Four key takeaways from Oilers’ wins in L.A. in Games 3 and 4

Edmonton Oilers Stuart Skinner
Photo credit:Yannick Peterhans-USA TODAY Sports
Sean Panganiban
4 days ago
The Edmonton Oilers are in the driver’s seat heading into Game 5 with a 3-1 series lead over the Los Angeles Kings.
Edmonton pulled off back-to-back wins in L. A and they did it in two different ways. In Game 3 they put on a goal-scoring spectacle, putting six past Cam Talbot, that had Oil Country excited as if they were at Will Ferrell’s Catalina Wine Mixer, while in Game 4, they showed their maturity by grinding out a low-scoring affair.
With that in mind, let’s uncover a few takeaways from the Oilers’ efforts in Games 3 and 4 in L.A.

Playoff Evander Kane Has Emerged

In the last article I wrote before Game 3, I mentioned keeping an eye out for Evander Kane’s name to start appearing on the scoresheet. His underlying numbers from Games 1 and 2 were trending in the right direction, and his hard work earned him a promotion to the second line in Games 3 and 4.
The 32-year-old is a rare unicorn in the NHL—when he’s at the top of his game, he can score, make plays, lay heavy checks, and when the situation calls for it, he isn’t afraid to throw punches. In Game 3, he checked all of those boxes. He earned a nice assist on a drop pass on Leon Draisaitl’s tally, scored a goal off a deflection, and became only the third player in Oilers history to complete a playoff Gordie Howe hat trick when he dropped the gloves with Andreas Englund, after a big hit.
In Game 4, the Oilers’ offence as a whole was minimal, with only 13 shots on net, but Kane still had a strong outing. He blasted a hard shot in the first period, which led to a scramble, and he laid a heavy hit on Drew Doughty, who appeared to be winching in pain thereafter. Also, it’s interesting to note that he was the third man on a line with Connor McDavid, and Draisaitl in the last minute of the first period, instead of the usual Zach Hyman, indicating Kris Knoblauch’s growing trust in him.
Moreover, with his big performance in Game 3, he even earned praise from Wayne Gretzky, having said:
“If he’s able to get to that level and play like he can play, they’re going to be a tough out, because that gives them a lot more depth and as you know, he’s a hard guy to play against. He’s heavy, he’s fast, he’s strong and for a big man, he’s got good hands.”
That said, it was easy to count out Kane when he hadn’t found the back of the net during a 21-game lull in the regular season. However, in the playoffs, he’s expected to rise to the occasion, and so far, he’s doing exactly that.

Oilers’ Special Teams Dominated

The Oilers’ special teams are crushing it so far in the series. Their power play went 4/8 combined in Games 3 and 4 and they also went 6/6 on their penalty kill. Overall, in the series, the Oilers are 8/15 on their power play and 11/11 on their penalty kill, ranking first in the playoffs in both categories at the time of this writing.
Edmonton’s first unit power play has stuck to their usual playbook for scoring throughout the regular season, but they’ve implemented some new plays that have resulted in goals this postseason. That said, how many times have you shouted for the Oilers to ditch the fancy stuff and just drive the puck to the net on the power play? Well, in Game 3, the captain did just that. Instead of the routine highlight reel goal, McDavid simply crashed the crease and jammed away at it until the puck crossed the line in the first period.
In addition, Edmonton’s 100% penalty-killing success can be attributed to great stickwork from their PK units, winning board battles, effective clears and big saves from Stuart Skinner. That said, defenceman Vincent Desharnais deserves some praise for a job well done on the PK as well. The hulking blueliner logged the most shorthanded minutes out of any Oiler, totalling 12:37 minutes combined in both games in L.A. He did a great job of getting his stick in lanes and disrupting passes and made some big blocks, including one on Viktor Arvidsson in the dying minutes of Game 4.

Stuart Skinner Stole the Show

For some, it likely felt like the sky was falling when Skinner let in five goals in Game 2 in the overtime loss. On that note, I wrote in the last takeaways piece that he’s shown the ability to bounce back throughout the season, and he was likely going to be more dialled in, in L.A., and indeed, he was.
In Game 3 he stopped 27 of 28 shots and posted a .964 save percentage (SV%), including a big one in the second period on his nemesis Adrian Kempe, who potted two on him in Game 2. In Game 4, the Oilers’ netminder was brilliant in the opening minutes, weathering the Kings’ storm early with key saves. He continued his brilliance throughout the game with a calm demeanour and earned his first career NHL shutout.
He stopped 33 shots in what was likely his best game as an Oiler and Money Puck shows that the Kings’ ‘deserve to win’ meter was 78% and with three goals saved above expected, it suggests that Skinner stole Game 4 for his team.
With the way Skinner rebounded in both games in L.A., after letting in nine goals in the first two games, moving forward, if he has a bad game, take a deep breath. Bad games will occur because NHL goaltenders are human after all, but Skinner has shown his resilience to bounce back throughout the season and he may very well be maturing right in front of our eyes.

Oilers Are Stepping Out of Their Comfort Zone

Before the playoffs began, I emphasized the importance of Evan Bouchard stepping out of his ‘calm and collected’ comfort zone for him to evolve as a defenceman and in Games 3 and 4, he and some of his teammates did just that.
For Bouchard, breaking out of his comfort zone meant not shying away from physicality in the corners, as an NHL executive alluded to him making soft plays in that area. In Game 3, the Oilers’ D-man took a step forward in this regard. The puck went into his corner, he went after it and made a play around the boards, and seconds later, the 225-pound Pierre-Luc Dubois threw a heavy check on him.
Moments later, a scrum ensued, and out of the pile, Bouchard and Dubois emerged as dance partners. The blueliner stood his ground and took the Kings’ forward down to the ice, showing him that he was not going to be pushed around.
Another player I noticed stepping beyond his comfort zone was Ryan McLeod. With Game 3 out of reach, the centerman threw a slight punch at Blake Lizotte in a scrum. While it earned an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, it also showed that he’s not afraid to get his hands dirty in the rough stuff. Additionally, in Game 4, he made a huge block in the second period. He stepped in front of Jordan Spence’s slap shot, which shattered his stick, but ultimately led to the puck being deflected out of the zone.
Or how about Draisaitl? In Game 3, he became the fastest player in NHL history to score 20 playoff road goals, achieving the feat in 26 games. Yet, he stepped out of his comfort zone in a big way when he dropped to one knee to block a Kempe shot with only three seconds remaining in Game 4. That particular play was significant, as it can have a ripple effect because when a team leader is willing to sacrifice his body, it sets an example for the rest of his teammates to follow.
Overall, if Skinner continues to shine, and the special teams maintain their position at the top of the NHL, as well as several Oilers going the extra mile to grind out wins, with McDavid steering the ship, that’s a recipe for being a very big threat moving forward in the playoffs.
With that in mind, what takeaways stood out to you most in Games 3 and 4?

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