Random Thoughts: Oilers should expect the Panthers to be better in Game 2

Edmonton Oilers bench in game 1
Photo credit:Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports
1 month ago
We’re only a few hours away from Game 2, and I’ve got a few random thoughts rolling around in my head about what the Oilers need to do to even up the series.


Watching the Oilers outplay the Panthers and still lose Game 1 was as frustrating as it gets, but what’s done is done, and all we can do now is look ahead at tonight’s rematch. The problem, of course, is that I fully expect the Panthers to be better than they were two nights ago. That might have been Florida’s worst game of the playoffs, and they still won, so I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see them hit the ice with a lot more pace. So, what’s the thought here? The Oilers need to be ready to weather the early storm.


As much as I expect the Panthers to be better in Game 2, the Oilers can also be better. Despite the result, the boys played a solid hockey game outside of the obvious fact that they couldn’t cash in on any of their many chances. If they can give us another 60 minutes just like they did in Game 1, then we have a great chance of heading home with the series tied. But as I said in the paragraph above, I also expect Florida to be better than they were, and that will take a high level of execution to combat. Two days ago, the Oilers executed well in nearly every part of their game apart from cashing in their chances. But if they can keep at it, those pucks will start going in.


The Oilers have one of the best power plays of all time, and we’ll need it to be exactly that if they’re going to even things up. Watching them go 0/3 on the PP in Game 1 almost reminded me of the first few games against Dallas, where the boys were trying to figure out their adjustments on the fly, and it just didn’t come together. Even so, I’m not worried it. We need the boys to do what they’ve done so many times before, and make their opponent pay for taking penalties. I believe the PP will get that done at least once tonight.


If we’ve learned one thing about Kris Knoblauch in his tenure behind the bench, it’s that he has no problem making tough decisions with his lineup. And based on the line rushes at morning skate, it looks like Cody Ceci will be a healthy scratch for the first time since becoming an Edmonton Oiler. In his place will be Vincent Desharnais who hasn’t played since Game 3 against the Stars. Drawing back into the lineup will be a huge moment for Vinny, and one that he’ll have to be ready for because the Panthers are not going to give him much time to make decisions whenever he has the puck on his stick.
Knoblauch pulled out the blender a little bit up front too, as he put Adam Henrique alongside Leon Draisaitl and Dylan Holloway in the spot that was formerly occupied by Evander Kane. According to Jack Michaels, Kane’s status for Game 2 is currently unknown, but losing him would be a big blow to the forward group. Sam Carrick also appears to be getting back in after not playing in Game 1, and the Oilers will be looking for him to add some jam and (hopefully) a little more success in the faceoff circle.


In a series as physical as this one looks like it will be, having a guy like Kane out of the lineup really hurts. When he’s at his best, Evander Kane is one of the best power forwards in the NHL, and even when he’s not playing up that standard, he does a lot of heavy lifting on the physical side. Even though we don’t yet know if he’ll be playing or not — based on the line combos, it doesn’t look like he will be — losing that physical edge that Kane brings to the table is going to hurt. If Kane can’t play, who’s willing to step up in his absence? Who is going to punish the Panthers along the boards just as they were trying to do to the Oil in Game 1?
UPDATE: Kane will be in the lineup for Game 2 (10:22 AM MT)


Stuart Skinner has been doubted almost every step of the way on this playoff run, but he’s always found a way to bounce back and make some magic happen. We’ll need a little of that secret sauce here tonight. With Sergei Bobrovsky looking almost unbeatable at the other end, the Oilers will need Stu to go save for save with a guy that has two Vezina Trophies under his belt. I know it’s a tall order, but Skinner has proven he can hang with the best when he’s on top of his game, and that’s exactly where we need him to be. I think a lot of us agree that Bobrovsky played a major part in stealing Game 1, but now the question becomes whether Stuart Skinner can do the same. If the Panthers come out as hard tonight as I think they will, then we’re probably going to need him to.


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