Wow. The Edmonton Oilers won their first playoff game in a generation last night, and entertained an ecstatic audience that approached rock concert decibel levels. Zack Kassian was Eddie Shack squared, the McDavid line skewered opponents, the Nuge line drilled the toughs, and the Nurse-Benning pairing were sweet music on the third pair. Cam Talbot was fabulous, and we’re on to San Jose tied in what looks like a fantastic playoff matchup.
- The McDavid line soared like eagles last night, the trio was 17-3 against the Sharks. McDavid’s goal came shorthanded, and was another example of his fantastic speed/cerebral magic. He is so difficult to contain, even a veteran group like San Jose has a lot of trouble.
- Leon had an effective game, his feet were moving and he was part of the hit parade. On a night he didn’t hit the scoreboard, the big man made himself useful.
- Patrick Maroon did a lot of good, including a nice chance coming out of the penalty box. I do think he needs to pull back a little, those penalties could have been costly. As is the case with Leon, Maroon had a nice bounceback game.
- Line was 3-0 in HDSC according to Natural Stat Trick, my guess is they were a little better than that, all told. Had 19 shot attempts on the night.
- Line went 15-2 with Nurse-Benning, things were heading north lickety-split.
- As usual, Vlasic (8:28, McDavid won battle 11-3 at 5×5) and Braun (7:55, McDavid dominated 10-2 at 5×5) were the top pairing against the line.
- Donskoi-Marleau-Ward (97 was 5-2 in about five minutes), Hansen-Hertl-Boedker (McDavid was 8-0 against Hertl in three minutes) and Karlsson-Couture-Pavelski (McDavid was 7-1 against Pavelski in 2:43) shared the load but none of them were successful.
- I thought we might see Todd McLellan double shift 97 to get him some 5×5 time with Drake Caggiula, but they spent just 43 seconds (2-0) together.
- The emergence of this line in the final weeks of the season is one of the great storylines to follow this spring.
- Nuge is getting his offensive game back, driving to the net and using his creativity to get good looks. I have mentioned this before, but Dave Keon talked about getting so focused on the defensive side of the game, he inadvertently sabotaged his own offense. Nuge may have gone through such a period.
- Effective on 5×5, I thought this line had more scoring chances than in recent days.
- Eberle drew a penalty as well, this line seems to have figured out how to complement each other’s style. A big damned deal.
- Lucic was once again a positive on the line, passing well and playing a physical game. Careless stick contributed to the penalty parade, have to clean that up.
- Once again saw the Martin-Burns pairing most often (6:19, Nuge was 6-3) and the top line in minutes was Karlsson-Couture-Pavelski (Nuge was 9-3 in 8:55 against Couture). Since Nuge played nine of his 11:40 against this trio, we can safely call it a hard match. The fact the Oilers 2line could be so dominant against the Couture line is a very good thing. One caveat: Couture didn’t look to have the same jump as he did in Game 1, we’ll have to monitor his play in the next few games.
- Zack Kassian, man. He was a man possessed out there, getting the winning goal, hitting everything that moved, and generally being a complete disturber. An extremely effective game from the big man.
- This trio went 10-5 against the Hertl line, that SJS line did real damage in the first game.
- HD scoring chances from Natural Stat Trick counted 3-0 while Kassian was on the ice, that seems about right. Brilliant evening.
- Letestu and Caggiula had their moments as well, this line is emerging as an effective 3line.
- Line went 1-5 against the Tierney line.
- You would like to see more from them, and Desharnais needs to be as involved offensively as he was in his first week or so here. He did have moments with the puck, so perhaps things are improving.
- I like both of these wingers very much. Pouliot is effective on the PK, Slepyshev is among the 12 best forwards on the roster.
DEFENSE LAST NIGHT
- Nurse-Benning had a very successful evening, starting with mega-minutes alongside McDavid. This pairing and that line meant things were moving quickly most of the time. They went 11-0 (!!!) against the Hertl line, an impressive rebound for Nurse and a major arrow for Benning’s return. Nurse picked up an assist on McDavid’s dash, and took a necessary penalty against Brent Burns when the giant got position on 25. Benning played at pre-concussion levels to my eye.
- Klefbom-Larsson played a rugged game, and Klefbom’s injury appears to be something he can recover from. Huge deal. Pairing went 5-2 against the Couture line. Larsson is a tough, mean man. I’m not saying he’s Ted Harris but you can see him from here. Klefbom is maturing before our eyes, his wonderful skating, passing and transportation on display.
- Sekera-Russell played against Couture-Pavelski (4-3) more often than the other lines. Sekera moved the puck well but had a couple of defensive moments, mostly not being able to find the puck in time. A little wobble, but much improved over his previous game. Russell was most noticeable on the PK, including a Burns shot that may have put a dent in his hood.
- Cam Talbot stopped all 16 shots he faced.
- Numbers via HockeyStats.ca, NHL.com and Natural Stat Trick.
This is (no BS) the most dominant gameflow I've seen from any team the whole damn season. They broke my chart limit halfway through FFS!!!! pic.twitter.com/hY282TPEi5
— Oilers Nerd Alert (@OilersNerdAlert) April 15, 2017
It was a fantastic game, tense and brilliant and physical. I don’t recall a game this season that was more fun than this one, more please!
Kassian absolutely crushes Couture pic.twitter.com/OedrTH3Sv2
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) April 15, 2017
Last night the Oilers were doing so much damage I doubt the refs could have called it all, but this should have been charging.
MCDAVID ROAD MATCHUP
Entering the series, I thought the Sharks might run the Hertl line against Connor McDavid (along with the Vlasic pairing). In Game 1, the Couture line got the matchup, although it wasn’t a hard match. Couture-Pavelski v. McDavid in Game 1 was the story for 4:27, 97 was on the ice for 16:14 in that game. I don’t count 25 percent of a game as a hard match, what we saw last night (Nuge v. Couture) is a hard match.
All of which is to say we shouldn’t be worried about the Couture line and Vlasic pairing being hard matched to the McDavid line. Game 1 was a tough one for the line, but along with going 4-5 against Pavelski in that game, 97 went 1-7 against Hertl. I’ve been reading about this demon Couture line so far this series, I’m not buying. If Connor McDavid lines up against that line on Sunday night, expect him to have success. Edmonton’s big issue isn’t Pavelski at 5×5, it’s staying out of the penalty box so the captain can wheel 5×5. That’s the barrier here.
Bakersfield lost last night, and will not move on to the playoffs. That may mean an airlift (well, it’s 391 kilometres to San Jose) of several farmhands to the big club. Among the players who mayIbe considered:
- R Jesse Puljujarvi. He is 38gp, 12-16-28 in Bakersfield (RE: 82gp, 14-18-32 using the Vollman accelerator), not sure we will see him in the playoffs. However, giving JP a taste of an NHL postseason has value all the same.
- LD Griffin Reinhart. I’m not sure about where he is in the estimation of the organization, but reports have him playing well (54, 7-14-21) this year and perhaps he’ll receive the call.
- L Joey Laleggia. He is 66, 20-18-38 for the season, wonderful numbers after the position change. I know he won’t play, but this young man has placed himself on the prospect map, seems to me that is a player who deserves a week or two in the show if only to practice.
- RD Mark Fayne. It’s the right thing to do.
- LC Anton Lander. For crying out loud.