Edmonton Oilers vs. Florida Panthers Game 3: A Tactical Review

Photo credit:© Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports
Bruce Curlock
1 month ago
When the handshake line is done and the Stanley Cup is hoisted, there will be no doubt a laundry list of injuries announced by the Edmonton Oilers.
For certain, Evander Kane, Darnell Nurse, and Adam Henrique are hurting. It’s a decent bet that Leon Draisaitl, Connor McDavid, and Mattias Ekholm all have a variety of ailments. However, I don’t really think that will be the story of the series. The story will be, in part, the Florida Panthers’ execution of a game plan to perfection. As important will be the fact the Edmonton Oilers may have run out of gas. Starting 2-9-1 presents a lot of challenges to get to the playoffs. It means your best players playing heavy minutes for 70 games just to get there. It then means withstanding the rigors of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and all that it brings. For me, game three looked like the miles had finally caught up with the Edmonton Oilers. Critical mistakes happened for certain. However, those mistakes simply highlighted a team that looked for most of the night like it just didn’t have the legs left to overcome a Florida Panthers team operating at a very high level.

What Caught My Eye?

This game was much like the second one for the Edmonton Oilers. There were moments of good, but there just wasn’t enough moments to sustain a 60 minute game in the confines of their own rink. Make no mistake, they had moments and they led to good things, but there were not nearly enough of them.

The Offensive Zone

While most will focus on a couple of very critical mistakes in the defensive zone, the offensive zone work was the tell for me. The Oilers didn’t have the legs or the execution necessary to make it hard on the Florida Panthers. Watch this clip in the first period. The Oilers dumped the puck in, and the only player on the forecheck was Dylan Holloway. When we freeze frame, there is no other Oilers on screen. The Panthers have too many lanes available to exit the zone and they do so with ease.

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Here is another one where the forecheck is set-up, but the Oilers simply do not execute. Cory Perry, instead of sealing the wall on the far side tries to come inside, which leaves the entire weakside open. Ryan McLeod gets too low in the zone as F3 and then fails to rotate up quick enough. The Oilers’ strong side defenceman, Darnell Nurse, decides to pinch when really, he should not have done so given McLeod’s positioning. It leaves a massive hole in the middle of the ice and the Panthers are off to the races.

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Finally, even when the Oilers had possession of the puck, at the most critical junctures of the game, the forecheck just wasn’t there sometimes. Watch this play with Connor McDavid who switches with Brett Kulak. Kulak ends up being attacked by three Panthers and there are no Oilers forwards in support. The puck is won by the Panthers who easily beat Connor McDavid and now are off on the attack.

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Finally, let’s look at the fourth goal by the Panthers. Again, this is a breakdown in the forecheck. Warren Foegele needs to be over top of his player in a strong F3 position. Ekholm is really not aware of the situation behind him, but seeing the Panthers having control of the puck, he needs to back out quicker. He doesn’t, and Sasha Barkov takes advantage of the low F3 and the Panthers score the game winner.

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Despite the shot differential, which was 27-21 at 5v5, the high danger chances were exactly even at 8. A big part of that was the Oilers’ inability to sustain hard shifts in the Panthers’ zone most of the night. It permitted the Panthers to generate good scoring chances, but also limited the Oilers’ own chances despite having a wide time of possession margin.
Which doesn’t mean there were times it was there. It was and when it happened, it was successful. Watch Ryan McLeod on this puck support his teammates up the wall. Had he not done so, this make surely is exited by the Panthers quickly. However, McLeod gets up to the top of the zone quickly. Gets the puck and moves it low and then goes hard to the net when the wall play is won.

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In the end, there wasn’t enough plays like this and it was a big factor in the Oilers loss.

The Defensive Zone

Not to be outdone, the Oilers continued to struggle in their own zone. Let’s look at the third goal as an example of many of the issues that plagued the Oilers all wrapped up in one clip. Remarkably, the clip starts with a simple tip-in play by the Panthers. For whatever reason, Philip Broberg and Darnell Nurse simply allow the Panther forward to beat them to the puck. This despite having great position to start. Then when Broberg makes a great recovery, he outlets to Dylan Holloway, who loses the puck. Why he lost the puck relates solely to him getting too far up the ice and into the forecheck. The middle of the ice was wide open. The death knell was Darnell Nurse failing to move the puck quickly when he had a chance and being stripped. Goal.

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This happened too much all night. The entries were too easy and the exits were too hard. Again, it is not like the opportunities were not there. Here is a clip of some success exiting. The windows are tight against the Panthers, but available. Watch this work by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Evan Bouchard.

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Again, not enough of this tactic was attempted and it led to continual battles in-zone that wore the Oilers down.

Notes For Game Four

Philip Broberg continues to be a great story. Not only did he play his weak side, he did so with Darnell Nurse and was very good. Over 14 minutes at 5v5 and a 2-1 goal share. You have a top four defensman here next year.
The Oilers goal scorers in this game were Warren Foegele, Philip Broberg and Ryan McLeod. Depth scoring wasn’t the issue last night.
Stuart Skinner continues to be the second best goalie. When his team had all the momentum after tying the game, he just could not let what happened occur. Not good enough.
The team looks tired. I would expect new bodies in the line-up for Saturday.
That’s it for the game three review. See you Sunday morning.

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