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A few changes to the lineup can do good things.
Take last night for example.
Heading into the game that saw the New York Islanders pay a visit to Rogers Place, the Edmonton Oilers had dropped five straight on home ice. The lineups went into a blender, Warren Foegele was pulled from the lineup for what, as of now, are unknown reasons, and Edmonton walked out with a big 4-2 win.
The message had been clear: set the tempo.
It’s exactly what the Oilers did. They came out hot and heavy in the first period outshooting the opposition a staggering 18-4. A little over nine minutes into the frame, Leon Draisaitl scored from his office on the powerplay busting a seven-game goal-scoring slump.
Kailer Yamamoto, who has endured more than his fair share of slump himself, scored a short-handed with 1:20 left in the first. It was the kind of period the Oilers so desperately needed.
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It not only set the tempo for the game, but it showed the Oilers faithful they didn’t want to lose at home once again. Edmonton never let off the gas pedal all night long, either. They controlled the pace of play. They limited high-danger chances all night long, and Jack Campbell was just good enough to secure the victory.
Come to the second frame, the Islanders had some pushback. It ended up with Mat Barzal getting them on the board at the 4:42 mark, but it didn’t last long. Dylan Holloway responded with his second goal of the year, and Zach Hyman added another tally seven minutes later.
The underlying numbers were tremendous. At 5×5, the Oilers controlled 63.1 percent of the shot attempts (53-31), 70.73 percent of the scoring chances (29-12), 100 percent of the high-danger scoring chances (15-0) and 78.32 percent of the expected goal share (3.27-0.9). That’s a whopping if I’ve ever seen one.
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The Oilers can’t let this type of game slip away. It was one reminiscent of what we saw under Jay Woodcroft down the back half of the season. One has to wonder if the teams’ decision to run 11 forwards and seven defencemen had to do with it. The Oilers seem to play well under this system, and it showed last night. It forces the forwards to be more engaged with some increased ice-time, and it allows the defencemen to feel a little less pressure.
The next match is a tough one. The defending Stanley Cup champions are rolling into town, and the Oilers need to play with the same fire they did last night on Saturday night. It will be a tough one, but the Avs are a team still working their way through a plethora of injuries.
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Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at [email protected]