Oilers Playoff Gameday: Game 4 vs Flames

Calgary at Edmonton

Edmonton leads series 2-1

 

Through 3 games, Oilers fans have a ton to feel good about. The Battle of Alberta is swept up in the fervour, the Moss Pit raucous, and the Oilers find themselves up in a series that is likely the most entertaining of all the 2nd round matchups across the league.

 

Even before we get to the on ice intrigue there’s drama brewing, with pointed quotes from both sides. Much of the Flames postgame talk revolves around “one guy”, likely McDavid, being the sole fulcrum of their defeat. Yes, McDavid has been an impossibility, perhaps an era adjusted, all-time summit, never before seen level of play.

 

Meanwhile, Woodcroft’s remark referencing the number of games Markstrom has started raised my ears. It’s true, it is a reasonable critique of how much the Flames relied on their starter despite Vladar’s quality, but 2 games does not a series make. I appreciate that Woodcroft is detail oriented and likely was being candid, but there’s a long way to go, and the high ground is tenuous.

 

Ah yes, oil and fire, what a combination.

 

For now, momentum seems to be in the Oilers favour, and another boisterous atmosphere is sure to set the stage for a confident and focused effort. The Oilers have managed to extinguish much of the Flames offence, an offence that not to long ago was burning them for 9 goals a game.

 

In the Oilers postgame scrums they say this is mostly due to weaker efforts in previous games, and stronger efforts in games 2 and 3. It is worth noting that the Oilers are giving up far fewer rush chances since game 1 and March 26th.

 

Since Woodcroft took over, we’ve seen that the Oilers can take on anyone when they do so. The playoffs are a battle of attrition, where consistency is key, and to advance the Oilers will have to show they can deliver more consistently than not, as the margins for error are slim.

 

KEYS TO THE GAME

 

Edmonton:

  1. Effort. In the driver’s seat, the Oilers need to worry most about themselves. Delivering another complete effort should position them well going forward. The details are in place and the talent is present, if not now, when?

 

Calgary:

  1. Attack. Honestly I might be saying this for every game but I’m not sure you can stop McDavid. Yes, of course having an elite defender like Tanev would help. Either way, the only hope might be to have an offence that can offset the inevitability of the Oilers offence.
  2. Special Teams. Especially as the Flames seem to be struggling 5 on 5, they need some contributions from their special teams, specifically the power play.

 

EXPECTED LINEUPS

 

Edmonton:

 

Kane — McDavid — Draisaitl

Hyman — Nugent-Hopkins — Puljujarvi

Foegele — McLeod — Yamamoto

Archibald — Ryan — Kassian

 

Nurse — Ceci

Keith — Bouchard

Kulak — Barrie

 

Smith

Koskinen

 

Calgary: Tanev appears to be a game time decision.

 

Gaudreau — Lindholm — Tkachuk

Mangiapane — Backlund — Coleman

Dube — Jarnkrok — Toffoli

Lucic — Lewis — Ritchie

 

Hanifin — Andersson

Kylington — Tanev

Zadorov — Gudbranson

 

Markstrom

Vladar

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

 

Edmonton:

 

Everyone can tell how impactful McDavid is.

 

Draisaitl looks to be more confident in his skating each game, but ankle sprains can linger. Especially together he and McDavid could mitigate the injury’s effect, or rather continue to be their usual selves. Having a high caliber winger with a complimentary set of skills is sure to bring out the best in what is a loaded top line.

 

Debuting in the last game, the Hyman-RNH-Puljujarvi line looked very promising. We’ve seen Nugent-Hopkins and Hyman have strong results in stints this season, and Puljujarvi’s defensive ability compliments the duo quite nicely. All 3 have been integral top 6 level forwards all season for the Oilers, but it is a serendipitous find, a line that looks to be able to handle top defensive assignments and produce offensively without either McDavid or Draisaitl.

 

McLeod has undoubtedly provided top 9 level play, and has held his own at the 3C spot. There does appear to be signs of more offence, but the skating and the frame are there to succeed in transition and on defence. Yamamoto has been a wrecking ball, showing the key to hits is often getting there. He’s a quality winger which his centreman certainly appreciates. This is exactly the spot Foegele should be on a contending team.

 

Kassian and Archibald might not play much, but having a different flavour, some snarl, lots of energy, and the patience and maturity to maintain them between long stretches without shifts is exactly what the Oilers need from these roles.

 

Nurse seems to be moving well as well, and even though we haven’t seen career best performances so far, he’s delivering on the lead role on this blueline. He and Ceci are a calm and capable foundation.

 

More volatile is the pair of Keith and Bouchard. Heading into the season there were many who might’ve doubted either or both of these players could handle the workload that they have, the unlikely duo can make magic. Both have superb passing skills. When they are at their most effective they are quickly moving the puck up the ice into dangerous offensive possessions.

 

Kulak has been great in this role, complimenting Barrie well, forming a pair that can earnestly push the Keith-Bouchard duo for minutes.

 

 

Calgary:

 

That’s back to back games that the Flames top line has failed to contribute much offence. They will need to see more from this group to have any chance going forward.

 

The Backlund line has been perhaps the Flames most consistent. Toffoli and Dube have played well but haven’t produced much offence. Especially with the top line struggling, the Flames need this line to produce.

 

Andersson and Hanifin are a good pairing but have had some tough looks against McDavid and company. In game 1 we saw them post large offensive contributions which is likely the most reasonable path they have to offsetting their unenviable task.

 

The Flames best defender, Tanev, would be a most welcome addition to the lineup, in particular taking on the McDavid matchup. If he’s able to suit up, it’s possible we see him replace Stone, but we’ll see if Sutter has any other adjustments, as Stone has played well.

 

Much has been made about Markstrom’s struggles in this series, although a few leaky goals have gone in, much of the damage is hard to blame on him. Woodcroft’s comments referencing the number of starts he’s had have some merit, but if the Flames can sure up their defences Markstrom could regain his confidence in a big way.