers need more urgency in their offensive game.
Kahun – McDavid – Puljujarvi
RNH – Draisaitl – Yamamoto
Neal – McLeod – Kassian
Archibald – Khaira – Chiasson
Nurse – Barrie
Kulikov – Larsson
Koekkoek – Bear
No lineup changes, but we could see some shuffling in the top-six. Yesterday, during a drill we saw Kahun-McDavid-Draisaitl while RNH centred Yamamoto and Puljujarvi. Tippett wouldn’t divulge his line combinations, and he doesn’t have to, but if he does partner McDavid with Draisaitl I expect Puljujarvi to be on the other line. Not as a demotion, but because he is the third best forward right now and having him on the other line increases your chances that line can provide some offence.
I’d load up McDavid-Draisaitl from the start. Go on the offensive. In 6:43 together in game one they outshot the Jets 7-0. Has five scoring chances. Had an 83xGF% and had 13-2 advantage in shot attempts.
What would you do?
Connor – Schiefele – Wheeler
Copp – Stastny – Dubois
Perreault – Lowry – Appleton
Toninato – Thompson – Lewis
Morrisey – Demelo
Forbort – Pionk
Stanley – Poolman
Pierre-Luc Dubois returns to the lineup and will take Kristian Vesalainen’s spot on the second line. That is a clear upgrade in talent. Dubois was injured last Friday in the Jets final regular season game. Rust won’t be a factor.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
One of the biggest reasons playoff hockey is cherished across the globe is because it’s unscripted and usually features a handful of unsung heroes every single year. Well, Wednesday’s victory over the Oilers proved to be another great example of that unpredictability, as the Jets received unlikely offensive production from skaters like Tucker Poolman (one goal), Nate Thompson (two assists) and Toninato (game-winning goal), who played just two regular season games this season.
Most notably, Poolman’s second-period goal was particularly special as it not only tied the game, but it was also his first marker of 2021 and his first career playoff goal as well. As for Toninato, the 27-year-old played more games with the Manitoba Moose than with the Jets this season, and yet, his ability to deflect rookie Logan Stanley’s blast from the point ultimately proved to be the difference-maker in this showdown.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Edmonton needs a win. It isn’t a must-win scenario, but it is a “need-a-win” scenario. Edmonton has never won a playoff series when they lost the first two games on home ice. They avoid that with a 3-2 victory.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilersnation is on edge. Playoff nervousness is rampant, and while you anxiously await the start of the game you realize it beats the alternative of focusing on the draft lottery. Nation beers will be spilt when Oilers score their first goal.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Josh Archibald delivers another solid hit, and scores his 2nd career playoff goal.
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