GDB 78.0 Wrap Up: Merry Clinch-mas! Oilers lock in playoff spot with 6-3 win over the Avalanche
By baggedmilk11 months ago
We want the Cup! We want the Cup! Final Score: 6-3 Oilers
How many of you were fired up about this game all day? Raise your hands, let me see them… Personally, I couldn’t have been more fired up to watch the Oilers try and lock down their playoff spot without having to depend on someone else losing to make it happen. I don’t know about you fine folks, but I wanted to feel that extra dose of satisfaction from a job well done rather than another team doing the work for us. That said, beating the Avalanche is one of the NHL’s harder tasks to manage so it was going to take a full 60 minutes if they were going to lock up that sweet ‘X’ in the standings. And while I want to say that the Oilers had a decent opening period — they actually did play pretty well for the most part — their one big mistake wound up in the back of the net, and it ended up being the difference. When you’re up against Colorado, you have to be rock solid on both sides of the puck or they’ll burn you, and that’s exactly what happened with their goal off the rush.
Heading into the second period, the Oilers absolutely had to be the ones to get the next goal but that job got a whole lot more difficult as they needed to come up with a huge kill on the two-man disadvantage they were facing off the jump. And exactly as needed, the boys handled their business effectively and my hope was that the incredibly penalty killing was going to give our side a boost. From my side of the TV screen, however, I thought Kuemper had way too many clean looks at the shots coming his way and if the Oilers were going to even things up they needed to get in his grill some more because he’s just too good to be able to see everything coming his way. Clearly, the boys must have had the same idea because they not only came out firing but they were crashing the blue paint like it was a Double Slammer in 1995. What I didn’t expect was that the boys would be able to pump four goals past Kuemper in the second period, punctuated obviously by the Evander Kane’s hat trick. I mean, the expectation coming into the period was that the boys would find a way to tie things up so having them potentially set themselves up with a win was a wonderful turn of events.
Heading into the third period with a two-goal lead, the Oilers needed to be very careful with their approach to closing things out because the Avalanche have more than enough weapons to erase any lead in a short amount of time. I know I say it a lot but this was another one of those situations where the boys could not just sit back in some kind of prevent defence and wait for the clock to run out. They needed to throw an anchor at Colorado’s sinking dinghy without giving them even a lick of hope that they’d be able to get back into this hockey game. So when Yamamoto scored to make it a 5-2 hockey game at the midway point of the period, my heart started pounding in anticipation of locking down our chance to compete for the Stanley Cup. With the sellout crowd at Rogers Place setting the tone, the Oilers weathered every storm the Avalanche sent their way as found a way to close out a massive game against a very good hockey team. Playoffs, baby. LFG.
THE BRIGHT SIDE
- WE REMAIN UNDEFEATED IN THE BEN STELTER ERA!
- Shortly after the Oilers killed off the two-man disadvantage, @Evander Kane tied the game (1-1) on a sneaky little wrap-around that seemed to confuse Kuemper a little bit because he crossed the crease at a glacial pace to try and stop that puck. Either way, it was a huge goal by Kane at a time when his team desperately needed one. He added another goal near the midway point of the second period (3-2) after being the business end of a beautiful passing play that saw Yamamoto hit Keith who found Kane right at the side of the net with a wide-open net to shoot at. Amazingly, Kane completed the hat trick (4-2) before the second period was even over with a nifty little dangle through the defence before sneaking a wrister through the goaltender that just barely squeaked its way over the line.
- Just over a minute after Kane tied things up, @Evan Bouchard gave the Oilers the lead (2-1) after his slapshot took a friendly bounce off the boards, bounced straight up in the air, and was falling in the crease right at the moment when Dad was arriving at the crease. Mix a little bit of luck with some damned fine hand-eye coordination and all of a sudden, the Oilers were up by a goal.
- @Kailer Yamamoto gave the Oilers some extra insurance (5-2) with a big goal midway through the third period that was not only huge for the team but especially for Yamo as he had gone 13 straight without scoring a goal. He’s another guy you’d love to have going at full speed as we head into the playoffs and I’m hoping tonight’s goal will be the start of something.
- @Kris Russell absolutely drained the empty-netter (6-3) from the other end of the ice to give himself a multi-point night and extend his point streak to three games. Hell yeah, cowboy!
- Even though I thought Woodcroft might go back to Koskinen to keep him active, @Mike Smith was understandably back between the pipes for his fourth straight start and tasked with locking down the Clinch-mas celebration. Poised and confident, Smith gave his team another solid performance and he made the saves you need your starter to make without having any garbage get through to ruin the night. While he wasn’t perfect, he easily outdueled his counterpart and gave his team the goaltending they needed to close out a playoff-clinching win. Smith finished the night with 34 saves and a .919 save%.
- How about another casual three-point night for @Connor McDavid? If Connor putting up six points in his last two games isn’t his version of telling Huberdeau to piss off then I don’t know what is.
- How about another round of applause for the Oilers’ PK after they killed off ALL SIX shorthanded situations they face? Incredible penalty killing tonight.
- The spreadsheet society wanted me to let you know that the Oilers finished with a 53.09 CF% and a 57.54 xGF%.
- I had the can opener count at two tonight.
- How can you not love to see that the Oilers won 55% of the faceoffs? You love it, just admit it and you’ll feel better.
THE FACE PALMERS
- Valeri Nichushkin got the Avalanche on the board (1-0) with a chance off the rush that came because the Oilers were caught being too aggressive in the offensive zone. While I appreciated the push for offence, the boys needed to do a better job of taking care of the defensive side of the puck because the Avalanche will absolutely burn you if you’re sloppy. Only 15 seconds after Bouchard gave the Oilers the lead, Nichushkin picked up his second of the night (2-2) with a wrist shot off the rush, which happened to be one of the only goals against that I wish Smith would have had.
- With the net empty, @Nathan MacKinnon pulled the Avalanche back to within two goals (5-3) with a sneaky wrister through traffic that made its way through Smith.
- @Darnell Nurse left the game in the second period with some kind of lower-body injury and did not return. I don’t think I have to explain to anyone reading this why that’s bad news for the Edmonton Oilers.
- If I’m going to nitpick, it’s going to be about the Oilers going 0-for-2 on the power play. As much as it’s incredibly nice to pick up five even strength goals and an empty-netter, you’d love to have the PP running at full steam as we head into the playoffs. We know the whistles can go away at times so the boys will need to take advantage of whatever chances they do get.
- The Corskis did not go our way as the Avalanche outshot our boys by a 37-27 margin.
- All I’m going to say is that the referees were an adventure. I think that’s enough, but I also know you get it.
Talk to me, Twitter. Tweet at @Oilersnation and @jsbmbaggedmilk for your chance to land in the Best of the Tweets.
BETTER LAIT THAN NEVER
How can you not be excited about what’s going on with the Edmonton Oilers right now? With Clinchmas upon us, I dove into what’s working, what I’m excited about, and how Jay Woodcroft has turned this team around in a way I didn’t think was possible. Subscribe on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts.
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