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G6+ Game Notes: Oilers and Canucks…LFG

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Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
1 month ago
After a 32-year hiatus the Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks will once again meet in the NHL playoffs. For both fanbases, let’s hope you don’t have to wait until 2056 to see it again.
— The Oilers haven’t played since last Wednesday, while the Canucks finished their series last Friday. Fatigue won’t be a factor this series, and with both teams having six and four days off since their last games, I don’t see how inactivity will be a disadvantage for either team. It’s the playoffs. Both teams will be ready and thankfully we shouldn’t have to read or hear about their meaningless regular season matchups again. They happened six months ago. It means nothing. Ask the Winnipeg Jets.
— Each team has a game plan. The Canucks are not the offensive team we saw early in the season. They’ve altered their style during the season and have focused more on being sound defensively than being an offensive juggernaut. Will they be able to slow down the Oilers’ offence?
— The Oilers averaged the second-most goals in the opening round at 4.4 goals/game. Vancouver allowed the third-fewest goals against at 2.00 per game.  The Oilers allowed 2.6 goals against/game, while Vancouver only scored 2.17 goals/game. Many are looking at this series as the Oilers’ offence v. the Canucks’ defence, and on the surface it makes sense, but Edmonton isn’t just an offensive team. They have improved significantly in lowering their goals against.
— Your overall GA will be lower when the penalty kill is perfect, like Edmonton was going 12-for-12 v. LA. Vancouver has a more dynamic PP than LA, even though their regular season success was virtually identical with Vancouver’s at 22.7% and LA’s at 22.6%. But Quinn Hughes is more offensively gifted than Drew Doughty, so look for the Canucks’ man advantage to offer a bigger challenge to Edmonton’s penalty kill. Edmonton’s forwards will have to be aware of Hughes and limit his ability to get pucks on net, while also sliding accurate passes to Elias Pettersson.
— The Oilers scored nine power play goals in 26:57 of PP time (20 opportunities) in the opening round, and also scored twice within three seconds of a powerplay expiring. Their power play is deadly, and if Vancouver continues to take penalties at the rate they did in the regular season (10th most) and in the playoffs (Nashville had the most PP chances of any team in the opening round), then this will be a short series. Shutting down the Oilers’ power play is very difficult. Expect the Canucks to pressure Edmonton but look for the Oilers to make more plays from behind the net. We saw them use the net more in the opening round and I expect we will see them continue to do so in round two. What makes the Oilers’ PP so dangerous is that if a team tries to take away one set play, the Oilers will unveil another. They don’t get stagnant, and their best weapon is their ability to adlib off of broken plays. No team is better at being creative off of unexpected bounces.
— Vancouver scored two power play goals in 21:16 of PP time (13 chances). They only managed 10 shots on goal, while the Oilers had 44 in their 26:57. Vancouver struggled finding shooting lanes, and even when they had one, they were hesitant to shoot. The Oilers’ penalty kill will want to mirror what Nashville did and pressure the Canucks. The Canucks won 18 of 25 faceoffs on the man advantage but were unable to build off of having puck possession. Leon Draisaitl went 18-8 on PP faceoffs, while Adam Henrique was 3-0 and Ryan McLeod and Connor McDavid each went 2-2. The Oilers’ top unit was 20-10 on draws, and, unlike Vancouver, they turned faceoff wins into goals.
— JT Miller was 6-0 on PP faceoffs, while Elias Lindholm went 6-4. Miller, Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser and Quinn Hughes make up 80% of their first unit. Conor Garland played 8:39 of PP time with them, while Elias Lindholm was on for 6:31. Both of Vancouver’s PP goals came with Lindholm on with those four. I wonder if we see more of him to start with that top unit.
— The Oilers only averaged 56.2 shot attempts/game in round one. That ranked 13th (they were fourth of 32 teams in regular season), while Vancouver was 14th at 53.3 shot attempts (they were 23rd in the regular season). However, Edmonton made sure they got shots from the dangerous areas. They were seventh in shots on goal at 30.6, while Vancouver was dead last (16th) at 24.3. The Oilers ranked fourth in slot shots (14.2) and inner slot shots (7.4), while the Canucks were 15th in both with 8.8 slot shots and 4.5 inner slot shots per game. If Vancouver wants to score more, they will need to get to the hard areas.
— Vancouver was excellent at limiting Nashville’s shot attempts in round one. They ranked first in shot attempts against and were third in inner slot shots and fourth in slot shots against. The Oilers led the NHL in inner slot shots in the regular season and were second in slot shots. It might be too simplistic to say, but I think it will be the matchup to watch — this series will be decided on if Vancouver can limit Edmonton’s shots from the slot. The majority of goals come from there and while LA was able to limit Edmonton’s overall shot attempts, they weren’t able to stop them from penetrating the slot.
— Edmonton has a big advantage in playoff experience. Corey Perry is now 20th all time in playoff games played at 201. If Edmonton wins this series and Perry remains healthy, he will pass Wayne Gretzky and Jaromir Jagr (208 GP), Marian Hossa (205), Scott Niedermayer (202) and Brett Hull (202) and sit 15th. After Perry, the Oilers have another 11 players with at least 50 playoff games played: Mattias Ekholm (92), Mattias Janmark (71), Cody Ceci (69), Zach Hyman (65), Warren Foegele (63), Evander Kane (61), Brett Kulak (56), Leon Draisaitl (54), Connor McDavid (54), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (54) and Darnell Nurse (52). They also have Derek Ryan (43), Ryan McLeod (37), Adam Henrique (33), Evan Bouchard (33) with more than 30 games of NHL experience.
— Vancouver has four players with 50+ games played in Ian Cole (122 GP), JT Miller (84), Tyler Myers (54) and Nikita Zadorov (51). And they have two others above 30 games in Elias Lindholm (33) and Carson Soucy (32).
— Adam Henrique hasn’t skated since getting injured in game five v. LA. He won’t play tonight, and Janmark will start the game on McDavid’s left wing. However, don’t expect him to play there every shift. Head coach Kris Knoblauch stated they don’t have one winger who can replace Henrique, so it will be by committee. Look for Dylan Holloway and Warren Foegele to get a shift of two. We know Draisaitl will play with McDavid and Hyman in the first shift after a Vancouver power play, but Draisaitl and McDavid only played 8:54 together at 5×5 in round one. But they outscored opponents 3-0 (two of those goals came seconds after the power play expired). McDavid logged 71:52 away from Draisaitl against LA, and unless the Oilers are trailing, I don’t see Knoblauch loading them up together too frequently this series.

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