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GDB +9.0: Emotionally Invested (6:30pm MT, CBC)

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Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
6 months ago
Game two was over after the first period. Edmonton led Vegas 4-0, outshot them 19-4, outhit them 14-12 and went 13-9 in the faceoff dot. The Oilers scored two power play goals, one shorthanded and one at 5×5. The Oilers smothered them offensively and defensively. It was a dominant 20 minutes, and then the Oilers played a smart defensive game and didn’t give up much. In the third period, when the game was 5-1, we saw some scrums, fights, and heightened emotions. It was a normal playoff ending when the outcome was determined.
We will see more fireworks tonight?
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“From the get go,” said Vegas head coach Bruce Cassidy when I asked him about his team playing with emotion. “When it is 5-0, a lot of that stuff happens in the playoffs, in any series. We need to get in the fight right away, in terms of puck battles, winning races, winning the slot battle, net front. All those things. That is where our emotion needs to be right from the start, not when we fall behind and do what teams like to do — establish some territory or whatever. We need to be emotionally engaged from puck drop. That’s when we are at our best.”
Vegas wants to play hard, but Cassidy said the players need to control their sticks more than their emotions.
“You have to be hard on your stick against this team,” said Cassidy. “We’ve been a very good team checking with our feet and our legs. We didn’t take a lot of penalties. Last game was the exception. We have to get back to close to game one where we had three infractions. That is reasonable and that is where were were during the year.
“We have to play hard. We have to take the body. We have to be engaged in puck battles, but avoid the stick ones (penalties). Your stick can’t get parallel in today’s game. Just use your feet. We are pretty good at that and I expect we will be again tonight.”
Brayden McNabb crosschecked Zach Hyman and Zach Whitecloud took a high-sticking minor on Derek Ryan in the first 5:40 of the game. The Oilers scored on both man advantages. Then Jack Eichel got his stick up on Hyman early in the second period. Three stick infractions in the first 22 minutes killed Vegas. In two games the Oilers have had nine power plays. They are averaging 4.5 PPO/game which is almost double Vegas’ regular season average of 2.38 times shorthanded/game.
Edmonton hopes to repeat its start tonight. The team was engaged in all three zones. They had the puck more. They hit more. They were all over Vegas. If the Oilers get an early power play they could really gain momentum. Vegas changed their PK to start the series, and it hasn’t worked.
“We had a plan we thought could work, but give them credit, they have adapted, ” said Cassidy. “They have found other outlets. They look for Hyman a lot more on the back post. They are like a quarterback and his receivers. They are pretty good at going from one, two, three, four, and finding all their outlets. That is why they function at such a high rate, they are not one-dimensional.
“For us, we have revisited it (penalty kill) three times, so we will try something else that is more suitable to us and still take away some of the outlets. That is the challenge. It was a challenge for LA and if Edmonton advances it will be a challenge for the next two (teams). Part of that is staying out of the box and there are other ways. You can limit zone time by winning draws. Entries we can be better, because McDavid is pretty tough to stop when he has space. Make sure you are 100% on your clears. We’d like to push them a little farther away from our net, but we’ll see how that plays out.”
Vegas won’t play tentative or scared. They have to be aggressive. Look for them to go after the Oilers when they have the puck, and they will try to be more responsible in how they check. As Cassidy said, check with their feet and legs, not their sticks. And if the game gets physical, the Oilers are prepared to handle it.
“Those things (scrums) don’t happen every game,” said the Oilers leading scorer Leon Draisaitl.” But we definitely have guys who will step up and answer the bell, and they probably enjoy it too (chuckles). We don’t back down from anyone.”
The Oilers have swagger offensively, defensively, and physically after their game two victory.
“I think it is a great advantage and I think it breeds confidence with every individual in the room when you have guys that will get in the trenches with you at the drop of a hat,” said Evander Kane.
Kane’s ground and pound of Keegan Kolesar instantly dialled up the intensity of the series. And his post-game quote only added fuel to the fire.
“You also don’t see a lot of guys getting jumped from behind and head locked. When you want to fuck around, sometimes you gotta find out, so that’s what happened.”
Kane loves being public enemy number one. He thrives on it, and he’s not the only one.
“When those things happen in the playoffs we feel very good about the personnel we have on the ice and on our bench to take care of those things and stand up for each other,” said Kane.
The group mentality really changed last year after Dave Manson read the riot act to his team after Kane was in a melee and none of his teammates came in right away. Ever since then, along with the additions this season of Klim Kostin and Vincent Desharnais, the Oilers are a much tougher team, and quick to defend a teammate.
“I think that was a turning point,” said Kane. “I remember that game. It was early in my tenure here, and I think just tweaking a bit of the culture of making sure everybody gets in there and you aren’t holding your stick in your hand like a flag pole. You are dropping your stick and making sure you get in there and help guys out. Ever since then, we have done a fantastic job where we are outmanning them in those type of situations.”
Edmonton is comfortable playing a fast-paced game. They are more mature and patient if the opposition (LA) wants to play a passive game and if the game gets out of hand the Oilers are comfortable standing up for themselves or their teammates.
As Draisaitl said, the melee, scrums and fights don’t happen often, and it is unlikely the game will start that way, but game two cranked up the emotion, and both teams will be looking for a good start. Play fast. Be physical. Win faceoffs and be disciplined. The latter is much more challenging when the intensity increases.

PRESENTED BY BETWAY

LINEUPS…

Oilers

Kane – McDavid – Draisaitl
RNH – Bjugstad – Hyman
Foegele – McLeod – Ryan
Kostin –  Yamamoto
Nurse – Ceci
Ekholm – Bouchard
Kulak – Desharnais
Broberg
Skinner
Mattias Janmark was on the ice today, but I’d be surprised if he plays.

Golden Knights…

Barbashev – Eichel – Marchessault
Howden – Stephenson – Stone
Smith – Karlsson – Amadio
Carrier – Roy – Kolesar
Martinez – Pietrangelo
McNabb – Theodore
Hague – Whitecloud
Brossoit
No lineup changes for Vegas either. The Oilers’ advanced scouting has clearly found an area they want to exploit on Laurent Brossoit — in close they are going five hole and shooting on his glove. Goalie coach Dustin Schwartz has been very good at exploiting tendencies of opposing goalies over the past few years. It helps when you have players with the skill to consistently shoot at the spots you want to expose. Watch for where the Oilers shoot on him, especially when they are in close.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Edmonton improves to 3-1 on home ice and the second best home record behind Carolina with a 5-3 victory.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Edmonton scores a power play goal and Draisaitl extends his point streak to nine games.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Philip Broberg picks up an assist giving all 19 skaters at least one point in the 2023 playoffs.

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