In 2002, Marshall Bruce Mathers III, aka Eminem, released one of the most iconic rap songs of all time, “Lose Yourself.” The opening stanza was utter brilliance.
If you had
Or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted
In one moment
Would you capture it?
Or just let it slip?
What made those lyrics so great is how relatable they are to any walk of life. Often we have that one shot, one opportunity, to lift ourselves into a better position. Some days we crush it and succeed, and other days we fail.
Tonight represents a wonderful opportunity for the Edmonton Oilers. Win game four and they take a commanding 3-1 series lead. Lose and the series is tied at two and Calgary regains home-ice advantage. The Oilers are 14-1 in series when they win three of the first four games. The only loss came in 1989 against Wayne Gretzky and the LA Kings.
Calgary is 0-9 when trailing a series 3-1. In the history of the NHL teams are 296-31 when leading 3-1. In round one the Penguins became the 31st team to lose a series when leading 3-1. Tonight presents a huge opportunity for the Oilers.
Will they seize it?
Edmonton has controlled play since the start of the second period of game two. They’ve outscored the Flames 8-2, including 6-1 at 5×5. Each team has a power play goal and the Oilers also scored shorthanded.
Edmonton has outshot, out-chanced and outscored Calgary for the past 100 minutes. And the Oilers’ top line has crushed Calgary’s top line at 5×5.
In the regular season Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm and Matthew Tkachuk were outstanding 5×5, but since Jay Woodcroft put the MDK line together in game two, they have crushed Calgary’s top line. If the Flames hope to slow down the Draisailt-McDavid-Kane trio tonight, they will need to play more in the offensive zone. Once the Oilers have the puck they are dangerous, but a main reason the McDavid line has been so dangerous offensively, is because they haven’t had to defend very often. They are creating turnovers in the defensive end and then quickly transitioning up the ice.
That line is on a mission right now. They’ve outscored the Flames 6-0 at 5×5. Four of those goals came against the Flames’ top line (Gaudreau had changed for one goal, so technically it is four goals against 2/3 of the Flames’ top line).
“They were a very good regular season line for us,” said Flames head coach Darryl Sutter. A subtle challenge he needs more from his top line tonight. The challenge for the Flames’ trio is the Oilers’ current top line is more skilled.
Kane – McDavid – Draisaitl
Hyman – RNH – Puljujarvi
Foegele – McLeod – Yamamoto
Archibald – Ryan – Kassian
Nurse – Ceci
Keith – Bouchard
Kulak – Barrie
No lineup changes for the Oilers. Zach Hyman has been a beast for Edmonton the past two games. He played 23 minutes in games two and three, the most of any Edmonton skater. His never-quit attitude for loose pucks and in board battles has been very noticeable. He’s also chipped in with two key goals. Kane and Hyman have been massive additions to the Oilers’ forward depth and their skillset is a main reason Jay Woodcroft can load McDavid and Draisaitl together. Although, Draisaitl’s injury also played a role in the coach opting to play them together.
In Game 3 Dave Manson rolled his three D pairs almost identical minutes. Brett Kulak and Tyson Barrie played the most at just over 14 minutes. Edmonton is getting solid play from all three pairs. Any of those who believed Ethan Bear was a better player than Barrie have really quieted down.
Gaudreau – Lindholm – Tkachuk
Mangiapane – Backlund – Coleman
Dube – Jarnkrok – Toffoli
Lucic – Lewis – Ritchie
Hanafin – Andersson
Kylington – Gudbranson
Zadorov – Stone
Flames are sticking with the same lineup as well. Chris Tanev took the morning skate, but my sense from Calgary reporters is he won’t play. If he does draw in they will go with 11 forwards and seven defencemen. The Flames will try to be more assertive and aggressive on the forecheck than they were in games two and three. The chess match of adjustments continues.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
Jacob Markstrom [5-5, 2.65 GAA, .912 SV%] starts in net, backed up by Daniel Vladar. The scratches are expected to be goalie Adam Werner, blueliners Connor Mackey and Juuso Valimaki, and forwards Ryan Carpenter and Adam Ruzicka. Don’t expect to see Chris Tanev, as he’s still dealing with a suspected upper body injury and seems likely to miss his fifth game in a row.
The Flames scored nine times in Game 1, but they combined for just four goals across Games 2 and 3. They allowed nine goals in Games 2 and 3. That is to say: they need to be better defensively and more opportunistic offensively. If you look back at the many goals they’ve given up in this series, sure, many have been Connor McDavid being a goddamn hockey wizard. But a lot of that has been helped by the Flames making key mistakes at key times.
Simply put: the Flames just need to stick to the process, stick to their systems and structure, and try not to give McDavid and his friends too many odd-man rush opportunities. Already down 2-1 in this series, it’s far past time for the real Flames – the one that played with pace, structure and intelligence – to make their presence known in the series.
From an Oilers perspective, it’s hard to imagine they’re not pleased with their series thus far. They were down in Game 1, but managed to battle back before losing 9-6. They battled back in Game 2 and won 5-3. They were the better team in Game 3, winning 4-1. Sure, the bulk of their offense has come from McDavid, Evander Kane and Leon Draisaitl, but they’ve had some nice performances from Zach Hyman and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, too.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Edmonton wins three consecutive games in a series for the first time since games 1-3 in the second round against the Ducks in 2006. Oilers win 5-2.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Draisaitl scores two more points. The top line combines for three goals.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: RNH scores his first home playoff goal with fans in the stands. His only “home” goal in the playoffs occurred in game one v. Chicago in the bubble. Fans have been waiting 11 years to have a NUUUGGEE chant after they announce a playoff goal.
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