G5 Game Notes: Kings and Oilers Finding Goalie Weaknesses?

Photo credit:Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
1 year ago
For the second year in a row, it is now a best-of-three between the Edmonton Oilers and LA Kings.
Three of the first four games needed overtime.
Edmonton has 14 goals (one empty net goal) and the Kings have 13.
Neither team has been able to win two games in a row. The first four games have been tight.
— Yesterday, we discussed how often a three-goal comeback victory leads to a series win. Teams are 46-17 (after Toronto’s comeback last night) and the Oilers are 4-0. The Kings are 0-2 in series when they blow a three-goal lead.
— With three assists on Sunday Connor McDavid boosted his career playoff totals to 23-38-61 in 41 games. He became the sixth player in NHL history to reach 60 career postseason points in 41 or fewer games, joining Wayne Gretzky (26 GP), Mario Lemieux (34), Leon Draisaitl (38), Peter Stastny (40) and Joe Sakic (41).
— Draisaitl sits two points shy of 70 career points in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with 23 goals and 68 points in 41 games. He is poised to become the third-fastest player in NHL history to reach 70 playoff points. Gretzky (29 GP) and Lemieux (36) were quicker. Jari Kurri (49GP) is the only other player to score 70 points in fewer than 50 games.
— Who will Jay Woodcroft start in goal? Stuart Skinner has started all four games. He’s been good, but not great. Jack Campbell was excellent in his 50 minutes of relief in game four. Skinner was their guy down the stretch and into the playoffs. I asked Kevin Woodley from In Goal Magazine his thoughts on what he’s seen from them.
“At the beginning, it wasn’t pretty for Campbell,” said Woodley. “The first couple minutes, the first couple of saves, the first couple of sequences I was like ‘Does he know where the puck is at all?’ But he got away with a couple, he looked more like he was doing a front stroke as opposed to goaltending for a little bit there, but that’s a tough spot to be thrown into.
“I thought he settled as the game went on and some of the high blocker looks that he tracked down nicely, and sort of kept everything up high and built his high coverage. I liked how he was retreating. He was holding edges at the top of the blue paint, or just inside the top of the paint. There were things to like there. The question becomes, is this what we can count on with Jack Campbell, or was this ‘Jack didn’t have time to spend all day thinking about this one, we threw him in, we erased all the mental game and psychological pressure points, and expectations?’
“Expectations are probably the biggest one, something that he at times has struggled to deal with in his career. If you really believe that you can get a repeat performance, I would be tempted to start Campbell, because we’ve seen now in three games and a period of Skinner, and he hasn’t been bad, but he hasn’t been as good as he was down the stretch. His numbers are all on the negative side (expected saves). This is the time of the year when teams go to school on certain things, and there’s some moments there in terms of the way they are getting him to go across the crease, that has looked a little uncharacteristic. I would understand both decisions I guess is what I’m saying.
“The likelihood of implosion, based on their play this season, seems higher with Campbell, and yet Skinner now through three plus a period, not being able to match even what he did late in the season makes me wonder if we need another look. They don’t need exceptional to win, but right now with their starter they have been getting below expected [save %]. They might need more than that against this Kings team. Do you get more out of Campbell in terms of some of the spectacular? Are you willing to live with the risk of implosion? How much do they believe in the last two and a half periods they saw? I don’t have the answer. I’m fascinated to see which way they go.”
— The challenge in any lineup decision for a head coach is you must look at all sides, and then there is the challenge of recency bias. Campbell was better in game four, no question, but Skinner was better down the stretch. The saying “Go with who got you to the dance,” is real and accurate. I can see the argument for either, but I’d go with Skinner to start game five. Who would you start?
— Woodcroft and Dave Manson also need to decide who will be the third pair right D-man. They will likely dress seven defenders, and Vincent Desharnais and Philip Broberg will battle for those minutes. Desharnais had a tough game four and didn’t play a shift after the 31 minute mark. Broberg took his spot, but then he didn’t play in overtime. Game six isn’t until Saturday. If the Oilers want to lean on five D-men they could. Brett Kulak has been excellent all series. Going with five defenders for much of the game wouldn’t surprise me.
— LA relied heavily on their top-four defenders in game four. Alex Edler and Sean Durzi played nine and 12 minutes respectively. Neither got a shift in the final 10 minutes. Edler had one shift in OT and Durzi had two, but they weren’t together. If tonight’s game is close in the third period, I could see LA running their top four, while the Oilers go with five.
— The Oilers clearly have a scouting report on Joonas Korpisalo. They want to go high, especially when shooting off the rush. I asked Woodley if he’s noticed any area of weakness in Korpisalo’s game.
“The one thing I can’t figure out about Hyman’s goal is why Doughty sticks his stick out which just kills us as goaltenders,” said Woodley. “On a clear shot down the wing, let the goalie have that as opposed to the risk of it ramping. I can’t tell if it did or not, or if he took eyes off the release, but there is something to Korpisalo’s retreat in terms of shots off the rush from distance.
“He tends to comeback flat; he doesn’t rotate into angle as plays come down the wing. When you stay square and move on an angle and sort of rotate with little shuffles as you come down the angle you protect the backside shoulder. However, if you come back in a straight line, or flat as I call it — which is sort of staying parallel to the goal line — as a goalie does that, and the play comes down the wing, you lose squareness to the shooter. That backside tends to get left behind.
“If the shooter is coming down the left wing on the blocker side, you’re not bringing that left shoulder with you, you’re not continuing to stay on angle and so we’ve seen a couple goals far side off the rush — not Hyman’s, but a couple far side off the rush, one with a bit of a screen but under the glove, over the pad. That is where a goalie is vulnerable on those chances. 
“And the other part of not staying square is, that’s when pucks tend to go through you. When you’re not square to them, you are off angle, and the players tend to find those seems and trickle through more often and we saw that on Hyman’s OT goal. As much as you would normally say, ‘shots from distance off the rush, why bother?’ there is an element to Korpisalo’s retreat in terms of not maintaining squareness, it can leave him vulnerable to well-placed shots, especially against the grain or to the far side just because you lose that angle on that side in particular.”
— The deeper you go in a series, the more video you have for your goalie and team, but also the more video the opposing team has on you. Evander Kane’s tying goal, and Hyman’s OT winner were both off the rush. Kane went far side, while Hyman’s shot seemed to go right through Korpisalo. Woodley pointed out how the Kings are attacking Skinner across the crease, while the Oilers are attacking Korpisalo upstairs. Watch and see if that continues tonight.
— The return of Kevin Fiala to the Kings’ lineup makes their third line very dangerous. He and Gabe Vilardi both had 23 goals in the regular season, while Alex Iafallo had 14 goals in 59 games. They are creative offensively. The trio of Warren Foegele, Ryan McLeod and Derek Ryan played 4:04 together in game four and they outshot LA 8-0. Nick Bjugstad rotated in with those three as Edmonton basically played 10 forwards for much of the game. Klim Kostin played 3:37 and none after the 31 minute-mark. The Foegele-McLeod-Ryan-Bjugstad combinations were very solid against LA’s third line, and any line in fact.
I’ve seen some suggesting Kailer Yamamoto should drop down the lineup and Foegele should go up. I understand the thought process, but I’d keep Foegele on the third line as he and McLeod have played well together, and when Bjugstad and Ryan are with them, or McLeod is off, they are able to handle the size and speed of the Kings third line.
— Yamamoto won’t come out of the lineup for Dylan Holloway. If the coaches consider bringing him in, my guess is it would be for Kostin. He’s played the fewest minutes. You could start Holloway on the fourth line and if he looks good, then you could consider swapping him and Yamamoto. You could play Holloway-RNH-Hyman as a trio and load up Kane-McDavid-Draisaitl. Yamamoto’s decision to stop skating and let Vilardi go unchecked to the net, where he scored the opening goal in game four, wasn’t good. Yamamoto needs to skate with him right to the goal. Coaches rarely bench a player for one mistake. They don’t want players playing scared to make a mistake, because that’s when they usually make more. Yamamoto’s effort is usually not an issue. He’s a smart player. He’s willingness to forecheck and be involved is usually on, but his lack of size does present a challenge.
Right now, I see Yamamoto similar to Quinton Byfield in the Kings’ top six. Neither produces much offence, but Edmonton’s top six doesn’t need more offence. I think the third line needs to remain strong, due to who they are matching up against. The recall of Holloway does put pressure on Yamamoto to do more, and if he doesn’t, then Woodcroft has to consider a change.
— Edmonton is 6-for-11 on the power play and the Kings are 5-for-17. Here’s an update on PP chances by series:
BOS (14) – FLA (11) and PPG 4-1
TOR (17) – TB (17) and PPG 6-5
CAR (19) – NYI (12) and PPG 5-1
NYR (18) – NJ (13) and PPG 4-2
MIN (17) – DAL (16) and PPG 4-7
SEA (16) – COL (10) and PPG 3-1
LVK (14) – WPG (12) and PPG 2-5
LA (17) – EDM (11) and PPG 5-6
The Islanders’ PP is costing them the series. They have outscored Carolina 9-6 at 5×5, but their PP, which was 30th in the regular season, continues to be awful. Meanwhile, Colorado’s PP which was sixth (24.5%) in the regular season is only 10% through four games. Seattle’s penalty kill is keeping them in the series, which is a bit of a surprise because it was 21st in the regular season.
Edmonton’s power play continues to be lethal. Edmonton and LA each had seven power plays over the two games in LA and both teams scored three power play goals. In the series, the Oilers and Kings are even in goals at 5×5 with seven apiece and eight each at even strength. The series might come down to which penalty kill is the best over the final three games.


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