Edmonton Oilers vs. L.A. Kings Game 2: A Tactical Review

Edmonton Oilers Los Angeles Kings
Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Bruce Curlock
9 days ago
In my first article on this series, I had a clip that was a bit of a warning signal about the Edmonton Oilers game. Yes, they won 7-4, and really, it was not that close.
However, there were moments in the game where the Oilers made mistakes that the Kings could not convert into goals. Whether it was a failure to get an opportunity or Stuart Skinner foiling those opportunities, the Kings had little ability to capitalize when the Oilers made these mistakes. Well, in Game 2, the Oilers made even more of those mistakes. However, this time, the Kings did not fail to execute on their chances, and Skinner didn’t help the cause. In the end, it was a 5-4 OT loss for the Oilers and now the series is tied 1-1. On the plane ride to L.A., there will be some video to review. Let’s take a look at a few of the clips that might be shown on loop.

What Did I See?

There is no question that Stuart Skinner caused some issues for himself. Regardless of the difficulty of the shot, Skinner needed to make a couple of saves for his team. However, as an old coach used to say to me, “you can always see three mistakes on a play before you get to what the goalie failed to do.”
He was right then and he would have been right about last night.
Let’s start with the first goal. There is no question that Warren Foegele is going to get criticized for this goal. He flat-out blew the zone without any awareness of what was developing in front of him. He, for certain, is the major culprit in this goal. However, I also did not like the play by Evan Bouchard. I’ve slowed the clip down when Bouchard has the puck. Kempe (#9) is on him quickly, but Bouchard had the play in front of him. All of it. He had an opportunity to get the puck to Foegele earlier than he did, but failed. He also should have been aware of what was happening in front of him when he made the pass.

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So, while Foegele should rightly take a bunch of heat for this play, Bouchard could have helped here with a quick pass or an off-the-glass and out play.
The second goal also involved Warren Foegele and the second line. While I saw a lot of people talk about how this was either a lucky break or a highly skilled play by the Kings, I don’t think it needed to happen in the first place. As you’ll see in the clip below, the Oilers have a nice cycle going in the Kings zone. Foegele is managing the puck well, and he is able to gain a step on the Kings’ defender as he comes across the seam. He takes a quick shot, which is repelled, but then watches what happens.
Where the clip is stopped it is clear Foegele can see the Oilers have 2 players below the Kings defenders already. By default, Foegele is F3 here and he needs to stay above the puck. Instead, Foegele decided to attack the puck carrier, and he did it by taking a very bad angle on the play. His best course would have been to back out and make this a 3v3 back down the ice. Instead, the Kings get a partial 3v2 and Kempe makes a splendid play on a mid-air pass.

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Unfortunately for Foegele, he was not done there. The third goal is exactly the kind of play that highlights the downside of being overaggressive when looking to make a hit. It can take you out of the play altogether. That’s what happened here. The play starts with Doughty (#8) retrieving the puck.
Foegele takes a hard twenty-foot run at him and not only misses the hit but is also now below Doughty and not even aware of what he is doing. Watch Doughty when he sees his teammate has the puck and is going to advance it up the wall. He is gone like a bolt-up ice. Then Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who is admittedly in a tough spot here, fails to see Doughty coming. As the F3, his job here is to skate through the middle of the ice hard to take away any cross-ice plays.  He was too late in his awareness and Doughty was gone.

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Like the other two goals, this one involved the Oilers being overly aggressive in situations where they either did not have to be or should not have been. On this night, the Kings made them pay.
The last goal of the night also merits some scrutiny. I heard a lot of discussion of it being a bad bounce. No question, it ended up being bad luck, really, but there was a mistake in the 1-2-2 neutral zone of the Oilers that led to this chance. As the clip starts below, you can see the Oilers get into a good 1-2-2 set-up. Ceci (#5) or the D1 has the license to attack the puck if it comes up the wall, which he does here.
That means, without a doubt, D2 — Darnell Nurse — needs to play a softer gap and in the middle of the ice. It also means F3 needs to be harder back through the middle of the ice to help D2. Kane was F3 and didn’t do that, but it would not have changed the course of this play. For certain, Nurse played this too wide. He needed to surf to the middle of the ice because that was where the trouble was when his partner pinched up. I marked that with an X in the clip. It’s only five feet, but it makes a world of difference in the 1-2-2. Instead, he plays the weakside dot and allows the Kings player to get inside of him.

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Was it a bad break? No question. However, there was a spot where Nurse could have been in a better position in this play, and it likely did not happen. The end result is an overtime winner and a journey back to LA tied at one.

Other Notes

After Game 1, I discussed whether the third line of Kane-McLeod-Perry would hold up. They weren’t fantastic tonight in transition, but they held up well for the most part. The line is really quite strong when the puck is on the walls in all three zones. However, I still wonder if the line might be broken up—not because of their play but because of the play of the second line.
The Draisaitl line is fast becoming an issue. In two games, they are 1-4 in goals at 5v5 with last night being a dreadful performance. Knoblauch seems to be ok with the match against the Kopitar line, but that line has had its way. With the team headed to L.A., where the Kings will have the last change, I am sure the Kings’ staff will continue to chase this match-up. If last night’s play continues, I wonder whether Ryan McLeod gets a turn on that line with Henrique sliding to 3C and Nugent-Hopkins playing on the top line. Probably too soon to react, but the leash might be short in game three for this second line.
Shout-out to Dylan Holloway for making the most of his chances. He now has seven points in his last eight games and looks to be finding his way. I would expect Holloway to stay put on that fourth line to see if he can continue to make some hay against the Kings.
Finally, Skinner was not very good tonight. He needed to make some saves to bail his team out, but he did not. I’d expect better in game three. Pickard is not an option for this team. You ride or die with Skinner.
That’s it for the game two review. See you after game three in LA.

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