The Oilers are in sunny SoCal today for game three of their best of seven series against the LA Kings. After throttling LA in game two, it’s easy to feel confident about this Oilers team right now. Yes, game one was a bit of a rough one but I think if we consider how game two went, we can chalk up game one to a bit of nerves, the team having a rough night, and one bad mistake late in the game.
I don’t think the LA Kings ‘won’ game one, I think the Oilers ‘lost’ it. If that makes any sense.
There was a lot to like about the win, but here are a few of my biggest takeaways from game three:
1 – The Depth Came Through!
The Oilers had a total of 15 skaters finish the game with a 5v5 SF% of 50% or better. They had eight players who finished the game at 60% or better and the top three on the team were actually Zack Kassian, Warren Foegele, and Brett Kulak.
While their depth players really didn’t do much of the scoring, they won the possession battle and wore down the Kings. That kind of contribution shouldn’t be overlooked.
2 – The Stars Got Some Rest
The Oilers only had two players play north of 20 minutes. They were Evan Bouchard and Duncan Keith. The Oilers big guns played some of their lowest minutes of the season.
Connor McDavid played 16:52 on Wednesday. There were only three games this season where he played less. Leon Draisaitl played 15:10, his lowest total of the season. Darnell Nurse only had to play 18:57 and that was also his second-lowest total of the season.
The Oilers’ key pieces didn’t have to be overworked in the game two victory and I think that having games like this throughout a long playoff series can go a long way. The players who the team will need the most going forward didn’t have to be overworked. That’s huge.
3 – Schmiddy Battles
Mike Smith got a little lucky with a few moments early in the game. There was the puck that squeaked through him and had to be cleared out of the crease by Darnell Nurse and there was also the backhand shot that hit the crossbar that had everyone in the arena convinced it went in.
But, Smith also made some great saves throughout the game and most importantly, he looked confident playing the puck. The mistake in game one didn’t rattle him.
4 – Special Teams Are Hot
The Oilers’ powerplay has found the back of the net multiple times in each game so far in this series and now sits at 4/8. What’s potentially even more impressive is the fact that the team’s star-studded top unit and their second unit have each scored twice. It’s not just the Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl show when they get a powerplay and I think that could lead to some sustainable success.
The referees are calling penalties more than I thought they would and that’s given the Oilers plenty of chances to make the Kings pay for their undisciplined play.
On the other side of the special team’s coin, the Oilers’ penalty kill has been outstanding as well. They’re a perfect 8 for 8 on the kill and LA really hasn’t had that many good looks. On top of that, the Oilers scored a HUGE shorthanded goal in game two.
That was a moment where if the Oilers would have allowed a powerplay goal, that game would have been tied. Instead, the Oilers got a shorthanded marker from Darnell Nurse, and from that point on, it was all Oilers.
That Nurse goal very well could be looked back on as a defining moment in this series as well.
Now, I’m certainly not expecting the Oilers to come out tonight and just roll over the Kings by six goals again. The Kings should be pretty fired up to play in front of their home crowd and they should be hungry to avenge the game two loss. I still think that the Oilers will win tonight. The 6-0 win in game two should give them an extreme amount of confidence.
I talked about it before the series even started and I’ll say it again, if the Oilers bring their A-game and play well, then the Kings won’t be able to compete. I stand by that heading into game three.
THE NATION WATCH PARTY