GDB +18.0: Closing time: Oilers one win away from the big dance (6pm MT, CBC)

Rogers Place Game 4 Western Conference Final
Photo credit:Baggedmilk
18 days ago
We all know how big this game is. The Oilers know, the Stars know, the fans know. In only a few short hours, we’ve got the biggest game of the season on deck in front of a Rogers Place crowd that will be ready to blow the roof off. Are you ready?
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There’s little doubt in my mind that the Stars will want revenge for what happened two nights ago. In Game 5, the Oilers rolled into Dallas and dealt them a loss that was as clinical as it was devastating. It was as close as you can get to a perfect road game, and it’s going to take a herculean effort from our side if the boys are going to do it again.
“It can change so quickly from shift to shift, from game to game. Overall, I thought we played really well. In the third period, Dallas was the better team in the third period,” Kris Knoblauch said in his post-game availability. “I do like how we played, and I thought we did a pretty good job defending, but to say that we’re taking over this series, I think that’s getting ahead of ourselves. I thought we had a good game, but to take over, no, I don’t feel that.”
The Stars will play with as much urgency as they can muster with their backs against the wall, and it’s going to be massively important for the Oilers to have counterpunches ready for when the storm comes. A quick start is going to be huge. In Game 5, the boys rolled into Dallas and delivered as close to a perfect road game as you could have asked for, and I’d bet all of Gregor’s money that the Stars will be busting their asses to repay the favour. The Oilers need to be ready.
The good news is that the Oilers have had some excellent starts and responses lately. In the last two games, we’ve seen the boys both overcome an early deficit on one hand and dominate from Jump Street on the other. As they’ve done all playoffs, they’ve locked in wins in very different ways. I’m guessing they’ll need to rely on all those experiences and apply the lessons from each if they’re going to finish the job today.
“We’re never going to play a sixty-minute game at this point in the season where you dominate and you’re the better team. It just doesn’t happen,” Knoblauch continued. “The other team just has too much to say, and they’re a good team. But tonight, throughout the playoffs, this probably might’ve been our best sixty-minute effort. We’re going to need more than that because going back for Game 6, they’re a very good team on the road. We’ve treated this game, same as last game, as a must-win game. Game 6 will be a must-win game for us.”
Hell, the Oilers will probably need to dig into the entire Rolodex of playoff memories and experiences to summon the juice this fourth and most challenging win will take to lock down. Everybody knows the closeout win is the hardest one to get, and that gets cranked up by a factor of 10 or more the further you make it. By my rough math, that means it’s at least 2000x harder to win in the Western Conference Final than it was in the first round. It’s Baggedmilk science, people, and you’d better get on board with it.
“We give ourselves a chance here. That’s all you can ask. I thought we played a great game, a pretty full sixty, and now we get a chance to close it out on home ice,” added Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. “It’s going to take everything, and an effort like we had [in Game 5].”
Edmonton has outscored Dallas 15-12 through five games, but more than half of those goals have come in the last two nights. As much as I want to believe that the floodgates have opened and that tonight will be magic carpet ride full of happiness, I’m expecting a much tighter finish than we’ve had over the last 120 minutes of hockey.
I think it’s more realistic that we’re all about to be more stressed out for the night than we ever were in Games 4 and 5. Who needs to go to the gym when the playoffs have your heart pounding out of your chest, you know? Then again, these are the moments we’ve been waiting for for the last 18 years, and I couldn’t be more excited to get this baby started.
Let’s see what the numbers say…


POWER PLAY%34.721.4
AVG. SHOTS/FOR30.027.6
TEAM SAVE%.890.932
CORSI FOR%51.0548.19
Numbers courtesy of Natural Stat Trick (Sv%, CF%, PDO, Shooting%, xGF% all at 5×5)




Nugent-Hopkins – McDavid – Hyman
McLeod – Draisaitl – Perry
Kane – Henrique – Holloway
Janmark – Ryan – Brown
Ekholm – Bouchard
Nurse – Kulak
Broberg – Ceci
As this round moves along, I find myself not really caring in the slightest what the line combinations look like. Every time we question Kris Knoblauch for his lineup choices, he seems to pull off some kind of wizardry that works exactly to plan and makes us all look like idiots. So when it comes to Game 6 and the chance to move, I’m very much looking forward to seeing what kind of strings he can pull to get this job done.


Robertson – Hintz – Seguin
Benn – Johnston – Stankoven
Marchment – Duchene – Pavelski
Bourque – Steel – Dadonov
Harley – Heiskanen
Lindell – Tanev
Suter – Petrovic
No matter what Pete DoBoer does with lines or if he makes any adjustments at all — AHL MVP Mavrik Bourque will be making his debut — I’m expecting nothing but the best the Dallas Stars have to offer. As much as the last two wins almost felt like the Oilers have started to figure them out a little bit, past results don’t mean anything in an elimination game like this. Dallas is going to do everything they possibly can to get this series back to home for a seventh game, and it will take nothing short of Edmonton’s best if we’re going to prevent them from doing that.


From Defending Big D:
Like I said before, I’ll more or less never question the effort of the players and teams that get this far… but you have to admit the Stars looked kind of lifeless, right? I mean, Chris Tanev was back in the lineup. They were back home. They had only lost two games in a row once before all postseason. The ingredients were all there for Dallas to come out strong and play the kind of game they wanted to.
Instead, they were flat, and the Edmonton Oilers got to do what they’ve loved to do against Dallas this series: minimizing shots on Stuart Skinner to makeup for subpar goaltending. The Stars had just ten shots on net the first two periods (4 in the first), which they matched in the third period alone for a game total of 20, their lowest amount of the series. There were times where players would have a clear scoring lane, but would hang onto the puck anyways as if waiting for a better opportunity that never came. “Quality” truthers will talk all about how the count doesn’t matter as much as the scoring chances, but you can’t have a scoring chance unless you actually take a chance to begin with.
Meanwhile Edmonton didn’t exactly unload on Jake Oettinger, but their efforts were enough thanks to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins breaking their power play drought. Twice. The dam finally broke, and I’ll be honest, with the way Dallas was playing, the game already felt over after that second goal — sure, Edmonton had just come back from a 2-0 deficit the game before, but how were the Stars going to manage that if 1) they refused to get the puck on net, and 2) any chances they got on the power play (theoretically their best chances to answer back) weren’t going to amount to anything (they ended up 0-2)?
Of course, the game really felt over after the third goal, which was definitely one Oettinger should have stopped, screen or no screen. But hey, it’s not as if letting in that bad goal really mattered, because again: Dallas wasn’t scoring anyways! At least, not until Wyatt Johnston finally ruined Skinner’s shutout with just under six minutes to go in the game. Which, you know, was fun and all, but too little too late.


Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk
Game Day Prediction: The Oilers punch their way to the Stanley Cup Final with a 4-2 win on home ice.
Obvious Game Day Prediction: The power play woke up in Game 5 and the boys keep it rolling in Game six, cashing in one PP marker on two chances with the man advantage.
Not-So-Obvious Game Day Prediction: Ryan McLeod opens the scoring for the second time in the series.

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