Beyond the Boxscore: Edmonton Oilers commitment to team defence has them back in the Conference Finals

Edmonton Oilers Mattias Ekholm
Photo credit:Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Shane Stevenson
26 days ago
The Edmonton Oilers survived a late onslaught from the Vancouver Canucks, earning an appearance in the Western Conference Finals for the second time in the last three years.
The momentum to start the game was all in Edmonton’s favour. Vancouver had an extremely slow start, but the Oilers didn’t play down to their competition, pressing hard until they woke up. When they had to defend, the Oilers, all committed to the cause as a group, buckled down to block shots while making Vancouver’s path to Skinner as hard as possible. Vancouver broke through late as Skinner cracked, but the team didn’t quit on their mission. Truly impressive to see such an offensive team shell up like that and be as effective as they were. It’s going to be curious to see if that works against the relentless and deep group of the Dallas Stars. They won’t ever come out as flat as the Canucks came out to start this one.

CF% – 44.76%, SCF% – 45.06%, HDCF% – 40.98%, xGF% – 48.83%
Corsi King – Sam Carrick (61.72 CF%) getting over 10 minutes of 5v5 ice time shows just how much the Oilers rolled their four lines. The Canucks took over on the shot attempt momentum around the halfway point, the Oilers responded by blocking everything they could and forcing the Canucks outside. Zach Hyman (48.83 percent) got in his usual double-digit attempts while Evan Bouchard (50.42 percent) unsurprisingly led everyone on the back end for percentage. Cody Ceci (43.70 percent) had one more shot attempt for in his ice time, but Ceci also saw five more shot attempts against than Bouchard.
Taken By Chance – Leon Draisaitl (33.44 SCF% // 0 HDCF%) did not register a high danger chance and saw five against. He was one of the hardest-working forwards on the ice all night, keeping pressure on the Canucks. When you play against the top competition of a team that is desperate and playing for their lives, you do what you can to counter the adrenaline-fueled attack. For what it’s worth, in my book, I felt Leon Draisaitl did a damn fine job – he kept getting zone exits but settled for pucks in deep rather than risking any turnovers into an odd-man rush. A commitment to the team game. That’s some real leadership there. Cody Ceci (39.54 percent // 32.36 percent) once again saw a surprisingly higher number than anybody else on the roster in terms of high-danger looks. Scoring a goal is a good way to counter that though.
xGF% – Evan Bouchard (70.06 percent) is starting to get the love he deserves on a national scale. He is already one of the best puck movers in the offensive zone and has a knack for finding forwards with enough space to create. Does it help that he has Connor McDavid (65.39 percent) to make his numbers better? Sure – but if it were that easy anybody could do it. Let’s never forget he’s free to be that offensive aid because Mattias Ekholm (68.28 percent) plays the two-way game on defence at an elite level. Not enough credit will ever be given Ekholm’s way for how significant he is to this team and its success. Let’s not forget Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (57.97 percent) with a solid game to end the series. He ended up being the finisher the Oilers needed in two crucial survival games – not everyone has it in them to score big stage goals, Nugent-Hopkins has that dawg in him.

Game Flow

Game Score

Shot Heatmap

In The Crease – I’m not going to say the Garland goal was a good one to let in – from that distance with no screen you want your goaltender to have that. Then the Canucks get a good bounce goal and the final five minutes of the game take on a whole new flavour. Skinner didn’t completely collapse, and the Oilers picked up their defending to help him out. It sure felt like the Canucks were one shot away from sending this to overtime, but in the end, you have to give him credit for being the guy to hang in there and get the job done.
Flashalytic’s 3 Stars –
1) Evan Bouchard
2) Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
3) Zach Hyman
(Stats compiled from Naturalstattrick.com // Game Score from Hockeystatcards.com // xG and Under Pressure charts from HockeyViz.com // Game Flow and Shot Heatmap from NaturalStatTrick.com)

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