G17+ Game Notes: No Lead is safe for Oilers or Stars

Edmonton Oilers Dallas Stars
Photo credit:Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
21 days ago
Holding onto a lead has been very difficult for both the Edmonton Oilers and Dallas Stars through four games. The Oilers held the lead for 35:35 in Game 1, never had it in Game 2, were ahead for 25:03 in Game 3, and after Mattias Janmark scored shorthanded, they held the lead for the final 25:29 of Game 4.
Dallas never led in Game 1, had a short 44-second lead early in Game 2, and then held on for the final 16:19 after Mason Marchment scored. They had two different stints under 10 minutes holding the lead in Game 3, and after jumping out to a 2-0 lead in Game 4, they led for a total of 15:19.
In the series, Edmonton has held the lead for 87:11, while Dallas has been in front for 50:27. We’ve seen blown 2-0 leads three times in four games.
— Edmonton blew a 2-0 lead in Game 3 and lost, and Dallas returned the favour in Game 4. The Oilers also saw a 2-0 lead evaporate in Game 1, but they won 3-2 in overtime. Both teams have shown an ability to overcome two-goal deficits or the inability to hold onto a two-goal lead. It depends if you opt for the glass-half-full or glass-half-empty analogy. It has been fantastic theatre and drama for viewers, but I’m sure the players and coaches would prefer to see their teams manage a two-goal lead better.
— In the regular season Dallas had the second-best winning percentage when allowing the first goal while the Oilers were sixth best. So maybe we shouldn’t be shocked both teams have been able to overcome two-goal deficits.
— Edmonton has scored first in 12 of its 16 playoff games thus far. Scoring first in 75% of their games is great. Dallas has scored first in 58.8% of its games, while the New York Rangers are at 53.3% and Florida is at 50%. Edmonton has been the best of the four remaining teams, by a significant margin. They are 8-4 when scoring first, Dallas is 6-4, New York is 5-3 and Florida (6-2) has the best winning percentage at 75%. Edmonton isn’t bad at 66.7%.
— I argued before the series that Dallas didn’t have the significant depth advantage that many were suggesting, and through four games that has played out. Dallas has five forwards with goals and nine with at least one point. They have five forwards with 2+ points. Edmonton has seven forwards with a goal, 1o with one point and five with 2+ points.
— Dallas’ blue line depth could be put to the test if Chris Tanev can’t play tonight. Evander Kane shot’s midway through the second period hit Tanev’s right foot and he was in discomfort immediately. He left the game and didn’t return. He was seen leaving Rogers Place in a walking boot, and then an aware Oilers fan snapped a photo of him at the airport in the walking boot.
If Tanev can’t play, then Ryan Suter likely moves into the top-four. If Tanev does play, it will be interesting to see the injury impacts him and the minutes of their top-five defenders.
— Both penalty kill units have been perfect thus far, and both have dominated in the faceoff dot. Edmonton has won 14 of 22 faceoffs (63.3%) on the penalty kill, while Dallas has won 6 of 10 faceoffs (60%). Both teams have one less player on the ice and are taking the faceoff on the side the power play wants, yet both killing teams are doing great in the circles. The Oilers won 67.6% of their PP draws in round one v. LA and had a 45% success rate on the power play. Edmonton won 52.4% of their draws v. Vancouver in round two and the PP was 30%. For Edmonton faceoff success leads to more zone time and allows them to run set plays off of faceoff wins.
Edmonton has only had six power plays thus far while Dallas has had nine. Neither PP has been able to get in a rhythm, or get a lot of puck touches, which also a factor. But credit both PK units — they are winning faceoffs and have been great at stopping zone entries and forcing the PP to regroup.
— Edmonton has killed off 23 consecutive power plays dating back to the Vancouver series. It is the eighth-longest streak in playoff history.
2000-01St. Louis Blues348
2020-21Montreal Canadiens3213
1999-00New Jersey Devils3210
2002-03Ottawa Senators319
2012-13Chicago Blackhawks308
1988-89Montreal Canadiens288
2013-14New York Rangers278
2023-24 Edmonton Oilers238
The GP represents consecutive games without allowing a PP goal. St. Louis, for instance, killed off 32 power plays in eight games, then killed off the first PP in the ninth game before allowing a PP goal. So, their GP streak is eight games, but their consecutive kill streak is 34.
— With three assists last game, Connor McDavid now has 24. Only 10 times in NHL history has a player produced 25 assists in a playoff, and five of those were by an Edmonton Oiler. Wayne Gretzky did it four times and holds the top-three totals with 31, 30 and 29 assists. He also had 26. Leon Draisaitl and Paul Coffey each had 25. Mario Lemieux (28), Nikita Kucherov (27), Doug Gilmour (25) and Gretzky had 25 with LA. If the Oilers win this series, McDavid will have a good chance to chase the all-time assist record in one year.
— File this under the “Did you know?” column. Edmonton has now won four or more games in a single postseason to at least tie a series in consecutive years – a feat no other team in NHL history has accomplished. I’ll admit I’m surprised it has never happened before.
— Kevin Bieksa’s “Meat” comment got a lot of play online. Not surprising, because most of social media feasts on negativity. I like Bieksa as an analyst. He’s quite good, but the most comical part about his lame cheap shot was how factually incorrect it was. He claimed Nurse had to come to the rink and answer questions about his +/-. False. The questions Nurse decided to be short and curt with revolved around being asked about Philip Broberg and then about the Oilers’ ability as a team to bounce back and win games (as outlined in the previous bullet point). None of those questions were about him or remotely difficult. Bieksa opted to blame the media and try to deflect away from what actually happened on the ice.
Nurse chose to be frustrated and short with his answers, which is his right. But to excuse those actions and try to suggest he was being pestered are counter to a winning attitude. Nurse had struggled up to that point this post-season — anyone could see it — but he responded with his best game of the playoffs in Game 4. He was a beast all over the ice. He used his elite speed to pressure Dallas forwards. He didn’t back in, he was aggressive, and he was very physical. He was engaged.
— Nurse finished the game with 12 hits, three blocked shots and an assist. In the seven-game series vs. Vancouver he had a total of 11 hits. Any suggestion Nurse had been playing up to his potential, or that he shouldn’t be asked about it, is laughable. Stuart Skinner has no issue speaking about a subpar performance. He owns it. He mentions he will learn from it and moves on. He’s been solid since returning to the lineup. I didn’t hear Bieksa or anyone else say it was unreasonable for Skinner to talk about his play. And Skinner was healthy scratched when he spoke.
I’ve been quite supportive of Nurse over the years. He’s had some very good seasons. He was excellent for the first three months after Kris Knoblauch and Paul Coffey arrived, but then struggled after the All-Star break. And he hadn’t been consistent enough up until Game 4. I don’t see that as unreasonable.
— Compare Bieksa’s reaction to that of six-time Stanley Cup champion, Mark Messier, when he was asked about Nurse.
“You have to have an unwavering belief in yourself because it is hard,” said Messier. “It is hard to be a winner, to be a Stanley Cup champion. For me, the most important thing is that the players believed in me. The reason why they believed in me is because they saw the effort that was put in during the year. They saw the work ethic on and off the ice to focus, the dedication to the game. We all look at each other because we’re all on this journey together.
“If someone is struggling, we’re trying to pick him up and help him out. For Darnell Nurse, there’s nowhere to hide. All you can do is get out there and give your best. You have to be conscious enough to understand why you’re not playing well and be willing to change your game at this time of year and what you can do better.” Very different viewpoints from a former player who played in seven Stanley Cup Finals and won six Stanley Cups compared to a player who won seven playoff series in his entire career.
Messier focused on Nurse needing to help himself, and he did in Game 4. I mentioned before the playoffs began that I felt Nurse was going to be the reason the Oilers win the Cup. Many asked why. My reasoning was I expected the Oilers’ top pair of Mattias Ekholm and Evan Bouchard to play well, like they have all year. Granted, I didn’t expect Bouchard to be this dominant. He’s really elevated his play. The Oilers’ superstars were going to be great, and they have been. We all expected it, but for Edmonton to go deep I felt they would need Nurse to be a difference maker, because Ekholm and Bouchard only play just over 1/3 of the game. Edmonton would need another defender to step up and be a difference maker, and Nurse has the most talent. He needs to use his speed, size and strength like he did in Game 4, and bring that game the rest of the playoffs.
If he does, the Oilers’ odds of winning increase significantly.


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