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GDB +5.0: Oilers Need A Good Start (8pm MT, CBC)

While many of the statistics, possession numbers and zone time favour the Edmonton Oilers, there is one situation they need to improve. “We need a good start,” said Duncan Keith. “I don’t think our starts have been where we want them. We need to recognize the moment and feed off our crowd.”

A slow start in Game 1 led to the Oilers trailing 2-0, and they played catchup the rest of the night. In Game 2 the first period was scoreless before the Oilers took over the game in the second and third periods. They did score twice in the first six minutes in game three, but even then the players and head coach Jay Woodcroft said they didn’t really find their game until the second period.

Edmonton can’t feel their way into another game. They’ve shown for long stretches of the series, excluding most of game four, that when the Oilers are aggressive and assertive they control the tempo and pace of play. They need that urgency from the opening faceoff, and I sense tonight will be their best start of the series.

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“They were the better team all night,” said Connor McDavid about the Kings in game four. “They worked harder, and we need to match that tonight,” continued the Oilers captain.

Jay Woodcroft will start Yamamoto on a line with McDavid and Kane. Ryan McLeod will move to the wing with Leon Draisaitl and Zach Hyman. Jesse Puljujarvi will start with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Josh Archibald, and Derek Ryan returns to the lineup and will centre Zack Kassian and Warren Foegele.

Foegele and Puljujarvi need to take the puck to the net more. They each have five shots on goal, but none from the inner slot. They are big bodies who can skate and they need to get to the paint more, especially against the Kings’ small defence corps.

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Evander Kane, Kailer Yamamoto, and Connor McDavid have been the most dangerous around the net. Kane has buried more of his chances, but if McDavid and Yamamoto keep getting that many inner slot shots they will score more. They should be a dangerous trio based on their play through the first four games.

The Oilers have had more scoring chances in three of the four games. LA was the better team in game four, but Edmonton was prior and they should be confident that if they play to their capabilities they will win.

Scoring chances by game via Sportlogiq:

EDM   LA
Game 1:    13       8
Game 2:     8        5
Game 3:    21      11
Game 4:    12       13

Inner slot shots:
EDM   LA
Game 1:    8         6
Game 2:    4         2
Game 3:    13       8
Game 4:    7        12

Slot shots:
EDM   LA
Game 1:    13       8
Game 2:     8        5
Game 3:    21      11
Game 4:    12      13

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Scoring chances off the Rush:
EDM   LA
Game 1:     2        6
Game 2:     9        3
Game 3:    10       5
Game 4:     2        6

Odd-man rushes:
EDM   LA
Game 1:     1        7
Game 2:     4        1
Game 3:     6        6
Game 4:     2        9

Los Angeles has done a good job limiting the Oilers odd-man rushes, and in the two losses the Oilers gave up way too many. It is the one game-within-the-game scenario the Oilers need to be more aware of. For much of the regular season under Woodcroft, they were very good at not giving up odd-man rushes. They need to be aware of the Kings’ counter-attack.

LINEUPS…

Oilers

Kane – McDavid – Yamamoto
McLeod – Draisaitl – Hyman
Archibald – RNH – Puljujarvi
Foegele – Ryan – Kassian

Nurse– Ceci
Keith – Bouchard
Kulak – Barrie

Smith

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Four different line combinations to start tonight than they had in game four. However, McDavid understands why they were made. “I don’t think it is anything new. It isn’t just random. When you have a performance like game four you’d expect some small changes as we are looking for a spark,” he said.

The Kings altered their lineup in game four and it gave them a boost. Woodcroft is looking for the same tonight.

Smith has been excellent this series. He has given the Oilers very consistent goaltending and if that continues tonight Edmonton’s chances of winning are good.

Kings

Iafallo – Kopitar – Kempe
Moore – Danault – Grundstrom
Lemieux – Lizotte – Brown
Valardi – Kupari – Kaliyev

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Anderson – Roy
Edler – Stetcher
Maatta – Durzi

Quick

Todd McLellan switched up his forward lines and D pairs in game four and it worked, and not surprisingly he is sticking with the same lineup tonight. Blake Lizotte was excellent in game four. Edmonton will need to match his energy. Lizotte has created a lot for LA from his third line centre spot.

He leads the Kings in inner slot shots and is second in shot slots. Jonathon Quick was very good in game four, but his overall numbers in the series aren’t great. If the Oilers create more they should be able to score.

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TONIGHT…

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk

GAME DAY PREDICTION: Edmonton uses the enthusiasm of the crowd to get off to a better start and skate away with a 5-2 win.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: McDavid-Kane-Yamamoto have a strong night around the net. Oilers PP scores twice.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: McDavid becomes the sixth player in franchise history to have two playoff hat tricks. This is his first one with fans in the stands.

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