3 Keys to the Series for the Edmonton Oilers

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Well Edmonton Oilers fans, they’ve done it again and qualified for the playoffs for the third season in a row. Their 49-27-6 record (104 points) was the team’s best regular season since 1986-87 when they had 106 points. Connor McDavid won his fourth Art Ross Trophy in seven years, putting up a career-high 123 points. Leon Draisaitl became the first player since 1995-96 to record 55 goals and 55 assists in a single season (Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr both accomplished this in that season). Despite its ups and downs, it was overall a solid season to remember.

Looking ahead to the upcoming playoffs, the Oilers will be up against the Los Angeles Kings in the first round. The Kings are the surprise playoff team in the West, having rocketed up the standings and having their best season since 2015-16.

This is primed to be an exciting series full of youthful talent and energy. Although the Kings were the second-lowest scoring playoff team in the regular season (only beating the Dallas Stars by one goal), their lineup dominated by intelligent, defensively responsible veterans like Alexander Edler, Anze Kopitar, and Phillip Danault are brilliantly complemented by prospects and younger players like Adrian Kempe, Arthur Kaliyev, and Sean Durzi.

The Oilers will have a tough time finding the right line matchups and combinations to counter the Kings’ roster composition. They’ve been looking for the right team build themselves to figure out what’s happened the last two seasons, as they’ve been disappointingly eliminated early and quickly from the playoffs each season. They’ve added some physicality in Evander Kane and Warren Foegele with some veteran presence from Derek Ryan and Duncan Keith to try and help get them ready for playoff hockey.

And that brings me to the topic of the article, naming three keys to the series for the Edmonton Oilers.

1) Goaltending

Goaltending has been a major point of concern for the Oilers this entire season. They’ve never really had consistently good performances from both of their main netminders. One (or both) has seemingly always been injured or cold.

Mikko Koskinen stood tall in the early portion of the season and was a huge contributor to the hot start Edmonton had, but he slowed down after the first 20 games and was mostly serviceable afterward.

Mike Smith was often injured, spending two long stints on the injury reserve, and until April, was one of the worst goalies statistically in the league. He has been excellent over the last month, getting named the second star of the league in April with a 9-0-0 record, two shutouts, a 1.66 GAA, and a .951 SV%.

The Oilers are going to need one of these two goaltenders to take charge and become a gamechanger if the team has any hope of a deep playoff run.

2) Keep the Scoring Depth Split Up

The Kings have a collection of defensively responsible forwards at their disposal. This matches up very well against the Oilers, as they have more players capable of shutting down the multiple dangerous scoring threats. Within this system, a huge key to success for the Oilers will be to keep their scoring threats split up to maximize the chance of a favourable matchup.

Do not have any combination of McDavid, Draisaitl, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on the same line. This lets the Kings stack their best defensive players on the ice and shut them down much easier. Even though the Oilers scoring depth was overall a bit better this season, it is not quite strong enough to carry them to a series victory.

We saw evidence of this last season in the Oilers’ first-round sweep at the hands of the Winnipeg Jets. Edmonton scored a total of eight goals in those four games, with seven of them being in games three and four. That is not the way to win a playoff series.

With three scoring lines centred by McDavid, Draisaitl, and Nugent-Hopkins, one of those lines will be matched up against a weaker defensive line and able to capitalize.

3) Don’t Get Pissy

Despite having (allegedly) the pissiest player in the league, Draisaitl and the Oilers need to do their best to keep their feelings and emotions in check throughout the series. This is a trait that I noticed with the Tampa Bay Lightning in the couple of years before their eventual Stanley Cup wins, that the team’s best players (Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov) would get visibly frustrated and begin acting out on the ice. It led to bad penalties, suspensions, and just generally killing the team’s hopes.

The Oilers are still a young team, overall, at the beginning of their competitive window. It is generally expected of them to be learning how to handle the stress, pressure, and environment around playoff hockey. We can only hope that with each season comes more chances to learn, mature, and develop into ideal veterans, captains, and leaders.

If the Oilers can adhere to and meet these three keys, they will increase their chances of beating the Kings in round one of the Stanley Cup Playoffs exponentially. It is not often a team goes deep in the playoffs without a hot goalie standing on his head. It is also difficult for a team only scoring two goals per game to have any success in the postseason. But regardless, the Oilers need to keep their wits about them and stay levelheaded, even in the tough moments.

Do you have any more keys to the series for the Oilers? Drop them in the comments below.

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Sean is a lifelong, stubborn Oilers fan who somehow still has hope that next season will be the year. Hockey is his biggest interest and hobby, so he follows the whole league as closely as he can.


  • Anthony says:

    I feel like McDavid and Drycan set the tone by having a good game one. This means being tenacious, creating goals if not scoring and showing LA that they are ready to go. Wyt?

    • Sean Laycock says:

      You’re right, that would have been ideal, the Kings were playing and thinking faster in Game 1 and it made it damn near impossible for McDavid and Draisaitl to set the tone they needed. Oilers were playing catchup the whole time.

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