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How do the Edmonton Oilers fight back after that eternal loss?  5 ideas
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How do the Edmonton Oilers fight back after that eternal loss? 5 ideas

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How can the Edmonton Oilers bounce back after that cosmic stench of loss? I can think of a few things that need to be done. And you? But I also have a good idea of ​​how this Oilers team led by Coach Kris Knoblauch will go about it:

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Calm. Gradual. Stoic.

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“Comatose Kris,” Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman chirped about the calm Knoblauch after Wednesday night’s 5-4 loss to the Vancouver Canucks.

A little harsh perhaps? I would call him Collected Kris.

But what does it matter. Knoblauch should take it as a compliment. It’s comatose Kris.

He is the quiet center of Edmonton. He is the stoic of the Great White North. It’s an appropriate mentality to deal with the pressure cooker that is Edmonton Oilers hockey.

The coach refuses to be triggered by the highs and lows of the game. I approve.

Knoblauch must have been sorely tempted on Wednesday night in Vancouver, when the Oilers went out of their way to give away a 4-1 lead in ugly fashion, as my colleague Kurt Leavins detailed in his player grades report.

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But when he faced the media after the match, Knoblauch was as collected as ever, downplaying any sense of uncertainty, let alone panic.

Yes, the team could have been more assertive, he said.

No, there was nothing to worry about with Leon Draisaitl injured, just some cramps and equipment issues, he said.

And don’t you know, he said, that the team was quite good defensively, did not give up strange rushes or clear looks from the closing zone, but simply had to put more pressure on the attack?

He stood close to his goalkeeper, now embattled Stuart Skinner: “Stu has won so many games for us. He has played spectacularly for us all year round. There will be games where his ‘A’ game is non-existent. He’ll be the first to admit this wasn’t his ‘A’ game. But we never doubt him with the way he plays, and more importantly, how he reacts after a game that wasn’t his best. Stu has played very well for us all the way and he will play very well in the coming games.”

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Textbook Knoblauch. I approve.

The comatose approach has worked for the Oilers so far. Who are we to doubt that now?

However, I suspect there will be adjustments. Knoblauch moves slowly, gradually, and that’s what I’d like to see right now, no major changes, just players moving up and down the lineup a spot or two depending on their performance.

A few minutes more for this man, a few minutes less for the other man, that’s how it works under Knoblauch.

Here are five moves that are top of mind for me right now:

1. Ride with Stuart Skinner.

Skinner had a rough moment against the LA Kings, which is Game Two, where he let in a couple of questionable goals. Skinner had also had an infamously rough start to this hockey season. Many fans, including this fan, searched the rosters of other NHL teams for a goalie, any goalie, who could replace Jack Campbell and/or Skinner, and damn what it would cost.

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But Skinner recovered from both bad moments. After last night’s match he said he was angry at Connor Garland’s clever fake shot on the winning goal. But Skinner said he learned his lesson. He had also made some good saves, he insisted, which was all too true. He seems unfazed, good to go.

He’ll have to bring his “A” game into Game Two, but as Knoblauch said, Skinner is perfectly capable of doing so.

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2. Increase the playing time of Brett Kulak and Vincent Desharnais at even strength.

So far in the playoffs, Cody Ceci and Darnell Nurse have played 18:13 and 18:02 minutes per game, respectively, at even strength, while Vincent Desharnais and Brett Kulak have played 14:30 and 14:24, respectively.

At this point I would even increase that. Nurse in particular is having a bit of a hard time, while Kulak has played excellent hockey. A little more Kulak and a little less Nurse would help the Oilers for now, right?

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With all due respect to those who think Ceci and Nurse got the job done in the 2024 playoffs, I don’t see it. In my eyes, and by my count of the mistakes they’ve made on Class A shots, the two Oilers have struggled somewhat, especially the nurse, and have leaked too many Class A shots.

The two were on the ice for four of Cancuk’s five goals against. Both Nurse and Ceci were defeated by Connor Garland on an early breakaway. Ceci lost battles on the first and second Vancouver goals. Nurse turned the puck over and failed to track scorer JT Miller on Vancouver’s third goal, was caught a little flat-footed and was beaten (slightly) wide by Garland on the game winner.

Until this pairing can get through a game where there isn’t any unusual damage being done on the ice, it makes sense to increase Kulak and Desharnais’ ice time, correct?

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Desharnais has also struggled this playoff season and did so in Game One. But Kulak performed by far the best of these four d-men. If only to increase his ice time, you make this adjustment.

3. Pray that Leon Draisaitl will be healthy and that Connor McDavid will become a supernova.

Connor McDavid was brilliant against the Kings. He averaged a whopping 9.8 major contributors of Class A shots per game in that series. He usually makes about six or seven such big contributions per game.

In Game One against Vancouver, he only had one.

Yes, you read that correctly. McDavid dropped from ten per game against LA to just one.

That won’t happen again. McDavid has gone supernova in the playoffs in the past. He can do that again. Game Two would be a great time, I suggest.

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As for Draisaitl, what really worried me about that match was Draisaitl getting injured and leaving the match. It brought out every catastrophic trait I possess.

Drai appeared to be skating in first or second gear when he returned, having dominated the game as a two-way player before fouling out in the second period.

He was the best player on the ice. There’s little chance the Oilers would have lost that game if he had been healthy.

Then let’s hope and pray that he’s healthy, that he takes a hit in one game, and that he’ll fly again in Game Two.

4. Build a line of Warren Foegele, Ryan McLeod and Dylan Holloway and put Corey Perry on the fourth line.

Corey Perry didn’t play a major role in the playoffs. But a line of Warren Foegele, Ryan McLeod and Dylan Holloway could be.

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They are three fast and skilled players, capable of bombarding the Canucks at the forefront. I remember a similar kind of line that came together in the 1990 playoffs to help lead the Oilers in a tough time, three young, fast and aggressive players helping the team out of the doldrums. That line had Adam Graves, Joe Murphy and Martin Gelinas. This new line would bring much of what they brought. They can raise hell in the Canucks zone.

Holloway in particular was strong, launching dangerous shots and throwing big hits. He led the Oilers with seven hits in Game One.

One final thought on Edmonton’s roster: If Draisaitl and Adam Henrique are good to go, I’d rather see Connor Brown than Corey Perry in the lineup. The Oilers could use Brown’s speed and tenacity.

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5. Let’s all go into a coma!

In any story worth reading, there must be moments when all seems lost, when it seems highly doubtful that things will work out. That makes the final triumph all the sweeter.

That’s probably how it will go for these Oilers. But even if things don’t work out in that happy way, there’s no point in pressing a panic button. I suggest that the lineup adjustments I’m putting forward are small changes, not panic moves, just the natural flow of players up and down the lineup based on their performance.

It’s no time to be hasty. Instead, let’s follow Comatose Kris’ example.

The Oilers are more than capable of putting such a nasty game behind them. They did that all season. They certainly did that when they were out in November and making the play-offs seemed like a distant hope.

Vancouver doesn’t have Edmonton’s number. This series isn’t over yet. The Oilers have what it takes to come back and beat Vancouver.

Let’s have a little faith.

Let’s all go into a coma, my friends.

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