What do Oilers need to change as WCF moves to Edmonton?

The Edmonton Oilers are in uncharted territory.

For the first time in these playoffs, they’re down 2-0 in a series. They dropped Game 1 against the Kings and Flames and bounced back in Game 2 of those two series, but that wasn’t the case against the Avs, who lead 2-0 in the Western Conference Finals after a win 4-0 Thursday. .

Game 1 was a sloppy mess in which the Oilers allowed eight goals against but stayed in the mix as Colorado didn’t have their best defensive performance. Game 2 featured the Oilers simply outscoring from top to bottom as the Avs scored four goals and closed the door completely afterwards.

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This brings us to the question What would you be doing on Wednesday FRIDAY EDITION of this week. If you’re Jay Woodcroft, what changes are you making ahead of a must-see third game in Edmonton? Could we see new lines before? What about the formation of 11 forwards and seven defenders? Let’s run through some possible changes…

April 1, 2022; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) celebrates an overtime game-winning goal with center Leon Draisaitl (29) against the St. Louis Blues at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson – USA TODAY Sports

Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl played nearly 17 minutes together at even strength in Game 1 and connected on two goals. In Game 2, they were mostly playing apart except for a few third period shifts and the Oilers didn’t score a single goal.

It is well known at this point that Draisaitl is not complete as he has been struggling with an ankle injury for the entirety of the playoffs. While the Oilers would like Draisaitl to lead his own line, that might not be feasible at this point.

When playing together, McDavid and Draisaitl have beaten their opponents 19 to 6 at even strength in the playoffs. When not with McDavid, Draisaitl is outplayed 9-to-1. McDavid outplays his opponents 8-6 in his minutes without Draisaitl, who is solid but nowhere near as good as he is when both are together.

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Kailer Yamamoto received a base hit from Gabriel Landeskog in the second period of Game 2 and left the game and did not return. It’s not yet known if Yamamoto will be available for Game 3 and the team is predictably vague in calling everything he’s dealing with an “upper body injury”.

If Yamamoto isn’t available to play, Edmonton’s best option may be rookie Dylan Holloway. Although Holloway never played a game at the NHL level, he would give the team much-needed size, speed and skill on the wing. Even if Yamamoto plays, it’s not unreasonable to consider inserting Holloway into the lineup, as the fourth line has been a black hole in the first two games of the series.

Like Draisaitl, Darnell Nurse is also clearly struggling with a nagging injury that ultimately makes him less effective than he could be. In the first two games of the series, Nurse has already been on the ice for six goals against at even strength. The whole team was sloppy in Game 1, but Nurse’s lack of mobility was very noticeable in Game 2 as he couldn’t match Colorado’s speed in transition.

It’s hard to imagine Nurse dropping out of the lineup because he’s the team’s No. 1 defenseman and wants to contribute, but the Oilers could choose to cut his ice time and put him on the line. shelter. Brett Kulak stepped up and played well on Edmonton’s top pairing when Nurse was suspended in the series against Los Angles, so he could move alongside Cody Ceci and Nurse could back up with Tyson Barrie.

The Oilers could also choose to dress seven defensemen, giving them another body to help take minutes from Nurse on best pairing. As I said above, the fourth line hasn’t been effective, so even a few minutes from Kris Russell or Philip Broberg could come in handy here.

What do you say, Nation? What changes would you make for Game 3? Let us know!

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