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Talking points from Game 1 versus the Stars

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Photo credit:Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Liam Horrobin
25 days ago
The Edmonton Oilers played excellently in Game 1 versus the Dallas Stars and, despite letting a 2-0 lead slip, came away with the win.
Leon Draisaitl and Zach Hyman scored two goals early in the second period, but the Stars’ resilience showed as the game progressed. An unfortunate turnover from Brett Kulak led to Tyler Seguin’s first goal of the game, and then with a minute left in the third, Seguin scored his second, tying the game. Fortunately for the Oilers, this wasn’t going to be another blown game, with Connor McDavid scoring the overtime winner 32 seconds into the second extra frame.
The Oilers played a great road game, going 100% on the penalty kill and getting promising contributions from the bottom six, despite no goals from them. Additionally, the Oilers’ stars outshone Dallas’ top players, with Jason Robertson, Wyatt Johnston, and Matt Duchene all having quiet nights.
Outside of the box score, there was much to talk about from Game 1, so let’s get into it.

Kris Knoblauch wants chaos

Kris Knoblauch has done many things right so far throughout the playoffs. The majority of his decisions have worked in his favour, such as switching the goaltenders, moving the defensive pairings around, and loading up the stars to win a game. However, last night in Game 1, the decision to reunite Darnell Nurse and Cody Ceci midway through the second period was baffling.
Both players were having strong games with their starting partners, Brett Kulak and Vincent Desharnais, but once they found the ice together, chaos ensued. They played just under five minutes together and were outshot 5-1. If you didn’t know, you would have thought the two of them hadn’t touched the ice together before because it was pure chaos. It’s not clear exactly why Knoblauch opted for that, but thank goodness they survived.

Ryan McLeod

If you watched Oilersnation Everyday with Tyler Yaremchuk on Thursday, there was a great debate about whether Ryan McLeod should be taken out of the lineup at some point due to his lack of impact. In Games 6 and 7 versus the Vancouver Canucks, his lack of physicality resulted in two goals against, which also led to him being benched. Last night, McLeod played a more competitive overall game.
McLeod had three shots, which was the most since the final game of the season versus Colorado, played almost three minutes on the penalty kill, which was perfect, and his line generated five scoring chances. They were on the ice for a goal against; however, the two goals allowed last night were unfortunate. Overall, it was a good bounceback game for McLeod. While the offense still needs to come, last night felt like a stepping stone.

Stuart Skinner

Game 1 versus Dallas was Stuart Skinner’s best game of the playoffs. He finished the game with a 0.939 save percentage, which was actually his third-best statistical game of the postseason, but the saves he made last night felt much more impactful. At five-on-five, Skinner had a 0.920 SV%, and on the penalty kill, he stopped all eight shots he faced. Yes, he was beaten and saved by the post early in the overtime period, but, as Canucks fans like to point out, hitting the post means good goaltending.
The two goals Skinner did allow last night were unfortunate and pretty much unavoidable. He did a great job on the first goal, forcing the shot away from Jamie Benn, who made a good pass to Tyler Seguin. Then, on the second, a deflected pass to a wide-open Seguin again left Skinner in no man’s land. Skinner outduelled Jake Oettinger, which nobody thought he could accomplish. There’s still a long way to go, but let’s hope this continues.

Officials are annoying

I am here to complain about the officials last night, and I don’t care if it’s a lame excuse. The calls on Evan Bouchard, Evander Kane, and Dylan Holloway were incredibly soft; furthermore, they refused to keep that standard throughout the game. Stuart Skinner was slashed on the mask by Tyler Seguin—no call. Miro Heiskanen held Connor McDavid’s arm on the boards—no call. The McDavid high-stick was clearly the right call, but the problem is how late they made that decision. There was no indication that they were going to call it, then the replay was played on the Jumbotron. Shortly after, the refs huddled together and made the decision after seeing the replay… ridiculous. Thankfully, the Oilers are a good five-on-five team that doesn’t rely on the power play every night as people believe.

Thoughts ahead of Game 2

Many would suggest that playing another game the way Edmonton did in Game 1 would be difficult to accomplish in Game 2. However, haven’t the Oilers done this now in three straight games? Minus a couple of shoot-yourself-in-the-foot moments, the Oilers’ game plan was executed perfectly, and fans should believe they can continue this throughout the series. Yes, Dallas will push back because they’re a great team too, but let’s not forget about the specific teams’ battle.
Edmonton isn’t getting only one chance on the power play again, which was barely even a chance since it spanned over periods. The biggest question mark is Skinner. While we’ve already sung his praises, he needs to prove he can continue to play as he did in Game 1. He’ll be the X-factor in this series and perhaps the reason Edmonton moves on to the Stanley Cup Final.

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