The Edmonton Oilers return home for Game 5 of their first round series, following a thorough beating by the Sharks on Tuesday. The Sharks managed to score 7 in the one-sided tilt, evening up the series at 2 games a piece. Thankfully for the Oilers, despite the sizable drubbing, the NHL Playoffs don’t operate on goal differential, and they are able to return home with an even slate, and a newfound best of 3 on the horizon.
It’s been a back and forth battle so far, and with the Sharks possessing the momentum, while the Oilers hold the home ice advantage, we can expect a slug-fest in the final few chapters of this series.
With the puck set to drop at 8:30 tonight (thankfully tomorrow is Friday), let’s dig in and take a look at tonight’s match-up.
The Oilers Keys to the Game
- DISCIPLINE!: Yes the referees have been suspect in the series, but there is no question that the Oilers have to get better in the discipline department. Needless, blatant crosschecks, mind-numbing interference and other careless efforts, have been popping up all series long, stripping the Oilers of momentum and putting them at a massive disadvantage. With overall penalties in the series at 22 for the Oilers and 12 for the Sharks, this is an area of serious concern.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) April 15, 2017
- Even-Strength Scoring: This remains a massive issue for the Oilers. Yes, discipline is hurting them, but in their time out of the box, Edmonton has only managed 1 goal at even strength throughout the 4 games. That is simply not good enough, and the big guns in the top 6 have to step it up. With a change to the top line (Caggiula in for Maroon), it will be critical for the Oilers to find a way to capitalize on the adjustment with some scoring at 5 on 5.
Looks like a major shuffling of lines for the Oil. Caggiula and Draisaitl with McDavid. Maroon with Letestu and Kassian.
— Dan Barnes (@jrnlbarnes) April 20, 2017
- Better Decisions with the Puck: Repeatedly flinging the puck into no-man’s land only for the Sharks to retrieve it is no recipe for success. The Oilers did it a lot in game 1 and a lot in game 4. Better decisions with the puck, and more control in their zone entries and exits will go a long way into improving their chances at victory.
"They look like they're rushing to make plays, they think they don't have time. They should hang onto puck a bit longer." Ferraro #Oilers
— Jason Gregor (@JasonGregor) April 19, 2017
Players to Watch
- Connor McDavid: He has been way too quiet all series long, and maybe a re-formation that lit up Vancouver late in the season (Draisaitl, Caggiula) can work again tonight.
- Leon Draisaitl: He had one of his worst games as an Oilers on Tuesday, making matters worse with a careless spearing penalty. How does he respond?
Draisaitl coughed his way through the entire interview, claiming he was perfectly fine. Playoffs.
— Ryan Rishaug (@TSNRyanRishaug) April 20, 2017
- Drake Caggiula: Can the kid capitalize on the promotion?
- Cam Talbot: It has taken the Oilers netminder roughly 1-2 games to rebound from a poor outing this season. Does he find his re-find his form quickly tonight?
San Jose Sharks
All the big guns:
- Joe Pavelski: The Sharks’ captain broke out in a big way on Tuesday with 3 points (2 goals). Can the Oilers find a way to lock him down again?
- Logan Couture: Broken face and all, he found a way to get a pair of points last game. He is one of the Sharks’ best and worth a watch.
- Joe Thornton: The Sharks’ power play erupted for 4 goals in game 4 and a big reason is the return of Joe Thornton. If the Oilers get into penalty trouble again, it will spell trouble.
- Brent Burns: Took complete control of the game on Tuesday. The Oilers need to limit him with solid line matching, all night long.
The Expected Lineups
Drake Caggiula – Connor McDavid – Leon Draisaitl
Milan Lucic – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Jordan Eberle
Patrick Maroon – Mark Letestu – Zack Kassian
Benoit Pouliot – David Desharnais – Anton Slepyshev
Oscar Klefbom – Adam Larsson
Andrej Sekera – Kris Russell
Darnell Nurse – Matt Benning
San Jose Sharks
Patrick Marleau – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Melker Karlsson – Logan Couture – Joel Ward
Mikkel Boedker – Tomas Hertl – Jannik Hansen
Marcus Sorensen – Chris Tierney – Timo Meier
Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon – David Schlemko
- No change is expected on defence tonight, even after the 7 goal loss. With the call-up of Fayne and Oesterle, as well as the additional option of Eric Gryba, McLelllan will have options should things go awry this evening.
- No change for the forwards in terms of scratches either. I for one though Anton Lander would for sure get the nod ahead of David Desharnais, but that is not the case. Desharnais isn’t providing offence at this point, so I fail to see the edge in performance over Lander.
- The Oilers will have the last change tonight, and will need to utilize it. Desharnais matching up against the Thornton line is not a good idea at all, and instead, will need to be eliminated in favour of getting the McDavid line out there. Speed kills, as was the case in game 3.
- For the Sharks, Mikkel Boedker will draw in for Joonas Donskoi.
No matter the result, a game 6 in San Jose is guaranteed for Saturday night. Considering how the Oilers just performed there, it is a safe bet to say that a win tonight is vitally important.
With that in mind, plus the fact that the Oilers are at home and probably pretty adamant about redeeming themselves from last game, I will say that they get the job done with a win tonight.
Not without some stress, though. 2-1 in overtime, with Andrej Sekera scoring the winner.