WWYDW(FE): What do the Oilers need to change as the WCF shifts to Edmonton?
Photo credit:Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
By Cam Lewis5 months ago
The Edmonton Oilers are in unfamiliar territory.
For the first time in these playoffs, they’re down 2-0 in a series. They dropped Game 1 against the Kings and Flames and bounced back in Game 2 in both of those series but that wasn’t the case against the Avs, who are up 2-0 in the Western Conference Final after a 4-0 win on Thursday.
Game 1 was a sloppy mess in which the Oilers allowed eight goals against but remained in the mix as Colorado didn’t have their best showing defensively. Game 2 featured the Oilers simply getting outclasses from top-to-bottom as the Avs scored four goals and completely shut the door afterward.
That brings us to this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday FRIDAY EDITION question. If you’re Jay Woodcroft, what changes do you make heading into a must-win Game 3 in Edmonton? Could we see some new forward lines? How about the 11 forwards and seven defencemen lineup? Let’s go through some possible changes…
Apr 1, 2022; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) celebrates an overtime winning goal with center Leon Draisaitl (29) against the St. Louis Blues at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Reunite the dynamic duo?
Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl played nearly 17 minutes together at even-strength in Game 1 and connected on two goals. In Game 2, they were mostly playing apart save for a few shifts in the third period and the Oilers didn’t score a single goal.
It’s well known at this point that Draisaitl isn’t at full strength as he’s been dealing with an ankle injury for the entirety of the playoffs. As much as the Oilers would like to have Draisaitl manning his own line, it might not be doable at this point.
When playing together, McDavid and Draisaitl have outscored their opponents 19-to-6 at even-strength in the playoffs. When he isn’t with McDavid, Draisaitl is being outscored 9-to-1. McDavid is outscoring opponents 8-to-6 in his minutes without Draisaitl, which is solid but far from as good as he is when the two of them are together.
Enter Dylan Holloway?
Kailer Yamamoto took a high hit from Gabriel Landeskog in the second period of Game 2 and left the game and didn’t return. There’s no word yet as to whether Yamamoto will be available for Game 3 and the team is being predictably vague by calling whatever he’s dealing with an “upper-body injury.”
If Yamamoto isn’t available to play, Edmonton’s best option might be rookie Dylan Holloway. While Holloway has never played a game at the NHL level, he would give the team some much-needed size, speed, and skill on the wings. Even if Yamamoto does play, it isn’t unreasonable to consider inserting Holloway into the lineup, as the fourth line has been a black hole during the first two games of the series.
A different look on the blueline?
Like Draisaitl, Darnell Nurse is also clearly dealing with a nagging injury that’s ultimately making him not as effective as he can be. Through the first two games of the series, Nurse has already been on the ice for six goals against at even-strength. The whole team was sloppy in Game 1 but Nurse’s lack of mobility was very noticeable in Game 2 as he couldn’t match Colorado’s speed in transition.
It’s difficult to imagine Nurse coming out of the lineup because he’s the team’s No. 1 defender and he wants to contribute but the Oilers could opt to reduce his ice time and shelter him. Brett Kulak stepped up and played well on Edmonton’s top pairing when Nurse was suspended in the series against Los Angles, so he could move up alongside Cody Ceci and Nurse could slide back with Tyson Barrie.
The Oilers could also opt to dress seven defenders, which would give them another body to help take minutes from Nurse on the top pairing. As I said above, the fourth line hasn’t been effective, so even just a few minutes of Kris Russell or Philip Broberg could be helpful here.
What say you, Nation? What changes would you make for Game 3? Let us know!
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