The Oilers are back in action tonight as they take on the Winnipeg Jets in Winnipeg in Game 3 of the first round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Down 2-0 in the series, the Oilers have quite a hole to dig themselves out of, starting tonight. So far, the Oilers have been all but snake-bit on the scoresheet, scoring only one goal in the two games (fewer than some individual players from other teams have in their own series).
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. It’s hard to say that the Oilers weren’t the better team in at least one of the two previous games, but they’ve met Vezina winner Connor Hellebuyck where in the regular season, they were playing the beer league version.
Keys to the Game
- Somehow, Edmonton has to figure out how to bring the puck in off the perimeter and make something of the offensive zone time they do have. Winnipeg has done a great job so far at keeping the Oilers, big guns included, to the outside.
- Mike Smith has been lights out so far. If they want a chance to win tonight, he’s going to have to play a huge role in that.
- Keep riding the goaltender. Connor Hellebuyck has played 7 periods of shutout hockey since the Oilers only goal in game 1, and it feels a lot like he’s in the zone.
- Continue to shut down the top line. When McDavid and Draisaitl aren’t firing, the team doesn’t seem to have the same jump. If the Jets can hold that duo pointless for a third straight game, it’s likely that they’ll come away with a stranglehold on the series.
Players to Watch
- Tyler Ennis is drawing into the lineup for the first time this series and the Oilers could definitely use some of his previous playoff experience and his ability to turn puck possession into scoring chances.
- Connor McDavid is poised to break out at some time. Perhaps the change of scenery from Edmonton to Winnipeg will help with that.
- Nikolaj Ehlers draws back into the lineup after suffering a shoulder injury on April 24 against the Leafs.
Draisaitl – McDavid – Puljujarvi
RNH – McLeod – Kassian
Shore – Khaira – Archibald
Ennis – Haas – Yamamoto
Nurse – Bear
Kulikov – Larsson
Koekkoek – Barrie
Connor – Scheifele – Wheeler
Dubois – Stastny – Ehlers
Copp – Lowry – Appleton
Perreault – Thompson – Lewis
Morrissey – DeMelo
Forbort – Pionk
Stanley – Poolman
This game isn’t technically a must-win, since it’s a best of 7 series, but it’s about as close as they can get. While the Oilers probably deserved a win in game 1, there’s no point in dwelling on what’s passed.
Playoff hockey is exciting, and part of what makes it that way is the emotional rollercoaster. An Oilers win tonight would go a long way in keeping that rollercoaster going.