Game Day thoughts from Las Vegas
Photo credit:© Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports
24 days ago
The Las Vegas Strip is going to be full of people wearing orange and blue today as the Oilers look to steal home-ice advantage away from the Vegas Golden Knights in game two of their second-round series.
It’s a well-known fact that Oilers fans travel very well but it’s still been surprising to see just how many people are down here in Las Vegas to watch this team play. Even during the off days, you couldn’t go very far without seeing someone rocking an Oilers hat or shirt. It’s been very cool to see first hand.
If the Oilers want to make sure all the fans that travelled down head home happy, then there are a lot of things that they need to do better in game two.
Zach Hyman talked after the game about needing to go hard to the net in order to make life difficult for Laurent Brossoit. The Oilers definitely didn’t do that well enough in game one. Natural Stat Trick says the Oilers had 55 shot attempts at 5v5 last game but only eight of them came from high danger areas.
The Oilers seem to create a lot of their dangerous chances by cycling the puck and making skill plays. I think it’s fine for McDavid and Draisaitl to do that, but the other forwards need to do a better job of crashing the net, throwing pucks on goal, and trying to grab the rebounds. There’s an element of luck that comes with doing that, but hey, in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, you need to create your own luck.
Brossoit is a good goalie and he looked good in game one, but this isn’t an elite starting goalie that the Oilers are going up against. Brossoit isn’t the kind of netminder that is going to just straight-up steal this series for the Golden Knights. The Oilers need to do a better job of getting to dangerous areas and creating quality scoring chances.
They also need their depth pieces to be much better. In game one, when Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl were off the ice, the Oilers got outshot 13-6 at 5v5 and outscored 2-0. Against Los Angeles, their depth won the scoring battle. They don’t need their bottom six to dominate the hockey game or anything crazy like that, but they need to be much better.
When that bottom six gets caved possession-wise, it also hurts McDavid and Draisaitl’s ability to produce. If the other lines are getting pinned in their own zone more often than not, that means they aren’t creating chances at the other end and aren’t generating offensive zone faceoffs. It goes without saying that more O-zone starts for McDavid or Draisaitl is a good thing, but the bottom six need to help out more with that.
That brings up an interesting question as well: should Jay Woodcroft play McDavid and Draisaitl together, or apart?
In game one, the Oiler’s dynamic duo spent 11:12 together at 5v5 and outscored the Golden Knights 2-0 in that span. They each spent just over six minutes apart from each other as well and in that time, they each got outscored 1-0.
Some would say that’s all the evidence you need to keep them together. When they’re on the ice together, the Oilers will outscore the opposition and when they’re not together, they don’t.
I actually think this is more of a comment on just how many passengers the Oilers currently have in their top six. Evander Kane, Zach Hyman, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins all need to start playing with some sort of consistency. Kane and Hyman have had flashes, but have also been largely ineffective for long stretches.
Nugent-Hopkins is hitting a rough cooling-off period after a regular season that was basically just an 82-game heater and while I understand that he was likely due to regress at some point, but he hasn’t been contributing in any fashion. It’s time for him to turn things around.
The Oilers had far too many passengers in their forward group and their blueline made far too many unforced errors. Still, they basically lost the game by one goal. If they correct these issues, they will win game two of this series. Simple as that.
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