Edmonton Oilers vs. Dallas Stars Game 6: A Tactical Review

Edmonton Oilers Dallas Stars
Photo credit:Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports
Bruce Curlock
18 days ago
There is no sugar-coating Game 6. The Oilers executed quite poorly in all three zones most of the night with one exception.
The Oilers ended the game having given up 29 scoring chances against while only generating eight of their own. Of the high-danger variety, the Oilers had five, while the Stars had 10. When the clock went to zero though, it was the Oilers that were the victors, winning the game 2-1 and the series 4-2. With that, the Oilers booked their ticket to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 2006.
How did it happen? Well, it wasn’t conventional for how the Oilers played most of this year, but it was a win that had some parallels to how the Oilers used to win.

What Caught My Eye?

The Oilers scored early jumping to a 2-0 lead. It is difficult to sort out whether that affected how the remainder of the game was played or whether the Stars simply brought their best game in the biggest game. However, it was clear from the moment Hyman made it 2-0 that the Oilers were going to defend the rest of the night. Fortunately, their defence held well and when it didn’t, Stuart Skinner was there to cover up for the mistakes.

It Wasn’t All Bad, Was It?

Of course, it wasn’t all bad. The Oilers won 2-1 and are prepping for a Stanley Cup Final, but the Oilers did some things early on that actually led to both power plays that generated goals. Before we had the immaculate first goal by Connor McDavid on the powerplay, we had McDavid making a great play in his own zone that led to a quick transition play forcing Dallas to take a penalty. This sequence was a nice bit of zone defence by the Oilers that led to McDavid ending up with the puck low in his zone. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is in a nice low weak-side position and McDavid gets the puck to him. He finds Zach Hyman on a stretch play and Dallas takes a penalty that led to the first powerplay goal.

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The second powerplay goal came off another nice play by the Oilers at 5v5. In this instance, the Oilers did something here that they had done routinely in the series. The weak side defenceman would activate when the puck was moving up the ice allowing the Oilers the opportunity to exit the zone more easily. In this case, watch Cody Ceci sneak out the backside with all the Stars paying attention to the strong side. Dylan Holloway’s attempted chip-in ends up loose and because Ceci was flying up ice, he was able to jump on the puck. The Stars are forced to take a penalty to prevent a high-danger scoring chance.

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So on the two plays that led to the powerplays which gave the Oilers the lead, it was sound tactical play that created the powerplays.

Defend Defend Defend

The one area where the Oilers actually were quite good was defending their zone. Now, a team doesn’t want to defend all night like the Oilers did, but they did it well. For the most part, the Oilers’ struggles all night came after good defending. Here is a clip that illustrates all of this in one sequence. Here the Oilers had a good defensive structure, keeping the Stars outside. When they finally turned the puck over, it was the Edmonton forward who failed to clear the puck despite having an easy path to do so. The puck goes back in and the Oilers try and work it out the other side. There was lots of opportunity once again here to exit, but the low Oiler forward wasn’t in a good spot to take a mid-lane pass so the puck went back up the wall. Eventually, the Oilers get the puck out.

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Here is another example without any screen tags. Was it perfect? No, but the Oilers maintained a relatively good defensive structure. They kept most shot attempts to the outside, and when emergencies happened, they sold out.

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In the end, the Oilers may have exercised some PDO karma from the early part of their season. The Oilers would lose in games where they absolutely dominated teams and whether it was bad luck or goaltending or both. Tonight, they got some retribution. The only comment I would have is the Oilers dare not live on this strategy going forward.

Notes From Game Six

Stuart Skinner was the best goalie in this series, period, full stop. He was the biggest individual reason the Oilers won game six. That’s a big deal.
The injury to Evander Kane will be a news cycle this week. Kane wasn’t brilliant, but his size and wall play will be critical against the Florida Panthers, a very strong forechecking team.
The Oilers have finally discovered Philip Broberg. He was calm and measured in his play last night. In his 13:13 of time on ice, he had the best-expected goal share of all Oilers defencemen at 48%. He was good, and I would be surprised if he came out of the line-up in the Stanley Cup Final.
The third line of Henrique-Holloway-Kane is going to be a focus. The line is very slow with the exception of Dylan Holloway. It will be a forward group the Panthers will likely look to exploit. The Panthers aren’t as deep as the Stars, but they are pretty close. It will be a challenge.
That’s it for the game six tactical review. We will be back later this week to review the Stanley Cup focusing on the Florida Panthers and their strategies on playing the game. Enjoy your week.

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