Oilers Getting Comfortable Defensively

Edmonton Oilers Vincent Desharnais
Photo credit:© Yannick Peterhans-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
5 days ago
“We have to be comfortable playing in our defensive zone for 30-45 seconds and not panic.” Mattias Ekholm said those words after the Oilers lost in the second round to Vegas. He added they also needed to learn they didn’t have to always be looking for the next goal.
Last night, the Oilers looked poised in their own zone. When the Kings had possession, the Oilers didn’t panic, they didn’t gamble, or cheat defensively. They played patiently and with confidence. They showed the Kings they can beat them in any style of game.
Edmonton can win if things open up. They have more skill than the Kings.
They can win when the game is physical.
And they can win a defensive battle.
The Oilers are 11-6 against the Kings in their three-year series. They’ve outscored them 70-47.
Some will look at the shot totals from last night and feel LA dominated the game. They did outshoot Edmonton 33-13, but it was more of a case of quantity over quality.

According to Sportloqiq, the Oilers had more slot shots (8-7) and more high-danger scoring chances (7-4). The difference between Sportloqiq and Natural Stat Trick (they had HD chances 14-4 for LA), is that NST just scrapes the game sheet. Their HD chances are based on shot distance and location, but not every shot from 15 feet is equally dangerous. Sportlogiq uses video, and they go over each shot to see if the play was impeded, if they had good velocity on the shot, etc.
But outside of high-danger chances, some other stats stood out. Edmonton only allowed one scoring chance off the rush. Kevin Woodley from In Goal Magazine outlined a few weeks ago how Stuart Skinner ranks top-five in the NHL on shots inside the zone — essentially shots and scoring chances not off the rush. Every goalie has a weakness, just like any forward or defenceman, and Skinner’s is chances off the rush. He isn’t awful at them, but he is more vulnerable, so Edmonton will have more success when they give up chances from inside their zone rather than off the rush.
The Oilers also won 63.3% of the puck battles. They were committed in all three zones. I thought Leon Draisaitl had one of his most complete games of the season. Three different times, on the backcheck, he picked the pocket of a Kings player and stole the puck. He was also a beast again in the face-off circle. He had a key shot block in the final minute of the game, and he assisted on the game’s only goal. He was a force.
Skinner played great as well, especially in the third period when the Kings pressed. Outside of two goals in game two, I think Skinner has played quite well the entire series. He had three unlucky goals happen late in game one that skewed his Sv% and GAA, but even with those, he still has a .919Sv% and 2.48 GAA. He has given the Oilers more than adequate goaltending — which shouldn’t really be a surprise, because he’s played very well since Kris Knoblauch and Paul Coffey took over.


The Oilers don’t want their opponents to have over 2:30 of offensive-zone possession time more than them in most games. It isn’t a recipe for success, however, even though LA had more possession time the Oilers did a great job of limiting quality chances. Not every game in the playoffs will be a Picasso. But the Oilers have played three very sound games, and each was a bit different. Last night should boost their confidence in knowing they can play sound defensively and limit chances, they just don’t want it to be when they only have 13 shots on goal.
Now, they need to finish off LA in five games. This will save them two flights (to LA and back) and give them a few more days off. It seems obvious to me that Connor McDavid is still nursing something. His burst hasn’t been as noticeable in the past few games. Rest will help him and others.
The great news for the Oilers is regardless of how the Kings want to play, they know they can beat them. And the Kings know it, too.

Check out these posts...