The Edmonton Oilers have punched their ticket to the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the 23rd time in franchise history that they will take part in the annual postseason tournament. Tonight, the Oilers look to inch closer to home ice advantage in the first round of the North Division playoffs, which is just three points away.
The Oilers are right back at it in Vancouver as they take on the Canucks for the seventh of ten meetings this season. It is the second half of a back-to-back set, and the second of a four-game miniseries that shifts to Edmonton on Thursday night. The Oilers won 5-3 last night and are 4-2-0 against the Canucks this season.
Thatcher Demko gets the go for the Canucks, while Mike Smith gets the start for the Oilers.
Keys To The Game:
Edmonton: Sustained pressure in the Vancouver zone. After a brief push in the first period last night, the Oilers completely controlled the contest. They were able to keep Vancouver from setting anything of note up in the offensive zone, and had numerous lengthy shifts of their own in the offensive end of the ice. The Canucks are gassed and already have a weak defensive group. Sustaining pressure tonight should bring plenty of scoring chances.
Vancouver: A better transition game is vital for the Canucks tonight. Vancouver pinned Edmonton a few times in the first period, but deflated shortly after Tyson Barrie broke the tie early in the second period. Vancouver struggled mightily transitioning through the neutral zone, and made things too easy for Edmonton. The Canucks have to use their speed and skill to keep the Oilers on their heels.
Players To Watch:
Edmonton: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is playing some of his best hockey of the season right now. Edmonton’s second line, led by Nugent-Hopkins, outshot the Canucks 9-3 last night, and held a Corsi advantage of 17-9. If Nugent-Hopkins and his line are able to control play and tilt the ice a bit, Edmonton’s playoff run will not be a short one. Can he keep it rolling tonight, perhaps getting rewarded with an even strength goal?
Vancouver: Nate Schmidt lit the lamp last night for the Canucks, and now has three points (2 g, 1 a) in the season series. That’s tied for the title of top scorer in Vancouver in this series. Schmidt also is tasked with playing a top-four role, and will almost certainly see time against the McDavid line tonight. He’s arguably been the Canucks’ most important player in this series.
The only change that is certain tonight for the Oilers is Mike Smith in goal to replace Mikko Koskinen. Other than that, Dave Tippett has confirmed nothing. He did say that some players are dealing with “bumps and bruises” that are being monitored.
It’s expected that Kris Russell (lower body) will miss his third straight game, while Kyle Turris, Patrick Russell, William Lagesson and Alex Stalock will be healthy scratches. Joakim Nygard (hand) remains day-to-day, while Zack Kassian (lower body) and Slater Koekkoek (upper body) are on LTIR.
Edmonton Oilers Lines:
Leon Draisaitl – Connor McDavid – Jesse Puljujarvi
Dominik Kahun – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Kailer Yamamoto
Tyler Ennis – Ryan McLeod – Josh Archibald
James Neal – Jujhar Khaira – Alex Chiasson
Darnell Nurse – Tyson Barrie
Dmitry Kulikov – Adam Larsson
Caleb Jones – Ethan Bear
The Canucks are dealing with a bunch of injuries to regular skaters. Brandon Sutter (upper body) and Tyler Motte (upper body) are out with no timeline to return. Antoine Roussel (lower body) is day-to-day, while Elias Pettersson (upper body), Jay Beagle (undisclosed) and Justin Bailey (upper body) are on IR. Jake Virtanen is away from the team for personal reasons.
Vancouver Canucks Lines:
Nils Hoglander – J.T. Miller – Brock Boeser
Tanner Pearson – Bo Horvat – Kole Lind
Jimmy Vesey – Travis Boyd – Zack MacEwen
Matthew Highmore – Tyler Graovac – Jayce Hawryluk
Alexander Edler – Nate Schmidt
Quinn Hughes – Travis Hamonic
Olli Juolevi – Tyler Myers
“You got to continue to play well,” Dave Tippett said earlier Tuesday from Vancouver. “You can’t just take a dip and think you’re going to turn it back on again. There are a lot of things within your team game you can work on. You got players that you want to make sure are ready. There are lots of things to play for here.”
Edmonton’s win last night clinched the club’s 23rd Stanley Cup Playoff berth. According to the NHL, it is the first time the Oilers have clinched a playoff berth in back-to-back seasons since a stretch of five straight appearances from 1996-97 through 2000-01. Edmonton, of course, lost the Qualifying Round in four games to Chicago back in August.
Sure, plus/minus is far from a quality stat, but it is pretty remarkable to see the turnaround in that category from Oilers players this season. Leon Draisaitl leads the NHL in this area with a +32, while Darnell Nurse is second in the NHL with a +29. Edmonton is doing a much better job of keeping the puck out of the net this season.