Oilers: A Dangerous Game of Chicken
Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
By Jason Gregor6 months ago
The Oilers laid an egg in games one and three, while Vegas returned the favour in game two. It has been a wildly inconsistent series, and the Oilers don’t want the pattern of bad game, good game, bad game to continue of they will lose in seven.
The larger concern is their struggles at 5×5. Vegas has outscored Edmonton 9-4 at 5×5 and only Leon Draisaitl (3) and Warren Foegele (1) have scored for Edmonton with 10 skaters on the ice. Edmonton shouldn’t be struggling this bad 5×5. In four meetings v. Vegas in the regular season, they outscored them 12-10, and in their final 41 regular season games the Oilers outscored opponents 114-84 at 5×5.
But through three games they’ve been lethargic for much of the 139 minutes of 5×5 in the series.
Edmonton has been outshot 77-63, outscored 9-4 and they have an ugly 43.7xGF. Please don’t blame the refs for the game three loss because they missed a call high stick call on Kailer Yamamoto in the first period. The Oilers were uninspired and flat all game. They botched numerous odd man rushes with missed passes or missed shots, and even if the refs gave Vegas a penalty, there was zero guarantee the Oilers PP would score. They had no momentum or rhythm all game. They trailed 2-1 going into the second period, killed off Evander Kane’s undisciplined penalty, but they never tested Aidan Hill, and then Vegas scored three unanswered and the game was over. If needing one power play in the first period to show any sign of life is the recipe for success, then the meal won’t taste very good.
“Not good enough in any way,” said Jay Woodcroft. “I didn’t think we skated well. We weren’t hard enough in certain areas and to a man not our finest hour in any way.”
It was a role reversal of game two where the Oilers dominated the opening period, and the game was over.
“Not much to like about that game tonight,” said Connor McDavid. “But our game is not gone, 48 hours ago we played very well. We need to bring that in game four.”
There has been zero consistency or carry over of good or bad play from game to game. Vegas couldn’t build on their game one victory nor could the Oilers after game two. The Oilers must ensure that trend continues for game four and they even up the series. Then they need to find a way to be more consistent in game five, but first they need a better effort in game four.
Edmonton can’t rely on the official being perfect and making every call to win, because they missed infractions against the Oilers as well. “To dress tonight up in any other way other than not good enough would be false,” said Woodcroft in regard to the non-calls.
The Oilers need to be better five-on-five, as that is where the majority of the game is played, and they showed down the stretch and in the first-round v. LA when they outscored LA 15-11, outshot them 180-160 and carried a 54.3xGF%. Edmonton has been good 5×5 for months, and they simply need to play with more urgency, desire and pace than they did in games one and three against Vegas.
The Oilers only have four players who haven’t been outscored at 5×5 in this series. Mattias Ekholm (3-1), Leon Draisaitl (3-2), Philip Broberg (1-0) and Zach Hyman (3-3). The rest of the team has been outscored with Darnell Nurse (1-5) and Cody Ceci (0-5) struggling the most. They need to be better, but they aren’t alone. Evander Kane, Nick Bjugstad and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are 0-3, while Vincent Desharnais and Klim Kostin are 0-2, Yamamoto is 1-3, Brett Kulak, Warren Foegele and Ryan McLeod are 1-2 while McDavid and Evan Bouchard are 2-3.
It has been a complete team effort, or lack thereof, at 5×5 for two of the three games. Edmonton needs to match Vegas’ work ethic. The crazy part was Edmonton had lots of chances in the first 15 minutes. Leon Draisaitl hit the post, and just missed the short side on another shot. Vegas wasn’t perfect early, but they corrected, tightened up defensively and then took the game over.
“We had it below their goal line a lot,” said Vegas head coach Bruce Cassidy. “We feel if we have it there and are moving our feet, supporting one another then we can generate offence. It worked out well for us in the first half of the first game and a lot tonight. They have to go 200-feet if they get it from you, that is part of it, but you are forcing them to expend a lot of energy defending and that takes away from their offensive energy. And we are good at it (cycling down low).”
He didn’t like the start though.
“We gave up too many odd-man rushes early,” said Cassidy. “Draisaitl hit the post, and if that goes in maybe things change. We corrected that and didn’t give up much after. We have to be cognizant of how well they transition the puck.”
The Oilers spent much of their practice working on down low play, two-one-two cycling drills. Edmonton needs more offensive zone time in game four. They need to use their speed to create offence, but it can’t just be during transition. They need to cycle the puck better, force Vegas to defend and they have to test Adin Hill in goal. Hill has very little playoff experience and he’s yet to show he can be a starter.
Edmonton needs to match Vegas’ intensity and pace at 5×5. If they do, they can even up the series. If not, they will lay another egg and be one loss away from a longer summer than they expected.
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