Three Oilers keys to victory, and three storylines ahead of Game 3

Leon Draisaitl Zach Hyman
Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Tyler Yaremchuk
1 month ago
Part one of this second-round series between the Oilers and Canucks series was honestly kind of predictable in hindsight. The Oilers’ big guns have been incredible, the series has been physical, and each game has come right down to the end.
After a dramatic first two games, here are the three storylines I’m most intrigued by heading into Game 3 and three keys to victory for the Oilers as they look to take a lead in this all-Canadian series.

STORYLINE #1 – Welcome to Edmonton

This series shifts to Alberta for Game 3 and if they can take advantage of home ice in these next two games, they could leave Edmonton with the Canucks on the brink of elimination.
The crowd will play a role in that. Rogers Arena in Vancouver got loud when the team scored, but it wasn’t Rogers Place in Edmonton during the playoffs loud. The crowd in Edmonton should be unreal.
The Oilers have been a very good home team this season. They have the second-best home points percentage in the league, and their 4.12 goals per game also rank second in the league. This is over a goal better than their goals per game on the road, which was 3.00 in the regular season.
Their home powerplay percentage is 32.8% compared to 20.8% on the road, which brings me to my next storyline.

STORYLINE #2 – The Officials

So Canucks fans think the refs are rigging things in favour of Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers and then Oilers fans are saying that the Canucks are being allowed to get away with murder. Classic playoff series kind of stuff.
Has the officiating been good in this series? Not at all.
In Game 1, they allowed each side to get away with a lot. In Game 2, they called more, but there were a handful of blatant misses on each side.
Did Connor McDavid’s missed high stick on Quinn Hughes change the game? You betcha. But you know what else also changed the game? The missed too-many-men penalty led directly to Nikita Zadorov’s go-ahead goal. It went both ways.
The officials will be a big story tonight. If they put the whistles away like they did in Game 1, then that favours the Canucks. If they try to get control early and call everything, that obviously favours the Oilers.

STORYLINE #3 – Health

We know three Oilers—Adam Henrique, Evander Kane, and Leon Draisaitl—are dealing with injuries right now.
Henrique won’t play tonight after coming back into the lineup in Game 2, but the other two Oilers will be in the lineup.
Draisaitl didn’t look to be hindered at all in Game 2. He delivered another classic Draisaitl playoff performance but it felt like the move to put McDavid and Draisaitl back on the same line was done to make life a little easier on Draisaitl.
Evander Kane was excellent against the Kings in Round 1, but so far against the Canucks, he has just one shot on goal and has been held off the scoresheet. They need more from him going forward. Round 1 Kane was still effective and his start to this series has me wondering if whatever if nagging him still isn’t getting better.

KEY #1 – The Special Teams Battle

May 8, 2024; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Zach Hyman (18) celebrates a goal against the Vancouver Canucks during the second period in game one of the second round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
If officiating is going to be a factor, the Oilers will need to be prepared to once again win the special teams battle.
In Game 1, both their power play and penalty kill were perfect. The problem was that they only got one show with the man advantage.
In Game 2, their power play went one for three, which is fine. They did allow the Canucks to score once on the powerplay though. They tied the special teams battle, but if they had won it, then Game 2 wouldn’t have even needed overtime.
As I pointed out earlier, their power play has been significantly better at home versus on the road. One other trend from this season though: the Oilers got slightly less calls at home compared to on the road.
Regardless, they should get a few looks with the man advantage, and if they take advantage of those moments, it will be huge.
Their PK has also been tremendous this season and there were a few numbers that stood out to me. First, Stuart Skinner has a .952 save percentage when shorthanded. That is very, very good.
The Oilers have been great in front of him too.
Of the 34 goalies who have appeared in a playoff game so far this spring, only Juuse Saros has a lower expected goals against. Skinner has made the stops he’s supposed to, but the Oilers have been doing a good job of limiting high danger chances. Their 5.1 xGA/60 is second best in the league during the playoffs.

KEY #2 – Stuart Skinner

The Oilers got the split on the road in-spite of their goaltending. Skinner made some great saves in both games out in Vancouver, but he also had some really rough moments. Obviously, in Game 1, he gave up a couple of soft goals and took a bad penalty. His numbers in Game 2 were better but I think he’d want two of his goals against back, especially the Zadorov goal.
In Round 1, Skinner had some up and down performances, but also got unlucky a bunch of times and he did dial it in for a couple of games. The Oilers need the Skinner that they got in Games 3 and 4 against Los Angeles to show up a few times against the Canucks.
So far in these playoffs, his road numbers are a lot better than his home numbers but during the regular season, he was better at Rogers Place than he was away from it.
He finished the season with a .913 home save percentage compared to an .894 on the road. That’s quite the gap.
Hopefully being back on home ice for Game 3 is a spark for Skinner.

KEY #3 – Depth Scoring

Tonight’s Oilers lineup will feature five forwards who haven’t scored yet during this playoff run and another player in Warren Foegele whose only goal was an empty netter in Game 1 against the Kings.
Now, some players have been effective despite not finding the back of the net. Ryan McLeod has been very good defensively and a lot of those bottom six pieces have been playing big minutes on the PK.
It’s not like these players have been useless or anything. That’s not what I’m trying to say, but, they do need more from these guys at 5v5.
The Oilers stars have been producing the bulk of the offense so far in these playoffs and that’s fine, but eventually, your depth players need to have a night for you. If that’s tonight, it will go a long ways in deciding this one.


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