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Game Notes R3G2: Oilers Need to Make Adjustments

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Photo credit:Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
5 months ago
Game one of the 2022 Stanley Cup playoffs hasn’t been kind to the Edmonton Oilers. They are 0-3 and have been outscored 21-15, and the score in the series openers v. Calgary (9-6) and Colorado (8-6) flattered Edmonton. As bad as they’ve been in game ones, they’ve been able to make adjustments and rebound with solid efforts in game two. Can they do it against a deeper Colorado team?
— Edmonton has shown a strong ability to bounce back after a poor performance. After an awful game one performance in Calgary Jay Woodcroft described what happened: “Heading into the next game we had a hard meeting, a very hard meeting about what was going to be required to win a game. And that’s where our outlook goes, it’s not on the series as a whole, it’s about taking care of that day’s business, but specifically, the things that are going to be required to win a game.”
They likely had a similar meeting yesterday. There were two things that stood out to me in the game one loss.
— Edmonton’s structure wasn’t very good all over the ice. They allowed Colorado to exit the defensive with control far too easily, and then the issues grew as the Avalanche were able to skate through the neutral zone with speed unimpeded too often. The Avalanche entered the Oilers zone with control, and speed, far too often.
Colorado had 47 controlled entries, while the Oilers only had 29. Not only did Edmonton allow more than they’d like, they had their lowest total of controlled zone entries of the playoffs. Edmonton allowed the Avs to gain speed and control through the neutral zone, while the Avs did a good job of containing the Oilers rush.
— It was reflected in scoring chances off the rush. @Connor McDavid, @Leon Draisaitl, @Zach Hyman, @Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and @Kailer Yamamoto had none.
@Evander Kane (goal) and @Zack Kassian (breakaway) had the other chances off the rush. It was great for the Oilers’ bottom six to combine for four scoring chances off the rush, but the top six will need to be better on the attack tonight.
— Colorado did a good job of limiting the Oilers’ speed. “I liked our checking game, for the most part,” said Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar. “I thought we were unfortunate on a couple plays tonight. We did a nice job against the rush tonight, kept playing the third period, and felt like when we did make mistakes they capitalized on them. Obviously, we have to make less mistakes, but we did get unfortunate on a couple goals in my opinion.”
Clearly, the game plan for the Avalanche was to slow down the Oilers’ top two lines off the rush, and they did. Edmonton will need to counter that tonight, and much of it will start with winning more 50/50 puck battles, and moving their feet more.
— The Makar-Toews pairing did a good job of stifling the McDavid line. When they were on the ice against McDavid and Draisaitl the shots were 12-3, shots from the slot were 6-1 and rush chances were 4-0 in favour of Colorado. It was only one game, but Colorado got the matchup they wanted and they won that matchup. How will Woodcroft and the Oilers counter? I sense Woodcroft believes in his players, and will give them a chance to rebound, but if that matchup continues to favour the Avalanche heavily through the first period tonight, I wonder if Woodcroft splits up his top duo. I’d be a bit surprised if he did it to start the game, but he’s shown he isn’t afraid to alter lines or combinations in game.
— @Darnell Nurse’s injury (core muscle or hip) is clearly impacting his ability to play how he wants. He isn’t as fast as he usually is, and he seems slower when pivoting. Maybe it was more noticeable because the Avalanche were allowed to enter with speed, but it is something the Oilers have to monitor. You could swap Nurse and Brett Kulak. Kulak and Ceci will take the Nathan MacKinnon matchup, while Nurse can play with Tyson Barrie. Barrie and Kulak have played well, and a switch might benefit the Oilers as Nurse’s injury is clearly limiting him in specific situations.
— The positive for the Oilers offensively was they generated four goals, five if you include Nugent-Hopkins PP goal, that didn’t come directly off the rush. Hyman’s goal came off a cycle, McDavid’s started off a face off and then Kane keeping the puck in at the blue line. Derek Ryan’s goal was off a cycle, while Ryan McLeod knocked home a rebound on a play that wasn’t a high speed zone entry. Much of Edmonton’s offence comes off the rush, and Colorado did a good job limiting that, but Edmonton did find other ways to score. Their strength is producing off the rush, and I expect McDavid to generate more tonight. I don’t expect Edmonton to suddenly become a dominant team off the cycle, but it was an area where they were able to generate offence in game one.
— A polite reminder that Natural Stat Trick, which is a useful tool, often doesn’t track scoring chances accurately. If you look at high danger chances against in game one, Foegele and Jesse Puljujarvi were deemed not to have had any against. However, both were on the ice for the Avs’ opening goal, which was the 2-on-1 goal by JT Compher. He got the puck right in the circle. If that isn’t a high danger chance I don’t know what is. So always keep that in mind when tracking scoring chances, which will impact xGF% as well on NST.
The health of @Darcy Kuemper is undetermined at this point. Avs reporter, AJ Haefele reported Kuemper left the game due to blurred vision.
I haven’t seen any other Avs reporters mention this, but Kuemper has had vision issues this season. Something to monitor for sure. If Kuemper is out the Oilers have to test Pavel Francouz. In 133 minutes in the playoffs he has a .889Sv%. In nine career playoff games he has an .891Sv%.
— Tonight isn’t a must-win game because Edmonton isn’t facing elimination, but teams who go up 2-0 in the Conference Finals are 91-7 in the series.
— The 2022 Oilers and Avs are among the top-scoring playoff teams of all time.
Highest goals per game in Stanley Cup Playoff history (min 10GP):
*EDM   5.44     1985
CHI     5.40     1985
*NYI     5.39     1981
EDM   5.00     1983
*EDM   4.95     1984
*NYI     4.70     1983
*EDM   4.67     1988
*BOS    4.64     1970
COL   4.64     2022
*NYI     4.47     1982
EDM   4.46     2022
Seven of the 11 teams won the Cup (with *), and the 1983 Oilers lost in the Cup Final. The 1985 Blackhawks lost to Edmonton in the WCF. Will one of Colorado or Edmonton become the eighth team to win the Cup?

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