Game 5 is going to be an emotional one for the Edmonton Oilers. Their third opportunity to take the lead in their series versus the Vegas Golden Knights, they’ve failed to do so in Games 1 and 3, and without the assistance of Darnell Nurse, this feels like a must-win game. Technically it isn’t, but with a victory, the Oilers can go back to Edmonton and close it out. When you consider how nasty and feisty the series has now gotten, that’s absolutely the best-case scenario.
Game 4 might have been among the most entertaining playoff game of any in this year’s NHL postseason. These two teams have grown to despise each other and the last game saw two suspensions come as a result of what went down at the end of the third period — a boiling over of the constant physicality that continued in the first and second frames. Alex Pietrangelo got a one-game suspension for a wicked slash on Leon Draisaitl. Darnell Nurse is sitting for a game after the NHL elected not to rescind the instigator penalty he got in the final minute. The reaction on social media and among fans and insiders is that the Oilers got pooched by the league, simply because these two infractions shouldn’t have been waited equally. As such, the Oilers might have a bit of a chip on their shoulder.
Edmonton might be looking to send a message early, but the key is to remain disciplined. Going out in the first period and trying to get even or seek retribution for the NHL’s inability to fairly provide supplementary discipline will hurt the Oilers. Aggressive and physical are good. Off of their game and what brought them to the dance put Vegas in the driver’s seat.
The keys to success for the Oilers have been on special teams where power plays have been critical to their success. If the Oilers are head-hunting, they won’t be on the man advantage and that’s counterintuitive to what they should be trying to do. Instead, they should take their cues from Draisaitl who said the Pietrangelo play was ugly, but he isn’t going to be bothered by it moving forward. He said he was alright and not injured and has no intentions of doing anything other than what he’s been doing all series, which is playing hard and finishing his checks.
Evander Kane was asked about playing physically on a shift-by-shift basis and if watching Pietrangelo snap at the end of the game was a return on the investment made in never letting up but not getting outside of the overall objective. He responded that there are many ways to wear a team down and the response is out of their control, but he seemed to hint the Oilers will live with the results.
Connor McDavid didn’t expect there to be as much extra-curricular activity tonight after a nasty Game 4. He expects there will be two teams ready to play hockey on Friday night. That’s the best strategy for the Oilers anyways. The scrum stuff is not necessarily what the Oilers want to be doing, even though they will if they have to.
Next: Devils’ Plans For Timo Meier a Top Priority This Offseason
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