Edmonton Oilers will need their best McGame tonight to beat Winnipeg Jets

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This in from Georges Laraque, former Oilers player, the notion that Edmonton must play its own aggressive skill game in order to beat Winnipeg.

Asked on Oilers Now by Bob Stauffer if Edmonton should ramp up its physical play, Laraque said: “Remember, that’s not the Oilers’ game to do that. The Oilers game is the skill, the speed that they have. I don’t think it’s a team that is geared up play that way.

“I think the physical game is going to give an advantage to the Jets. The Jets have to play this way and they’re getting into the Oilers’ head. If the Oilers try to play like them, and just hit them, I don’t think that’s their game and I think they’re going to finish second in it. The Oilers is their speed, and it’s relentless, and the scoring ability and the agility that they have. It’s just that. They can’t lose about the physical play of the Jets. To be honest I just don’t think the Oilers have the team to match the physicality of the Jets. But the Jets do not have the speed that the Oilers have.”

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My take

1. The key for the Oilers tonight? I can think of a couple differences that would be impactful. First, that the Oilers they get a few more bounces. Edmonton had five Grade A shots off tips in front of the net, but not one of them went in. Winnipeg had two such Grade A tip shots, but one of them went in. That’s the Hockey Gords for you. Second, there’s no denying that as Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl go, so go the Oilers. Those two were held off the score sheet on Wednesday. If that happens again, I suspect the Oilers will lose again. Make sense?

2. When it comes to physical intimidation th Winnipeg Jets aren’t exactly the 1974 Philadelphia Flyers, but like those Flyers, they did play a sound and defensively disciplined game against Edmonton in Game One. They limited Edmonton to nine Grade A shots on Wednesday, down from the 11.9 Grade A shots per game Edmonton averaged in its nine regular season games against Winnipeg.

2. Edmonton limited Winnipeg to just seven Grade A shots on Wednesday, down from nine Grade A shots on average in the nine regular season games (though it’s worth noting Winnipeg missed the net on a few it’s best chance, Mark Scheifele’s wide-open chance near the end of the first period after a Tyson Barrie o-zone turnover). Edmonton needs to keep up this level of defensive intensity, and especially avoid the kind of errors that both Barrie and Darnell Nurse made leading to two-on-one and three-on-one breaks.

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3. Connor McDavid averaged major contributions to 5.4 Grade A shots in 56 games this year. On Wednesday, he made major contributions to just two, a hard slot pass that James Neal dangerously tipped on net and his sliding pass to Draisaitl late in the game, which the big German whipped on net.

4. Leon Draisaitl averaged 4.3 major contributions to Grade A shots in 56 games this year. He was also in on just two in Game one, his late and great slot shot on net, and a great pass in the DYNamite Line’s best moment in the second period, where he fed Kailer Yamamoto in the slot, who put it to Slater Koekkoek, who shredded a cross-seam pass to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for a open Grade A slotter in front of the net, which Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck stopped.

5. I thought Edmonton’s lines were OK on Monday, but Oilers coach Dave Tippett looks like he might experiment tonight with new lines, ones we have not seen much, if at all, this year, McDavid with Draisaitl and Dominik Kahun on the top line, Nugent-Hopkins with Yamamoto and Jesse Puljujarvi on the second line. I’m not a major believer in that RNH at centre, as he tends to struggle in the defensive slot. I’m not sure why Tippett isn’t going to the 81% Solution Line, the trio of McDavid, Draisaitl and Yamamoto, that had an 81 GoalsFor% this year, 13 goals for, three against. But maybe these moves are inspired. Maybe they’ll unlock the top two attackers in a way that didn’t happen in the Game One. If it works to unleash Edmonton’s best McGame, more power to the coach.

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