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Edmonton Oilers v. L.A. Kings Game 5: A Tactical Review

Edmonton Oilers L.A. Kings
Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Bruce Curlock
1 day ago
The Oilers’ Game 5 closeout of the Kings capped a very mature series win. The Oilers faced some adversity in parts of the series but never seemed to lose their composure. Game 5 was essentially a capsule of the entire series.  The Oilers executed their plans for the most part. When faced with adversity, they remain composed and in control. In the end, a combination of lethal specialty teams, solid 5v5 and strong goaltending brought the Oilers a win in game five and the series.

What Did I See?

Before delving into the 5v5 play, which is the focus of these reviews, it’s important to acknowledge the Oilers’ exceptional penalty kill. The Oilers’ penalty kill was flawless in the series, a testament to their defensive prowess. While they weren’t up against a formidable powerplay, a shutout is a shutout, and the Oilers’ efficiency in this area cannot be overlooked.
The Oilers’ powerplay was a force to be reckoned with, operating at its peak since this group was formed. It was dynamic, constantly moving, and its finishing was nothing short of surreal. The 45% success rate was impressive, but the real numbers were staggering. The Oilers scored nine powerplay goals in five games, a testament to their strategic advantage. When combined with the penalty kill, which allowed zero goals in the series, the Oilers had a 2-0 lead before any play happened at 5v5.
All of this narrative was an excellent summary of Game 5. Although only credited with one powerplay goal, it really was two, as the penalized Kings player never got back into the play when Leon Draisaitl scored. The penalty only had one infraction to fend off, and it did so efficiently.  The 5v5 play was similar to the series. It made some ten-bell mistakes and was burned, but overall, it held its own against the Kings.

THE ELEPHANTS IN THE ROOM

The Leon Draisaitl line remains a high-event threesome.  Despite the change from Foegele to Kane in Game 3 of the series, the line remains challenged at 5v5. Game 5 was a carbon copy.  The line went 1-1 in goals for in the game. We had had plenty of moments where that line played strong defensive hockey, leading to a transition chance and a goal.

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We also had a costly mixup where Draisaitl and Nugent-Hopkins got crossed up in coverage, leading to a high slot tip home for a goal against.

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This line will remain a critical piece to the success of the Edmonton Oilers this Spring. The line will be expected to take on heavy minutes against high-quality competition. With all due respect to Philip Danault, Victor Arvidsson and Trevor Moore, the line will face much stiffer competition moving forward.
The other issue that remains troublesome is the pairing of Darnell Nurse and Cody Ceci. The pairing had an excellent night overall but they remains prone to making mistakes that seem to lead to high-quality chances and very inopportune times. Here is a clip from last evening that speaks to this issue. The Kings run an excellent set play to break the neutral zone forecheck. However, Darnell Nurse has no reason to step up on that puck. His vertical gap is already too big, and the Kings’ player is in a relatively benign spot. In addition, Ryan McLeod can fold over the top to force the play, leaving Nurse to deal with the oncoming Kings skater. Instead, he steps up. This allows the Kings player to be inside position on Ryan McLeod, who needed to be better on this play. However, if Nurse doesn’t make the aggressive read, this play is over before it starts.

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We will discuss this pairing more as we set up the next series. However, it needs to be noted that this pairing was the only one that was a negative on 5v5 goals. In addition, and this is important context, this pairing did not get the Kings’ top forward groups for most of this series.

GIMME THE GOODS

The Edmonton Oilers have a powerhouse top line. It is a powerhouse in that it can score—a powerhouse in that it can take on the other team’s top line and shut it down. Last night, the line didn’t score, but it also held the Kopitar line down as well. It’ll be curious whether Adam Henrique ends up down on the second line to buttress that group or whether he stays with 97 and 18. For the moment, there is a solid number one line.
The Oilers have a third line of some consequence. We address an issue Ryan McLeod had last night, but again, this line was excellent. They pushed the river most of the night, creating good scoring chances again against the Pierre-Luc Dubois line. It was notable that Dubois was shifted to playing against the McDavid line and also against the Draisaitl line just to get them away from the McLeod line. This line does need to score some every series, but the cohesion of the group led by Corey Perry is encouraging.
Vinny Desharnais and Brett Kulak had another tremendous game. This pairing is slowly overcoming the Nurse-Ceci pairing in high-leverage minutes. Kulak clearly relishes the playoffs. He’s been good now, three years in a row. Desharnais is having a coming out party that someone will offer him a big contract for. Desharnais may struggle yet against a different style of play, but last night, and all series, he has been found money.
Evan Bouchard is going to cause the Edmonton Oilers more cap issues. Bouchard is playing number one minutes with his partner Mattias Ekholm and is thriving. In many instances, he is the one managing the defensive zone situations better than Ekholm. The Kings made a notable shift in putting the puck to Ekholm’s side over Bouchard in game three, which really did not change anything. Bouchard is playing all 200 feet of the ice like an all-star. Again, much like Desharnais, there will be more challenges ahead for him against teams that play a little more up the ice, but this was a terrific game and series.
That’s it for the series clinching Game 5 win. I will be back later this week with a preview of the Oilers’ next opponent and how that team’s tactics will match up against the Oilers. Enjoy some downtime.

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