The Edmonton Oilers v. The Vegas Golden Knights Game 5: A Tactical Review

Photo credit:Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Bruce Curlock
1 year ago
So I am confounded today. If I were an Edmonton Oilers coach watching the tape of the game five loss against the Vegas Golden Knights, I would not have a lot to complain about.
Certainly, the penalty kill looks like a train wreck on paper, but some of that was a 5v3 GA on a bad call on a rookie and a lazy play by a vet. Certainly, Stuart Skinner isn’t stealing any games in this series, but it’s hard to suggest he was instrumental in the Oilers loss last evening. The powerplay was all world.
Quite frankly, the 5v5 play was good. I mean would it surprise you if I told you last night the Vegas Golden Knights had their second-lowest shot total and second-lowest high-danger chance total in the series (game 4 being the lowest in both). Now yes we are going to walk through a few clips today and suggest some adjustments. However, last night might just be one of those instances where I believe luck ruled the day. If I were having a coffee with Darcy McLeod (@woodguy55) this morning he likely would be saying “Vegas is riding that PDO pony for all its worth”.

What Did I See Last Night?

Honestly, this was a fairly clean game tactically at 5v5. This game was a slog for the most part at 5v5 because there was very little momentum due to penalty calls. Also, both teams were quite conservative in their play last evening and it showed in most of the 5v5 metrics. The Oilers had their poorest game in terms of shots for, scoring chances for and high-danger chances for in the series. The Vegas Golden Knights had their second-poorest game in the series on these same metrics. The teams also happened to be virtually even on each of these metrics in the game with Vegas having the slightest of edges in each.

Two Tough 5v5 Moments Equal Two Goals

This does not mean that 5v5 was not an issue. The Oilers had a couple of wobbles there and it cost them the game. Let’s have a look at the two goals and break them down.
The first goal by Vegas at 5v5 was, of course, scored right after the Oilers took the lead. There were a couple of breakdowns on this play with one being a prime reason the goal was scored. The first breakdown is one reason that Klim Kostin remains a fourth-line forward. He loses too many puck battles on the wall for a man of his size. In this case, it is a hard rim 50/50 puck and not only does he not get it out, the puck is lost to Vegas and he makes a feeble stick check to regain possession.
The second, and much larger issue, is Nick Bjugstad. When you teach players to defend players behind the net who do not have the puck, you tell them to leave that player there. Don’t chase. Bjugstad does this well. However, you also tell them another thing. DO NOT LET THAT PLAYER GET TO THE NET. Bjugstad cannot let Eichel get inside of him and get to the net. Look at the next freeze frame. There is a clear lane from the shooter to the goalie. The only collapse in this lane happens when Bjugstad lets a player get inside of him. We can talk about goalie interference all we want, but Eichel should have never been allowed to get there in the first instance.

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The other goal at 5v5 was similar in that it was defined by one player making one poor effort play and it came back to bite him hard. The clip below starts with Vegas on the face-off and they have a set play formation here with right wing over to the strong side of the center. This leaves the wall side hash open with only Evander Kane there. Kane needs to take advantage of this and get into the circle immediately. However, watch what happens. Look at the two “wingers” on this play in Kane and Ekholm. In the freeze frame, look how far into the circle Ekholm is and look at Kane. Not good enough by Kane. The center beats him to the loose puck and now the chase is on. The other modest critique in this clip is of Leon Draisaitl. Draisaitl in the second freeze frame is headed to mark his man. He really could have stayed in the slot but “over tracks” and misses a chance to block a shot/pass attempt.

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In the end, this play should have never happened off the faceoff alone. While 17 seconds ticked off the clock before the goal was scored that lost face off was instrumental to the goal against.

More Of The Same? Sure, But Let’s Add the F4

Now I heard a lot of media types about a lack of 5v5 production last evening. I’ve been a critique of this in the series, but I am not entirely sure last night was a bad display. When I look at the Fenwick numbers from last evening which account for goals, shots and missed shots (blocked ones not included), the Oilers actually had the lead at 52%. Mostly, I thought the team was doing all the right things tonight at 5v5, but it did not work out. Look at this clip below as an example. On the first part of the clip, the Oilers are set up to exit and are in fine shape. Kulak just wobbles on the pass and it goes to Vegas. Then the puck comes back to the Oilers again after nice defending and Draisaitl sends it to his defenceman and initiates an exit attack. He then makes a tremendous pass to Ceci, which I am highlighting here. This is something the Oilers can absolutely do more of and something Darnell Nurse does well. Weakside D, get your arse up the ice and into the attack. The last part of this play is why I think the Oilers will likely be better in game six. Ceci missed the net by a wide margin from a good location. I don’t believe this will happen in the next game. There will be a more concerted shot to get the puck on net.

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Game 6 Thoughts?

For me, I am going back to 11-7. The Golden Knights are finding Nick Bjugstad at every opportunity and they are making him pay. Pull Janmark or Kostin and spot Bjugstad on RW/C rotation with players up the lineup further.
The other element is more subjective one. I think the Oilers need to have an attack mentality even when leading. They seem to revert to a more conservative type of play to protect the lead. I remain convinced the Vegas Golden Knights cannot hang with them if they continue to attack at 5v5. Kind of “go with what got you there” mentality. I could be wrong, but why change what got you this far.
That’s all for the game five tactical review. Find me on Twitter at @bcurlock and leave me comments right here below this fine article. See you after game six.

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